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Confirmed at last: CFOs can't do it all

Lisa Yoon | Sept. 30, 2011
Between striving to contribute strategic value to the company and running an efficient finance department, the finance chief is the Sisyphus of the C-suite. Just about every company activity involves finance, after all, which can make it seem as if a CFO's work indeed is never done.

You advise people how to get "the right work done." For finance chiefs, this is both an individual goal and a goal for the finance departments they lead. What are some strategies for applying your advice to the organizational level?

A structured to-do list is a simple solution to this. It organizes your to-do list in categories based on the areas of focus we just discussed. When your areas of focus are transparent within finance, you can make sure your employees are focused on the right five things.

If the employees use that format for their to-do lists, you can look at and understand exactly what the employees are doing and how it's fitting in with the five areas of focus to move the organization forward. This also gives the employee some leverage to remind you when ask them to perform tasks that fall outside the areas of focus that you chose for finance. And if you find this conversation happens often, it will be an indication that finance is going off course and spending too much time on the wrong things.

What's the value of imperfection? Is there room for getting things half-right in corporate-finance leadership?

The upside of imperfection is productivity. Of course, you don't want to be half-right in financial reporting. In corporate financial leadership the key is recognizing what's worth pursuing perfection in, and what isn't. As CFO, you want the people who report to you to be accurate in the detail-oriented work they do. But at the most senior level the same level of attention to detail can be a detriment to a CFO.


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