At the Tuesday GFOA conference session, “A CFO’s First 100 Days,” Yousef Awwad, chief financial officer of Portland Public Schools, and Marion M. Gee, finance director at the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, discussed strategies for getting a successful start in a new financial leadership role.
Most people starting out as as financial leader have came from the ranks of financial management. Hence, the new leader needs to recognize the difference between leadership and management. Here are some of the key ways to become a leader:
- Do a lot of listening, especially when first arriving in a new position. A leader must listen carefully in order to discern the real meaning in what he or she is hearing. Sometimes, people are not able to communicate exactly what they want to say. A leader must make the effort to gain an authentic understanding of other people's views.
- Understand the organizational culture. A leader must know the values and beliefs that shape the day-to-day behavior of employees.
- Communicate clearly and set expectations. A leader must make sure all employees have a common understanding of the goals of the organization, why the organization is pursuing them, and how the organization will reach them. In addition to establishing relationships with employees, a new leader needs to do the same thing outside of the organization, with the community, regulators, and contractors/consultants.
- Coach and train. Leaders must build the capability of employees so that they realize their fullest potential in the workplace. Leaders should not be micromanagers.