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The Importance of Knowing Your Leadership Competencies

Knowing Your Leadership Competencies, unique ability

Two weeks ago, our team celebrated 1 year since the acquisition of The Strategic CFO. In the past 12 months, we’ve grown significantly in the number of team members and clients. In our meeting, I put the quote up on the screen… “Life is simple… People complicate it.” Everyone laughed because it is so true. As we shared stories, challenges, successes, etc. in my team meeting, I asked them if they knew what they were competent and incompetent at. Everyone is incompetent at something. Financial leaders need to understand the importance of knowing your leadership competencies.
Truly successful people spend 80-90% of their time utilizing their excellent and unique abilities and delegate the rest.

The Importance of Knowing Your Leadership Competencies

Before we begin, I want to define leadership. It’s the ability to guide, direct, and influence people. There are four types of ability that a leader must know about themselves. Those include the following:

  1. Incompetent
  2. Competent
  3. Excellent
  4. Unique Ability
Become a better financial leader by learning exactly what CEOs want from their CFOs. You can find these habits or traits7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs whitepaper in our .

Know What Your Incompetencies Are

First, you need to know what your incompetencies are. Incompetent indicates the activities that you are not good at and the things that you don’t do well. Everyone is incompetent at something. Some incompetencies could be translating the numbers to something the CEO could use to make decisions, knowing the ins and outs of your accounting system, or working with technology. Before you can start to figure out what you are competent at, you need to know what you are not good at.

Write those incompetencies down. If you are asked to do work in those areas, either defer or delegate. It is not worth your time to invest in those areas when they are not profitable.

Know What Your Competencies Are

Then identify your competencies; these are activities that you are okay at, but the majority of others are better. In other words, the general population is good at that thing. For example, all accountants will know where assets, liabilities, and equity go on the balance sheet.

What Are You Excellent At?

After you have identified your incompetencies and competencies, then ask yourself… “What are you excellent at?” This refers to the activities that you excel at, but so do a few others. If you have a knack for knowing where to unlock cash after just looking at the financial statements, then it may be time to focus more of your energy there. Not everyone will have this skill though.

Know Your Unique Ability

Finally, know your unique ability. Your unique ability are the abilities only you possess. These are activities that drive value for yourself and others. In addition, your unique ability must be valued by society.

Strategic Coach outlines the four areas that you need to look at when identifying your unique ability:

  • Passion
  • Superior Skill
  • Energy
  • Never-Ending Improvement
So, how do you tell the difference between your unique abilities and your incompetence activities? Your unique ability gives you energy and your incompetence zaps your energy!

Inventory of Role

If you want to be really effective as a CFO and a financial leader, then you need to know what you are already doing and what your CEO wants more of. In our Financial Leadership Workshop, we walk our participants through an extensive inventory of role. Some of the areas that CEOs wants more from there financial leaders include:

If you want to go through this exercise AND 32 hours of coaching from me, then click here to learn about our Financial Leadership Workshop. Registration for our series starting December 2018 is now open. Contact us for more information and to register.

The Role of the CFO

While the CEO must balance the vision, growth, implementation, cash, and profitability of the company, the role of the CFO is to compliment the skills and unique abilities of the entrepreneur. You would not find Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos in the accounting department, but they sure need(ed) support from their financial leader to make innovation happen.

To learn other ways to be more effective in your role as the financial leader, click here to access our most popular whitepaper – the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

Knowing Your Leadership Competencies, unique ability

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How to Make Dramatic Changes in Business

How to Make Dramatic Changes in Business

Recently, we had a coaching participant mention to us how her company was wanting to make a huge change in their business that would ultimately destroy the current business. This happens more often that you would think. The owner or founder of the company wants to make a shift, a change, but the leadership did not full think through what that would actually look like. In our coaching participants case, her company had been around for a long time. They were known widely for their innovation. They were also a non-profit. The founder wanted to convert the company into a for-profit entity. That change would change EVERYTHING. In fact, it would be an entirely different company. In this week’s blog, we look at how to make dramatic changes in business while avoiding catastrophe and how to reinvent your company.

Change requires a strong leader. Learn how to be a more effective leader here.

How to Make Dramatic Changes in Business

When a company makes dramatic changes in their organization, it’s important to ensure the change will be sustainable and has the benefits outweigh the risks. This starts with questions like… How can we better develop our product/service to provide more value to our customer? What organizational changes can we make to reduce overhead and increase productivity? Is our current company structure the best structure for accomplishing our mission? Do we need to totally reinvent ourselves just to survive?

In our first example, changing the organization from a non-profit to a for-profit would only stuff the founder’s pockets; however, upon further conversations with their Finance Director, we came to the conclusion that that organizational structure change would change everythingmarketing, branding, funding, employees, legal aspects, and accounting. It would cost more to make that dramatic change than to stay the same. They would most likely loose their funding, their employees, and their entire culture.  They apparently were making a change for the wrong reasons.

Driving Radical Change • McKinsey

In a McKinsey article called Driving Radical Change, they outline how to make dramatic changes in business. It first starts with the aspiration – the goal for the change. Then, the leadership for the change needs to be addressed. Who is doing what? What are the priorities? The next two steps include articulating actionable steps for employees to act on and the direct impact they have on the change. This stage is what really fuels the change. Leadership needs to engage and energize their employees during change (change is scary for most people). Read more about making radical change here.

How to Make Dramatic Changes in Business

Why Make Dramatic Changes in Business

So, why make dramatic changes in business? Sometimes, it just needs to happen. Businesses can get stuck in a “rut” where they continue to practice the way that they have always done without evaluating the changing environment or their team. If your company has not made a change (or at least evaluated current practices) in a decade, then it’s time to look at whether radical change is necessary.

Reasons to change include but are not limited to the following:

  • It’s just not working
  • Competition is growing and taking business away
  • There are legal restrictions
  • The market is shifting
  • Technology shift (this is probably the most common in the last decade)
  • New opportunities identified
  • Customers demand something else

Changes could include the following:

Sustaining Business After Big Changes

So many businesses have made changes due to technology advancements, competition, etc. Barnes & Noble has been through numerous CEOs because they did not continue to press on with their Nook and e-commerce platform. Netflix went through a period of declined stock prices as they pressed on to be a primarily online-streaming platform. Sustaining business after big changes can be difficult, but it all comes down to the leadership. Forbes contributor, Erika Anderson, says, “When CEOs and their teams fail to fully commit to change, change fails.” The entire company needs to commit to making this change successful. If one link in the chain is weak, then the whole project will fall.

Here are a few more notables:

  • Amazon started as an online book sales company; it is now a large distribution and logistics company
  • Western Union started as a telegraph company, then it grew to one of the largest money transfer companies in the world
  • Nokia started selling rubber boots; it is now is a major cell phone manufacturer
  • Shell (the major oil company) started in a small store in England importing and selling shells

There is a great quote that I saw in an article from MONEY… “A successful company is like a giant great white shark. In its prime, it chews up the competition, but if it dares to sit still for too long, it dies.”

Your CEO needs a strong leader – especially a strong financial leader. Learn our 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs and become the strong leader your CEO needs.

Supporting Change as the Financial Leader

Change is uncomfortable for everyone because there is uncertainty about the results. Accounting type people are often prone to being the no-sayers during change. It’s too expensive, too risky, and too advantageous. When making dramatic changes in your business, it’s important for the financial leader to support the change. If a certain change will dramatically impact cash flow and profitability, then work with your CEO to figure out what you can do. Do not just say “no”. The CEO needs a trusted advisor, a confidant, someone who they can rely on for a more financially sound way of doing something.  In my experience, change has usually been good and for the right reason. To learn other ways to be more effective in your role as the financial leader (and to become a trusted advisor), click here to access our most popular whitepaper – the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

Dramatic Changes in Business

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Dramatic Changes in Business

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Intangible Assets: Protecting Your Brand And Reputation

“In an economy where 70% to 80% of market value comes from hard-to-assess intangible assets such as brand equity, intellectual capital, and goodwill, organizations are especially vulnerable to anything that damages their reputations” (Harvard Business Review). Last week, I had a conversation with one of my coaching participants, Dory. Dory’s company is trying to make a lot of changes. Changes that as a financial leader just doesn’t make sense. It involves repositioning the business. It requires new marketing, new branding, new value, new culture, new staff… It’s an entirely new brand! However, the leadership fails to see how making this large of a shift will not only change the brand, but it will also risk destroying the firm’s reputation. In this week’s blog, we are discussing about protecting your brand and reputation.

With 70-80% of value stemming from intangible assets – such as your brand and reputation – it’s important to know what your company’s strengths and weaknesses are. Start enhancing those strengths (and resolving those weaknesses) with our Internal Analysis whitepaper.

Protecting Your Brand And Reputation

In today’s world, protecting your brand and reputation should be a priority because it can be destroyed with one social media post. In a WSJ article, Keri Calagna, principal at Deloitte & Touche LLP and leader of Deloitte Advisory’s brand and reputation management services, says that, “brand and reputation are complex, difficult to measure, hard to predict—often a result of strategic and operational decisions—and influenced by factors outside of an organization’s direct control.” But there are things that you can do as an organization not to further diminish value potential.

Protecting Your Brand And Reputation, Protecting Your Intangible AssetsFor example, we have a client that recently experienced an incident near their facility. The client’s concern was reputation and responsiveness to the situation even though they were a third party to the incident. But the perception with regulators and potential customers is very important. So, our client went above and beyond to respond and assist in the situation. This was seen in a very positive manner with regulators, neighbors, and customers. As a result, they were building very positive brand equity.

Brand Definition

Business Dictionary defines brand as a “unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.” Over time, a brand becomes the face of the company, something that customers recognize, and conveys the value of the product/service. It is your Image.  For example, Coca-Cola is historically seen as the #1 soda producer over Pepsi. Coca-Cola’s branding efforts have created a culture and a value among consumers.

Brand equity can go either way – positively or negatively. For example, influencers, bloggers, neighbors, friends, and family have recommended Product A to you. As a result, you are most likely going to buy Product A and any other product you need from that company. Then, you come across Product B. Product B has been known for its poor quality and is generally not as effective as Product A.  Product A has positive brand equity, whereas Product B has negative brand equity. As a result, Product A has a lot more wiggle room to make mistakes than Product B.

Take inventory of your company. What does your company do well at? What weaknesses does it struggle with? Click here to access our Internal Analysis to take a complete inventory of your company. 

Reputation Definition

Cambridge defines reputation as “the opinion that people in general have about someone or something, or how much respect or admiration someone or something receives, based on past behavior or character.” In other words, the reputation is how customers perceive your company versus how they recognize your company.

Protecting Your Brand And Reputation, Protecting Your Intangible AssetsAlign Strategic Decisions With Brand

One method to protect your brand and reputation is to align it with strategic decisions and overall strategy. For example, a company makes a decision without factoring in its brand. Customers and potential customers do not agree with the decision make because it changes X, Y, and Z. We have seen companies destroy themselves because they do not consider all factors before making changes to their brand.

Know Where Breakdowns Occur

Generally speaking, any breakdowns in your company will have to do with your human capital. If there is a misalignment with the actual company culture (not just what you perceive) and the brand, then your team will not be able to successfully deliver what the brand promises. Educate your employees on the brand. Fix issues within your team before it’s vastly different than the brand you are putting out there.

Protecting Your Intangible Assets

In the end, brand and reputation are intangible assets that your company needs to care about. It impacts value potential and the bottom line. Instead of managing crises, let’s look at how to manage risks and consequently, protect your intangible assets.

How does a company protect its intangible assets? Protecting your intangible assets starts with knowing what they are. What is your company known for? Why do customers choose you over a competitor?

Then start to identify what could change those answers. Is it government regulations that will change your product? What about material changes?

Finally, package what your intangible assets are and what influences them. Manage any risk threatening those assets.

How Your Brand And Reputation Impacts the Bottom Line

Before you go about making any changes to your brand, look internally at what is reliant on that intangible asset. In my first example, Dory’s leadership was not looking at how the employees, customers, vendors, investors, etc. were tied and attached to the brand. If her company made the change they wanted to, the company would lose its employees, customers, vendors, and investors. Sometimes, the brand is the thing that has made you so successful. If you are protecting your brand and reputation from potential changes, then take a look at our free Internal Analysis whitepaper. This will help you get a high level view of what impacts what.

Protecting Your Brand And Reputation, Protecting Your Intangible Assets
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Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

There is more information available today than in another other age before. It’s overwhelming. Instead of having verbal conversations with one another, there is a room of people on their phones or laptops communicating with other people around the world. We are processing thousands (if not millions) of pieces of information a day. And that’s making the role of the financial leader more difficult. There is simply too much information. So, how do you navigate financial leadership in the digital age?

First, take a look around the office. How much of your team’s work in on a device? How does your team look visibly (tired and exhausted or alert and awake)? If you go to any news source (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc.), notice how many articles are about technology and anything digital. Almost every article has some tech or digital component to it. This issue impacts financial leaders all around the world.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

Too Much Processing of Information

News channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, TV shows, financial statements, reports, contracts… Every piece of information we take in from the moment we wake up to the moment our eyes shut is simply overwhelming. There is too much processing of information occurring, and it has the risk of destroying a company’s value. A company’s leadership needs to be on guard of how much information they are processing each day. An article Fast Company published says, “Our brains have the ability to process the information we take in, but at a cost: We can have trouble separating the trivial from the important, and all this information processing makes us tired.” Our brains can only hold so much – much like a bandwidth of Internet. Once we go over that bandwidth, then we start to lose or forget information – even the most important information.

So, what does one do? They focus on a few key metrics rather than all the metrics. Click here to start identifying those key metrics with our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

Financial leadership in the digital age is continuing to evolve and involve more areas in business than accounting. Already, financial leaders take a role in operations (productivity, efficiency, etc.), investment decisions, strategic planning, and human resources. I tell any CEO hiring a CFO that the CFO should be good enough or better to take on the role of a CEO.

Have a Team to Process the Information

As the financial leader, you have the opportunity to defer the role of sifting through all the information and data. Have your accounting department analyze all the information and package it into the most important information that you need to make strategic decisions. The CFO sits on a lot of information to begin with. With a team’s support, the CFO can focus on the most important information.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

Focus on Key Performance Indicators

Financial leaders in the digital age need to identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that really matter in the business. If they don’t identify those KPIs, then they risk being overrun by data and may miss something important – result in injury, lawsuit, fines, etc.  With current systems that are properly installed, you can have thousands of bits of information in your monthly report.  But may I ask, what do you really need to make decisions?

Today, a client asked me if I wanted to see the daily reports. I asked what is in the daily report. The client responded with, “everything”. It included man hours, throughput, downtime, what was sold, was was wasted, HR information on who clocked in late and who was on time, literally everything on a daily basis. My response was simply “no” because  I do not need to see everything every day because I am running the company as an Interim-CEO. Instead, I want to see data that is meaningful, weekly, and information that will lead me to make business decisions. If we have over time one day of the week and none the rest of the week, then that will not lead me to make any business decision in this case.

Since so much data is available real time, be sure to gather and analyze that which is relevant and will lead you to make a decision.

Hire the Right Team

CFOs need to reevaluate which positions they are adding to their accounting department. Consider positions like data scientists, data security professionals, statisticians, and IT delivery specialists to add to your team. If the digital age is creeping into every area of business (especially accounting), then you need to have people with more experience in data, security, and analysis.

Adopt and Adapt to Technology

McKinsey recently reported that “the average capital project reaching completion 20 months behind schedule and 80 percent over budget.” Why? Because the stakeholders (project managers and contractors) in these capital projects are resisting technology. This is just one example of how resisting technology is a technology driven world will have an impact on the bottom line. If your company is already utilizing technology, then think of areas that you could be using more technology to reduce costs. If your company is still operating in the proverbial Stone Age, then it’s time to bring in a consultant or a team to implement a digital component. That could be an accounting system, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, an optimized website, etc.

In another example, retailers everywhere are having to change their business models to cater to the buy-now demand that customers have taken up. Retailers are creating e-commerce sites, closing brick and mortar stores, and managing inventory entirely different all because of technology. Recently, even grocery stores have been competing with companies, like Instacart and Favor, who are doing the shopping for customers that do not want to shop by creating their own delivery services.

Automation Plus Analysis

Over the years, the automation has creeped into finance and accounting departments. While at first, many in accounting were terrified that it would make their roles obsolete, we are seeing something different. You can only automate so much. In the end, business is all about humans. You cannot automate humans. What does that mean exactly? That means that now accountants are able to do more with the data than punching the information into spreadsheets, systems, etc. They can now spend their time analyzing the data, and thus, they become more valuable to the firm.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Paul McDonald from Robert Half says that, “companies plan to move the expertise needed to modernize their finance departments in-house, even as the process brings about more automation to routine tasks.”

Stay Focused in the Digital Age

So, how does one stay focused in the digital age? It starts with knowing what information is important enough to earn your attention and what information is simply a distraction. Start measuring your company’s KPIs today with our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age
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Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

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Invest in Leadership Development

When you invest in leadership development, you are making an investment. It’s something that you pay good money for and expect a return on your investment. But what many leaders don’t realize is that leadership development should be strategic. We once had a coaching participant (CFO) who worked in a family company. Once the CEO retires, the CFO is set to become the CEO. Instead of going into the job blind or get coaching at the wrong time, this individual sought out coaching before he was set to take over the company. So, why invest in leadership development in the first place?

Invest in Leadership Development

Why Invest in Leadership Development

People will always be a good investment. Why? Because without people, you will not be able to accomplish all  of your goals for your company. There’s a phrase… The tone starts at the top or the fish rots from the head down. Whichever phrase you prefer, it hints at the same thing. Success (or failure) is a result of the leadership of a company. If you want a future for your company, then you need to focus on your leadership and management. You can accomplish this in 2 ways – 1) hire good leaders and 2) invest in leadership development for existing company leaders.

A legal entity should stand on its own no matter what changes are made at the top. There should always be a succession plan whereby management should be able to step up to executive roles. Without investing in your team, this will not happen.

The second option rides on the fact that you have already invested in a current employees with their compensation, benefits, etc. Now, it’s time to get them the coaching they need to further increase their value to your company.

 To learn more financial leadership skills, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

Reasons to Invest in Leadership Development

There are several reasons to invest in leadership development including improving profitability, retaining talent, and improving return on investment. Harvard’s research report on The State of Leadership Development discusses how leadership development addresses the “demands for change to address threats from global competition and technology-driven upstarts; the need to engage a multigenerational workforce with a range of work styles; and the imperative to cultivate a new generation of leaders who can meet these needs and thrive.” Simply put, companies need to address competition, culture, work styles, and generational differences to compete on a global scale.

Improve Profitability

If your leaders know how to improve profitability with the tools, resources, and second-hand experience from a leadership development program, then they will become evermore valuable to your firm. Leadership development will coach them how to make strategic decisions, how to lead effectively, and how to find opportunities. All of those benefits have the opportunity to improve profitability.

Day 2 of the Financial Leadership Workshop is all about improve profitability and cash flow. Click here to learn more, then contact us to register for the next series.

Retain Talent

In addition, companies cannot motivate all people by money. In fact, financial gain isn’t the only thing many employees negotiate. The next “gain” many negotiate for is mentorship, training, coaching, and further leadership development. That should tell you something. We all know the cost of turnover is high and can potentially make a dent in profitability. Your company’s goal should be to retain talent for as long as possible.

Improve Return on Investment

Many leadership development programs do not effectively communicate how they are going to improve return on investment. A good CFO or financial leader should be able to increase value 1-2% of sales in profits. For example, if a company has $1mm in sales, then a CFO should be able to increase profitability at least $10-20,000. And it goes up from there! If the investment is greater than 1-2% of sales, then I would advise you to find a different program. How much return can you expect from investing in your leaders? Financial leaders should always be looking at ways of adding value.

Financial Leadership Development

More specifically, your financial leadership needs to be further developed in their leadership skills. In our Financial Leadership Workshop, I enable my students to go beyond the role of CFO/CEO to become the central financial leader in the company. Furthermore, our curriculum empowers you to become both an influence and decision maker in your company.

Any financial leadership development program worth investing in should accomplish a couple things. It should make the shift from numbers cruncher to financial leader. It should also cover how technology changes the role. Obviously, it should address profits and cash flow. There are many other topics that I could list here, but you can read more about what you should be prepared to walk away from a coaching workshop here.

Finding the Right Financial Leadership Development Program

It all starts with who is coaching the program. For example, if a 26-year old with no financial executive experience began coaching financial leadership, then there would be no credibility or experience behind that program. In comparison, if the course is coached by a 28-year financial executive who is seasoned and experienced either in a niche market or a variety of markets, then the only thing you need to look for is the fit. Finding the right financial leadership development program begins with the curriculum. Does it coach on the topics you need to coached up on? If so, then you need to also evaluate the following:

  • Logistics (time, location, schedule, etc.)
  • Cost
  • Benefits
  • The Coach

Right now, registration is open for our Financial Leadership Workshop Gamma Series starting this October. Click here to learn more about our program and contact us to see if it’s the right fit for you.

In the meantime, I also wanted to gift you our 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs. This whitepaper is by far our most popular whitepaper and is just a snippet of what to expect in our Financial Leadership Workshop.

Invest in Leadership Development

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The Sacred Cow: Lack of Succession Planning

We have all heard the term, “The Sacred Cow”. Here is how I apply it to the business world… I am in my 28th year of working as a professional after graduating from college. I have been privileged to work in large private companies, small private companies, and large publicly traded companies. In addition, I have made the transition from accounting/finance to operations. I have also consulted for companies in a variety of industries, size, and complexity in the last 6 years. And I run into this one thing constantly – the lack of succession planning.

Sacred Cow

The Sacred Cow

After all these years and great experiences, I still see companies that have “Sacred Cows”. That is that employee who has been in the company 20 years and knows everything and everyone. He has outlived reductions in force, down turns in the economy, is still there after 2 new ownership changes. It’s that guy no one can touch because he is a “Sacred Cow”.

Unfortunately, these Sacred Cows are oftentimes not always that good. They come with some baggage. I have seen many of these Sacred Cows. Oftentimes, they are bullies. They are the ones that are often insubordinate. Although they are the ones that get stuff done, it is done at the cost of moral – always threatening the company that on their next temper tantrum they are “quitting”. Usually, they are overpaid.

Perpetual Life of the Business

A business is created within the confines of a legal entity mostly for continuity of perpetual life. That is one of the main characteristics of a Corporation. Therefore, the business continues no matter who is CEO, CFO, or COO or if there any changes in shareholders. But the business will continue because it “has a life of its own”.  As a matter of fact, that is also how you add value to the business. If that is the case, then how do companies allow Sacred Cows to exist? I see it over and over again. Owners of companies say something like…

“If we terminate him, then how are is going to run the operation?”

“But he is our key sales person and he knows all the clients personally.”

“No one else knows what he knows.”

If your business faces any of these situations, then it is your own fault.  No business should be built around a single or two key people. Some exceptions to this rule are small startups or pre-revenue entrepreneurial companies.

The business relies on the leadership to point out the Sacred Cows and destroy the potential of them holding your company hostage. Know what your CEO wants and needs help with with our How to be a Wingman guide. This whitepaper walks you through the relationship between CEO and CFO.

Examples of a Sacred Cow

I have an example that I lived through in my career. (More stories available upon request).

Petrochemical Company – The Lead Supervisor

There is a petrochemical company that had been around over 20 years and was very successful at different levels. The operators worked on three different shifts with each shift having their own supervisor. But the “Lead Supervisor” – the one that all operators and supervisors reported to – was a gentlemen that had been in that position many years. He had a personal relationship with the President and his wife. He was also the one that made hiring decisions out in the plant and control room. Most subordinates feared him. And management played his game because he “knew where every valve was”.

This guy was the Sacred Cow, but he was nothing more than a prima donna bully. There were many other HR issues, but you get the picture.

Since I am one that believes that no company should depend heavily on one person and the company should never be held hostage, I terminated this Sacred Cow the day I was promoted to President of the organization. I terminated him for being insubordinate and for holding the company hostage with demands of more pay or he would quit. I also terminated him for being a cancer in the organization.

Shock waves throughout the organization, rumors of failure spread, and we are going down in everyone’s mind. In reality, we did not skip a beat. It has been 10 years, and I hear the company is doing great.

As the financial leader, it was my duty to protect the health of my company, support the leadership team, and protect the shareholders. Learn more about how you can become the wingman to your CEO with our How to be a Wingman guide.

Client – Fear of Sacred Cow

I recently saw a large client with a similar issue. Now, we are dealing with a management team that fears the Sacred Cow. It is the fault of prior management for allowing this to happen. As the acting financial leader of the company, I am putting up mechanisms to prevent the development of future Sacred Cows.

Lack of Succession Planning

What the Sacred Cow comes down to is a lack of succession planning. There is no plan in place to continue operations without that person (or the position).

Avoid the sacred cow by guiding your CEO in the direction of the company. Access our How to be a Wingman guide here.

Avoid the Sacred Cow (Lack of Succession Planning)

So how do you avoid these pitfalls? There are three things to focus on as well as steps to avoid the sacred cow.

Sales Person That Has All the Key Customers

One example of a Sacred Cow in your business is the sales person that has all the key customers. First, insist that you attend some key customer meetings. You have every right to ask for detailed documentation of the key customers, relationships, meetings, and the pipeline of business. Finally, develop a relationship with those key customers. Do not let one person hold all the cards.

Key Person in Field Runs the Operation

Another example of a Sacred Cow is the key person in the field that runs the operation. Make sure you have a number 2 person that is just as good; they just don’t have the title… Yet. In addition, every key person in management should drive a succession plan. In order to have that happen, the company should have a succession plan in place for its leaders from the CEO on down. Someone can have direct reports under the Sacred Cow in operations. Furthermore, this does not mean that the Sacred Cow controls everything. Have the subordinates that run key areas document their day-to-day functions. Finally, develop a relationship with those key subordinates. Talk to them about training and potentially moving into bigger roles in the future.

The Sacred CFO Cow

The last example is the Sacred CFO Cow. Have a strong Controller that reports to the CFO. Have the CFO document key functions. In addition, the CEO should know those key contacts – legal, banker, insurance, etc. Develop a strong team underneath the CFO to prevent the CFO from becoming the Sacred CFO Cow.  It never hurts to continue networking and meet professionals that you may want to hire one day.

Do Not Allow Sacred Cows to Form

The objective is to not allow Sacred Cows to be born in the first place. We know that they take control and abuse it. But if you do have Sacred Cows in your organization, then you need to deal with it. Build out the number 2 and number 3 person. Every company should also build a succession plan for key employees. And most importantly, do not allow your company to be held hostage by anyone! Be the trusted advisor your CEO needs and access the How to be a Wingman guide.

Sacred Cow, Lack of Succession Planning

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What It Takes To Be A Successful Leader

What It Takes To Be A Successful LeaderNo matter the engagement, having leadership involved in our work is vital. Over the years, some very talented people have defined leadership. Great authors and business coaches have also defined leadership. I did a quick Google search on the definition of “leadership” and here is what I found:

the action of leading a group of people or an organization
“different styles of leadership”
Synonyms: guidance, direction, control, management, superintendence, supervision; organization, government
“firm leadership”

the state or position of being a leader
“the leadership of the party”
Synonyms: directorship, governorship, governance, administration, captaincy, control, ascendancy, supremacy, rule, command, power, dominion, influence
“the leadership of the Coalition”

Talented Leadership is critical for a company to succeed, because without it, there is chaos, mismanagement, and no direction. I have also read some good books that discuss or mention leadership. One of my favorites is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

Now, I have my own life experiences that have helped me define my version of leadership. I can share with you what has worked and what has not worked in the last 28 years of my career. I can also tell you about the different leaders I have dealt with in many organizations – both huge publicly traded multi-national companies and small private companies. What is interesting is that the leadership roles that worked in huge companies and small companies share the same characteristics.  This has helped me define what it takes to be a successful leader.

Failed Leadership

What is clear is that there are things that do not work and destroy leadership. Leading out of fear surely does not work. In addition, leading with threats does not work. A leader that does not communicate is sure to fail. I have seen my share of failed leadership and leaders that were failures. It is amazing how these individuals made it to the top of these organizations. They usually operated by:

  • Threatening those below
  • Operating with a big stick
  • Greed: Looking out only for personal gain
  • Horrible communicators
  • Did not trust many, or anyone at all
  • Short term thinkers
  • Created silos in the organization
  • Had favorites that they worked with
  • Felt empowered by the title they carried

The above characteristics simply do not work.  The failed leaders that I have dealt with have many of the above characteristics or behaviors.

Want to add value to your company as the financial leader? Click here to access our 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

What A True Leader Wants 

A true leader wants to know that he has a strong team behind him. A leader wants to know that there is no doubt that those that follow him will follow him over a cliff. In addition, a leader wants his team to trust their judgment, but at the same time, his team has enough confidence to respectfully challenge an idea or concept if they truly believe it is flawed. A leader also wants his team to have excellent communication both up and down the chain of command. A leader also must have a right hand person. This is someone who is talented and can step in just in case something happens to the leader. A leader wants to be successful because that is his nature, but he also knows he cannot do it alone.

What It Takes To Be A Successful Leader

Over my lifetime, I have seen several successful leaders in the business world.  Here are a couple examples that stand out.

Example 1

Paul was the owner of a large equipment distributor here in Texas. I met this business owner because we used some of his construction equipment. I got to meet several people that worked for him. The business owner and CEO grew his company from a small $2 million company to a business that was well over $100 million in revenue. He went from less than 10 employee to close to 200. His employees loved him, and he had a well run business that was very successful. I watched him, and I made a mental note of what made this leader different from other executives I encountered.

Paul’s Leadership Characteristics

These are some of Paul’s characteristics as a leader:

  • Compassionate: He had a big heart, but he knew exactly when someone was trying to take advantage of that
  • Accountable: He held his employees accountable
  • He hired very talented people, paid above market and delegated
  • He had his employees help him set the goals and got them to buy in to them
  • Caring: Different from compassionate… He truly cared about his employees, from the receptionist to the CFO and COO
  • Disciplined: Early riser, stuck to his business plan, had good social habits, never broke rules
  • Excellent communicator
  • Zero tolerance for unethical behavior
  • Humble: Although he was personally worth millions, he never forgot where he came from and he treated everyone with equal respect.
  • His goal was not to fill his own pocket with cash, but to share with others and allow the team as a whole to benefit from success
  • He knew what he did not know; this led his to have the right strategic advisors and executives; he trusted his executives
  • He never uses the words, “my” and “me;” instead, he uses “us” and “our”
  • Transparent: If it is good news or bad news, then you will hear it… No hidden agendas

Example 2

Hugo was a leader from early in his career.  After working for a travel company in his early years, his entrepreneurship led him to start his business on his own. He started in travel, then expanded and ultimately had a very successful construction company. In the later years of his life, you would never know that Hugo was worth millions. He was humble, but he knew how to build teams.  He led by example, and was often found literally getting his hands dirty in a construction business.  Hugo loved success, and he enjoyed a nice lifestyle. But he too never forgot his roots.

Hugo’s Leadership Characteristics

He had the following leadership characteristics:

  • Humility
  • Discipline: He was as straight as an arrow and all those around him were also
  • Compassionate: He literally spent much of his wealth helping needy children
  • He was an incredible communicator
  • Zero tolerance for unethical behavior
  • Accountability: He made sure his employees knew where they stood at the end of every month
  • He never uses the words, “my” and “me”… He frequently uses the words “us” and “ours”

You will note several characteristics that the two aforementioned leaders had in common.

Example 3

Now, it is my turn. I am leading a consulting firm with talented people. I know I cannot grow this firm alone, and I need great people to do it. But I also know nothing is done with short-term thinking. The work we do for our clients are always keeping in mind the best interest of the client and the long term relationship. If there is ever any doubt about billable hours, then the client is not getting those hours billed. I must never forget where I came from and where I was just a few years ago. In our firm, we are all very transparent. We speak our mind, but we have professional respect to each other. Communication is the key-stone in our firm. We are treated equally no matter what the title. Our success will be shared with all employees; this is not my firm, it is our firm.

My Definition of Leadership

So how do I define leadership? It is the action of leading a team of individuals that you relay on, that you trust and respect. The team you lead believes in you because you have always been ethical in business and socially. It is a team that you have open communication with and that you never feel you are above. The team you lead believes in you so much they will follow you off of a ledge. That is leadership. If you want to learn how to be a more effective financial leader, click here to access the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs whitepaper.

what it takes to be a successful leader

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