Eight Ways a CEO Can Support the CFO

Eight Ways a CEO Can Support the CFO 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We talked last week about an important relationship in the C-Suite – the relationship between the CFO and COO, and specifically, how it can impact a company’s operational strategies. This week, I’d like to focus on the relationship between the CFO and CEO. While there are countless articles on the subject, they are often focused on what the CFO can and should do to assist the leader of the company. But truly, support in a relationship like this is a two-way street. Under that premise, I’d like to change our perspective and focus on what the CEO can do to help make this as successful a relationship as possible.  

As an outsourced CFO, I’ve worked with many different CEOs over the years – each with their own leadership styles and skills that impact their relationships. What I’ve noticed is that my effectiveness at the financial helm of the company is directly correlated to the type of CEO with whom I’m working and how much support I receive, and I recently worked with one who clearly understood the difference it makes. It made me consider what CEOs can do to fully support their CFOs. 

How CEOs Can Support Their CFOs 

1. Always have their back. 

There is nothing worse than feeling like you are out on an island, especially when it comes to preparing and presenting on the financial outlook of the company. Knowing you have the full support of the CEO behind you helps present a united front to the rest of the team. 

2. Manage conflict with external and internal stakeholders in a healthy manner. 

Conflicts are a necessary evil for CEOs and for most in the C-Suite. But managing those conflicts ineffectively only leads to additional conflict. Instead, CEOs are more effective handling each conflict with direct and timely communication and respect. 

3. Communicate with radical candor.  

Leaders continuously second guessing themselves and wondering if they did something wrong based on the CEO’s attitude takes unnecessary time and energy away from the tasks at hand. However, when the CEO is direct, even if it’s negative, it helps them fix what they need to and move on quickly. 

4. Follow up and review information timely. 

Timeliness is crucial in running a company, especially as it relates to data-driven decisions and finance. When the CFO sends an important report, it likely needs to be reviewed sooner rather than later. 

5. Spend time and ask questions about the financials in a manageable manner.  

The goal here is to communicate without delaying progress and not spend time on frivolous matters or micromanage others. 

6. Receive bad news by asking clarifying questions and coming up with an action plan.  

CEOs throwing up their hands and storming out not only does nothing to solve the problem, but effectively crushes team morale. Once again, the key is support. Neither the CEO nor anyone else in the C-Suite will make progress playing the blame game. Instead, the CEO can make sure there is a project plan and actionable items so it will not happen again. 

7. Work to make sure those who work hard are rewarded properly. 

More than ever, strong relationships matter, and at their foundation are respect and appreciation. CEOs who show that they appreciate team members and reward their work realize that if they don’t, someone else soon may.  

8. Have high ethics and expect the entire C Suite to operate in the same manner.  

CEOs should never ask a CFO (or anyone) to change numbers to make things look better. And sadly, many will. In my opinion, integrity and ethics are faltering entirely too much in our world. Working with a leader who clearly prioritizes these values is a welcomed relief for anyone working in the C-Suite. 

Ultimately, a CEO should consider the value of having a CFO who becomes a trusted strategic business advisor and support them in their role. Without their expertise, they would have a difficult time making financially sound decisions to move the company forward with long-term success.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

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