Traditionally, CFOs have been known foremost for their financial acumen and analytical skills rather than for their soft skills, such as social networking, communications and storytelling.
But in today’s environment the ability to influence, collaborate and communicate effectively with others across generations, the workforce, leadership, and clients and customers is just as important for CFOs, says Pete Shimer, Chief Financial Officer and US Managing Partner, Finance & Administration, at Deloitte.
He discusses how emotional intelligence (EI) helps him build high-talent teams, communicate effectively and strengthen decision-making, and what it means to be an emotionally intelligent leader.
“Unless you have an appreciation for how other people might see the world differently from you, whether it’s your clients, your staff, or other C-suite executives, you are going to have a difficult time building and maintaining strong relationships”
What does it mean to you to be an emotionally intelligent leader?
Effective leadership is about taking in all of the information, synthesizing it and then making a decision and standing behind that decision. Many leaders are afraid to make hard choices or bold decisions, even if they think the choices are the appropriate ones because they’re worried about the consequences and want to avoid conflict.
Emotional intelligence helps me be a bolder decision-maker because it provides a framework for understanding the consequences of decisions and how they might impact people, and for incorporating that understanding into the decision-making itself.
Leaders are also defined by the teams they build. Regardless of how skilled you may be, you need to rely on other highly skilled people for success.
So to me, being emotionally intelligent is also about how well leaders can fit their own technical skills, experience and business know-how within the paradigm of a team and how well they can utilize and rely upon the skills of others to achieve common goals.
For example, I view myself as somebody who understands the technical details and really enjoys the analytics, but who also excels at interpersonal relationships and prioritizes bringing people and groups together to find common ground.
Unless you have an appreciation for how other people might see the world differently from you, whether it’s your clients, your staff, or other C-suite executives, you are going to have a difficult time building and maintaining strong relationships over the long term.
How do use emotional intelligence in your role as a CFO?
Whether I’m working with my team, other leaders in the firm or clients, I try to put myself in other people’s shoes and dig deeper to really understand their needs and expectations, what they’re thinking and why.
I find EI critical to my ability to develop and sustain a talented finance team, and to foster trust, open communication and camaraderie among team members. One simple, yet effective example is the way we begin our weekly staff meetings.
Each week, a different team member offers a quote or statement of the day and briefly explains why it’s meaningful, why it struck a chord. Those quotes and statements help us all learn just a little bit more about each of us and who we are.
Starting our meetings that way sets a collaborative tone, helps deepen the connective tissue between people, and gets each of us to stop and think about our bigger purpose here. And it literally takes one to two minutes.
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