Member Jessica Yuen Speaks: Onboarding a New CFO? Here’s How to Help Set Them – And Everyone Else – Up for Success
In the situation at hand, an executive hired a new CFO in the face of an evolving financial landscape. He was seeking insight into helping her adjust to the company culture, as well as guiding the organization to embrace a fiscally tighter path forward.
If you were in this situation, what would you do?
If I were in your shoes, I would encourage the CFO to focus on 3 areas:
- I would recommend the CFO embark on a “listening tour” across the organization to observe both what is going well within their purview and areas that need more attention. This might also highlight opportunities that are quick wins vs longer battles.
- I would help the CFO understand the landscape of the organization and how best to navigate and influence key stakeholders.
- I would ensure the CFO interviews key culture champions throughout the organization. In this way, they can understand the potential impact on company culture as future changes are implemented.
- I would encourage the CFO to set the context (e.g. market conditions and funding challenges) to "onboard" the rest of the company for the road ahead (budget reviews and financial plans).
- I would ask the new CFO to share her 30, 60, and 90-day plans (and beyond) so the organization can understand how she is defining success in this role and alignment with key stakeholders - especially the co-founders - on these success metrics. These initial steps will help the new CFO set the foundation to prepare the rest of the company for subsequent budget reviews and financial plans.
- I would encourage the CFO to invest time with the rest of the C-suite and make sure they are aligned with both the reasons behind the changes to come and the CFO’s plans to achieve the company’s financial goals. In my experience, how an organization approaches money greatly contributes to the company culture. It’s not easy to change quickly, so the CFO should also ensure there is alignment and support, particularly with regard to the pace of making changes.
- I would encourage the CFO to invest in preparing broader leadership. They will need guidance on how to address financial changes across their teams. In addition to the baseline information sharing, I would recommend an interactive Q&A and ask leaders to roleplay possible conversations from their teams. This can help identify areas of the plan that may need tweaking. Emphasizing respectful communication and sharing the context on why the approach to finances is changing so much will be especially helpful.
In parallel, I would suggest gathering 360-degree feedback for the CFO to help them quickly build awareness of their impact across the org, perhaps even leveraging the Johari window as a framework for reflection.
Bringing in a new executive to enact sweeping changes creates waves, so it’s important to set them up for success. With extra care and support, it can be done with a few less tidal waves. Best of luck!