Avoiding the New CFO / CEO Disconnect


Every now and again I’ll have a finance executive ring me up and ask me to find them a new position when they’ve only been with their current employer for a matter of six or eight months. They’re almost always well-regarded professionals who’ve never precipitously jumped ship before. When I ask why they want to move after such a short time, the answer is invariably the same: they were not given the full story when they joined, and in some cases they were outright lied to during the interview process.

Of course, one could chide the finance executive for not having done enough due diligence prior to taking the job, but the real question here is why a company would fudge the truth about a position it wants to fill.

A Riddle Wrapped in Mystery Inside an Enigma

Usually, the reason the hiring authority doesn’t disclose that there may be specific issues associated with the position they’re trying to fill is that those challenges are usually a function of the company culture or with the hiring authority themselves. Sometimes the hiring authority intentionally glosses over problems with a position, hoping against hope that the next person will better cope with those particular challenges. But more commonly, the hiring authority doesn’t realize that they are at the root of the problem and so the subject never actually comes up.

No two organizations are the same. Some companies have flex hours and beer bashes Friday afternoons and some companies expect their executives to put in sixty-hour weeks and check in with the office when they’re on vacation. Some bosses are hands-off, big picture delegators, and some bosses are micro-managers. One is not inherently “better” than the other—Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com has a very upbeat, nurturing style; Apple’s Steve Jobs was notoriously hard to work for—they’re just different. But hands-off, big picture delegators know that they’re hands-off, big picture delegators. The problem is that the micro-managers often think that they are too.

To Quote from Hamlet: To Thine Own Self Be True

Everyone would be a lot better off, including and especially the hiring authority, if they hired for who they actually are, not some idealized version of who they wish they were. A CEO who habitually puts in sixty-hour weeks is never going to be happy with a vice president of finance who needs to be home in time for dinner with their family every night. And if a company is family owned and the entire fractious clan needs to approve any and all operational changes, that’s going to be a continual source of frustration for their freshly hired CFO who was given a mandate to help take the company to the next level.

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

To the avoid this disconnect in the recruitment and hiring process, the first step is to make an honest assessment of the company’s culture, the various stakeholders’ needs, the hiring authority’s management style, and the challenges associated with the position. If sixty-hour weeks have been the norm for the past few years, then that’s part of the culture and it’s not going to end anytime soon. If the company has fallen on hard times and part of the CFO’s job will be to stave off anxious creditors, make sure prospective candidates know that up front. If the owner manager likes to have the final say in all decisions, make sure that’s acknowledged and factored into the recruitment and hiring process, as well. Whatever the company culture, management style, or particular challenges of the position might be, companies need to recognize them up front, be prepared to articulate them openly and honestly, and factor them into the recruitment strategy. It may take a little longer to fill the position, but in the end the position will be filled by the right candidate—and that will save the company a lot of grief and expense down the road.

If you think you may be in the market for top financial talent in the next few months, call me direct or email me, for a no obligation consultation.

(416) 567-7782 lance@osbornefinancialsearch.com

Comments (0)

Related Articles