This article is co-written by James O’Brien and Anders Liu-Lindberg
There’s no doubt that being a CFO is a very demanding job that often requires long hours and most of your energy spent doing your job. Often it can feel like you’re caught up in purely managing the tasks that are right ahead of you while never finding time to focus on the future and not least your own personal development.
That means that you most often say NO whenever a personal growth opportunity comes up. Without personal growth, how can you expect to continue to help drive your company forward let alone keep your job in the C-suite? Obviously, getting into the C-suite is no easy feat and has required you to deliver many significant results. Yet, many of the results you have delivered have come at the directions of others like past CFOs, Finance Directors, and other financial managers.
As the CFO, yourself you cannot expect such direction and rather you’re expected to create and lead the direction even by your CEO and CXO peers. That’s why the CFO job is different, that’s why you can’t just focus on delivering results, and that’s why you need to focus on your personal growth.
What does it take to focus on personal growth?
It sounds easy, right? I’m just going to focus on growing now! Actually, it’s far from easy and you need structure to be able to create the right focus. In the book The Leadership Habit there are said to be three competencies for personal growth.
· Self-awareness: meaning you need to be aware and accept that personal growth is part of your ability to succeed in the future and you need to know which areas in particular that need growth. Is it your strengths that need further development or do you have some specific weaknesses that effectively block you from growing further? Without this self-awareness, you will not be able to grow.
· Continuous learning: meaning that personal growth is not a one-time thing. You can’t just go to a three-day leadership retreat and expect to grow. It’s something that happens every day where you keep trying new things and challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone. A Start-Stop approach will never work if you truly want to grow yourself.
· Manage personal time and energy: meaning increasing your capacity to grow and finding the time to do it. Here it’s important to be very practical about it hence below you’ll find an expansion of how you can both manage your energy level and clear up your schedule for personal growth.
In simple terms, you need awareness of the need for growing, a mindset of wanting to grow every day and energy and time to do it.
No more excuses – here’s how to energize yourself and create time in your schedule
It’s fair that you’re a busy person with a lot of tasks and priorities on your desk but that shouldn’t be an excuse not to focus on personal growth. Instead, it should be your call to action to get something done about it. In the book The Power Of Full Engagement you will learn that are four forms of energy and by the way managing energy is much more important than managing time because time is a finite resource i.e. we can’t create more or less of it yet our energy level we can increase over time.
· Physical: which you affect mainly by eating and sleeping well as well as doing regular exercise
· Emotional: which you affect mainly by keeping a good balance in your relationships to people all around you and not least your family and manager in addition to removing or neutralizing the toxic people in your life
· Mental: which is all about your ability to focus on something specific like personal growth i.e. following some of the tips in this article will automatically help you to focus on what’s most important to you
· Spiritual: being your purpose for doing what you’re doing. If your purpose is strong you can often overcome lack of energy in the other energy forms yet few people have truly found their purpose in life or their career. Rather, they just happen to end up where they are for no particular reason.
To get an idea about your current energy level you can do a small exercise. Try to score yourself on a 1-4 scale in each energy area. A low score means low on energy and a high score means high on energy. The result will quickly tell you if you need to manage your energy better.
Granted you also need to make the most of the time you have available i.e. you need to be productive and effective. There are many time-management exercises you can do but to make it simple you can watch this short Harvard Business Review video and follow the steps to create more time for yourself to focus on your personal growth.
There you go more energy to grow and more time to do it.
What do you need to grow?
We cannot answer this question without knowing more about you but now you’re ready to take the first steps toward a personal growth journey that will give you the fuel to lead the C-suite and your company ahead towards its own growth and higher profitability. It will also enable you to better lead your teams and they will feel more inspired in your presence.
Just remember next time you get a chance to grow as a person and business leader say YES and don’t find any more excuses to say NO because then you will ultimately fail as a CFO.