Onboarding a new leader can be challenging for any company. CFO executive coach Edith Hamilton observes that the First 90 Days of a newly-appointed CFO’s tenure is crucial for the kind of momentum he or she was hired to generate.
With each new CFO or Finance SVP Edith works with, she accelerates leadership growth by using coaching frameworks tailored to each company’s growth strategies.
Edith Hamilton is a CFO coach with 25 years’ experience in private equity and in senior leadership positions with public companies. She has helped CFOs and other finance executives build the vital skills that enable them to rise to increasing expectations, expanding responsibilities and new challenges.
Her coaching and consulting equips private-equity portfolio company CFOs to deliver growth, process improvements, and cost savings that generate high multiples.
For CFOs, having a clear framework for how to proactively allocate time in the First 90 Days enables them to accelerate the learning process, connect with C-level executives most effectively, and to engage with their new teams in ways that enable them to catch the vision, as the CFO models the way.
In the First 90 days in a new role, CFOs thrive when they quickly get a handle on the key drivers of the business. What are the existing margins by product or service line? What levers most impact revenue and profitability? What are the biggest risks that could derail results?
In essence, what makes the company tick? “Once you have a handle on the basics, you can choose your first steps strategically to select a vital few initiatives to pursue.”
Initial decisions include deciding how much time you can devote to which key colleagues, as well as selecting key processes where you might be able to add value. From this, you can identify 3-4 ideas as the focus of your time and energy, so you can secure early wins.
Once these critical priorities are short-listed, CFOs and finance leaders do best when they identify a variety of reliable sources of insight. Common resources initially include reports, plans, and surveys, but Edith encourages CFOs to quickly focus on one-on-one interactions. Talking to people with critical insights into key revenue and expense areas enables CFOs to understand which areas need more focus or support early on.
Of course, as with any transition period, friction is to be expected. Edith observes that “As a new leader, be prepared for peers and direct reports to test your authority.” This is especially relevant when a leader is promoted from within the company.
“You’ll need to work a bit harder to garner the respect of your former and current peers, so they embrace your promotion.” The best way to navigate this is by setting clear boundaries early on and maintaining a firm, visible fairness with everyone.
The First 90 Days are also a crucial time when new CFOs can build credibility and show colleagues the type of leader they want to be. To steer a company toward growth, finance execs must establish working relationships in a way that conveys not only standards for excellence, but also a desire to celebrate small wins and quickly, visibly reward those who are team players.
As a CFO Coach, Edith provides leaders with ways to navigate their new roles, including tools that enable CFOs to intercept their own tendency to trip themselves up.
“Sometimes that’s the temptation to avoid difficult conversations with the CEO or other peers, or to say ‘yes’ to more initiatives than can be effectively delivered in a reasonable time. In other cases, it’s a CFO’s tendency to be overly focused on the purely rational case for making certain changes – and overlooking the need to connect with stakeholders in a way that makes them want to see you succeed.” In fact, she created a video about the “10 Most Common Ways CFOs self-sabotage”.
The best approach for getting results is to connect problems with new solutions in a clear and compelling way. That includes an estimate of costs and tradeoffs, and identifying common pitfalls.
“It starts with asking good questions,” Edith explains. To learn more, see her blog posts on executive coaching and leadership, especially related to success in your First 90 Days as CFO.