By Ernie Humphrey, CTP
The dawn of the Social CFO is here, so CFOs should learn to embrace it. CFOs are being charged with owning strategy across the enterprise in an evolving world of digital/social communication. In 2020, the importance of soft skills has never been greater for a CFO. It is time for every CFO to master the art of being a Social CFO.
I would like to offer 5 soft skills that I believe CFOs need to master to be successful in 2020 and beyond:
1. Listening – it is truly an art, and listening to an email is an invaluable skill that most people lack. The key to understanding anyone, let alone a customer, is listening to them. This encompasses taking the time to understand where they are coming from and why. If you are taking your time to speak with someone take your brain out of multi-task mode. People know when you are engaged and actively listening to them. Reading a book on the art of listening can be quite enlightening.
2. Know your Customer (KYC) – the term KYC is not new, but what it really means in today’s world has changed dramatically. KYC requires that a company understand what their customers and potential customers want, when they want it, how they want it, why they want it, and what they will want in the future before they even know it. In theory, the data now exists for this level of intimate knowledge of customers. CFOs who invest in understanding what it means to truly value their customers (do you need to visit them, communicate with them on social media, write a blog) knowing what they do and why they do it, and looking to them as strategic partners will realize a high ROI on this investment.
3. Know Your Team (KYT) – the challenge of having the right talent in the office of the CFO to accomplish all that needs to be done and done in a world-class manner, has never been greater. CFOs need to be able to help recruit and motivate each and every member of their teams. CFOs should not entirely outsource this task to those who report to them. Good employees expect more as they know they have job mobility, and knowing the CFO has a vested interest in them can be a critical component of employee retention, engagement, and productivity. This does include knowing each employee socially on some level, even if only on a casual level.
4. Know Your Colleagues (KYCII) – impacting performance beyond Finance means building mutually beneficial relationships with fellow company leaders. Treat other departments as internal customers. Teach the language of Finance and invest in knowing the languages of HR, Marketing and Sales. CFOs should aspire to be a trusted advisor across the entire organization.
5. Communication & Storytelling Skills – CFOs need to have polished verbal communication skills, and even more polished electronic communication skills (e-mail, social media, chat). The ability to communicate with a non-finance audience is a common challenge for many CFOs, and doing so in a manner that is not over technical, engaging, and done with a level of passion and compassion is a skill that needs to be developed and honed on a regular basis. Training for CFOs in terms of what to say and what not to say, verbally and when communicating electronically, in addition to “how to say it,” can offer a high ROI in terms of professional development. One wrongly worded email can disengage a key employee who is very hard, if not impossible to replace. One poorly worded social media post can end a career and/or alienate a key customer demographic.
It is time for CFOs to venture out of their comfort zone. Try a truly open-door policy. Walk around the office and build relationships. Do not be the CFO who people fear engaging with when they walk around the office. Back in the day I was not comfortable in speaking with my colleagues within Finance let alone across the organization. I found a few tools that really helped push me out of my comfort zone that I have shared with hundreds of CFOs over the years. I tried stand-up comedy and Improv, and they transformed my life. I have become a sought after public speaker, often speaking about how to lead across an organization. Embrace your social being, and you will have more success as a CFO in 2020 and beyond.
Read The Social CFO: Collaborating with Marketing, Sales & HR – Part I to uncover how the Social CFO (#socialcfo) can leverage soft skills to build better relationships with department leaders to drive performance across the organization.