Have you ever felt stuck in your career or in your growth? Have you considered finding a CFO executive coach? Well at one point in my career, I felt stuck and hiring a CFO coach for me was exactly what I needed to start moving forward again.
You know when you you know what the right solution is and you know that you’re smart enough to find the resources to back your decision but you still doubt yourself?
It’s like we can’t have the confidence in ourselves that we know what we’re doing unless someone else has it in us first.
Maybe it’s just human nature. Or maybe it’s just being a female leader in a male dominated society. But whatever the root, it’s there and often it’s hard to have the confidence to trust your decisions without someone else validating them for you first.
At least it was for me.
This was exactly how I was feeling when I decided to hire my own CFO executive coach. For the last 10 years or so, I had always been the highest level member of the finance & accounting team and while I loved being able to shape the role of our team and how it impacted the organization in these high growth settings, I was often left to make many high level decisions on my own.
I wanted someone to bounce ideas off of. I wanted someone who had more experience than me to share their experiences and ways to tackling problems. I needed my own CFO coach. And so I found one. I knew a CFO that I had worked with in the past that I greatly admired. She had a seasoned career in corporate accounting and was working as a consultant with a little extra time on her hands.
And when I asked her to be my CFO coach, she said, “What’s a CFO coach.” But we figured it out together and after years after working together, we had built a very strong friendship and my career elevated from a Controller to VP Finance and eventually to CFO, within 5 years.
So here’s 5 things I learned having my own CFO executive coach and why you should hire one to elevate and grow your career:
I’ll never forget the session where we dissected my leadership style and found areas where I could truly begin to shine.. My coach helped me understand the nuances of my approach and highlighted areas where a little refinement could make a world of difference.
I discovered that I said, “ No worries” …..a lot. If a member of team was struggling to hit a deadline and it didn’t really impact much else if they were a day late. When they were a day late, I often found myself brushing it off like it was no big deal and saying, “No worries.”
Prior to working with my CFO executive coach, I led mostly with kindness & didn’t ever want to make anyone feel bad. And while kindness is a very strong leadership quality in my opinion, it didn’t help my team grow and get better.
So together when a situation would arise in which in the past perhaps I would brush it off like it was no big deal, we worked on a better way to communicate high expectations that still felt true to me and still kind to my team. It helped me become a better leader and in the end my team performed better which made everyone feel great about our roles.
That’s the beauty of having a coach. Because it’s a one on one experience, you can learn so much about the areas in which you are actually holding yourself and maybe your team back and together work on them to find a better way.
Executive presence is that magnetic quality that draws people in and makes them want to listen to what you have to say. It’s an attitude of knowing you’ve earned your seat at the table. And often it might be overlooked when you have it but it’s very noticeable when you don’t.
Before I started working with my CFO coach, I often found myself scared to speak up in meetings. Scared to ask too many questions or share my opinions. I didn’t want to ask a stupid question. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t know what I was talking about. And I didn’t want to be found out as a fraud. Imposter syndrome kept me from ever saying too much.
But by working with my coach, I learned to find my voice and discovered that mastering executive presence wasn’t just a skill; it was an art.
Together we learned about the power of body language and the impact of well-crafted stories. I learned an easy way to process my thoughts in my head using frameworks so when they came out of my mouth, the thoughts were fully formed and well articulated.
She challenged me to speak when I didn’t feel like speaking and eventually speaking up was less scary. And for this I am forever grateful. This is a skill that’s not only powerful in the corporate board room but in all aspects of your life.
And now I love helping my clients find their voice because I remember how powerful it was when I found mine.
As a woman in the corporate world, I’m no stranger to the challenges of gender bias. There have been instances where my ideas were overlooked or my assertiveness was misconstrued. I can recall many times when I’d voice an idea that was ignored but then praised 20 minutes later when a male counterpart voiced the same idea. So annoying!
Working with my CFO coach, I realized that addressing these biases required a strategic approach.
We implemented a strategy in which the all female leaders in the organization would look out for each other and have each other’s back. If I noticed someone else’s ideas getting overlooked and I was in the same meeting I would call it out. Or if I noticed someone’s words getting misconstrued in a way that would later be called aggressive, I would speak up. And others would do the same for me.
Still today, if someone asks a question that I don’t fully know the answer to…I google it. And many times I can find the right answer. “What are the qualifications of a REIT?” “What counts as overtime in the state of NY?” “What are some of the biggest venture funds in the state of CO?”
But there are some things google will never be able to tell you. “How to navigate a RIF well and let people go you’ve worked with for years?” “What are the fastest growing media publications that might be open to an acquisition? And how should we structure the deal?” “How to scale a SDR team that’s only ever handled inbound sales to pursuing outbound outreach and keeping the incentives aligned?”
It’s in these more complex more subjective questions that I found having a coach helped me the most. Because she had years and years more of experience and a network more extensive than mine, in every situation where I could not turn to google, we could find the answers to these tougher questions together.
And it’s in these seasons when we would tackle these challenges together that I found really boosted my confidence and my ability to provide significant value to my organizations.
Confidence isn’t just a trait; it’s a learned skill that you can develop and continue to grow. Prior to coaching, I often struggled with imposter syndrome, doubting my abilities despite my experience, especially when it came to presentations.
When I was working with my coach, I was giving large all company quarterly presentations. And every time these came around I would spend weeks & weeks preparing because I wanted it to be perfect and I was terrified that I would bomb them.
But you know what? There’s no such thing as perfect. There is only practice. And that’s something I did often and all the time with my coach. She used to come to our presentations and record me so we could watch it back together and make tweaks for the next one.
So while I never did give a perfect presentation. I did stop fearing them and learned to enjoy them.
Stop doubting yourself. Your experience is valid. Your gut is typically right. If you think something is off, dig deeper to figure it out.
Having a coach was less about what she could teach me but what she helped me discover about myself and I am so grateful for the journey.
Now, my friends, here’s where the journey comes full circle. My experience isn’t just my own; it’s a story I want to share to empower you all. if you’re feeling stuck & hoping to elevate your career and pondering whether a CFO executive coach is right for you, let me tell you – the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Finding the right coach is like discovering a treasure trove of wisdom, guidance, and endless possibilities. So, if you’re dreaming big and aiming high, take that leap. Invest in yourself, your growth, and your dreams. You deserve it.
Remember that growth isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey we’re all on together. My experience with a CFO coach has taught me that no matter how experienced we are, there’s always room to evolve, to become better versions of ourselves.
So, to all the ambitious females out there, keep your eyes on the stars and your heart full of determination. The road might have twists and turns, but with the right guidance, you’re unstoppable. Here’s to growth, empowerment, and chasing those dreams like the fierce warriors you are!
September 3, 2023