(Becoming) A Senior Financial Professional Who Really Stands Out

Paul McClatchie

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Having had the pleasure of meeting a wide range of Senior Financial Clients and Candidates over the last 15 years I have been lucky to meet some of the very best in Ireland, the UK and Australia. While it would be a sweeping generalisation to categorise, what often stands out the most isn’t just a high performer’s financial/technical ability but their full range of knowledge, skills and attitudes that have enabled them to progress their career to the highest level.

Key Traits of High Performers (in my humble opinion)A ‘non-negotiable’ to progress to the higher levels of leadership centres around communication skills. I remember meeting a Finance Director in Microsoft back in the early 00’s who I found not only warm and helpful but was able to explain to a group of non-accountants what he was looking for, what the function of their team was and ultimately why someone would want to join the team and work for him. He was very clear on the standards expected and the profile of what he was looking for. I left bouncing and determined to fill the job – he was the type of guy that people want to work for.

Self-Awareness is key – one thing I have noticed is that a Financial Controller who has invested time in themselves and understands their own attitudes and behaviours (particular under pressure) tend to perform very well in tough interviews – the reason being that there are no surprises and they are clear about what they can offer and how their key learning experiences have benefitted them. This is an ongoing process and one built around their own personal progress in areas both inside and outside of the office. Technical advancement is crucial but in parallel with evolving communication and leadership skills.

High Performers are clear on their impact in the business. What specifically have they achieved in the last year that has saved time/money for the business or added revenue? They have the highest standards and expect more of themselves often than their shareholders or CEO does. The metrics are usually profoundly relevant to the success of the business and one year’s achievement becomes the following year’s yardstick for future progress.

Being realistic and reasonable around expectations! It is rare that $$$ is the biggest factor. Of course the top performers I have met want to ensure they are suitably compensated at a good rate but it fits in with how this role is going to benefit and progress their career this year, next year and for the next 5 years. Will this position build on their existing momentum and bring them onto the next level?

Leadership skills are key – the ability to attract, hire and retain the most talented financial people is what may well have the biggest impact and benefit to their organisation. Top performers can bring people along by identifying where a team member is right now in terms of ability and what they need to do to progress to the next level.

In my experience, the strongest leaders can get in and out of the detail when required and are seen as approachable throughout the team. While it may not be feasible to get involved in basic tasks, it’s the ability to explain to a junior member how their role fits into the team, the division and the company that is key.

To discuss future opportunities for your career or to discuss a position your company is hiring for, please speak to Paul McClatchie, Engage People