Seven Deadly Do’s to Managing a Finance Team

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It’s the New Year and many of us who manage finance teams are looking at the year ahead, trying to work out how to improve performance, manage staff and refine systems, so I thought my top tips on how to manage a finance team and get the best out of your department would be apt.

As a rule I don’t do rules, so here are my seven deadly do’s ..

  1. Setting the tone and culture
    People follow by example, so try to generate a creative and accessible environment, where people feel they have a shared set of values and goals, as well as feeling valued and able to suggest creative ideas and try out innovative changes.
  2. Set Goals and clear structures
    Set clearly defined, achievable short term and long term personal goals for each member of the team which help reach your wider corporate goal. The short term goals should provide security of daily expectations and where perameters lie, while the long term goals should help each employee feel part of the overall process and company aims.A transparent management structure where your team members know what is expected of them, by when and who is responsible for what will provide clarity and security, whilst ensuring that all tasks are completed – even the least popular ones! It always helps to do a few of these yourself – nothing makes it feel like a team effort more than if the boss is seen to muck in too.
  3. Interact and Communicate
    I find it best to hold regular weekly meetings with each member of staff to set out objectives and have a quick reflection on the previous week. Try to praise at least one thing that they did well, and foster a nurturing environment so they feel comfortable in talking about what they found challenging. Ask if there is anything you can do as their manager to make their week better – you’ll find just the process of asking makes an immense difference to people. But be warned: don’t forget to provide support and follow up on their answers otherwise the process becomes meaningless.
  4. Take a break to train and develop
    It’s important to organise a couple of away days for the whole department a year – a change of scene and a carefully planned agenda drawing out people’s ideas and innovations can help provide a fresh perspective and a chance to incorporate some inspirational training as well as hear from each other and appreciate what each other is doing, their challenges, their successes and their goals.
  5. Choose and recruit the right staff
    Three brains are often better than one. Involving your team in the selection process can throw up all sorts of insights. For senior posts, I recommend using presentations or writing tasks as a differentiator. Recently, I asked a management accountant what she would do with a spreadsheet I gave her, if she would make any improvements and how would she use this data.  The results revealed so much about her capabilities as an analytic management accountant, more than any interview question.
  6. Recognise and reward achievement
    Recognising and rewarding achievement is a key part of the success of goal attainment, although it’s also important to retain a broad outlook and notice when staff have good ideas or do something outside their formal remit that helps the team, improves a process or benefits the company.
  7. Avoid negativity: go for creativity, enthusiasm & a growth mindset
    Change is part of life. Never more so than now but some people will always be resistant to it. Try to encourage a positive attitude and always explain and communicate your reasons for changes. Try to foster a growth mindset within your department, where people feel valued for being creative, are encouraged to try new things and suggest different strategies. And don’t forget, it’s not “I can work this out”, it’s “I can’t work this out …yet.”


And finally, I recently re-read David Parmenter’s “Winning CFOs” which has several great chapters on how to improve your influence over, management of and performance from your team. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re in our game, it’s well worth a read.


WrightCFO is an outsourced Finance Director consultancy specialising   in part-time FD contracts in the SME market. Contact me for a free consultation.

Tel. 0208 943 9027