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Overcoming barriers to a greater strategic role

At times CFOs will encounter and then have to overcome various obstacles, such as lack of time, knowledge, skills or confidence; cultural and managerial barriers, or resistance from the CEO on their journey to taking on a greater strategic role. Find out how CFOs are able to overcome those barriers.

This content, along with our information on strategic roles and drivers, is part of a series of resources designed to help CFOs and aspiring CFOs contribute to an organisation's strategy. Please see CFO and strategy for further details.

 Summary  Actions 
 Lack of time – delegate, prioritise, invest
  • Get a great number two – train-up or recruit
  • Invest in building and developing your team 
  • Take an acceptable level of risk and delegate more
  • Prioritise ruthlessly
  • Put in the extra hours – but only if it helps you achieve an appropriate work life balance in the medium term 
Organisational resistance – solve problems, build relationships, use reciprocity
  • Help solve key business problems to demonstrate value and build trust
  • Build credibility by getting out into the business and obtaining first-hand business insights
  • Spend time on building relationships and trust
  • Use reciprocity – give and take
  • Challenge in a sensitive and constructive way
  • Volunteer to administer the strategic process to get a seat at the table
  • Point to examples of successful strategic contributions by CFOs in other organisations or countries
  • As a last resort, use the power that goes with the CFO role, eg, not signing off on investments where there has been insufficient CFO involvement.
 Lack of knowledge – walk the floors, meet stakeholders, training, conferences, reading
  • Get out into the business and onto the frontline. Observe operations, talk with line managers, commercial partners, customers and suppliers.
  • Engage internal and external experts to get you up to speed with the organisation’s products and services
  • Attend formal industry and strategy training and conferences
  • Join peer networks
  • Read widely – Business and Management Faculty resources, industry press, market research, analyst reports, competitor intelligence 
 Lack of skills – mentoring, training, practice
  • Learn from the CEO, other executive team members and non-executive directors (NB easier to get direct input when new to role)
  • Find a mentor
  • Undertake formal training and development programmes focused on leadership and strategy
  • Practice – in a disciplined and purposeful way eg trying different approaches to presentations and getting feedback
  • Take on non-finance, voluntary roles (internally or externally) to build more rounded skills 
 Lack of confidence – strengths, support, coaching
  • Identify, celebrate and utilise strengths eg, demonstrate analytical skills as strategy is developed
  • Look for support from trusted colleagues and advisors
  • Consider getting an executive coach or counsellor