3 Ways Critical Thinking Finance Leaders Can Add and Retain Value

By Mark Carter

The notion of adding value is banded liberally: demanded from all aspects of a business these days. This includes the critical thinking financial leaders that help retain stability in keeping a business ship afloat.

The interpretation of how to ‘add value’ is fairly unrestricted in its potential. This is emphasised even in the primary Oxford English dictionary definition: the regard, importance, worth or usefulness of something. All of which lead to the subjective nature of individual perceptions. So how then can logical (data minded or numbers responsible) leaders measurably add value in a manner to break through any ambiguity?

Spending 16 years studying and building out a value model, it becomes clear that there are principles and strategies aligned with one of the five identified value elements. Specifically the one that encompasses a majority of their business world: tangible value. Otherwise known as the value language of business, being notably measured one of four ways: dollars, percentages, numbers and time.

Big data and joining the dots

Leaders in business, especially with financial responsibilities, have no difficulty accessing data. If anything the opposite is the case: swimming, even drowning, in the stuff. Businesses become like cumbersome, slow moving tankers navigating swells amidst market storms. What’s more, several captains at different helms (divisional heads) demonstrate independent interpretations like navigating completely different separate side seas, not seeing the whole storm.

I’ve worked with businesses with literally 1000+ different sales force reports or data sets pulled as a collective. The time lost in translation or number of interpretive discussions was mind-boggling. Let’s be frank too, creative minds can make stories out of any numbers!

Financial leaders are well placed to help simplify, even steer, overarching data sets including for best practice localised reports considering all four measures: dollars, percentages, numbers, time. Doing so remembering the rule of ‘dot to dot’ drawings!

Some, simplistic for an adult, we know will be a rabbit chewing a carrot even without connections drawn. Yet for a child the strokes are still essential to bring the picture to life. Conversely, others, far more complex, depictions only become clear after confident, swift and steady connections are made. In both cases, the picture created brings numbered dots to life. Human beings see things ultimately through pictures in our minds, built with clarity around stories, not by bucket loads of numbers or spreadsheets.

Up skill so people know their own numbers

You’d hope, usually the case, leaders often have strong interpretive abilities when it comes to reporting: knowing what numbers constitute the dots, drawing credible connections and being across the data. In an ideal world, especially consistent high performing business, individuals at every level would be across critical data (KPI’s or measures of success) for their own part of the overall engine. This isn’t always the case. So many managers (especially if not versed in strong management or leadership skills) invariably find themselves pulling, advising or keeping teams across their dot to dots.

Financial leaders can add value by helping steer input towards financial or data competent coaching conversations or through knowledge sharing and punchy training programs. This may help an entire business appreciate the importance, even beauty, of numbers and the potential of the pictures revealed within their patterns. Simultaneously helping instill better grounded forecasting models rather than overly optimism biased based ones that otherwise exist: you know, sales leads created to forecast conversions, is that 90% projection really solid?

Encourage investment in onboarding and retaining talent

This is one area, from experience, some financial leaders appreciate whilst others first need to discover their own, wondrous, newly illuminated dot to dot: a continual investment into talent development, onboarding and training.

Many business journal sources often site common pains for financial leaders including uncertainty, retaining and attracting right talent, regulatory changes, or even rising wages and salaries versus benefit cost. When seas are rough or hatches are being battened down (something 2020 has triggered in waves) there are items frequently first fully stricken (old school red pen) rather than reconsidered, restructured or creatively addressed.

The world is so fast paced, ever changing. In addition to pains prior mentioned we know competitive advantage is additionally constantly challenged through tech, innovation, new players or even consumer behavioral habits. Continued learning is one of the few mechanisms that maintains suitable levels of quality, skills or behaviors required in delivering the desired data in those simplified number set big data results. To completely sacrifice mechanisms of continual development is to scuttle your own stability. Besides, strong investment into continual development is a well-documented, freestanding, high performance or talent retention strategy.

Forge strong relationships with HR partners and work together to ensure steady investments (again all four measures, dollars, percentages, numbers, time) remain in place even if restructured to add value keeping the business vessel ship shape and weather sturdy.

Author: Mark Carter is an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach. He has over 20 years’ experience as a global learning and development professional. His TEDxCasey talk ‘Paws and Effect: how teddy bears increase value perception was the movie trailer for his latest book Add Value. You can contact Mark at www.markcarter.com.au or his book site addvalue.markcarter.com.au