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BLOG: An easy way to CFO indispensability?

Lisa Yoon | Oct. 17, 2011
For CFOs seeking more C-suite recognition, or up-and-coming managers working toward the CFO post, one approach seems clearly advisable: Become indispensable. To those so committed, October's Harvard Business Review offers "Making Yourself Indispensable," by John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger, of leadership-development consultancy Zenger Folkman.

To simplify things, it could be useful to arrange the various skills in a spreadsheet --- an early use of cross-training, in a sense. Several core leadership skills, particularly under "Personal Capability," relate distinctly to the experience of many finance managers keen on promotion to the next level. These managers often face the difficult realization that their expertise in accounting and financial reporting --- which got them to their current management level -- aren't enough to see them through to a vice-presidency, and C-levels of corporate finance.

One core skill, for example, is "exhibiting technical/professional expertise," with complementary skills that include "communicating powerfully and broadly." By improving the ability to communicate, as a complement to existing strengths in financial management, the authors argue, finance managers can better communicate their goals and contributions, thereby making technical expertise both more apparent, and useful to more people.

A complicated route, to be sure, to pursue after a decision to improve one's communications skills -- a goal that most managers already know is important. Nonetheless, there is merit in the heeding the message that enhancing one's strengths with related skills is a path to indispensability. Aspiring CFOs are constantly told that "what got you this far won't get you any further." And that can make the learning curve seem overwhelming.

By starting with the expertise they already possess, future finance chiefs may well find acquiring the necessary leadership skills more manageable.


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