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CFOs and the C-Suite Need to Focus on Effective Collaboration

July 5, 2016

Companies with better collaborative management capabilities achieve superior financial performance. ACCA’s new report, CFOs and the C-Suite – focusing on effective collaboration  explores what lies at the heart of successful collaboration, the obstacles to overcome and offers a ‘road map’ of dos and don’ts for effective CFO collaboration.

In today’s highly competitive, fast changing and interconnected world, those working within the finance function have the opportunity to take a key leadership role in developing collaboration. But this isn’t without its challenges. CFOs and other senior executives must be mindful to pursue collaboration that goes beyond classical business partnering.

ACCA’s new guide paints a full picture of the collaboration landscape using structured interviews conducted with key C-Suite figures; CEOs, CFOs, chief human resources officers (CHROs), chief information officers (CIOs) and chief marketing officers (CMOs) from across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.

These are supported by conversations with academia, government and the private sector as well as a review of the literature currently available in the public domain.

Omid Tissier, ACCA’s senior manager said, “CFOs need to become collaborative leaders and this requires honing their ‘softer’ skills. From effective conflict management, to an entrepreneurial mind-set and advanced emotional intelligence, these are particular focus areas which will allow leaders to collaborate more effectively.”

Palma Michel, Co-Founder of Profuse29, mindful leadership advisor, executive coach and lead author of the report said, “The question is no longer whether companies, and specifically members of the C-suite, should collaborate internally as well as externally with customers and suppliers, but rather how. It’s important to collaborate in order to thrive and not just merely survive as a business and as leaders.

“Collaboration is not unfamiliar to business, however only a few companies/individuals manage to do it well. Understanding the need for it is not enough. Effective collaboration often requires a shift in culture, mind-set and behaviour to ensure its strategic value to the rest of the business.”

Omid Tissier added, “The C-suite interviews conducted for this report demonstrate that many of the challenges organisations face require effective enterprise-wide collaboration – and the CFO has a really big role to play, given the wide remit of the finance function.”

See: Why Does Change Management Fail in Organisations?

With information readily available just a mouse click away and some technical skills likely soon to be replaced by AI, creativity and innovation are becoming distinguishing factors for success. As a result, long-established enterprises need to take a hard look at their business models and ask a simple question: how can we adapt to survive and thrive?

In The Executive Edge, Harvard Professor Bill George sums it up succinctly: “Leadership today – and in the future – is going to require very flat organisations, without so many layers in between. It´ll be all about collaborating within the organisation not about competing. The organisations that compete internally will not be successful in the future. Successful organisations are going to compete externally, and they´re going to learn how to collaborate, even with competitors and customers.”

A McKinsey paper titled, “How do I Drive Effective Collaboration,” cites research that indicates that companies with better collaborative management capabilities achieve superior financial performance. In other words, if a company wants to outrun the competition, it is not enough to look at how people work, but also at how they are working together.

The March 2016 McKinsey Quarterly adds some urgency to the topic, by saying that ‘companies have long struggled to break down silos and boost cross-functional collaboration – but the challenge is getting more acute. The speed of market change requires a more rapid adaptation of products and services, while customers increasingly expect an organisation to present them with a single face.

The changing market dynamics require not only internal cooperation but also external collaboration with customers in the form of co-creation and building collaborative and transparent networks with suppliers, governments and academia.

Most leaders speak about collaboration, but there often seems to be a misconception about what it means in practice and the word is often used interchangeably with cooperation, teamwork and, in the case of CFOs, ‘finance business partnering’.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines collaboration as ‘the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing’, which requires alignment around a clearly defined common goal/ outcome.

So when leaders think about collaboration it is important to ‘pick the right battles’. They need to make a conscious decision if collaboration is needed for a particular project, to what extent it is needed, what the best team would be and how to overcome potential obstacles to collaboration.

Also read: Global CIOs Strive to Improve C-Suite Relationships and Leadership Skills

Image credit: fortunebuilders.com

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