Mark Neilson 04 April 2023 / 5 minutes read

CFO as the “Facilitator of Excellence”

I have to confess, it was only in the latter part of my 25-year “CFO life” (career) I came to this realization. I wasn’t always 100% clear on what I was supposed to focus on in any given situation because there were so many things in need of my attention.  I know a lot of senior financial executives, and most have agreed they share this challenge – too much to do and only 31 hours per day in an 8-day week to get it all done. (it’s like “dog years”, but in this case it’s “CFO days”).

Over time, I began to realize that if I was going to be an effective financial executive, I needed to see myself as the conductor of an orchestra. If I felt the need to “pick up an instrument” (dive into too much production of info), the orchestra would suffer because I was not focused on the music, just my part in producing music (playing an instrument).

I eventually decided to see myself as the “Facilitator of Excellence”.  To me, that meant being focused on best practices wherever I could find them for every single area I was responsible for managing /overseeing.  There is always someone, or some organization, doing it (whatever) better than we were – no matter how wonderfully efficient I felt we were in (you name it) every area of financial management.

I also realized that I was surrounded by carriers of best practices! My banker, CPA, insurance rep, attorney, real estate advisors, etc.   They all had a client somewhere doing stuff better than we did. With a large pinch of humility and cup of curiosity, I asked them to introduce me to their clients who were doing “this or that” in what they considered to be a best (better) practice.  (Breaking news: there is no such thing as best practices, only better practices. There’s always a better way somewhere to be found.)

Think about it.  If the financial executive, and frankly every leader, made it their tireless quest to be a facilitator of excellence in their respective areas of responsibility, imagine the power of that catching fire in any organization, versus “good enough” – the arch enemy of great. Hey – “someone” should write a book about that.

It can be hard to see the forest for the trees when one is a busy financial executive.  However, this attitude of being a “Facilitator of Excellence” feels like a good attitude to bring to any organization a CFO/financial executive finds themselves in. Make it your personal mission and see how far you can go.

Mark Neilson Partner & Forum Leader REF