CFO Communications Strategies

In fact, effective communication is a critical leadership skill that drives your business growth. It’s not a soft skill, and it’s certainly not ‘fluffy.’ Communicating effectively as a CFO leader is the single most important factor to creating value in your business and advancing your career.

But where can one begin? This was the question we sought to answer during “How to Build Credibility and Create Business Value through Powerful Communication,” the first in our series of discussions at our Executive Communications Workshop on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. Presented by David Casullo, President, Bates Communications, and author of Leading The High Energy Culture, this session shed light on how CFOs can develop the right connections and build credibility with the right audiences, to ultimately drive value into their businesses.

FIND YOUR RALLY CRY

Blue war paint and kilts aside, Braveheart got the rally cry just right when he shouted “They’ll never take our freedom!” There is something inherently powerful about it when it comes from a leader’s heart and soul.

And how can it affect business? A rally cry can align stakeholders, marshal action and drive economic value. Even the seemingly most mundane message, such as “Enhance Our Customer’s Shopping Experience,” can drive massive change when it’s delivered from the right person, in the right forum, with just the right delivery. No horses or spears required.

While building the right rally cry can seem impossible, Casullo discussed three elements of the formula that we each carry in us to leverage, including:

  • Finding Your Clarity
  • Being a Conduit and Confidante
  • Embracing Your Inner Curator
     

FINDING YOUR CLARITY

David Casullo, Bates Communications
David Casullo, President,
Bates Communications 

On the subject of clarity, Casullo stated “Great leaders gain clarity around the personal truths that define them as people and as leaders, and they have the courage to behave consistently with that.”

The most extraordinary leaders who successfully drive value know who they are, what matters to them, and not only do they speak openly about it, they act it. Their communications style embodies authenticity, and all of the audiences they work with know and trust that they are genuine.

Yet it takes an extraordinary amount of inner reflection and acceptance to gain clarity around your own personal truths as a leader.

Casullo and Bates Communications offers a great exercise in self-reflection and identification of your personal truths. To download the worksheet in PDF, click here

After this exercise, you should be able to draw parallels where they might have not been apparent before, or themes that may help you define your own personal clarity.

Once you have defined your personal clarity, you can now apply this vision to communicate at a deeper level with the people you need to connect with, including your CEO, your employees, your shareholders, and others who will help you drive value into your business.

And what is this communication? It’s your rally cry – your conscious mission, your purpose and vision that permeates all levels of your company, uniting your stakeholders and driving them toward growth.
 

BEING A CONDUIT AND CONFIDANTE

As CFO, you are in a unique position to drive change and growth through being both a conduit of information and a confidante to your CEO and even perhaps your board.

For an example, Casullo presented the story of Carol Tome, CFO of Home Depot, who has been called the “unsung hero” of the company by Fortune Magazine. CFO since 2001, Tome has sat through four CEO transitions, grown the company’s profit margins from 4% to 5.5% over the last 3 years, and saw a 12-year high stock price in 2012.

But that’s not why she’s one of the best CFOs in business today. She’s the right-hand partner of the CEO, and has helped him orchestrate the company’s recent turnaround, as well as recapture some of the culture created by the company’s founders. In fact, she’s so trusted by the CEO that she is now in charge of leading new technology projects rather than their CIO. She’s been referred to as the “the central nervous system of the company,” and has gained the trust of other important audiences – her shareholders, the Board, customers and employees.

Tome has served as a consistent and steady voice during years of transition and turmoil for the company, so much so that an analyst once described her as being “more than just CFO in terms of the respect she engenders from Wall Street and the Board.”

And this is where Tome shines – she not only serves as a trusted advisor and confidante of her CEO, but also as an effective conduit of information, helping to translate her CEO’s vision and strategy into direction and action for the rest of her company.

This balance between the two is a powerful combination. As CFO, your role enables you gain clarity in your CEO’s vision and strategy, more so than any other person in the company. And when you can effectively communicate that message through your rally cry to important audiences who will help to drive the vision, you add enormous economic value to your company.


EMBRACING YOUR INNER CURATOR

A curator is defined as “a keeper of an institution, a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material.”

Without a doubt, CFOs are in the best position to be the ‘curator’ for their business as they are the ultimate keepers of history and data in their organizations. In fact, the best CFOs can translate that data into a powerful story that engages their audiences intellectually and emotionally, thus adding deeper value and connection in their relationships.

Why is this important? If you’re leading your company out if its early stages, or are working toward a liquidity event, telling the story behind the numbers is critical for creating value and helping potential investors understand the intangible value of the company.

In fact, the IBM Institute for Business Value 2010 Global CFO Study describes the CFOs highest value as the ability to “integrate information company-wide, analyze it and convert it into a competitive asset – new intelligence.”

Casullo continued “By being the curator for your company, you are the fact-based voice of reason and insight. By delivering data-driven insights about the potential impact on the organization, whether they are about the effect of globalization, IT transformation, or regulatory risk, you are demonstrating clear-minded leadership. You are the trusted voice in your company’s most important strategic decisions, helping guide the company leadership to make better, more profitable decisions.”
 

CONNECTING THEM ALL TO DRIVE VALUE

Powerful and deep communication begins first with an understanding of your personal truths as a leader and the deep heritage their company embodies. And CFOs who can communicate powerfully are most valuable to their CEOs because they leverage their status as confidante and conduit to drive vision and value.

Ultimately, it is your communication skill that will connect and align your stakeholders. When it’s done just right, your rally cry can move mountains, create action and drive value right where you need it.

To learn more about how effective communications can drive value, register for “Telling The Story Behind The Numbers,” a webinar produced by Bates Communications which offers advice for effective communications during M&A transactions. 

To visit Bates Communications’ online Executive Resource Center, which hosts white papers, videos and newsletters on effective communications techniques, click here

Did you know that CFO RoundTable members receive this type of learning on a monthly basis? It’s true! Learn more about the benefits of membership with the CFO RoundTable today.
 

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