Tag: cfo

Here are five steps that will help you prepare to step into the C-suite:

Join the team. Approach your new assignment on the executive as starting a new job with a new team. Think about ways you can make that team more effective, even if others don’t approach it as a team or the CEO doesn’t manage it that way.

Focus your efforts on building long-term stakeholder value. The job the company needs you to do as an executive is a offer strategic guidance to increase the long-term value of the organization to all its stakeholders. Contribute your specialized knowledge and accrued business wisdom. Learn everything you can about the areas where you don’t specialize and how they work in combination to build long-term value.

Identify the balance of power. Even though you may have an idea going in, double check your assumptions based on first-hand observations of how executives relate to one another. Check out the body language, displays of power and preference. Who has what assets? How do they compete? Where are the vulnerabilities? Who do you need to partner with to contribute to the achievement of company goals.

Diversify your “conflict mode”. Develop a full range of styles to communicate and collaborate with your fellow executives Find ways to compete more assertively if you’re the type that prizes harmony and happy win-win scenarios. Chances are you’ll get run over by power brokers. Likewise, if you’re the take-no-prisoners type, develop a way of making sure your powerful peers feel respected and willing to trust you.

Find a mentor on the board.  Whether formally or informally, mentorship by a board member will help you see around corners, establish solid footing, and find ways of avoiding “newbie” mistakes on the Executive team. If you don’t feel comfortable with your own company’s board, find someone who’s a veteran from other company boards.

The entranceway to the C-Suite is littered with the carcasses of senior leaders who failed to adapt to new conditions and requirements. It’s one of the toughest if not the toughest of all career transitions.

Here are the five most typical points of failure for aspiring C-level leaders:

“I’m the CTO (or whatever). My job is to be the voice of technology on the Exec Team.”

Ahem. You may be the CTO but you must be focused on and contribute to strategy for the entire enterprise. Your specialty certainly needs a voice. But you are first and foremost a member of the Executive Team. And you are the voice of the Executive Team and enterprise strategy to the company’s technology function.

“My #1 priority is to take care of my CEO.”

You may be grateful and loyal to the CEO for your incredible promotion to the C-suite. But myopically pleasing the boss at the C-level reduces an executive’s performance and potential. Furthermore, the most common bottleneck in organizations is the CEO. Too many CEOs unwittingly create their own hub-and-spoke structure around their leadership, and this causes manifold dysfunction throughout the organization. Senior executives need to pay attention to the goals and strategies that lead to long term organizational value. They need to form powerful pragmatic alliances with other C-suite executives to achieve these goals. Oh yes, and your CEO may be taken out by the board tomorrow. Be loyal to your CEO and follow her lead. But take into account the whole C-suite and your responsibility to foster effective executive teamwork.

“The CFO is a pain. I avoid him at all costs.”

“The board is a threat. We need to close ranks and not let them see us sweat.”

The emperor has no clothes. That’s the lesson these executives soon will learn. The power dynamic between the executive management team and board of directors is often very tricky (particularly when you have aggressive, dominant investors). New executives can be intimidated and feel insecure and not want to show vulnerability to powerful board members.

“We executives are all peers. Let’s just get along and play fair with each other.”

Wrong. The C-Suite is filled with sharp elbows. Chances are that your fellow C-level executives are fiercely competitive (after all, that’s how they got to the top) and are competing with you for company resources, attention from the CEO and board and will likely have an entirely different way of engaging (i.e winning) in conflict. The irony of course is that these are the people with whom you have to team and collaborate effectively with