CFO Talk: Management With No Management Experience with Andy Burrows

Andy Burrows and Steve Rosvold discuss how to get management experience when many companies view it as a prerequisite.

Andy Burrows: [00:00:00] Steve, I get these comments every now and again from people who are on my mailing list. One of them was saying, “I need to get into management, but whenever I try to get into management, people tell me I need management experience” It’s a bit of a circular problem. I’ve seen before where people say they want to be a manager, then they are asked, when have you been a manager before? Nobody would ever become a manager if that was the case. Have you come across that before.

Steve Rosvold: [00:00:37] I think that’s an interesting question because it is a catch 22. How do you get experience when nobody gives you a chance to get experience? From my perspective, Andy, I’d ask how to get leadership, instead of management experience. As an individual we can become a leader. We can lead ourselves. We can lead projects. Maybe change the question by replacing management with leadership. What do you think?

Andy Burrows: [00:01:03] I think that’s right. What I always say is to get into that first level of team leadership or junior management type role you really need to look into doing a good job. When you say do a good job or do a great job, really you’re talking about being proactive, self-leadership and self-management. If you can show that you can get things done and you can lead yourself, then you get the responsibility to lead other people. So it’s what you were saying, showing them a proactive approach to your job.

Steve Rosvold: [00:01:50] You hit it right on the head. I know you are a big Stephen Covey fan, so the word proactive fits right in. I agree with you, being proactive and building trust among your employees is important. Covey said, “When you defend those who are absent you retain the trust of those who are present”. Wise words for anyone. Indispensable for professionals striving to become managers.

[00:02:11] So think in big terms, and be Covey’esk’. Covey delivers great messages for leading. For example, how an individual who doesn’t get into the “water cooler gossip” and helps his boss overcome flaws develops a growing “circle of influence” and avoids wasting time in the circle of concern.

[00:02:41] I know you are a Covey fan. I am too. And I think the people in the position who are asking the question, can learn a lot from some of Covey’s lessons.

Andy Burrows: [00:02:52] Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it’s probably what everyone says and it hit me again when I read the Seven Habits, whenever it was a couple of years ago, is that whole thing about the circle of influence and trying not to focus on that circle of concern, no one is giving me the management job and focusing instead on the circle of influence, which is, What’s my response going to be that? What can I do to put myself in that position, to develop the right skills and show the right behaviors.

Steve Rosvold: [00:03:34] A couple other things that I was thinking of are intellectual curiosity and being bold.

[00:03:41] I think you can look at something and say what do I find interesting about this? How do I make it better? I know in my career, some of the biggest successes I had were in places that were deeply rooted in curiosity, not something that was tattooed on the title of a book.

[00:04:07] For example, I was a junior accountant going through a manufacturing plant or actually a grain handling facility, and discounts in grain are really important because it’s got a lot of different factors to it. I noticed something that was really an anomaly, a very unusual situation and it was costing this company or this actual facility over $300,000 a year. It had to do with a decision that was made five years ago, that everyone forgot was made. It was really an unusual situation where something just didn’t smell right. We dug into it and dug into it and it took a while because it was so ingrained in what was going on.

[00:04:52] So, follow your nose and be bold. Then you can make an impact. Be kind, but be bold.

Andy Burrows: [00:05:08] That resonates with me. It reminds me of when I went back to my first management job and then I got promoted from that as well.

[00:05:18] I was just doing things out of curiosity and got asked to do a piece of analysis or provide some reports and I’d get really interested in that. When I got interested in something and I knew somebody else in the business knew the answer, I would just pick up the phone or send them an email or even walk around or up the stairs and go talk them about this thing I was working on.

[00:05:43] We would then sit and have a conversation. I think after a while I just spoke to so many people in the business that they would then come to me. It sets up a kind of circle where you ask questions of them, they ask questions of you, and before you know it, you are collaborating on things and coming up with solutions.

Steve Rosvold: [00:06:15] That is a really good point. That is a great way to follow your nose, your curiosity. If that leads you into sales or into marketing or operations, that’s great. It doesn’t have to lead you into accounting, finance or treasury.

The last point, from my perspective, on this would be to learn the language of the business.

[00:06:38] Learning the commercial language of the business, rather than speaking in accounting or finance terms, is a great way to grow your leadership skills and get promoted into management.

Andy Burrows: [00:06:50] Yeah. Is that something that you found difficult when you were a young accountant or is that something that has always come naturally to you?

Steve Rosvold: [00:07:01] I had a really good manager when I first started my career. So from early on, I was well coached to speak in commercial terms. I think I lost it in the early middle few years of my career when I became very finance oriented. I was in a corporate role with less exposure to operating units. To overcome that I had be very intentional in my communication. So, my advice if you don’t have a superior teaching you how communicate with all parts of the business is, be very intentional about learning the language of your business. Speak in commercial terms and always take the perspective of who you are talking to, rather than a finance point of view. How about you, Andy?

Andy Burrows: [00:07:40] I certainly found that as well. And the reason I asked the question is because I’ve always found I tend to have this natural thing, or it’s a little bit more natural to me to always be thinking “What is the other guy going to make of what I’m about to say?” So I adjust my language because I’m always concerned whether they are going to understand me. When I came out of public practice and went into the finance department, I noticed that other people didn’t do that. They would just go stand in front of someone and say, “can you give me an accrual for the month please?” And I was thinking, that’s an accounting term. How are they going to know what an accrual is? That is like this alien concept. And things like fixed assets and depreciation. We put them on reports and people don’t know what they mean. So I was already thinking that people don’t understand this. This is accounting speak. Other people would just say this is what we produced. They should go and look it up in a book.

[00:08:53] So in my view, you’re, right. Let’s speak the language of the business, but also, learn to translate finance into that language as well.

Steve Rosvold: [00:09:04] Very true. I think, coming back to Covey, that will really increases your sphere of influence. When you can speak their language, all of a sudden your sphere of influence grows significantly.


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