Career Planning for Finance Professional

Why Career Planning is required: It is required in order to ensure that a Professional person gets a job in accordance with his competency, skills, and area of interest. There are many positions for which profiles are not defined in the correct manner and so the professional holding that position does not get the required experience by working in that organization. Similarly, there are positions for which profiles are mentioned incorrect manner but unfortunately, the professional does not perform as per profile due to lack of competency, skills or lack of interest. Lack of career planning also leads to a high turnover of employees in the company as every professional wants to plan his career and wants to enhance his skills in order to reach the desired position and level. Hence it is important that job profile is defined for each position incorrect manner, the person holding that position has the required skills and competency to perform in order to meet the expectation of top management out of that position and plan is made as to how an employee can grow in the organization which is essential to retain him.

Making your passion as your career: The best thing any professional or individual can do is to select that career in which he or she is highly interested. The duty which becomes a desire is no more a burden and that is the best way to grow. Challenge is discovering what is your passion in a timely manner and ensure that you take timely action to convert that passion into a career.  

Attitude vis-à-vis lack of Skills: Even if person does not have the right skills, he needs to have the right attitude in order to progress in his career. Having right attitude means have the thirst to learn, open to adapt or to change and follow new path or learn new areas such as IT which is the need of the hour. However, person should be willing to change not out of fear but out of the need to grow.  Hunger for growth should be there.

Industry Expertise vis-à-vis functional expertise: As per the latest trend in the market industry expertise is required for a senior-level role in order to perform the strategic role by CFO or FC or Finance Director or VP -Finance. In my experience, there are also professionals who have different industry experiences but who have developed expertise in functions such as internal audit, Statutory audit, Treasury, Financial Planning, Budgeting & MIS reporting, etc. To work in SMEs, you require industry expertise but to work in large size companies you require functional expertise as due to size it is not possible for one professional to handle all areas of Finance.

Joining a big branded company vis-à-vis joining a small growing company: When you join a small company, you get exposure to various areas of business, and hence your understanding and knowledge about them get increases. Also, since these companies are growing so you grow along with the company. In this type of company, you may also get the opportunity to report directly to the owner or founder of the company and hence have a better business sense. However, when you join a big company you restrict yourself to one area of specialization is due to the volume of work it may not be possible to get exposure to all areas. However big companies have robust processes and policies and good brand name and you work with the best of the professionals. I believe you need to balance somewhere in between by joining a branded company initially and they join at a higher position in smaller companies to get exposure to all areas of business.

Taking the risk of changing your career or job in a different industry: In the journey of professional many times, a situation comes when he or she is tempted to change the career or area of expertise or change the industry. One should take the risk of that change if the potential is there. For example, if you a finance professional and he sees big potential in Artificial intelligence and you feel that you want to specialize in that area due to its huge potential it is worth taking that risk. But you should take a calculated risk, meaning start your career in a new field as part-time if possible before moving completely into it.

Earning a Second degree: It is always good to earn management degree as second degree apart from your functional degree in early stage of your career as that helps to understand all functions and areas of business in better manner. This kind of degree also increases your potential to become CEO in your career at some point of time.  

Keeping balance between enhancing professional skills and fulfilling your responsibilities at work: It is very important to ensure that you keep upgrading your skills in order to grow in your career. Hence for this purpose it is important that you balance your work life with your professional and family life by devoting time for upgrading your skills as company may kick you out one day and at that time only your professional skills will be useful to find new job. It is equally important to fulfill your responsibilities at work; hence you need to balance between these two extremes.

Going Global: It is important to get global exposure by getting exposed to different countries and understanding their culture, what is their economy driven by, what mindset of people there, their laws and regulation, time difference, climate, currency difference, rules for outside investors to invest, etc.

When you are promoted and become a manager: The most important thing that any professional needs to understand when he or she is promoted is as a manager is what are the new skills that need to be developed in performing in the new role effectively. Often senior positions do not demand technical skills but the art of getting the things done from subordinates, managing people, effective decision making, delegation but at the same time controlling actions of your team members. It is ok to go to your mentor or senior person and seek the advice of what and how new skills persons need to develop in order to perform this new role. It is ok to ask and there is nothing wrong with it. Everyone has got evolved and grown only by doing mistakes and only by learning from others and situations.

How to Manage team effectively: Great managers discover what is unique about each team member and then capitalize on it. They know to create a perfect environment in which their team members shall be motivated to give and deliver their best. They know how to motivate their team members. They guide their team members very well. They give them clarity on the goals they need to achieve. They discuss with their team members their personal problems, career plans in order to build an excellent rapport with them. They delegate to their team and give them the freedom to work in their own style, however, but they monitor in order to ensure that assigned task is delivered as per expectation and within the deadline. A true leader makes another person as a leader. Hence, they have given them a chance to grow, to give bigger responsibility. They are transparent in their relationship with their team members. They take feedback about the performance of team members from other depts. They ensure that conflict within the dept between 2 team members are not known to someone outside the dept and is resolved at the earliest. Great managers conduct meeting regularly with the team to understand the status of the task assigned, difficulties faced by team members in completing the task, and to judge a realistic deadline within which task shall be completed.  The manager needs to ensure that he stands by the side of his team in case of any inter-dept conflict or issue. How you treat your team members in front of your boss shall determine what your team members think about you. Many managers treat their subordinates as slaves in front of bosses or in crisis due to work pressure which leads to unhealthy relationships later. It is important to seek feedback about your relationship with your subordinate from another dept. The job of a manager is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. It is equally important to give constructive feedback to subordinates regarding their performance at regular intervals.

What is the difference between Managers and Leaders – Managers tend to be more rational, objective, and driven by organizational needs, while Leaders are more visionary, emotional, and inspirational in nature. Although the ideal for a good manager is to be a good leader as well, it doesn’t always work out that way. A great leader has drive and personality; in addition to management ability. While becoming a leader is something to strive for, the transformation is never a sure thing.

Think Strategically: For first-time Managers, 10% of the work might be strategic, however as grow and become senior time allocation to this area should increase. To be successful at the next level managers must demonstrate that they can think and act strategically. Managers must focus on the bigger picture. For example, if a manager is presenting financial results for performance then they must do some research and analysis and understand industry trends and what shall be the forecast for the next 2 quarters.

Learn from Diverse role models: Most learning necessarily involves some form of imitation and the understanding that nothing is original. An important part of growing as a leader is viewing authenticity not as an intrinsic state but as the ability to take elements you have learned from other’s styles and behavior and make them your own. But don’t copy just one person’s leadership style; tap many diverse role models. There is a big difference between imitating someone wholesale and borrowing selectively from various people to create your own collage which you then modify and improve. For example, how to bring humor in meetings to reduce tension.  

Challenges make you learn: As per my experience and research the moments that most challenge our sense of self are the ones that can teach us the most about leading effectively. You need to break your comfort zone and take us certain challenges even when you are not sure how you are going to manage that challenge as you evolve and grow because of such challenges and thereby advance in your career. By trying out different leadership styles and behaviors we grow more than we would through introspection alone. Experimenting with our identities allow us to find the right approach for ourselves and our organization. You need to adaptable as deal with people who are from different culture and background. Further you need to know how to sell your ideas to become influential person in the organization. The only way we grow as leaders is by stretching the limits of who we are-doing new things that make us uncomfortable but that teach us through direct experience who we want to become. Such growth doesn’t require a radical personality makeover. Small changes in the way we carry ourselves the way we communicate, the way we interact-often make a world of difference in how effectively we lead.

Working under pressure due to deadlines: In many organizations due to various reasons, the managers and his team work under pressure and this leads to the high turnover of employees over a period of time as when an employee works only one work and makes the sacrifice of other aspects of life then such culture cannot retain the employees for a long time. Hence Managers should ensure that there is a perfect balance between work and family life of his team. For this purpose, he needs to review the list of tasks that are executed and how they are executed and what can be done to reduce the time taken to execute the task. Many times, work pressure is created due to certain demands of top management. The manager needs to persuade top management to refrain from such practices as this is not good in the long-term retention of the employees of the company.

Developing digital skills: Every organization needs to enhance its digital capabilities to improve its competitive advantage. Hence it is important for any professional to develop digital skills so that they can drive the digital projects in their organization and thereby add value to the organization. For this purpose, it is important to understand various digital products available in the market and what is the digitalization of each this product. The Key is to apply only those digital products in your company which are relevant for that business and considering the culture of the company.

Dealing with Senior or top management: Always remember important figures as your owner can ask important figures in relation to sales or profit anytime and they expect a prompt reply in this regard. Never give your advice or feedback about any critical matter unless you have all the required information and you have analyzed the same. Be careful in making statements to top management as your word has a lot of weightage and hence decisions taken based on your word as a lot of implications for the progress of the company. Always recommend decisions based on numbers or figures rather than through gut feeling only. Do not give comments about subject matter you are not expert at and have only working knowledge of the same. What are the priorities according to top management or critical areas on which you need to focus on needs to be understood very clearly and thoroughly from top management? It is important to regularly have meeting with top management and share with them status of critical task that needs to be completed. Always cross-check information prepared by your subordinate and analyzed it thoroughly before submitting the same to top management so that reliability of information is taken care of and you are ready with answers if any questions are asked. A CFO should always advise to do business in structured manner. Impact of an activity on cash flow or financial performance or internal controls or risk or compliance needs to be analyzed and appropriate recommendation should be given to ensure that due to this activity cash flow is not blocked, profitability is not reduced, it does not lead to increase chances of errors or frauds or any other risk as it needs to be address by mitigating the same. Winning trust of owner is very important in order to maintain and grow in the organization. Results should be delivered in all circumstances and in case it cannot be delivered then it should be informed to top management. A critical part of manager’s job, therefore, is to put people into roles and shifts that will allow them to shine—and to avoid putting clashing personalities together. At the same time manager needs to find ways for individuals to grow. Decisions of top management should be not be criticized openly but in a diplomatic manner. Manager should check whether the top management is open for review of its own decision or is furious to implement it immediately. EGO massage plays a very important role in such situation as we need to ensure that ego of senior person is not affected due to your questioning about a decision announced by your senior. Give a presentation of your financial results to top management in charts/graphs form rather than giving detailed numbers and texts as they do not understand numbers.

Who is an Entrepreneur: In many SMEs, finance professionals report directly to owner or entrepreneur? Hence it is important to understand the mindset of entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is a strategic person who has good strategic knowledge about his business, industry, who are the competitors, product, etc. They have the ability to take the risk. They are fast decision-makers. They always think of how revenue can be optimized and cost can be minimized. They normally do not trust new people initially and take time to develop trust, however, once the trust is developed, they give adequate authority to that person, they do not like to delegate much and expect their employees to report the smallest of information and development taking place in business. They are aggressive in nature and normally do not understand financial numbers very well. They jump to a conclusion without going in-depth of the subject. They are blunt and straightforward in their attitude but they know to be diplomatic with their customers. They are good negotiator. They know the key drivers of their business and do a lot of benchmarking of what is happening in the market and how they can implement the same in their company. They do not like inter-dept conflict or corporate politics in their company. They are good at monitoring the work of their HODS. They like to interfere and ensure that their concurrence is taken in smallest of decision. They focus on business but are not organized and do not give much importance to it. When company grows from propertiorship to SME who have investors on board or are listed then it becomes difficult to change culture of the company and make it more organized as they are not ready to give-up their old habits. Decisions taken on gut feeling rather than on numbers can be prove dangerous sometimes. Expanding aggressively in order to grow at faster space can disturb the cash flow of the group and sometimes affect the operations and profitability of existing business. Hence it is important that they are educated in right direction.

Managing your boss: Many employees or professionals are very talented technically and also handle their subordinates effectively, however they lack the skills to manage their boss effectively harming themselves in a great way. Managers often don’t realize as to how much their boss depends on them. They need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Managers also don’t realize how much they depend on their boss for links with the rest of the organization, for setting up priorities and for obtaining critical resources. It is very important to understand the expectations of your boss towards you and fulfill them. It is equally important to express your needs and wants to your boss. Understand his leadership style. Understand from your boss as to what he needs to know and what he does not need to know. It is important to understand the strength and weaknesses of your boss and of yourself as well. What are the KRA or organizational goals of your boss needs to be ascertained and understood as that becomes eventually your KRA? Understand their priorities and concern. As per Peter Drucker some boss is a good listener but some are good readers. Hence the first type of boss will require you to report in person whereas another type of boss would like to prepare a good presentation and email to him so that he can study on his own and they ask queries. Similarly, some people like their involvement in everything, some boos like to get involved only in critical matters. Hence it is good to involve the first type of boss initial stage itself of work or project as anyone he will get involved. Many bosses do not like to hear problems or bad news. They want solutions if problems are presented. Hence it is important to fulfill their expectation in this regard. It is important for a subordinate to meet the expectation of the boss and thereby develop an image among the bosses of someone on whom he can reply to get the task completed. Give positive feedback about your boss to his boss or to any other person in such a way that he comes to know about your positive feedback. This is the best way to influence and win the heart of the boss.

Maintaining the balance between Authority and Responsibility: In order to perform effectively in any managerial role authority and responsibility should go hand in hand. However, unfortunately, there are many organizations where there is an imbalance between these two. Often full responsibility is given to managers, however full authority is not given. Sometimes authority is implied, sometimes you need to win the confidence of people in order to gain authority. Often when a new manager is appointed and his subordinates are working in a group for more than 5 years and have access to top management directly then there is less probability that they will listen to the instructions of a new manager. In this situation managers will require to establish rapport with top management, win their confidence and trust, and then present in the very diplomatic way the need to ensure that top management does not directly interact with his subordinates and persuade them for this matter. Similarly, the new manager needs to establish a rapport with his team and demonstrate his abilities to them and also give them the assurance that he is here to make them grow and he is not a threat to them. 

Acting as business partners for other depts: It is important that finance professional acts as business partners for other depts and help to analyze operational reports of their respective depts so that they can perform in a better manner. Financial reports should also link with operational reports of other departments to have better understanding of business. It is important to educate other departments about finance so that mis-understanding about finance dept can be avoided and it also build-up brand image of finance dept. Operational departments can give lot of suggestions on how cost can be revenue can be optimized or cost can be reduced. Hence close interaction with them is required to seek this suggestion. On other hand that operational departments lack the strategic skills required to understand as to what are the strategic goals of the organization and why we are doing a particular activity to achieve it. Hence finance professional can explain this to other depts.   Employees try to pass on the work when they lack the desire or skills to manage it effectively. Hence it is important to develop the required skills in that employee so that they could complete that task.  

Reviewing the work of the team members: It is important for a manager that tasks delegated to subordinate are reviewed and gross checked. However, what is the extent to which task should be checked in detail is a skillful thing which must be decided based on experience and talent. Manager should in-build the maker and checker concept in the process so that work of one person is checked by another person as a part of process and hence manager does not have to spend time in gross checking the work in detail in most of the task. Exception to this rule could be certain critical task to be presented to board which may be gross checked by manager directly.

Differentiate between urgent and important task: Managers are costly resource for the company as they are highly paid for their skills and experience. Hence it is important that managers devote time on right things which are important and critical to be completed in order to achieve the strategic goals of the company. However, many mangers get involved in to daily routine matters or matters which become urgent due to inefficiency of some other person or depts but which are otherwise not important. It is important that managers differentiated between what task they need to do or spend their time on and what task they need to delegate out of the total number of tasks put before them by subordinates or departmental work. 

Art of persuasion: If you can persuade anyone you can win anything. Hence it is important to learn art of persuasion. Following key points to persuade another person:

a)   Goal: In order to persuade anyone always start with knowing what is the ultimate goal. Ask the person who needs to be persuaded as to what is his requirement. Hence suppose you want to sell a product to prospective customer then first understand the requirement of prospective customer as to what is his or her requirement that needs to be satisfied by the product. Once the purpose for which customer is buying is known and understood then it is easy to persuade the customer by explaining him or her about the features of product that can help to satisfy his or her requirement directly. When you ask everyone as to what is goal of the meeting each will have his or her own agendas and we you can summarize and restrict to one or two goals then you become the leader by default and then you can discuss on those aspects which relate to the relevant agenda and thereby persuade the group in your favour.

 b)   EGO: Every person has big ego and one feels insecure or threatened when you try to give different idea or point of view. Hence it is important to study well in advance before the meeting who are going to attend the meeting and their egos and plan as to how you are going to manage the egos by doing massage of their egos. Ego massage meaning pampering egos of the people in the meeting and given them assurance that you are not here to threaten them but to support them. You need to make other person people safe and secure so that they are open for new ideas. It is also important to understand your ego as well. If you can set aside your ego and effectively manage other’s ego by following above tip then you put yourself in a great position of control. One of the easiest ways to soother an ego is to use the phrase from my perspective. By stating this you are giving the message that different people can have different perspective and hence your idea is just only one perspective.

 c)   Using emotional language is a way to get your audience not only to understand your argument but also to feel it. Using emotional language sometimes sparks the accusation that facts are being spun. Each person has its own point of view and hence depending upon the target audience this effective tool must be used.

Emotional intelligence -EI: plays a very important role in managing people. In business we have people problems we really don’t have much business problems. Emotional intelligence is ability to perceive your and others emotions and manage it in correct manner. People who have good EI can negotiate in better manner, can solve customer compliant in better manner, can resolve conflicts within organization in better manner. The art of sustainable leadership is to make subordinate or superior perform at their best and person with high IQ will not be in position to do that but person with high EI will be in position to do that. There are 5 components of EI –

Self-awareness, -Understanding your strength and weakness, understanding your emotions. Person who understand himself knows what he is good and what is he is weak and will act accordingly.

Self-Regulation: Controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses. Trustworthiness, integrity, etc.

Motivation: Ability to motivate others can play a very important role to get things done or to get cooperation, etc.

Empathy: Considering others feelings. Being sensitive to other’s feelings can help to understand other person in better manner and thereby maintain or build relationship with them in better manner.

Social skill: Ability to manage relationship effectively. An extrovert person shall be in position to persuade and influence other people in better manner. This quality can help to resolve inter-departmental conflict between finance and operations and also persuade top management to allow finance to take active role in commercial and strategic matters.

Emotions must be in alignment with your values. It is very important to assess as to whether your emotions are in alignment with your values, if not then there is problem as it will not give long term happiness. It is important to make it align to feel peaceful.

Meditation can help to develop EI: Meditation is going within. It is process of withdrawing from outer world and focusing on your inner world. When you meditate regularly you develop ability over a period of time to go beyond the logical brain and hear the emotions of your mind and thereby manage them in better manner. You stop overreacting to a situation after practicing mediation regularly. Meditation also helps to understand yourself in better manner which is one of the requirements to develop the quality of EI. Meditation also helps to develop positivity. Hence overall because meditation helps to understand yourself and your emotions in better manner, remain stress free and relax and also start thinking positive. So, all these factors contribute a lot to develop emotional intelligence.  

How to manage conflict effectively: While conflict among team can be harmful for any organization mind you there are some advantages also of conflict. It helps to become more creative, spark new ideas, and even strengthen bonds with your coworkers. It allows the team to come with terms with difficult situations, to synthesize diverse perspectives and to make sure solutions are well thought out. Conflicts creates uncomfortable situation but it brings hard facts out and it can become true source of true innovation and also a critical process in identifying and mitigating risk. There are four types of conflict- Personal conflict, Conflict in relation to setting-up of goals or in relation to process and lastly in relationship to status as to who is the in charge. I believe the 2nd and 3rd type of conflict is healthy and one must consider the point of view of other person to revisit and review his opinion or point of view. The first conflict is kind of attitude issue and hardly anything can be done to resolve it. 4th type of conflict is more relating to power or authority and which can be defined or resolve with the intervention to top management. Any conflict which is handle in professional manner by other party and so long as it has not been taken at personal level can be resolved by explaining our point view in a persuading manner to other party. It is important to explain your point of view to other person in their language. Hence for example financial performance of a division can be explained in the form of graphs or charts to top management in better manner rather than numbers and detailed working in this regard. Many conflicts are simple misunderstandings which can be easily resolved by communicating your point of view in clear and precise manner to other party. Do not argue for the sake of argument. You must believe in your opinion or point of view and you should have enough evidences to prove your point of view. It is also important for top management to remain biased free while dealing with conflicts. Conflict can be handled directly or in-direct manner. Some times it is good to handle conflict in-directly by taking help of third party who has better rappo and relationship with the opposite party. It is important to address or resolve conflict rather keeping it open as if you keep it open in the long term it can affect you in adverse manner.

How to manage office politics: It is very important to ensure that when a new manager joins, he does not give any signal or does behavior or do any task by which his subordinates or any other middle management dept feel that he is threat to him or her. The new manager should be instrumental in resolving issues of the dept and of other depts which can be resolved without getting in to conflict with some other dept or persons as he needs to build his credibility and rappo initially. Your boss may feel insecure if he feels that you are more talented than him or if you earn good amount of Browne points in short span. Your subordinate can feel insecure when your position is created as new and they were enjoying the freedom so far to work independently and interacting directly with top management. Operational or Sales dept can feel threatened or insecure if you have given any recommendation which can increase their work or which can create challenges for them in delivering their KRA. In all these situations the common cause if feeling insecure or threat. There are two ways to handle this situation. In the first place try to build rappo and make them assured that you are not here to take their place or against them but with them. Second option is to ensure that you persuade the top management that other person is not worth retaining in the company and ensure that he is removed or his power is diluted to such an extent that he is no more a threat to you. The second option does not sound good morally but it is a harsh truth which needs to be implemented in order to save your skin and survive in the organization. If you leave this issue unattended it will definitely affect you in adverse manner in the long term.

Decision making: is one of the most important tasks of top management. Bad decisions can destroy organizations and good decisions can lead to growth and prosperity. Hence it is essential to understand as how the decisions are made. Normally process of decision-making is: To define the objectives or goals, to collect data, to analyze data, to generate alternatives and to select the best alternatives and apply it in order to achieve your goal. However, most of times it is not clear what is our goal- That should be very clear to all team members who are involved in the decision-making process. Defining a problem or goal itself solves half of the problem. Authenticity of data and timeliness of data is very important as it can lead to wrong decision without these 2 factors. While analyze the data and generating alternatives it is important to have a composite approach meaning all factors must be taken in to consideration before recommending a solution or alternative to top management. What are the resources required in order to implement that alternative should be also be mentioned? Decisions should be made biased free. This is the most important factor that can affect quality of decisions. Opinions of people who are from diversified background should be taken in order to ensure that a problem is analyzed from different angle. One should be open for seeking opinion of others and respecting the difference in opinion. Acknowledging the past mistake made in decision making can be helpful to move forward and get fresh opinions of people. Pilot project can be done to test a particular alternative. Decisions taken should be in alignment with the core values and strategy of the organization. Challenge a alternative suggested by cross checking accuracy of its data. It is important that decision taken is communicated in clear manner so that it is implemented. There must be tools and controls to check whether the decision taken have been implemented. Many decisions made by leaders are biased due to attachment to place, business or person or due to conflict with person or due to any other emotional aspect. It is important that in such case situation is created wherein an independent person is ask to make review and give his opinion about decision as that will help to seek honest feedback about decision from independent person. People who are going to be affected by the decision shall get involved in the decision-making process as that will help to take biased free decision.

Negotiation: Every manager needs to learn the art of how to negotiate effectively. Negotiating skills are required at every stage, right from getting recruited, to negotiating with suppliers and customer, with other HODS, and with your subordinates and boss. Following key things need to be remembered in order to develop negotiation skills:

a)   The process of negotiation is Preparation, Discussion, Proposal, response and closing the deal.

b)   While determining your objectives you must be in a position to distinguish needs from wants. Needs are those things where you are not willing to compromise and wants are those where you can manage without it as well.

c)   Learn to listen to the other side. Get the best out of negotiator. Listen carefully and understand other side’s need. Do not assume anything. Clarify if there is confusion. Do not dominate the conversation and at the same time do not allow the other side to dominate the conversation.

d)   It is very important that you present your proposal when the opponent has sufficient information about it and is in receiving mood. Do not present your proposal unless you have all the information about the positioning of other side. Further make sure other side realizes that you have presented a proposal by mentioning the same clearly.

e)   Aim for win-win situation in negotiation and try to avoid win-lose situation as in the long run it shall affect your negotiation.

f)    To really understand negotiation skills and to see them being used together it is very useful to observe experience negotiators. In order to get best understanding you need to participate in one negotiation and observe everything.

Life guiding principles: It is important to follow certain moral values, wisdom and principles in life. These principles help you doing crisis. They guide you and show you the right path during problems. Some of it which I have being following are as follows:

a)   Make goals in life, knowledge helps you to reach your destination provided you know what is your destination. Unless we focus upon, we cannot achieve our goals.

b)   Character is the sum total of a person’s values, belief and personality. Whatever person repeatedly does become habit and whatever becomes habit becomes his character.

c)   Nature’s greatest fit to man is the ability to think. Use it to its full potential. Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe the mind can achieve. Thoughts become things. Success depends upon the size of your thinking. How big we think determines the size of our accomplishments. A person is never pulled up to top but he is lifted up by people whom he liked.  

d)   A burning desire is the starting point of an accomplishment. Just like a small fire cannot give much heat a weak desire cannot produce great results.

e)   Spoken word has exceptional power to program the subconscious mind. That is why self-talk is a powerful tool to achieve anything you want in life.

f)    People who have overcome obstacles are more secure than those who have never faced them. Success is not measured by our position in life but by the obstacles we overcame to get there. Praying is the only way when in problem. No problem can make us depress unless we allow it to do. Never give up patience and faith and keep doing the right thing. Even though results may not be visible something is happening. Sometimes our greatest strength becomes our weakness and our greatest weakness becomes our strength.

g)   Primary method for gaining a mind full of peace is to practice emptying the mind and then fill it with healthy thoughts. Meditation helps to empty the mind, make it stress free and creative.

h)   Knowledge is the only bridge you have to walk across the vast charm of ignorance. Try to learn from every situation, experience, and person.

i)     Integrity and wisdom are the 2 pillars on which to build and keep commitments. Wisdom is required not to make any foolish commitments.

j)     Balance your materialistic life with spiritual life. Spirituality means fulfilling needs of your soul which is to evolve and grow and to do wellbeing of mankind. Whatever you give will come back.

k)   Law of karma: What you sow so shall you reap. Hence if you do good to someone then good will happen with you.

l)     Accept Change with ease. Be ready to adapt as only change is constant. Do not try to change others as far as possible as every person is different.

m)  Be courteous to all but intimate with few only and let those few be will tried before you give them your confidence, true friendship. 

n)   We lose our health in the process of earning money and you then we lose money in trying to regain health. Keep balance between your work and personal life.

o)   How to become creative, you can become creative by spending free time with yourself especially in early morning when mind is fresh and full of energy.

p)   Never argue with another person. A man convinced against his will is still not convinced. However, you can influence a person by seeing things through their eyes. Ability to think from others point of view is very important. In order to persuade other person, sell yourself first and then sell your ideas to them.

q)   Dig deeper in to think you do not love to do. Ascertain what is so interesting or unique aspect of that thing.

r)    Give advice to customer, think how best their needs can be met, never force them to buy.   Working in Structured manner: Task sheet: Please plan your work for the week and for the day and create a record of the same so that you can monitor where you stand against list of tasks planned to be executed in this week or day. It also forces you to think and work in structured manner and ensure that no task is missed out. Similarly, you need to keep track of task assigned to your subordinate and where do they stand against that as on date. This document is also useful in future for references. Weekly meeting with your team members is must in order to get yourself updated for status of task assigned to them and in order to assign new tasks to them. Presentation skills need to be developed to give presentation effectively to board, to lead and manage meetings effectively and to overcome stage fear.

Principles of Six Sigma: States that focus on process rather than on product. Hence if the process of producing product is right then product shall be manufacturer with top quality without any defect. Similarly, we need to know and understand the process that needs to be followed in various task that needs to be completed

What is Performance Management System -PMS: Every organization needs to be ensured that it gets best delivered from its employees. How does manager ensure that they get best from their employees? Performance management is an interconnected set of tools used to measure and improve the effectiveness of people in the workplace. High performing organization use performance management to achieve three goals:

A)  To develop individuals’ skills and capabilities.

B)  To reward all employees equitably

C)  To drive overall organizational performance.

PMS cycle provides a logical time frame and process for assessing the quality of employee’s work and making compensation-related decisions. Managers can customize their performance management process to help your team and employees deliver strong results for the organization while helping them develop their professional aspirations. Specific approaches to PMS differ based on organization’s strategies, values, culture. They typically set-up employee goals and track their progress, also providing them feedback and developing skills in them  

Appraisal need not be done once a year but round a year giving feedback to employees at regular intervals. Companies are also discovering that a more Individual plan may work better for their employees. Performance must be analyzed for past as well considering the future potential. However, many of the traditional practices followed in PMS are not effective. Hence it is time for organization to review its performance management processes and makes appropriate changes. Performance assessment was based on straight forward production-based metrics in case of production dept, so evaluating employees against goals was usually clear cut. Did they produce the targeted number of units with few errors? Did they produce the targeted number of units with few errors? Appraisals were usually linked to employee ratings, which were used to calculate changes in compensation for high performing workers. Those rated as low performing were often let go.

Evolution of Performance Management: But the processes originally developed to evaluate the performance of individual contribution in industrial firms and jobs in production don’t necessarily align with the needs of today’s businesses that prize creativity and innovation and those are increasingly staffed by knowledge workers and teams whose results aren’t so easy to measure. So, while industrial model aimed to reduction variation many organizations today aspire to innovate by increasing variation. An individual’s appraisal, rating and compensation once tested on the completion of annual goals but today those targets often become undated before the year is out. In response some organizations are embracing flexibility and short-terms goals that can be modified over the course of the year. In a survey done it was found that more than 58% employees found that current PMS is outdated. Companies are discovering that a more individualized plan may work better for their employees. Some organizations are also taking steps to broaden traditional processes to weigh how team members contributions, in addition to system organizational challenges can significantly influence individual performance. An effective performance management process -one that takes in to account how organizations are changing-can still keep employees focused on meaningful goals and offers manager a clear framework for appraising the quality of their people’s work. As Performance management system evolves it’s important for managers to learn how to work within those changing processes to ensure the growth of their people and their contribution to their organization.

Setting up goal is the first and key task in performance management system. Following factors should be taken in to consideration while setting up goals:

1)   Goals should be SMART- Which means they should be specific, they should be measurable, should be realistic, but at the same time stretchable and they should be achieved within time frame. Criteria should be defined clearly on the basis of which the progress made towards achievement of goals can be ascertain.

2)   Goals of each dept should be linked with Strategic goals of the company.

3)   They should be geared towards improving current performance and spurring future growth.

4)   Involvement of employees should be there in setting-up of goals as employee engagement shall ensure that make efforts to achieve the goals.

5)   Most organizations require that each employee’s targets be written down, but too often, once they are filed away, they can fall off the radar till the next goal-setting meeting. Keeping these objectives front of mind and regularly assessing progress will prevent them from getting buried in day to day work.

6)   Possibly the toughest factor in goal setting is how to make desired outcomes achievable but challenging. Stretch goals are objectives that require extra effort to reach. They an important element of high performing culture and of employee development.

7)   It is better to ask employees to define their goals as their help to buy their commitment towards achievement of those goals. However, managers can support their team members by helping them understand what the organization’s larger goals and strategy are and what your team needs to achieve.

8)   Separate performance planning sessions should be planned and should not be mixed with appraisal meetings.

9)   In view of rapidly growing evolving technology and dynamic market it is not possible to set goals for full year. It is better to set short term goals.  

10) Each goal should be in alignment with the goals of the organization.

11) Aligning personal interest or career goal of employee with goal of the organization can really motivate employees to achieve the organization goal.

12) Set reasonable no of goals so that employee can achieve it.

13) Establish expectations apart from goals for employees. Your employees must understand what you expect of them in terms of behavior.

Set A Comprehensive Plan for success: It is good to plan and set-up goals you want to achieve. However, it is important to determine the tasks that needed to be completed in order accomplish the goal. For this purpose, please break the goal down in to task-based components. If one task seems overwhelming, separate it in to smaller parts. Some items may be completed simultaneously while others may need to be completed sequentially so list them in the appropriate order. Determining each required task can make complex or long-term projects seem much more manageable. Set a start and finish date for each individual task and describe the desired result or outcomes for each item. Use Gantt chart to list out all you require in sequence. As you develop the chart think through contingency plans. If something does move, how should your employee adapt? Discuss such possibilities with your direct report so that they can stay on track even when the unexpected happen.

Resources required to complete the assigned task: It is important to estimate the time or resources required to complete the task. In some cases, organization may be in position to supply additional resources required in order to complete the task but in challenging cases the employee may require to develop new skills or capabilities in order to complete the task. Hence in such case the organization should help employee to upgrade their skill.

Get it on Paper: It is important to document on paper the list of tasks that need to be completed within given time frame and with budgeted resources allocated for this purpose.

Follow-up and reassess goals: It is important to regularly follow-up for completion of tasks before the time frame and also to reassess the goals set as in light of changing situation it required to re-set your goals.

Assessing performance on regular basis: Performance management is a going process not a one and one event. Circumstances and priorities can shift over time and gaps can form if employees are unable to keep up-which is why so many companies are implementing more flexible performance cycles. 

Identify possible causes of Poor performance: Underlying, the cause could be: Skill deficiency, poor time management or personal work habits, lack of motivation, conflict with another employee, or unclear direction on part of the employee. Poor business processes could also be a reason for poor performance. Work overload also leads to poor performance.

Feedback on performance: Feedback can be a useful tool for addressing performance gaps and recognizing exemplary work. Also, goals can be re-set based on feedback received. Managers sometimes mistakenly think that they need to act tough when giving constructive feedback. But the aim of feedback should be to motivate change, not to make your employee feel attached.

Coaching and mentoring your team members: Coaching is providing training to your team members in group in order to develop new skills required in light of changed situation or circumstances. Coaching can be one time if situation demands or it one be given one time to each new employee as part of process to ensure that they perform at optimum level. However, mentoring is one to one and required to be given to employee to motivate him to get best out of him. Mentoring needs inter-personal skills and ability to motivate.

How to motivate employee: Giving respect is one of the most effective way to motivate your team members. A basic tenet of supervision is to praise in public and critize in private. A good company should ensure that giving respect to lowest grad of employee should be the culture of the company. If top management talks with its immediate subordinates who are HODs are senior manager with respect then same culture shall be followed by HOD with their sub-ordinates and that will ensure that no point of time respect of employee is threatened. Further helping team member in doing career planning can be a great motivation factor.

Informal Meetings in outdoor places: It is important for senior professionals and HODS to take their team on a picnic and have close interaction with them to understand them better, to take their suggestions, and make note of challenges faced by them. Many valuable suggestions that can add value to the organization are being captured in such informal meetings. Hence HOD needs to consider such type of outing also as productive.

How to give rewards to employees – extrinsic or intrinsic: Giving rewards in an extrinsic manner means may variable component on the achievement of target by the employee. It seems that many believe that this is a most effective way to reward employee and get best out of them, however many also believe that sometimes incentives are harmful to the company especially when top management wants to change the behavior of employee as soon as incentives are received employees stick back to old behavior and hence entire purpose for which incentive was given is defeated. Hence it is important to intrinsic reward in certain situations. Intrinsic reward means giving a trophy of appreciation or giving the opportunity to the employee to grow their skills or empower them to make decisions on their own. In an intrinsic reward, the employee is motivated for a long term period.

Understanding employees need to grow: Employee development is a process for managing a person’s professional growth. Learning, building new skills, and working to one’s full potential is both rewarding for the individual and helpful to the organization as a whole. Development is invaluable for employees and is a powerful tool to retain employees as it gives high job satisfaction to the employee. List of sample questions that should be asked to the employee to ascertain their development needs:

A)  What do you want to be known for?

B)  What matters most to you?

C)  What do you see yourself doing a year from now that you are not currently doing?

D)  What does success look like for you?

E)  Where and when do you feel you are at your personal best. 

F)   What’s your favorite part of what you do?

G)  Where would you like to be in your career in three, five or 10 years?

Align ambitions with organizational needs: Identify capabilities that provide value to the organization.

Job Redesign: It allows a promising employee the opportunity to try their hand at a new task while changing the job permanently. Hence the list of tasks handled of an employee is made, some task is assigned to some other team member to free-up time for this employee and then the employee is given a more challenging task to test his potential. People are far more energized, efficient, and effective when their responsibilities draw on their innate strengths and abilities.

Changing the Culture of the company: In most of the companies’ culture of the company plays a very important role in determining whether the company shall work in a professional and structured manner or in a semiprofessional or totally in an unprofessional manner. The top management plays a key role in setting-up this culture. It is important for a new manager to first understand the culture of the company and get himself aligned with that culture irrespective of whether you like it or not. Do not try to change anything initially but make an observation of everything and do not give any opinion or statement on any subject. Establish your rapport with top and middle management initially. Demonstrate your abilities by making small value addition to the top and middle management. Once you have established your credibility only then it is wise to question the culture of the company and recommend change for long term benefit as now you know the mindset of top management and you can develop a strategy to handle them in an effective manner.

From specialist to Generalist: If a manager who is head of one function let us finance is made head of all functions i.e of CFO becomes CEO of the company then his role changes from being specialist in finance and Accounts dept to become a generalist who has working knowledge of all depts as he leads the business unit of the company. For this purpose, the professional needs to develop the following skills:

1)   Have basic understanding of all the functions.

2)   Integrate the collective knowledge of cross-functional teams and make appropriate trade-offs to solve complex organizational problems.   

3)   Shift fluidly between details and larger picture, perceive important patterns in complex environments, and anticipate and influence the reactions of key external players.

4)   Define the problems the organization should focus on and spot issues that don’t fall neatly into any one function but are still important.

5)   Understand how to analyze and design organizational systems so that strategy structure, operation models, and skill bases fit together effectively and efficiently and harness this understanding to make needed organizational changes.

6)   Exhibit the right behavior as a role model for the organization and learn to communicate with and inspire large groups of people both directly and increasingly indirectly.  

To be innovative: Every organization today requires its employees to be innovative, to think out of the box, and come up with creative ideas that can add value to the organization. Hence it is important every professional develop this skill. To be innovative you need to be absolutely relaxed, withdraw from external things and go internal, experience peace, and develop your creative mind. It is possible to achieve all these things when you mediate as in meditation you go internal; you stay in the present and so you are relaxed and stress-free and you can direct your focus on creativity. You can make major decisions based on gut feeling experience in meditation. It is important that professionals take a break from routine and go on holiday and while on holiday take some time to do directive thinking on problems for which you require a solution. 

Turn the Job you have into the job you want: If you are unhappy at work, and changing roles or companies may be unrealistic given the touch economy what you can do? As per research, you can do job crafting- a tool for reenergizing and reimagining your life at work. It involves redefining your current job description to better incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions. The exercise prompts you to visualize your job graphically map its elements and reorganize them to shape the job to better suit you. In this, you can put the personal touches on the way you see and do your job and you gain a greater sense of control at work-all of which is especially critical at a time when you probably working longer and harder will be retiring later.

How to Make a Resume: Your resume should be in alignment with the prospective job profile. Hence your resume should reflect experience and skills which are required in order to get the desired job profile. It is important to highlight or reflect what are your achievements or how you did value addition in the organization you worked for. Management is more interested in knowing how you can add value rather than knowing what is your profile. The resume should not be more than 2 pages. Please use charts, graphs, photos in your resume rather than making it full of text. Very few people go through the resume in detail, hence it is important to give summarize version of your resume -profile through a flow chart or table. What are your key skills or core expertise that should be highlighted in the resume clearly? The industry-wise resume needs to be made in case of diversified experience of multiple industries or skill to explain more about a particular skill in detail in one resume to make it in alignment with the job profile of the prospective company. A brief covering letter should be made so that your experience can be explained in very brief in 2 sentences.

How to be successful in the interview: One should develop the ability to sell himself in order to get success in the interview. Eye contact and body language are very important in the interview. What you say, how you say and your facial expressions should be in alignment. Do research well about the company, its nature of the business, and top management of the company. You should go through the profile of your interviewer in detail. Your resume should be byhearted to you. Awareness and observations play a very important role in the interview. It is important to see the reaction of the interviewer while you are presenting your profile and make changes in your presentation if the initial response is not good. Just like they are assessing you, you need to assess the company and role by asking the right questions.

Building your brand:  It is important to build your brand as an expert in the certain subject matter by writing articles on that subject, giving a presentation on that subject, expressing your opinion, and seeking the opinion of others on that subject, to take lead in organizing a seminar on that subject matter.

Getting associated with the right people: Associate with people you admire and can learn from. Make them your mentors and seek their guidance at each critical stage of your career.

Document your learning: Keep a notebook of the wisdom you read, hear and learn and incarnate that learning in to your daily life.

Power of Networking: Networking can play a very important role in finding the right opening for you. It also helps to gain knowledge and understand the opinion of others on various topics. You can gain ready-made tips in a few minutes of networking which will otherwise take years to learn on. Hence please a point to join networking forums available online as well offline as MECA, various groups formed on linked-in, etc. Toastmaster is a very good platform to build a network and develop skills in public speaking and on how to conduct a meeting in a professional manner. It also helps you to develop your writing skills as to how to write on a subject, how to make effective presentations, learn about body language, etc. You need to have the networking of senior people who are from the same function and same industry but are not working with your organization as that helps to understand best practices of the industry, what is the current state and future trend of industry, etc.

Making your Job search effective: One of the most challenging time in any professional’s life is to search a new job while he is being asked by his existing company to leave the job. In that situation it is very important to stay positive, to believe in your self and read books on positive thinking which can motivate you and let you believe that you can get another job. Further it is very much important to develop the required skills which you could not developed in your last or previous jobs or for which you couldn’t get exposure in your previous jobs. Please think creatively and think out of the box in your job search. First think to do is to make resume which reflects your true experience, be very clear about your achievements and highlight the same in your resume. Be active on linked-in and try to reach to as many people as possible to gain the maximize your chances to getting job. Try establish your rappo with placement agencies by visiting their offices after getting registered on their website and seeking their appointment to meet so that you can explain about your experience in better manner. Please do those things while you are free and available to get placed which you couldn’t do while you were busy in your job. Hence spend quality time with your family, devote time to enhance your skills and prepared yourself to demonstrate your skills by writing articles, making presentation and delivering the same in some forum, joining a new network group, attend seminars to get yourself updated, etc. Demonstration of your skills should be done to the extent possible in various ways and forms.

What to do in the first 90 days after joining a new job: After you have joined the new job it is very important first to understand the nature of the business of the company, understand its culture, and understand your job profile in great detail. It is important that no suggestion or comment is given initially regarding any colleague or company initially as you need to be a silent observer of all things initially, note down the issues and areas where value addition can be down initially and then craft strategy as to how you can add value and thereby create your place in the organization. Do not assume anything and cross-check every information received from a colleague or other depts as you cannot afford to rely on anyone initially as you do not know the other person initially. Similarly, it is very important to establish trust and rapport among your boss and senior management initially. Building rapport among all colleagues should be the top priority. What are the key drivers of business and what are the key things that matters to your boss should be ascertain on top priority. It is important to know history and past issues faced in order to understand as to why the organization is in present stage and similarly for colleagues.

Qualities required to become Strategic Global CFO:

  • Good understanding of the core business of the group. Understanding of industry structure and external environment. Good business acumen. Keeping himself always updated on the latest development in these areas. To keep pace with a rapidly changing global market.
  •  Ability to analyze business Strategically and driving the strategy and budgets of the group. Deep understanding of what drives their company’s business. Developing Vision, mission, and core values of the group.
  • Providing insights on Financial performance: Ability to do a financial analysis of the financial statements of the group and give insight to top management on the financial performance of each business unit and group and ensure that desired action is executed. Benchmarking the costs of managing and financing business so that improvement can be demonstrated year on year. To link operational MIS with financial MIS to measure its accuracy and reliability and have a better understanding of financial performance.
  • Knowledge management: To capture or tap the knowledge possessed by senior management and document the same to pass on the key knowledge obtained for managing certain key processes or activities of group to next level. To generate and manage data of the group effectively.
  • Business Plan: Ability to make Sustainable Business plans with optimum Resource utilization to maximize the profitability. To ensure that annual budgets are reviewed and updated on quarterly basis in light of changing dynamics of business.
  • Fund raising: Ability to Raise funds and manage investor’s relationship effectively. Maintaining relationship with banks effectively. Good understanding of criteria on the basis of which banks or investors shall lend or invest money in the group.
  • Managing growth and downturn: Ability to manage due diligence, mergers and acquisitions, IPO, restructuring, uncertainty, etc. effectively to manage growth / sustainability / downturn of the group. CFO must contribute to and orchestrate the relationship between the board and executive management—to set an effective rhythm to the business.
  • Managing Change management effectively, understanding culture of group, managing people effectively. Ability to say no when the compliance with policies and processes is being compromised. Compatibility with CEO is well managed. To set the culture of the group which is in alignment with the vision and mission of the group.
  • Good understanding on best practices and processes and apply the same to improve the existing processes and also mitigate the risk. Master in writing polices and processes. To ensure that compliance is done with all applicable corporate laws.
  • Understanding of various other functional areas such as Sales, marketing, HR, IT, etc.
  • Understanding Supply Chain Management function effectively to Optimizing cost. 
  • Aware on the latest trend or development in IT such as Power BI, AI, etc and ability to use such evolving technology to the advantage of the group.
  • Ability to negotiate.
  • To Set effective performance management policies. To drive the creation of value across the entire business. To set the culture of operational excellence across the various activities of the group. Ability to retain and manage talent effectively. Ability to communicate with different nationalities effectively.
  •  CFO must have qualities like effective communication both oral and written, team player, inter personal skills and adaptability etc for getting performance from his/her team.
  • Ability to explain Non- Finance professional about finance in language they understand.
  • Meeting the expectation of All stakeholders.
  • Ability to centralized / decentralized certain operations using Sharing service model to optimize the cost.
  • To draw succession plan for owners of group, to resolve dispute among family members, to manage personal investment portfolio of owner effectively.
  • Ability to understand and meet the needs of investors and communicate with them effectively.
  • Ability to manage board meetings effectively.
  •  Ability to think globally and but act locally.
  • Initiating CSR activities in the organization.
  • Introducing innovation in the organization as it need of hour to have edge in the market.

Working shoulder to shoulder with CEO: CFO at some point in the future has to become a CEO. Hence it is important that CFO understands the role of CEO thoroughly and takes an active interest in understanding the technical aspects of business and develops a very good understanding of other functions. A CEO benchmarks his business with his competitors and best practices followed by other companies and try to bring that change in the company. The CFO needs to judge as considering the current culture and resource of the company whether this change can be implemented in the company. CFO needs to make the CEO aware of the various risks company faces when any new venture is taken up and how we can mitigate it. CFO needs to give excellent insight into the financial performance of the group to the CEO and its various segments/depts/division and locations. CFO needs to make CEO aware of the implications of one decision on cash flow. He needs to suggest ways to optimize cost, to improve internal controls, mitigate risk, suggest lines of business in which margin can be improved and cash flow can be improved. He needs to make the CEO aware if he is deviating from the strategic goals of the company. 

The Journey of finance professional starts as an article cleared or trainee and should end with becoming CEO or an entrepreneur of CFO of a big growing group.

The article is written by Mr. Ashit Sanghvi. He is a veteran Chartered Accountant and seasoned Finance professional. You can reach him on https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashit-sanghvi-104aa538/

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About the Author: Falgun Shah

Falgun Shah is a Qualified CA, CFM, M.Com, Dip in Taxation and Insurance with over 2 decades of work experience in India and abroad in Finance, Accounting and Taxation arena.

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