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How to develop your finance team

As a finance leader a vital part of your role is developing your team, after all they are the next generation of leaders, and key to the success of your department going forward.

Here we look at five ways you can encourage and motivate your team to develop their knowledge and upskill.

1. Encourage independent, solution-based thinking

The ability to spot and point out problems is valued, but finance teams should be encouraged to go a step further and present solutions to an issue. Often employees will go to management with problems and expect to be told what to do. Craig Harnett, CFO of the NHL is often met with this situation. Here he explains -

“When people come into my office with an issue, I expect them to have a couple of potential solutions for those issues. I may have my own view on what the solution might be, but I require them to present their solutions first and to discuss that and understand how they came to those potential solutions before we talk about what I think is right or wrong.” 

Those who offer solutions are more likely to be strong analysts. They develop credibility with department heads because they’re thinking through an issue, not just raising one. They have developed credibility because they can explain or predict successfully what effect various decisions will have, and what they will mean to the business’ financial results.

2. Involve them in special projects

Whilst it can be costly to take your team members away from their usual duties, involving them in special projects can be hugely beneficial. By allowing a team member to assist you on a project you will not only gain a fresh perspective, and benefit from their outlook and input, the strategy will also give you more insight into how the staff member interacts with senior executives and what competencies the staff member possesses. 

It also provides the employee invaluable exposure to the rest of the organisation. For example, asking a general accounting manager, whose regular duties include reconciling accounts, to analyse the company’s insurance programmes, will broaden their skillset. Another example of this is getting a payroll employee work to look over staff medical benefits benchmarked against those in other industries.

Broadening your team’s skillset in this way will prepare them for leadership roles which will encompass far more than their current responsibilities. 

3. Expose them to other divisions

Similar to the point above, there is a lot to be gained by exposing your team to other divisions and tasks outside of their daily role. Sending teams out of the home office and into other divisions will allow future leaders to develop new working relationships, to learn to do things differently. They will also gain exposure to other areas of the business or other regions, in turn giving them a better understanding of the organisation. 

Team members exposed to other divisions can pass along best practices but also bring back process efficiencies. This improved understanding and enhanced skillset will not only be beneficial for future roles but for their current role too. It may be that practices can be streamlined, or that another department has a fresh perspective on how to achieves goals and meet targets.

4. Learn from a 360 review

A 360 review involves gaining feedback from supervisors, peers and direct reports. There is plenty to be gained from a 360 review, as long as the circle of respondents is kept small and the questions are relevant to the individual’s role, it can highlight professional strengths and weaknesses.

Such reviews can help identify gaps in knowledge that can be addressed through coaching or outside training. For example, an employee might have exhibited knowledge and the ability to provide analysis in small meetings mainly amongst peers. If that same employee has a harder time conveying messages to larger meetings with senior management — because of nerves, speaking style, etc. — the company could invest in coaching from an outside firm to get the employee more comfortable in that type of setting. 

Upskilling in this way will be hugely beneficial for potential future finance leaders.

5. Communicate strategy

Often in times of dramatic change, management can overlook communication and focus on action. 

Let your team know the strategy and reinforce that strategy to ensure they’ll make better decisions as managers. Without involvement in management decisions lower level employees can get disillusioned or frustrated. A well communicated strategy ensures all staff are on the same page, and also opens up opportunity any concerns to be voiced. 

“People feel more comfortable working in a company when they feel as informed about everything as they can be. So they know what the long-term strategy is, they have a good idea of what the immediate future plan is for the business, and therefore they can help steer it towards accomplishing that and achieving it.” - Veronica McCann, former CFO at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

Further development Follow these steps as you will undoubtedly strengthen your team, as well as develop the skillset they will need for future roles. Afterall, they may well turn out to be your successor should you move on or retire. What’s more, they will learn far more with these hands-on approaches than they would merely shadowing the boss.

Looking to further develop your team’s skills? Consider enrolling them on a leadership skills development course.