Team Alignment: A Proven Method to Drive Bigger, Better and Bolder Results

If the CFO’s role is to drive results around financial performance and reporting but you are dependent on so many external factors, functions and roles to be successful how can you ever win?

The key is to build team alignment. The goal for every high-performing CFO should be to build an aligned Finance organization leadership team where every member delivers on time, on budget and without any undue stress or intensity.

How is this even possible, you ask?

I’ve seen a number of key components help C-level leaders create these work environments for the past 24-years.

1. One component is having the right people, with the right strengths in the right roles. This requires a deep understanding of what skills your organization requires to be successful and the strengths of each of the players on your team. Once you have these key components in place you have the foundation for building team alignment.. It will require getting out of your comfort zone and experimenting with some new and different approaches.

2. Another component is to articulate and communicate a Vision for the Finance organization. People cannot be forced to meet deadlines, but they can be invited and inspired to be part of something greater than themselves, an organization that delivers excellence to their internal and external customers. Steve Jobs said it best; “If you are working on something really exciting that you care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The Vision pulls you.” It can be as simple as a Purpose:

  • Deliver Complete, Accurate and Timely Financial Reports Consistently.

or

  • Create and Distribute the Best Information Possible to Enable the Company to make the Best Decisions for Long-Term Success.

The most important thing is to make it big enough and compelling enough to gain team buy-in. This will keep your group inspired to keep working hard and working smart.

3. A third key component of team alignment includes ensuring everyone is supportive of everyone else’s individual success. Often it is easy to garner support for the team’s successes. Everyone wants to be successful, right? However, if we have silos among key leaders and departments or if we have individuals who are only concerned with their own ambitions and personal brand, we can never build genuine team alignment. It only requires one self-interested key player to derail an entire team or even organization. We must find ways to have direct conversations with those who appear to put their own self-interest over their colleagues’ interest. A simple conversation with a few direct questions can help your people gain the clarity needed to either step up or step out. TheTeam Alignment Assessment (Link) that goes with this article helps identify these areas, which is the first step in helping you overcome this malady.

4. The final key component of team alignment is the ability to articulate and negotiate expectations. Many accounting and finance professionals have a hard time delegating. A typical perspective might be, “it’s just easier and faster to do it myself”. This may be true but when we fail to delegate effectively, we are literally robbing our people of their career development opportunities and robbing ourselves of any hope of succession planning.

My Dad had a CPA firm in our hometown, Vicksburg Mississippi. Unfortunately, and I imagine for a variety of reasons, my Dad never retained the senior professionals who came to him for training and development with the hopes of acquiring his firm. Because of this turnover, he worked too hard and suffered a fatal heart attack at age 55. My mother’s biggest asset was at risk because he had not developed others and had no plan to transition ownership effectively.

If you are smart, you are hiring people smarter than you. Without effective delegation, these smart folks will not stay because they will understand their career aspirations cannot be fulfilled within your organization because they are not gaining valuable experience on special projects or new responsibilities.

To delegate effectively you must prepare. You must first articulate to yourself your specific expectations for a project or new function. How will success be measured? How will we tabulate our results and report those results? I like to think in terms of PEOs: Prioritized Empirical Objectives. Empirical because the objective is based on factual data and includes quantifiable metrics. Prioritization is of course a process that will involve others but the end result could be that your entire Finance Leadership Team has a clear roadmap for success because you’ve built these PEOs for the whole Finance organization.

Once you gain this level of clarity for yourself it will be exponentially easier to gain buy-in and negotiate expectations. Most delegation efforts fail because the leader has simply not taken the time to articulate and define success in advance.

Negotiating Expectations effectively also requires knowing the other person or persons’ strengths and motivations. Even without outside assistance to quantify these factors for your colleagues, just take a minute to think about what motivates each key player. It is rarely money but often recognition or validation. It could be a need to be included in the decision-making processes or a need to receive credit for their hard work. If you think about what motivates the other party and you provide context for the new task or project that incudes some of their motivations, you’ll be delighted in how easy it is to gain buy-in.

The most critical component of negotiating expectations is to not think it is a “one and done” conversation. Any plan for success must include interim check-points and regular opportunities to discuss results to date, brainstorm how to incorporate new data or insights and re-negotiate expectations continuously.

When you have an experience of team alignment, every day is filled with successes and accomplishments. When you lack this level of professionalism among your team, your days are spent putting out fires, reacting to the ‘challenge of the day’ and investing too much energy and effort to drive the required results

Use these simple, practical and proven tips for yourself while bringing focus and discipline to building team alignment. You’ll enjoy the benefits of retaining and further developing your top talent. Take the first step by using our Team Alignment Assessment to begin your journey to build the best team possible.

Good luck and keep us posted on how your journey is going. We are here to help you to success.


​Not a member-scholar yet? Join our financial community here!

Identify your path to CFO success by taking our CFO Readiness Assessmentᵀᴹ.

For the most up to date and relevant accounting, finance, treasury and leadership headlines all in one place subscribe to The Balanced Digest.

Follow us on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter.