Enhancing Your Communication Impact as Chief Finance Officer

By Miles Hutchinson, CGMA

How many opportunities do you encounter to share ideas with the leadership of your organization, your peers, staff, investors, creditors and clients? It’s a part of your daily routine. Along with your responsibilities for a vast repository of data and information, your knowledge of accounting, reporting, regulations, and the intimate inner workings of your organization – history, strategy, tactics, methods, procedures, history, culture - you are tasked with filtering and deciding what and how to provide an appropriate and workable understanding of complex combinations of these elements on demand to each person you meet. This is an exciting position and a wonderful opportunity to be of service to your organization. It is also an opportunity to miscommunicate and trigger unwanted results.

So how do we navigate the opportunities and threats of interacting with others and obtain the best results with each encounter? Dr. Steven Covey offered principles for healthy interaction in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Ken Blanchard provides us with simple and timeless guidelines for managing people in “The One Minute Manager.” Dr. Spencer Johnson helps us with change management in “Who Moved My Cheese.” Stephen C. Lundin, PH.D., John Christensen and Harry Paul offer us lessons on choosing our attitude in “Fish!” and “Fish! Tales.” There is a vast base of knowledge available to help us to tap into ourselves and to develop best practices for navigating the challenges and opportunities of human interaction.

Every encounter can be distilled to its essence and an appropriate response can be identified.

  • Who wants or needs to know?
  • Why do they ask?
  • Am I the right person to provide this information?
  • Is this the right time and place for the interaction?
  • Does this situation require me to defer to another more appropriate person or postpone to a more appropriate time or setting?
  • Do I have the information and am I certain of its accuracy and reliability?
  • How might this conversation go sideways and how can I communicate clearly to help avoid negative results?
  • How comfortable am I with having this conversation at this moment?
  • How much information should I share?
  • What will help this person achieve best results?
  • How can I best phrase my response to provide the information while inspiring the person to excel?

Do you get caught up in the rush of your daily life and routines? Do you often fail to consider all of these key questions before engaging in conversation? How much effort must you expend to right the wrongs you triggered?

Perhaps this is a matter of perception or circumstances. It is important to value each encounter we have with others and to value the person. Most of us are seldom required to make quick life and death decisions. Keep your perspective. How do you wish to be thought of? How do you wish to be remembered long after the conversation is history? Dr. Covey suggests we always begin with the end in mind. Make a positive impression and leave the person with a smile on their face. Begin with loving what you do and “…catch your limit of happiness, meaning and fulfillment every day.”