This past year, I’ve found myself wondering if I have what it takes to lead through change.

I implemented a billing system for a startup, took on a new role and had the two most senior people on the team leave within two months for various reasons. Oh, and I became a first-time dad!

And…I’d be lying if I said I was confident leading through all of it.

As a finance leader, you probably have similar stories to mine. You want to lead with confidence through change but struggle to.

Maybe you’ve had deliverables change, tech changes, or people changes on your team. All of those changes can cause us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we’ve got what it takes.

The reality is that change is constant in finance. The best finance leaders rise to the occasion and lead from the front lines during times of change.

So…how can we lead confidently through it?

Three principles stand out when I look back at times when I’ve led with the most confidence:

  1. Be vulnerable
  2. Communicate clearly
  3. Learn to adapt

3 principles to lead with confidence as a finance leader

Be vulnerable

Communicate to your team that you don’t have all of the answers.

Why? Your team will gain respect for you and you’ll gain their trust. You’ll feel like a team.

The best teams know the strengths and weaknesses of the unit. Where one might be weak another might have strength.

This is especially important if you’re the leader because it will give others on your team the freedom to be vulnerable too. That means that you’ll have a good insight into if someone doesn’t have the skillset to accomplish something or will need more resources to get the job done.

This will allow you to give real-time feedback easier because egos tend to diminish on a team that’s vulnerable with each other. During times of change, you need speed and agility. Real-time feedback is critical.

Vulnerability is a sign of confidence. Vulnerable people know that they’ll elevate others around them through their vulnerability. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s effective.

Practical Application

Tell your team about a time you failed and the lesson you learned from it. Work this in naturally to an all-hands meeting or 1:1’s. You might be surprised how others open up. This needs to be cultivated over time so it’s best to start sooner than later.

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Communicate clearly

In times of change, clear communication with your team and leadership is your greatest asset as a finance leader. When everyone understands the primary goal and the part they play in achieving the goal things just run smoother.

This will add to your confidence to lead during times of change.

Clear communication starts with understanding the communication style that works best for your team and leadership. Some people prefer long emails with all of the details. Others might just need high-level bullet points, while others may just want to hop on a quick call.

Taking the time to tailor communication to different people takes time, but I’d argue that it takes even more time down the line if there’s confusion because of a lack of good communication.

If there’s a key message you want your team and leadership to know during a time of change, repeat it more times than you think you need to. They have other communication from countless others competing against the message you want to stick to.

Practical Application

Set up regular lines of communication during times of change. Maybe that’s in the form of a daily huddle with your team or a weekly meeting/email to your leadership. This will give you the opportunity to communicate belief in your team, ask your leadership for more resources and provide them with updates on what they’re most concerned about. In these huddles/emails, always ask if anything is unclear.

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Learn to adapt as a finance leader

Times of change require agility. It means putting old initiatives on hold to prioritize something new.

If you’re a planner, like me, quick change can frustrate you without a system in place to manage it.

Having a system in place will help reduce those feelings of overwhelm and frustration in the midst of change. Overwhelm and frustration can erode confidence quicker than just about anything.

If you’re not in the middle of change it can be easy to ignore this step, but taking some time now to get a system in place will allow you to jump right into change confidently when it happens.

Practical Application:

Get organized now with your priorities and deadlines. Follow these five steps below:

  1. Write down current deadlines
  2. Which can be delayed? Delegated? Eliminated?
  3. What new deadlines need to be elevated?
  4. Refresh the plan, as needed
  5. Execute the plan

If you have a plan in place, execution becomes much easier for you as a finance leader because you have a clear focus on what needs to get done and by when.

Step back and imagine you have a big change on your team.

Think about if you:

  • Led with a vulnerability that resulted in a more cohesive team with fewer blind spots.
  • Had clear communication with your team and leadership so everyone was on the same page.
  • Had a system in place that allowed you to adapt quickly.

How confident would you feel leading through the change you’re facing?

Imagine how much of an impact we, as finance leaders, could have on our teams and organizations if we learn to lead confidently through change.

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