If CFOs Are Doing So Great, Why Is Everyone So Miserable?

Careful planning, effective delegation and cultural alignment are among the keys to busy CFOs tackling their growing responsibilities while being able to switch away from work at a reasonable hour.

According to Ron Rosenberg, president of QualityTalk Inc., CFOs are swimming upstream following years of budget cuts and growing demands on their time.

"There's just too much to do, and people really aren't putting into place the types of personal habits and work procedures that allow them to function at optimal performance," Rosenberg says.

"We're out the other end of a recession, and numbers are looking reasonably good, but the problem is we cut way, way back and a lot of what we cut was not necessarily rebuilt to the levels they were before we cut it, or at least levels that support the workload. There's just a lot more now to deal with than there was before.”

Rosenberg will be sharing ideas for working and hiring more effectively during a pre-conference workshop, How to Get Control of Your Business and Take Back Your Life, at the FEI Summit Leadership Conference  taking place June 1-3.

Rosenberg says it's important for busy CFOs to understand that while relying on deadline pressure and adrenaline to get through a busy period can be effective in short bursts, it's not a good strategy for long-term effectiveness.

"There's a difference between good pressure and being overwhelmed and one more piece of work away from running your head into a wall," he says. "Stress comes with the territory, but you've got to have the skills and tactics to be able work effectively even under high levels of stress -- even when the situation isn't working out the way you expected it to, or when you're not getting the support you need within your organization."

One of the key strategies Rosenberg advocates for busy CFOs is aligning their workloads with the critical tasks they're best suited for, and enlisting support -- either internally or externally -- for run-of-the-mill chores that can be handled effectively by someone else.

"There are so many things people think they have to do, they're afraid to eliminate anything," Rosenberg says. "Outsourcing doesn't necessarily mean sending things overseas or offshore -- what it means is giving the work to somebody other than you who demonstrates the core competencies. So for example, you can outsource a function outside the organization or to somebody on your team."

Busy CFOs also need to understand the role technology can play in streamlining their work lives, as well as the potential pitfalls it can introduce.

"There are some times when the care and feeding of the smartphone, of the laptop and the iPad takes more effort than the benefit it actually gives," Rosenberg says. "Technology is and frankly, always has been, a double-edged sword. It can completely reduce the amount of rote, repetitive grunt work somebody has to do, but there's a price to it. We've become so dependent on it, that if anything happens, it brings things to a grinding halt."

Busy CFOs can also improve their overall effectiveness by looking for and promoting alignment between the company's culture and stated values. Some organizations may, for instance, claim to offer a supportive environment while pressuring people to make quarterly numbers and slashing resources.

"You know what the core values of an organization are not because of what it says on a plaque or in the little welcome packet that they give when somebody shows up," Rosenberg says. "You learn the core values when you watch and you see who gets promoted and who gets the recognition. Whatever they're doing, that's the core value -- even if, as it frequently is, that completely opposite to what appears on the values plaque."


You can register for Financial Executives International's 2014 Summit Leadership Conference here.