How CFO's Can Turn Stakeholders Into Allies - By Maureen O'Connell
CFO and Stakeholders
As soon as a CFO takes over the reins, he/she has to
forge healthy relationships with the CEO, the Board of
Directors, colleagues and staff. Delay or dormancy in
establishing good relations with stakeholders can
jeopardize not only their financial agenda but also their
I’ll try to offer 3 helpful guidelines on how CFOs can turn
unfamiliar stakeholders into loyal allies even as the
clock is ticking.
Listening is the key to establishing good relationships, both
personal and professional. Spend some time keenly listening for
both direct demands and subtle indicators to understand what
exactly the stakeholders need and what they would rather avoid.
Eg: a business head may need data interpretation from your team
to make better decisions for his own team's tasks. The CIO may
want a flexible mindset to ROI so he/she may optimally harness
technology to produce tangible results in the long run. Listening
helps you gather information to strengthen your own
The process of listening may begin with asking questions -
individually, through group discussions or questionnaires. But
remember that it is often difficult for stakeholders to put exactly
what they want - or don't - in so many words.
2) Talk so that They May Listen
Different individuals have different styles of grasping what they hear
and responding to it. Learn to adapt your communication
For instance, some individuals prize logic and systems. They may
have an analytical and practical approach, preferring to get to the
point over small talk and aggressively focusing on achieving
objectives. It is best to keep your conversation with them clear,
concise and direct, avoiding sentimentality, and respecting them as
The most effective leaders are ones who are followed even
without having formal designations. You must lead despite
Use your resources to the optimum to achieve this goal. Your
position could help you get recognized and heard; but
employ your interpersonal skills to attract support.
others with your far-sightedness, integrity and commitment to
Finally, reward a job well done by expressing gratitude and
giving greater autonomy.
Understanding your stakeholders' needs,
communicating your expectations effectively and
leading beyond formal authority will help you turn
them into loyal supporters to drive your organization
towards profitability and sustainability.
Maureen O’Connell is the current Executive VP,
CFO and CAO of Scholastic Corporation. When not
working, Maureen loves running, Skiing, Scuba
Diving or Travelling.