How CFOs Can Better Build Relationships with their Inc. 500 CEOs
It’s no surprise: Every CFO should want to build a better, tighter, more constructive relationship with their CEO. From fostering increased business goal coordination to creating a better place to work, the CFO-CEO relationship is more important than ever before—even if you are of different stripes.
As CFOs shoulder more responsibility within their organizations, increased coordination and collaboration with CEOs matters more.
But even more important, perhaps, is the growing trend of CFOs succeeding CEOs, as Crain’s Chicago Business notes.
“Clients are definitely looking for CFOs as succession candidates,” Tom Daniels, senior director in the New York office of executive-search firm Spencer Stuart, told Chicago Business recently. “It’s always been in the back of people’s minds, but they are articulating it more now.”
So, how can CFOs build a more productive, transparent relationship with their boss? While eating lunch with your CEO is important, it’s equally—if not more so—important to understand the personality traits and strengths that make them tick.
And a recent article in Inc. Magazine help us do exactly that. In their excellent piece, “Inside the Mind of a CEO,” they explore what sets Inc. 500 CEOs from their counterparts in the general population of CEOs. Specifically, they examine their StrengthsFinder strengths against other CEOs.
Gallup compared their scores against 2,700 entrepreneurs on 10 strengths ranging from “business focus” to “relationship builder” and found that Inc. 500 entrepreneurs are more likely to possess “business focus” than other entrepreneurs.
Business focus is defined as someone who “emphasizes profits, goals and metrics” and “aligns employees with company goals.” And 72 percent of Inc. 500 entrepreneurs possess this strength, compared with just 20 percent of other entrepreneurs.
According to Inc.:
[T]he most talented Inc. 500 leaders were about 54 percent more likely to exceed their profit goals than the most talented leaders in the national sample. So while a typical company leader might hold weekly or monthly executive team meetings to discuss metrics, many business-focused Inc. 500 leaders report meeting daily to dissect every data point and adjust accordingly.
What does that mean for CFOs? It means that in many cases, CFOs have a built-in advantage to build tighter, more productive relationships than others in C-level leadership positions.
To capitalize on that, the best CFOs should leverage their ability to frame decisions in terms of profits, goals and metrics in daily meetings with CEOs.
For high-performing CEOs, weekly or monthly executive team meetings will not cut it. Instead, arranging a daily lunch, breakfast or afternoon coffee check-in will endear you to your CEO, according to Inc. and Gallup.
The benefit to your CEO: You’ll provide the daily data points necessary for her or him to make the decisions that are paramount to the organization’s performance, playing to and reinforcing their “business focus” strength.
The benefit to you: Your command of data and strategy will endear you to your CEO, resulting in a more productive relationship. In addition, should you have aspirations to succeed your CEO one day, you’ll gain insights into his or her institutional knowledge, as well as experience that will be critical to your success.
Question: As your company’s CFO, how frequently do you meet with your CEO? What tips would you offer to other CFOs about building a better relationship with their CEOs?