5 quick tips for the first 30 days as a post-COVID finance leader

Taking office as a finance leader post-COVID may look a little different, but the core things to focus on in your first 30 days remain familiar. According to a McKinsey survey of finance executives, today’s CFOs are responsible for much more than finance. On average, five functions other than finance now report to the CFO. More than half of CFOs say their companies’ risk, regulatory compliance and M&A transactions and execution report directly to them, and 38% of CFOs are responsible for IT. In the same survey, 46% of CFOs spent most of their time on strategy, transformations or another non-finance areas, suggesting just how diversified the list of demands on the CFO is. It’s tempting to dive straight in, but a considered approach will stand you in good stead for the longer term.

1. Get to know the organisational culture

This must never be overlooked and that’s why it leads our list of top 5 tips. Heard the term “culture eats strategy for lunch”? Arguably, the experience and operation of a finance team is one of the best bellwethers of an organisation’s overall culture. By performing a fact-finding mission with your new colleagues and within the finance data available to you, you’ll be able to get a good sense of the organisation’s overall ethos. For example, high spending in new investment pre-COVID could indicate risk-taking, or large cash reserves could indicate a sense of caution.

2. Assess preparedness for key milestones

2020 has many unique challenges for all business leaders. The milestones that the business had in place pre-COVID are likely to be under intense scrutiny as to whether they are still possible or no longer a logical fit for the business. Understanding key milestones and then assessing them will help drive the strategic plan you intend to deliver back to the business.

3. Establish your strategic priorities

While you’ll likely have more than 30 days to work out what your strategic goals are, it’s best to start mapping your thoughts after each interaction with peers, colleagues and subordinates. Perhaps in your interview process they already highlighted that they want to target key areas of finance department spending as a priority in order to reduce the overall cost burden to the business. Engagement with your peers gives perspective on the right way forward, so jotting down your thoughts and ideas as you engage and gather more information will save time and deliver a sounder and more supported strategic plan.

4. Gain cross-departmental insight

Getting insight across other departments is imperative to ensuring strategic ideas are supported by data – a finance leader’s tool of the trade. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a view of cross-functional data, use it to present your ideas back to your peers for further input and engagement. If your organisation doesn’t already have a data-sharing system in place to facilitate cross-department working, this is a good way to assess if it should be part of your strategic plan.

5. Empower and engage your people

Easier said than done certainly, but the payoff is obvious. As a finance leader, you’ll likely be leading a team of at least a few other people – including accountants, payroll specialists, finance officers and more. Whether there are two people or 20, you’ll need to keep them motivated. Something as simple as communicating what you’ve observed and updating them on this each week will go a long way to making them feel like you’re taking them on an inspiring mission that they want to be on. Asking employees for their perspective on a strategic idea you have (where practical) gives you a sense of what motivates them, frustrates them and how to leverage their talents.

Good luck in your new role. There is a whole new normal we’ve all got to plan for and build from.