Maximising Your Team’s Performance: The Complete Guide for Finance Leaders

As a finance leader, you know that maximising your team's performance is essential to ensure the success of your organisation. It's up to you to create an environment in which your team can thrive and achieve great results. It's not always easy to get everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal, but with the right tools and techniques in your arsenal, you can make it happen. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover the essentials you need to know about maximising your team's performance.
Business team in co-working creative space

Do you ever feel that you are not getting enough support from your finance team? Or that you lack confidence in delegating your most complex assignments to them and end up doing too many tasks yourself? If so, you’re not alone. Most finance leaders state that they would benefit from a strong team in terms of size, quality, or both.

In fact, over 20% of the GrowCFO community identified this as one of the top three challenges they face in their role. Research suggests that most finance teams suffer from underinvestment and have significant skills gaps. This is a huge challenge that prevents finance teams from adding more value to the company, whilst restricting career progression and causing longer working hours.

But don’t worry, there are many ways to overcome this. In this guide, we’ll explore the root causes and their consequences, and provide methodologies to help maximise the impact of your finance team’s performance.

Table of Contents

Signs that your team is underperforming

Underperforming teams cause finance leaders significant concern. Each day feels like a constant battle to get urgent tasks done, regardless of how hard you work. You also worry about the important things that you don’t have time to do, which often add the most value to your business.

Do you relate to any of these thoughts?

  • “I don’t have time to deliver each requirement of my CFO role”
  • “I am doing too many tasks that are below my pay grade”
  • “I need to hire a strong number two who can better support me”
  • “Some of my team are underperforming against my expectations”
  • “We spend far too long doing tasks that should be automated”
  • “My finance team should be adding more value to our company”
  • “Our systems are not fit for purpose and create too much manual work”

You may also:

  • Lack confidence in delegating your most complex tasks
  • Feel that finance is perceived as an admin function by the business
  • Be unsure how to satisfy your most ambitious high performers
  • Spend a lot of time training your team on basic skills
  • Worry that your team is not collaborating with the wider business
  • Struggle to evolve your team with modern-day finance requirements
  • Need to recruit more team members to deliver your objectives

When your finance team is underperforming, there is a gap between what your team can deliver versus other people’s expectations. You feel frustrated that simple tasks seem challenging and that you cannot make a bigger impact on your company. Your team’s reputation will quickly diminish.

The root cause: why are so many finance teams underperforming?

There are many different reasons why finance teams underperform. This is particularly the case in businesses with insufficient funding to hire the right people and implement best-in-class technology solutions.

Skills and experience

Mix of skills and experience: Many finance teams lack the right mix of skills, experience and characteristics to be successful. The role of finance is constantly changing and team members must continually develop their soft skills, team skills, finance skills and personal effectiveness. If the team does not receive proper training, they will be unable to do their job properly and deliver their finance function’s objectives. 

Weak or ineffective leadership: A weak or ineffective leader can significantly impact a team’s performance levels. The leader sets the tone for the team and acts as a role model by setting examples. They must ensure that everyone is working together towards the same goal within the necessary deadlines. If the team does not have faith in their leader, they will not be motivated to do their best work.

Team structure: A finance team that is not properly structured will struggle to function effectively. Each member of the team must have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and there must be a good balance between junior and senior members. Team members need to play to their strengths and complement one another’s skill sets to deliver more than the sum of their parts.

Technology infrastructure

Outdated systems: Inadequate technology infrastructure is a huge issue for many finance teams. Outdated systems make it difficult to generate and report accurate financial information in a timely manner. This can lead to significant errors and delays in reporting.

Poor integration: Many systems do not integrate into other applications and result in siloed information being pulled from different data sources in an unhelpful format. Such issues increase the need for manual tasks and workarounds that are often very time-consuming and repetitive. This can lead to boredom and mistakes, as well as a general feeling of being overwhelmed.

Manual recurring tasks: Recurring tasks such as delivering month-end close, collating management information and generating accurate forecasting can take much longer than they should, due to the need to constantly re-enter data or run multiple reports.

Under-investment

Finance teams are under immense pressure to do more with less and are often not given the necessary funding and resource to meet the demands of a dynamic modern-day business. They are being asked to provide greater insights, improve forecasting accuracy and deliver efficiencies across the company.

Departmental budget: For too long, finance has been seen as an administrative function and not a strategic one. As a result, finance teams have often been the last to receive funding and have struggled to compete with other teams such as product, sales and marketing when it comes to departmental budgets.

Investment in technology: To be successful, finance teams need adequate funding to invest in market-leading technology solutions, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which can help them automate manual tasks and improve forecasting accuracy.

Hiring and talent: Many finance leaders struggle to hire the quantity and quality of people required. The war for talent is heating up and finance teams are finding it difficult to compete with other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

Influence and respect

Influence at board-level: In many companies, finance teams do not command sufficient board level respect. Their roles and unique ability to impact the wider business agenda are often misunderstood, making it hard to influence strategies and obtain people’s buy-in. Many finance leaders lack gravitas and struggle to make their voice heard when dealing with dominant personalities in the boardroom. 

Relationship-building: Too many finance teams do not have strong enough relationships with other internal departments. This lack of collaboration can lead to silos within the organisation and make it difficult to get things done. Team members struggle to get the necessary support and cooperation of the wider business to do their jobs effectively.

Communication and trust: Most finance teams struggle to collaborate effectively with the rest of the business, particularly with sales and marketing teams. Without these trusted relationships, it can be difficult to understand people’s biggest challenges and identify ways that you can help to solve them.

Embedding finance across the business: It can be very difficult to fully embed finance across the business. This can lead to a lack of understanding of financials by other departments and make it difficult to reach sound decisions. Often, the finance team is only retrospectively made aware of other people’s actions when dealing with their financial consequences, leading to worse outcomes and taking more time to resolve.

Methods to Improve your Team’s Performance

Here are some of the many ways in which finance leaders can improve your team’s performance:

Maximising your team’s performance starts with you!

Finance leaders need to act as an inspirational role model to your team members. You need to show up with a lot of personal energy and create a people-focused culture with a strong sense of belonging and inclusion.

This starts with building strong relationships and communicating effectively to create an open environment. The way you behave has a huge impact on the emotional state of the people around you. You should role model sustainable behaviours to enable others to do the same. For example, taking good care of yourself, getting plenty of sleep and placing value on recovery breaks.

Your values will encourage like-minded people to enable positive change and growth. Your ability to understand your own strengths and gaps will allow you to hire others to cover your blind spots and bring complementary skills into your team.

Showcasing positive behaviours and appropriately dealing with negative behaviours will help to create a high-performance team culture. 

Who are your career role models? Why do you look up to them?

Build your team

Finance leaders must build teams with the right skills and attributes to cover both what you need now and also what you will need in the future. Think about how you will drive change as your company evolves and who will be your change champions.

You will need a strong number two to help you deliver your finance leader role effectively. Identify your highest performers and create an environment for them to thrive. Provide them with additional responsibilities to grow in their role and support their career aspirations. In every role, there will come an appropriate time for you to move on and succession planning is important.

Conversely, high-growth businesses cannot carry people who constantly underperform. Finance leaders need to quickly deal with underperformers and create action plans for those who do not seem willing to embark upon your journey. You may need to hire new people to address any shortfalls.

Understand your people

Each of your team members are individuals and have different needs. Finance leaders need to understand what motivates each person and how they perform at their best. Identify which team members are hungry for more responsibility versus others who would prefer to remain in their existing roles. This requires you to actively listen and to observe their behaviours.

Understand the dynamics of your team to determine what they need from you. Determine how they interact with each another and who is the most influential.

Focus on building strong relationships and being opening with people. This will encourage them to follow your lead and to support your opinions.

Kevin Appleby is joined by Julian O'Neill on the GrowCFO Show. We look at how Julian uses P=P+I to get the best out of his finance team
Podcast

#88 Performance=Potential-Interference with Julian O’Neill, CFO at Ardent Hire Solutions

This equation is a simple but powerful way to think about success and how to achieve it. Julian uses P=P-I every day to get the best out of his finance team and others that work with him. We discuss the factors that contribute to interference and how you can eliminate them to reach your full potential.

Listen to episode

Enable your people

A collaborative leadership style will enable your people to feel empowered. Good motivation ensures that staff are as self-sufficient as possible. They will feel empowered to make robust decisions and to work effectively without constant supervision.

In addition, becoming the person that people want to follow will increase their support towards your change initiatives. Be aware that there will always be different perspectives on the same thing. Understand the mindset of others and make their opinions feel valued. Explain how things fit into the bigger picture to motivate others to achieve great results.

Modify your behaviour amongst different people in different situations. Research suggests that 80% of career success results from soft skills. Demonstrate excellent soft skills throughout your leadership and seek opportunities to develop your team’s soft skills wherever possible.

Train your team

Most companies struggle to provide adequate learning and development training to their finance team. A survey of over 200 finance leaders also shows that most finance teams have significant skills gaps, particularly for soft skills, finance skills, team skills and personal effectiveness.

Many finance leaders spend a lot of time training their team members on the same topics as everybody else, which comes at a huge opportunity cost. This can be delivered much more efficiently through third-party providers that offer development programmes, training workshops and online lessons.

 

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Delegate your workload

Successful finance leaders know when to delegate so that you can free up sufficient time towards fulfilling each requirement of your CFO role. You cannot do everything yourself and therefore need to delegate tasks to others who can help get the job done. This allows you to focus on the most important tasks and still get everything done in a timely manner.

Delegating is a key skill and needs to be done properly. By understanding how to set priorities and delegate tasks effectively, you can ensure that the right people are always working on the most important tasks and that everybody is able to reach their goals in a timely manner.

You need to communicate expectations, provide support and follow up regularly with each individual. You must also provide your team with adequate training so that you can confidently delegate your most complex tasks.

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Implement technology

Technology helps finance teams to become more efficient and effective. By automating tasks and streamlining processes, technology can save time and money. It can also improve decision-making by providing access to data and analytics. Technology helps finance teams to better manage risk and to become more effective business partners to the rest of the organization.

The first step to implementing better technology is understanding your needs as a finance team. Start by determining your pain points and what would make your job easier. Once you understand your needs, you can start looking for the right tools to help address them.

It’s important to adopt new technologies as they become available. Working with a partner who understands both finance and technology can be extremely beneficial. They can help find the right tools to address your needs and to implement them effectively. By understanding your needs and making sure the right tools are in place, finance teams can start implementing better technology today.

 

It's generally accepted in society, in the market, and amongst finance leaders that we're very much evolving from a very transactional business unit to a far more analytical business unit. And the only way we can get to that point and free up time to analyse and get better access to stronger data quicker is to be able to automate a lot of these tasks.
The business isn't going to give you a whole chunk of data scientists on top of all the transactional work you're doing. You have to find the skills within your team. Let's face it, no one trained all of these years to spend all day entering sales invoices into a finance system or doing all of those administrative tasks that so many of you would have done in your early days of being a finance leader. That goes for your team as well, who are likely doing a lot of administrative work. Ultimately, they will have been well trained and would also rather be spending their time doing the analysis side of the business. So how can we help your organisation move in that direction?

Chris Tredwell, Host of GrowCFO Future of Finance Functions

Collaborate with others

Finance teams need to spend more time collaborating with other parts of the business and building bridges between different teams. One way to achieve better collaboration is to hold regular meetings with other teams to keep everybody updated and develop a better understanding of each other’s roles. This gives teams the opportunity to provide feedback and offer suggestions.

Another way to promote better collaboration is by sharing information openly and training non-finance people on finance matters. This includes making data and reports more available to other teams, as well as collaborating on projects. When everyone works together and has access to the same information, it’s easier to make decisions and resolve conflicts.

Finance teams that collaborate with other parts of the business are more likely to be successful. By taking the time to build trusted relationships and improve communication, they can create a more cohesive business and make better decisions.

Change your reputation

Finance teams need to shake off their past reputation of being seen as an administrative function. Modern-day finance functions are no longer just number-crunchers and have access to more data than ever before.

There are huge opportunities to add value to your company by becoming a more strategic business partner. Finance is well-placed to help drive growth and profitability by providing insightful information to improve decision-making.

The key to success is to focus on delivering your core objectives and play to your team’s strengths. Be proactive in reaching out to other parts of the business to better understand their challenges, and make sure you are communicating your insights in a way that is easy to understand. 

By changing the perception of finance teams, they can become considered a more integral part of the business and create a better case for future investment.

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Closing Thoughts

Underperforming finance teams negatively impacts the finance leader, team members and overall business. The finance leader may be seen as ineffective and unable to manage the team, while team members may feel disengaged and undervalued. This can lead to a loss of productivity and morale within the team, as well as a loss of confidence in the finance leader.  

The wider business may also suffer if the finance team is unable to meet its targets or deliver on its promises. This can lead to a loss of customers, revenue and profit. Underperforming finance teams can also damage the reputation of the company and make it harder to attract and retain talent.

If you are a finance leader, you need to urgently address the root causes and create a plan that overcomes each challenge. By doing so, you will be in a better position to meet the demands of the business and help your team achieve success.

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. If you need more information on any of these topics, please explore our resources below. Our experts are available to answer any questions you may have about how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your finance team. Get in touch.

GrowCFO for Finance Teams

GrowCFO works with you to design and deliver flexible training for your team. Our training plans include online courses, tailored workshops, professional mentoring and coaching, and team building activities.​

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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