Upon relocating to her building’s executive floor after a promotion, a former CFO explains why she moved back to the floor of her previous department.
When I took my first Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position, I had the normal trepidations. Can I do the job? Am I in over my head? And ultimately, what was I thinking? However, I also had a unique situation in that the professionals who were now reporting to me had been my peers the day before.
New questions surfaced. How would they respond to reporting to me, and taking direction and having me lead the organization? Would we still be friends, or had that gone by the wayside with the promotion?
After the first few days, I realized the friendships would survive. Now, the open question for me was, would they take direction? How would I lead this team? Could I be their leader?
There are a few times in your professional career where you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with some incredibly brilliant and talented individuals. This was that time for me. I had the fortune of having that individual on my team. No surprise, he is a West Point and MIT graduate and to this day is one of the most impressive professionals I have had the opportunity to work with. It was from him that I learned what it means to be a leader.
“Leadership is 90 percent being there,” he told me the day I assumed the CFO role. Pretty simple words when you think about it, but what do they mean? Many times, when you take a C-level role, you get a new office, maybe a new parking space or some other distinguishing perk. Mine was the new office on the Executive floor. I had always been with my team on the Finance & Accounting floor, and now was faced with a move.
This being my first CFO role, I opted for the easy path of moving to the “Exec” floor. The right choice? Hardly.
My team—the team that was working with me, supporting me to help the company achieve the goals and plan that we put in place—all of a sudden, I realized they were not outside my door. I was not talking with them in the breakroom or hallway. They were not just stopping by my office to say hi, catch up and see if there was anything they could do. I had distanced myself from them. Teamwork: That is how companies succeed. And I had just put multiple elevator stops between me and my team.
Finding Common Ground
It was that next week that I moved back to the floor that my team occupied. It was clear to me then that if I wanted my team and me to be successful, I had to be one with my team. This meant the successes and failures. It all goes together.
I cannot say how many times I think about this simple statement: “Leadership is 90 percent being there.” I thank my source every day for sharing that wisdom with me. It changed the way I thought about my role, and, more importantly, made me think about the leader I wanted to be. I want to be a leader who is remembered as being there, with the team, in the good and the bad.
Katy Murray is former CFO of SourceHOV. She was featured in Issue No. 7 of Forefront.