Career Management II: High Performance
From the Clarity course, you would have started to become comfortable with the concept that every CFO function is different as a result of the leadership group, nature of business, ownership structure, size and other features. This ties directly into a very important career management theme; High Performance.
This component of strategic career management acknowledges two key truths:
1. Careers are shaped by other people who open up opportunities and measure your performance. The likelihood of endorsement and support of others is related to their view of your “performance”.
2. Performance is subjective - measured by the eyes of those you serve and relative to the goals they are trying to achieve, challenges they are trying to overcome and cognitive biases or beliefs they have.
At the time you are able to understand the audience you serve and how performance or value is translated, the implementation of this value creates improved career conversations, trust and support from these people.
Givers, Matchers, Takers
An interesting piece of research that is worth overlaying career management is brought out in Adam Grant’s book “Give & Take” where he explores three types of people, Givers, Matchers and Takers.
Givers will provide value to others without and expectation of anything in return. They enjoy and are motivated to help others.
Matchers form the majority of people who look to match and meet the value trade between others, helping and supporting those that have done the same for them.
Takers tend to selectively help those where there is something directly beneficial to them. They will create value for others, but it is primarily self-serving.
We can see that for Matchers and Takers, is it important to be performing (in their eyes) and creating value for them in order to receive their support. Givers will do this for you in any case, however it would be argued that from a logic standpoint, if they are in a senior leadership position, they will still measure your performance relative to the job and outcomes that need to be achieve. Typically in their eyes, it will be the value you create for others and your business that is important.
To help frame up this section read Why Give More than We Take? by Steve Rosvold. Rosvold argues that giving and taking doesn’t have to be a zero sum game but does require deep consideration on where to invest our Presence, Talents and Possessions. How people around fit into these categories is important for career management and career satisfaction.
Relating Performance to Clarity
Great career managers are able to centre themselves around work that positions them as a “performer” in the eyes of those they serve, in addition to finding professionally challenging duties that focus on their career goals. This is a highly powerful strategy.
A tool we use to help people map out and prioritise these performance opportunities is called DSR. You can find this in the Resources area and use this to identify the relationship between “Stretch” and the problems you solve for the business. Those that are highly valuable to the business and create stretch relative to your career goals should be a focus.
Understanding Value – Creating Value to Drive Opportunity
Often accounting and finance professionals are confused about what is “valuable” in their business. For many, they declare:
“I want to work in a place where I can add value” but really they mean a job they enjoy. Sometimes it is questionable if they are really “adding value”.
For many, they define performance and effort in the same way. The harder I work, the more I do, the better I must be performing. Of course, we know rationally this does not work out, as CFOs and leaders are not always the hardest workers, nor do they need to do “more” to be performing to a high standard. In fact, it is the strategic selection of the areas they focus on, and the management of compliance, governance and controls to ensure that issues to not arise and undermine the value adding tasks they attack. Simplifying this, there are tasks that need to be done with low fuss, noise and effort, and there are tasks that drive the business forward and solve critical problems.
DSR - Delivery, Stretch, Reputation
This is a simple template that Brad explores as part of strategic career management in the finance space. It relates to the foundational need for finance leaders to stretch and grow in areas that A) primarily create value for the organization and its strategic goals B) allow the accounting or finance professional to build their career narrative and skill set relative to their goals C) In creating this value, engaging and maintaining a career-advantageous relationship with key people in the business. Mapping out each section of the DSR creates an agile roadmap for positioning yourself well for future development and support from leaders in the organization.
NETWORKING - STRETCH MAP
Networking is often poorly executed by most accounting and finance professionals, and not for the want of trying. Effective career networking is about engaging with people who are willing to maintain a relationship, and this relationships often involve deeper and more complex conversations than simple trading a business card or a transactional “one-off” meeting.
The Stretch Map ties in your career challenges and growth goals to key people that could play a role in helping you solve or improve your performance relative to these challenges or goals. Typically, these people will have experience in areas that you don’t and have worked through similar career challenges in the past, hence making them a valuable resource and someone to tap into for support beyond your initial discussion.
CAREER NARRATIVE - TRACKING STORIES & KEY CAREER EVENTS
For most finance leaders, their functional experience and skills are very wide and in most cases, reflect that of almost all other finance leaders at a similar stage of their career. What we acknowledge in our development towards the CFO chair, or elsewhere, is that leaders are not drawn to functional skills, especially in interviews or initial professional conversations.
What differentiates is the ability to make a difference through strategic challenges and events in your career. Not only are these stories more emotive and engaging, but they reflect the characteristics and behaviours that are important at a senior executive level.
This tool is used to track stories that you want to leverage during networking and career conversations that reflect your personal brand.
Consider this Question
“How would you feel if I gave you a car?”
There are all sorts of reaction to this question. In many cases, people say, “yeah, I would take it”.
I then tell them that the car does not have an engine, I have the keys and I will be leaving at your house tomorrow.
Unless they are a metal recycler, they are usually not impressed with this result. Although instinctively they saw value in receiving a free car, even without knowing much about what car it was in the first place.
For many CEOs, business leaders and non-finance professionals in business, they are not engaged to ensure that what they are receiving is valuable, and assumptions are made about the value of the work the finance department does. For you as an individual, this can be career limiting and a key trait of the business finance leaders I that they are highly trusted by their business and are seen as value creators.
To tie back to the car analogy, an outstanding finance professional would work out;
What car real would make the biggest impact and be appreciated by my stakeholders?
If I get them a car that meets some of their expectations, how can I ensure that I think about other things happening around the car to make the experience impactful? In the world of cars, this might be regular services, a more powerful engine, the right colour, free cleaning.
In the world of finance, this can relate to management or Board reporting, the way you deliver insights or models to support key decisions, the way you communicate technical ideas, the topics you cover in conversations and those that are best managed and solved by your team.