Top Leadership Tips for SME Finance Directors

assisting the leadership of SME by the finance directorSmall and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) have had a particularly tough time over the past 2 years. In addition to the challenge of dealing with rapid and significant changes in the market and working culture, they have had to work through severe financial pressures as order books plummeted, large customers hung on to the cash they owe, and banks closed their doors.

“Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted.” Albert Einstein.

Now there are signs of recovery a change of mindset is needed from “survivorship” to “well-managed growth”. This is a great opportunity for a good SME FD to play a significant and leading role in supporting this shift.

LeaderShape’s top tips are:

  • Make sure you match your positioning and capabilities to the needs of the business as it changes gear. Be able to be ahead of growth.
  • Develop and sustain your own up-to-date view of the market place and the competition. Keep external focus. Information combined with objectivity. This will enable you to give input into strategic thinking. For example by being able to challenge assumptions that may be based on how things used to be.
  • Encourage vigorous debate. The best decisions are based on exploring different and contrasting points of view. Constructively challenge incomplete or apparently woolly thinking. Be the devil’s advocate
  • Help shape and enhance decision making by providing good information, the use of analytical tools, and objective risk assessment (sadly missing in the financial sector in the past few years). Remember a business cannot grow without taking some risks.

“Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.” Jimi Hendrix

  • Help support, develop and empower your senior colleagues by providing them with knowledge and insights and not just information. Also keep in mind that they may not all have the professional skills and training you have but their ideas and experience is valuable. Listen to them and be a valued team member.
  • Look for and address “cultural entropy” where too much of the energy of the business is soaked up by non-productive activity such as bureaucracy and internal competition.
  • Take time out regularly to think and reflect. Soaking up all your time by working hard on day-to-day matters will not allow you to develop or to properly support the growth of the business.
  • Establish yourself as the main sounding board for your CEO. They will welcome this if you can demonstrate strong buy-in to a sound strategy, the respect of your colleagues, the ability to be objective, and the willingness to listen.

Influencing the Leader

Chris Gulliver recently presented on the Role of the Finance Director in a SME to a branch of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales where there was much debate on the significant role an FD in an SME could play in influencing the leadership and development of the SME if they could lift themselves out of operational financial detail and get a good understanding of the environment in which the company works. The strong analytical and questioning skills that they developed in their training should lead to them making a huge contribution to higher-level decision making.

LeaderShape is a team of business leaders with huge experience in the fields of Neuroscience, Emotional Intelligence and Transpersonal Leadership. They are focused firmly on the practical “how to” of business leadership development: Developing leadership capability through the coaching, mentoring and facilitation of individuals, groups and teams. Visit the LeaderShape website, call on 0870 990 5576 or send an email to discover what LeaderShape can do for the leaders and future leaders of your organisation.

Chris Gulliver is the Chair of the Coaching Expert Panel of the Institute of Business Consulting, a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and is accredited as a Senior Executive Coach by The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring. Chris is as a qualified accountant whose early career included experience as a management consultant working on retail turnaround situations. He is a very experienced non-executive director, the author of a number of articles in business journals and has presented seminars on a variety of subjects relating to business management and growth. To discuss speaking engagement opportunities please contact Chris Gulliver on 01344 771058.

1 Response to “Top Leadership Tips for SME Finance Directors”



  1. 1 Top Leadership Tips for SME Finance Directors « First Effect Trackback on 11/06/2010 at 11:32 am

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