Tom de Weerdt, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Mauser Packaging Solutions, talked about strategies for enhancing finance business partnering.
De Weerdt began his keynote presentation at the 2019 Finance Leadership Forum: The Evolving Role of the CFO, held in Chicago on May 16, by stating, “The first thing I want to talk about today is finance business partnering. Everyone has their own view of what this is.” For a broad, generic definition of business partnering, he outlined the following descriptors that most people think of:
- Full transparency
- Neutral and unbiased
- Sounding board
- Safe space to think with clarity
- Real-time collaboration
“My definition of finance business partnering begins with two questions I ask companies and candidates—what do you expect when you step into our finance organization, and why do you want to be part of it? As finance and IT professionals, we need to find ways to better support the business. We do that by continuously challenging the status quo. If I had to define business partnering in one sentence, it would be something like this: The finance person must be invited to and present at any business meeting,” he said.
Another component of finance business partnering is successful onboarding. “In my opinion, onboarding is undervalued. It should focus on planning for a flying start for both the employee and the employer. Onboarding is the process that ensures new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their jobs so they can quickly become productive, contributing members of the organization—i.e., true business partners,” said de Weerdt.
“Talent management and development is another critical factor of finance business partnering. When I was at Whirlpool, we committed created powerful tools such as the individual talent summary (ITS). This provides background, work history, strengths, goals, and self-assessment on every employee, which allows you to have a perfect, one-hour conversation with that employee and gain phenomenal feedback. If there’s one thing you take away from this presentation today, this should be it,” he stated.
“Discuss leadership attributes with your employees and compare your assessment with their self-assessment. It’s all about perspective and why these differ. Talent management is a multi-year process with shared accountability among business partners,” said de Weerdt.
“Lastly, teaching and mentoring are an important part of finance business partnering. The C-suite requires that the CFO provide outstanding leadership and be prepared to navigate complexity and the unrelenting pace of change. One of the most effective ways for preparing future CFOs for their role in the C-suite is through coaching and mentoring. The CFO should be a mentor to the organization, not just to finance. Mentoring and coaching by the CFO accelerate both readiness and success by adding value at critical times:
- Navigating strategic board and audit committee interactions and the implications of these to decisions and the organization
- Establishing strong CEO and operating committee relationships
- Ensuring alignment with the CEO to outside investors
- Effectively managing the level of financial detail provided to investors to facilitate strong investor relationships
- Embracing the spirit of dealing with auditors, banks, and rating agencies
- Leading an executive staff with diverse areas of deep financial expertise
“Coaching is about making others powerful by helping them to unleash their potential and/or attain positive outcomes. Executive coaching serves a vital role in helping leaders refine their strengths and build additional critical skills to drive leadership impact. This type of coaching typically starts with a 360-type assessment to get perspectives from peer business partners and teams,” de Weerdt explained.
“Mentoring, on the other hand, is focused on broadening skill sets. Executive mentoring leverages the deep, proven expertise of those who’ve sat in the chair to accelerate success amidst the many pressures and demands of the position. This typically starts with a series of peer and team interviews to gather perspectives,” he said.
In summary, de Weerdt emphasized that coaching and mentoring are a powerful combination. The executive coach serves as an internal leader, the executive mentor is an external leader, and both drive the impact of leadership while accelerating real-time responsiveness to challenges and opportunities.
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