CFOs have a unique financial perspective, the best working knowledge of the performance data and a strong overview of the bigger picture. You have huge amounts to contribute towards strategic conversations and it is essential that your voice is properly heard.
Make More Impact in Board Meetings: The Essential Guide for Finance Leaders
How would you rate your performance in board meetings? Do you feel like you’re making an impact, or do you struggle to make yourself heard? Do you proactively contribute towards the wider business conversation, or are your interactions mainly limited to financial matters? How does your performance reflect upon your finance function and what impression do you leave of your ability to confidently deliver the business plan?
Many finance leaders have the technical knowledge to be successful in board meetings, but lack the skill-set and confidence to truly make their mark. This is particularly the case for new and inexperienced finance leaders, who can be overwhelmed by the demands of the role and find it difficult to adjust to the dynamic nature of board meeting conversations. In fact, 24% of the community identify the need to make more impact at board level as one of their top three challenges.
As a finance leader, learning how to make an impact in board meetings is essential not only for your career progression, but also for the success of your finance function. This guide provides you with the right preparation and approach, to help you become an invaluable asset to any boardroom conversation. This will propel your status as a leader and demonstrate the importance of your contribution to the wider business, which in turn will increase your chances of securing additional funds for your finance function.
Table of Contents
Signs that your board meeting impact is lacking
Before we look at the advice and techniques which finance leaders can use to make more impact in board meetings, let’s take a look at some of the common signs that your impact requires improvement.
Do you relate to any of these thoughts?
- “I really struggle to build rapport with certain board members”
You may also:
- Focus too much on financial matters and not contribute to wider business conversations
- Lack an understanding around non-financial matters that could be discussed
- Feel like your interactions with fellow board members are a one way conversation
- Not understand how to properly communicate in a boardroom setting
- Be unprepared and not have relevant information or data available
- Feel too hesitant to push your agenda and make an impact
- Struggle to deal with challenging conversations in pressurized situations
- Not be able to anticipate or respond quickly enough to unexpected questions
If you can relate to any of these issues, it’s likely that you need to work on your board meeting impact skills. Otherwise, you may not be able to make the most of board meetings and ensure that your finance function is truly valued for the support it provides. Fortunately, there are a variety of effective strategies and techniques which you can use to enhance your board meeting impact as a finance leader.
The root cause: why do so many finance leaders lack board meeting impact?
Lack of experience
Overwhelm: Many new and inexperienced finance leaders lack the confidence and experience to make an impact in board meetings. They may feel overwhelmed by the demands of their role and struggle to adjust to the dynamic nature of boardroom conversations. Without having a solid understanding of how to properly communicate in such a setting, it can be difficult for them to ensure that their contribution is heard and understood.
Unpreparedness: New finance leaders may also lack the necessary preparation to make an impact in board meetings. Even if they have a good understanding of the topics being discussed, they may not be able to anticipate or respond quickly enough to unexpected questions, resulting in lost opportunities for them to demonstrate their expertise.
Lack of knowledge: It can be difficult for new finance leaders to understand the non-financial matters that may be discussed in a board meeting. Without an understanding of these topics, they can find it hard to contribute to wider business conversations and demonstrate their worth to the organization.
Lack of confidence: Many finance leaders may lack the confidence to speak up and effectively challenge other directors in board meetings, particularly intimidating individuals with superior commercial awareness and market knowledge. This can result in their voice being drowned out by those of more experienced or assertive individuals, depriving them of the opportunity to make an impact.
Poor interpersonal skills: Finance leaders may also have poor interpersonal skills such as charisma, making it difficult for them to build relationships and effectively engage with other board members. Without the ability to properly communicate in a boardroom setting, they may not be able to make their point properly or find that their interactions become one-sided.
Limited time: Making an impact can also be challenging if finance leaders are given limited time to speak in board meetings. Without being able to fully explain themselves and the reasoning behind their points, they may not be able to get their message across effectively or demonstrate the value of their contribution.
Lack of resources
Information overload: Many finance leaders may find it difficult to wade through all of the data and information available to them in order to make an impact. Without being able to properly process the data and understand its implications, they may not be able to present a clear argument or effectively challenge other board members during meetings.
Pressure to perform: Finance leaders may also feel pressured to perform in board meetings, which can lead to rushed decisions and a lack of clarity in how the information is presented. This can make it difficult for them to effectively communicate their points, as well as making it hard for other board members to understand their rationale.
Lack of support: Some finance leaders may find that they do not have sufficient support from other directors or management to make an impact in board meetings. Without the right guidance or advice, they can find it difficult to properly explain their ideas or demonstrate the value of their contribution, leading to a feeling of frustration and disappointment.
Stereotyping: Finance leaders may face stereotyping in board meetings, which can prevent them from getting their points across effectively. Without being able to challenge these preconceptions or present alternative views, they may find that their input is not taken into account and that their value is underestimated.
Finance perception: Finance leaders can also find it difficult to get their message across in board meetings if they are seen by other directors as simply the ‘finance person’. Without being able to demonstrate how their role has a wider impact on decision making, they may not be taken seriously or given the chance to make an impact.
Outdated views: Finance leaders may also find that their views are not taken seriously if directors have outdated or incorrect assumptions about the role of finance in an organization. Without being able to demonstrate the relevance and value of their contribution, they may not be given the opportunity to make an impact in board meetings.
Ineffective relationships: Finance leaders may also find it difficult to make an impact in board meetings if they do not have effective relationships with other directors. Without being able to properly engage and build trust, they may struggle to get their point across or be taken seriously by other members. This is particularly the case for part-time directors such as chairs, NEDs and board observers.
Lack of trust: Many finance leaders may also find that they are not trusted by other directors, which can prevent them from making an impact in board meetings. Without being able to demonstrate the value of their input and build trust with other members, they may find that their efforts go unnoticed.
Closed-mindedness: Some finance leaders may also face closed-mindedness from other directors, which can make it difficult for them to get their ideas across. Without being able to challenge the views of other board members or demonstrate the value of their contribution, they may find that their interactions become one-sided.
Methods to make more impact during board meetings
Here are some of the many ways in which finance leaders can make a bigger impact in board meetings to ensure that their voice is heard and their expertise is valued:
Be well prepared
Finance leaders should ensure that they are well prepared for board meetings to make the most of the opportunity to present their views and challenge other board members. This may involve researching relevant topics beforehand and anticipating questions or objections that could be raised. Knowing the agenda and policies can also help them to better understand any discussions, ensuring that they are able to make an informed contribution.
In addition, finance leaders should ensure that they are familiar with the board members and their roles. Doing this can help them to build meaningful relationships and reduce any misunderstanding or confusion during meetings. It can also help to foster a supportive environment in which everyone’s contribution is valued and respected.
Finally, finance leaders should be sure to bring any relevant documents or materials to the meeting that can help them to make their case. This may include financial reports, budgets, and insights into industry trends. By having this information on hand, finance leaders will be able to back up their statements with concrete evidence and demonstrate the value of their contribution.
Have I properly prepared for the meeting and determined what I want to achieve from it? Do I have a good understanding of the board members and their roles? Have I brought all relevant documents or materials to the meeting and asked other board members their opinions on my views?
Finance leaders should use board meetings as an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise in both financial and non-financial matters. This may involve providing insights into industry trends or outlining the potential impact of various decisions on the organization’s finances. Doing this can help other directors to better understand the implications of their actions, ensuring that they make informed decisions.
They should also be sure to share their ideas and opinions in an articulate way, using examples and data wherever possible to back up their points. This can help them to engage other board members in a meaningful discussion that is based on facts rather than speculation. It can also show the other directors that they have thought through the implications of their decisions, which could help to increase trust among board members.
Finally, finance leaders should be sure to provide accurate and reliable insights into the organization’s financial position. By doing this, they can ensure that other directors have an up-to-date understanding of how their decisions will affect the organization’s finances. This is essential to ensure that the board is making decisions that are in the best interests of the organization.
Finance leaders should make an effort to enlist other board members as supporters for their ideas up-front. Doing this can help to ensure that their suggestion is taken seriously and given the consideration it deserves. It can also provide a platform from which they can be vocal about their views without any fear of being dismissed or overlooked.
They should also be sure to start conversations around their idea beforehand to generate support. This could involve engaging with other members of the board over email or in informal meetings. Doing this can help them to build relationships and provide others with an opportunity to ask questions, ensuring that they are better informed when it comes time for the meeting.
Finally, finance leaders should be sure to use any available resources to their advantage. This may include online forums or professional networks in which they can discuss topics related to their idea and get feedback from other experts. Doing this can help them to gain a better understanding of the issue before the meeting and ensure that their suggestion is well thought-out.
Share powerful insights
Finance leaders should use board meetings as an opportunity to share powerful insights that can help to inform the decision-making process. This could involve providing detailed analysis of financial trends or outlining potential scenarios and their implications on the organization’s finances. Doing this can help other directors to understand the implications of their decisions and ensure that they make informed decisions.
They should also be sure to highlight any risks associated with their idea and provide potential solutions for mitigating them. Doing this can help to illustrate the true potential of their suggestion and show other directors that they have taken all factors into consideration. It can also demonstrate their expertise in financial matters and build trust among board members.
Less is often more when it comes to presenting information during board meeting. Finance leaders should focus on providing the essential information in a clear and concise manner that is easy to understand. Doing this can help other directors to get a quick overview of the issue without being bogged down in too many details. This could help ensure that their suggestion is taken seriously and given the consideration it deserves.
Create follow up opportunities
Finance leaders should make sure to create follow up opportunities in order to keep the conversation going. This could involve scheduling a meeting with certain board members to discuss their suggestion further or setting up an online forum where people can interact and share their thoughts. Doing this can help ensure that the conversation is ongoing and that any issues that arise are addressed in a timely manner.
By increasing their level of interaction with directors outside of the board meetings, finance leaders can become more familiar with their views and ensure that those views are taken into account when making decisions. Doing this can help to build relationships and create a strong foundation for collaboration in the future.
Finance leaders should also be sure to provide regular updates on the progress of their suggestion in board meetings. Doing this can demonstrate to other directors how serious they are about their idea and can help them to see the progress being made. It is also important to ensure that any feedback or objections raised by other directors is taken into consideration and responded to in a timely manner.
Finance leaders should make sure to seek feedback from directors and other stakeholders during board meetings. This could involve asking for their opinion on certain decisions or seeking clarification on specific points. Doing this can help to ensure that everyone is well-informed and allows them to provide their own feedback or suggest changes that could be beneficial.
It is also important for finance leaders to listen carefully to the comments of other directors during meetings and take any criticism constructively. Doing this can help to ensure that they are open to new ideas and make the most of their board meetings by learning from others. It can also build trust among directors and other stakeholders which is essential for effective decision-making.
Finally, finance leaders should be sure to thank directors and other stakeholders for their input during board meetings. Doing this can help to show the directors that their comments have been heard and valued, which can enhance the effectiveness of future meetings. It is also a great opportunity for finance leaders to demonstrate their appreciation and gratitude for those who are helping them achieve their goals.
Finance leaders should also use critical thinking skills to analyze any discussions and make an informed contribution. This may involve looking at the bigger picture, questioning assumptions or exploring alternative approaches that could be used to solve the problem at hand. Such an approach can help them demonstrate their expertise and add value to the conversation, which can positively impact the outcome of a meeting.
It is also important for finance leaders to practice self-reflection and be open to feedback from other directors. Doing this can help them identify areas for improvement and ensure that their suggestions are well thought out before they make any commitments. This could help them to think more critically about how their decisions may affect the company’s bottom line or other stakeholders.
Finally, finance leaders should take some time to review any ideas and suggestions they make during board meetings. Doing this can help them assess the potential risks or consequences of their decisions and ensure that they are making a sound contribution to the discussion. It is also an opportunity for them to think more critically about their own views and challenge any assumptions that may be present.
Identify role models
Finance leaders should also seek out role models who can provide inspiration and guidance. This could involve looking to successful finance professionals or even members of their own team for advice on how to make the most of board meetings. Doing this can help them build their confidence in themselves and gain valuable insights into the approach other people take in similar situations.
It is also important for finance leaders to find mentors who are willing to provide independent feedback and advice. Doing this can help them identify areas where they need to improve and gain the skills and knowledge required to make their contribution more effective. Such an approach could lead to more meaningful conversations during board meetings, which can help the company meet its objectives.
Finally, finance leaders should be sure to attend professional development sessions or networking events related to their role. Doing this can help them stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry and identify potential solutions to any problems they may encounter. Attending such events could also provide them with the opportunity to connect with other like-minded professionals who could provide them with valuable feedback and guidance. GrowCFO’s Virtual Boardroom, part of our Future CFO Program, provides a safe environment for practicing such skills.
The power of three
Finance leaders should also be aware of the power of three when making their contribution during board meetings. This involves pre-determining the biggest thing they want to achieve during the meeting and then presenting three strong arguments to influence people and support their views. Doing this can help them effectively communicate their ideas, as well as demonstrate their confidence in what they are suggesting.
It is also valuable for finance leaders to be able to back up their suggestions with data and evidence, as this can give them greater credibility in the eyes of other directors. Doing this could help them persuade people to accept any changes they are proposing and ensure that the company remains on track towards meeting its objectives.
Finally, finance leaders should be sure to practice active listening and provide feedback on the ideas of other directors. Doing this can help them identify areas for collaboration and ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to decision making. Being able to approach board meetings with a collaborative mindset could lead to better outcomes overall, which in turn will positively affect the company’s bottom line.
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Making an impact in board meetings is a challenge that finance leaders face throughout their career. It requires them to take a proactive approach and ensure that they make their contribution meaningful and effective.
Board meetings provide you with a unique opportunity to have your voice heard and influence the direction of the company. The way that you handle them will have a huge impact on your personal reputation and whether your leadership team will continue to trust your ability to deliver the business plan.
By following the tips included in this guide, finance leaders can more effectively communicate their ideas, build relationships with other directors, and ensure that the company is meeting its objectives. Get in touch.
Professional Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring and coaching can help finance leaders plan ahead confidently with the expert guidance of someone who’s been there before and is committed to seeing you succeed. We offer complimentary chemistry calls so that you can get to know us better and see if our mentoring style is a good fit for your needs. During this call, we will discuss your challenges and goals, and help you determine the best course of action moving forward.
The CFO Programme
Our CFO Programme is designed for passionate finance leaders who are keen to develop a well-respected finance function that provides vital support, influence and value creation across your business. This six-month virtual programme is led by professional mentors who have strong CFO experience and is delivered within cohorts comprising 5-6 finance leaders, alongside individual mentoring.
The GrowCFO Competency Framework
Use The GrowCFO Competency Framework to assess your and your team’s hard and soft skills. This first of its kind assessment tool will help individuals benchmark themselves against your finance leader peer group across nine CFO competencies and 45 skill sets.
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