The disruption of the past few years has forced finance leaders to navigate historically high interest rates, rising inflation and supply chain disruptions exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as skill gaps and talent shortages. This challenging backdrop has placed greater demand on CFOs and pushed their leadership skills to the limit.
“It’s been a key time for leaders,” says John Park, Chief Transformation Officer at McDonald’s UK & Ireland. “It hasn’t just been about making difficult decisions, but it’s also been about supporting and engaging team members and stakeholders during a highly volatile and unpredictable period.”
Great leadership must have conscious decision-making at its heart and maintaining your principles and purpose during this time has been paramount, he adds.
“You can’t plan for every eventuality, as the pandemic has shown us, but learning the skills to help you steer a route alongside your team is invaluable.”
Investing in a new generation of leaders
The ICAEW Financial Talent Executive Network (F-TEN) is a global leadership programme designed specifically for aspiring and new CFOs to develop and enhance their leadership skills to prepare them for becoming a modern-day leader.
“Leadership is hard work and it requires dedication, preparation and commitment; the F-TEN programme has played an important part in my leadership journey,” says Park, who attended the programme in 2022 when he was CFO at McDonald’s UK & Ireland.
“I have no doubt that the programme helped me to not only progress to CFO, but also to be the best CFO I could be.” Park has subsequently broadened his role even further, helped in no small way by F-TEN. Since June 2022, he has been Chief Transformation Officer at McDonald’s UK & Ireland and is responsible for the transformational journey the business will take over the coming years. Park will oversee the supply chain, technology, development and change functions bringing key departments together as the company transforms the restaurant estate in order to meet changing customer demands.
F-TEN runs over six months and focuses on developing value-added skills crucial for securing a board-level role. Through practical simulation workshops, it prepares participants for navigating some of the challenges they’ll face.
“The programme helped confirm that there is no magic formula for being an outstanding finance leader, while at the same time shining a spotlight on some areas of focus and providing a structure by which to approach challenges,” Park explains.
Park’s positive experience has led to him sponsoring two of his team members to participate in the programme and support them on their own leadership journeys.
“The programme is really important and, in my own experience, extremely valuable in helping with the step-up to executive level. It’s specifically designed to help those assuming new responsibilities or those that are preparing for the next step in their careers.”
Investing in the new generation is a great way to demonstrate employee value especially in an age where the fight for talent is “fierce as ever at the moment”, says Park.
Participants have the chance to share challenges with peers who can offer insightful viewpoints and different perspectives in a supportive and confidential environment.
“Without doubt, the highlight for me was the peer-learning groups that provide an opportunity to learn from others, while appreciating that we all face very similar challenges and moments of uncertainty throughout our careers,” says Park.
“Understanding how someone else might approach an issue is a fantastic way to challenge your own perceptions and forces you to become a more dynamic thinker. The fact that the F-TEN programme includes peer group sessions is a great way to help hone this skill, which is key for any leader and one that has certainly helped me in my career.”
Exposure to the C-suite
Throughout the programme, participants have the opportunity to learn from current CFOs, CEOs, and COOs as they share their experiences and how they overcame challenges that participants will inevitably face in their own careers.
Participants are mentored by experienced board-level leaders from large listed or private companies. “Exposure to others in the industry and learning from them is vital,” Park believes.
Paul Pomroy, Senior Vice President of International Operated Markets at McDonald’s, is one of the mentors who partner up with CFOs on their F-TEN journey. Although he hasn’t taken part in the programme himself, Pomroy still champions the scheme as “it offers a beneficial experience for CFOs to develop their skills and stay current within the rapidly changing business environment”.
Pomroy adds: “The prestige of ICAEW as a leading institute in the field adds value to the programme both internally, as participants bring their new insights to their day-to-day work, and externally, as they connect with peers from other businesses. It provides a supportive network for finance professionals and encourages participants to challenge their thinking and develop more innovative perspectives.”
Pomroy has seen colleagues, such as Park, go through the F-TEN programme and come out the other side with increased confidence, fresh perspectives, and new ideas that have been valuable to the company.
“Mentorship is a great form of support when applying the learning from the programme to real life. All leaders need time and space to think carefully about what will help their business to be successful both today and in the future. A mentor who provides one-to-one guidance, and someone you can speak with independently to help you clarify your thinking and work through any issues you might be having, is time well spent,” says Park.
The broader business benefits of the programme are clear, Park believes: “An investment in a high-quality development programme such as F-TEN demonstrates to the individual the value the organisation places on them, while at the same time helping them to grow into a rounded leader capable of contributing holistically to the success of the business – it’s an absolute win-win.”
- Find out more about the F-TEN programme and to register for the April 2023 course.
Find out more about F-TEN
This six-month global programme prepares aspiring and new CFOs for the reality of operating at board level. It supports businesses to develop future CFOs and individuals to achieve their career ambitions.
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