052015_CFO_conference_0239-1Difficult people. We all know and have them in our lives.

Unfortunately, some of those people exist in the C-Suite, your workforce, and even your board. And leading these people can sometimes prove to be an effort in futility.

During our 2015 CFO Leadership Conference, we dove into the topic of “Leading Those Who Don’t Want To Be Led,” which identified proven strategies to turn those hard relationships around in order to propel the business forward.

Our speakers included:

describe the image

Felicity Day

Dan DeNisco, Robert Half


Jennifer Cohen,
Founder and
Director, Seven
Leadership Group 
Felicity Day, NSCAA 
Premier Coach & 
Academy Staff; 
Managing Director,
John Smith Soccer 
Dan DeNisco, 
Senior Vice 
President, Robert 
Half International
Joe Falcao,  
Nancy Briefs, CEO & 

On leading your team, we learned:

  • Trust Rules All: In our society, it is trust, not money, that serves as the common currency that helps us move forward. It goes without saying that our best leaders are those that we trust, that are confident, and have the character to move us forward.
  • Lead By Example: The best way to help your company grow is to put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Understand their challenges, know and embrace your culture and demonstrate the company’s vision by engaging with your employees daily.
  • Make Your People Feel Like They Matter: Understand the concerns your employees have by creating a safe environment to allow them to voice themselves.  Handle pushback diplomatically by actively listening, repeating back their concerns and offering solutions to help them engage. Ultimately, demonstrating respect and encouragement will make your people feel like they matter.

On specific challenging employees, we learned:

  • The Underminers: The longer you allow an employee who visibly undermines your company’s vision and leadership, the more their actions and attitude grow like a cancer on your team. Waiting for an employee to turn around on their own can be dangerous. Act quickly with these employees – talk with them, offer a plan to help turn them around, and if they do not accept, let them go.
  • Virtual Employees: Virtual employees cause an interesting challenge for leadership teams – while they may be the best talent available, it’s even more difficult to build a trusted relationship with them. You will have to work twice as hard to include these employees in your process and culture. Get them excited to participate by picking out their strengths and playing to them. If they’re still falling out of step with the momentum of your company, reconsider whether they should be virtual.

We also spent some time speaking about the challenge of working with millennials. In our opinion, millennials get a bad rap. While they are often portrayed as a generation who has no patience and needs instant gratification, in fact, those that we as The CFO Leadership Council have worked with have been professional, courteous and eager to learn.

In our opinion, it is not the issue of a specific generation that we find challenging, but rather, the challenge of bringing together multiple generations under a single vision and mission. It can be frustrating, maddening even, to meet the needs of one generation while not appearing to cater to another.

So, the question is not how to work with millennials, but, how to shape culture through multiple generations. Our panel advised:

  • Lead by example – demonstrate that hard work is what advances you.
  • Remind your employees about the importance of patience – remind them of your mission, why they are there and why they need to work.
  • Give them a role model – every employee, whether they’re 20 or 60, needs a mentor and a role model to follow. Offer them opportunities for professional development, understand their career goals and give them leaders that they can emulate and follow.
  • Understand what drives a different generation isn’t what drove you to achieve. Embrace their perspective and find ways to challenge them the ways they want to be challenged.

Our speakers offered the final pieces of advice for our attendees, including:

  • The most important minute of your day is the time you spend connecting and talking with your employees. Personal connections will lead to greater performance.
  • Create an environment where people can learn and take risks.

Finally, ask yourself – are you a leader worth following? Would anyone want to be led by me? Would I want to be led by me? Look in the mirror and not out the window – oftentimes, the greatest opportunity for leading difficult employees starts and ends with you.

For more information on our 2015 CFO Leadership Conference, please go here.