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How to Develop Up and Develop Down: A Senior CFO's Quest for Reduced Responsibility

How to Develop Up and Develop Down: A Senior CFO’s Quest for Reduced Responsibility

In the world of finance, it is not uncommon for seasoned professionals to reach a point in their careers where they crave a change in responsibilities. They may have climbed the corporate ladder, achieved remarkable success, and now find themselves yearning for something different. This is precisely the journey of a senior Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at a medium-sized credit union. In this article, we will explore the story of this experienced CFO and examine their strategy for “developing up” by taking on new challenges while also “developing down” by nurturing the next generation of financial leaders.

Meet Sarah Williams (name changed for privacy), a highly accomplished CFO with over two decades of experience in the financial industry. She has diligently served her credit union, helping it grow and thrive during her tenure. However, as retirement age approaches, Sarah is not ready to hang up her hat. Instead, she is looking for a way to reduce her responsibilities while still contributing to the organization she loves.

Developing Up: Taking on New Challenges

Sarah’s desire for reduced responsibility did not translate to a lack of ambition. Instead, she viewed it as an opportunity to develop new skills and tackle fresh challenges.

Here is how she went about it:

1. Strategic Initiatives: Sarah began by identifying areas within her credit union that needed strategic attention. She proposed to the board and senior management that she could spearhead special projects that aligned with the credit union’s growth plans. This allowed her to maintain a high-level role while freeing up time from her day-to-day responsibilities.

2. Mentoring and Coaching: She offered to mentor her junior colleagues, sharing her wealth of knowledge and expertise. This not only created a sense of continuity within the organization but also enabled her to work with promising talent, fostering their development.

3. Expanding Skill Set: Sarah took the opportunity to expand her skill set by pursuing additional certifications and training that were relevant to her new strategic roles. This not only made her more valuable to the organization but also kept her engaged and excited about her work.

Developing Down: Nurturing the Next Generation

Sarah recognized the importance of passing on her knowledge and experience to the younger generation of financial professionals.

Here is how she did it:

1. Mentorship Programs: Sarah championed the creation of a mentorship program within the credit union. This program paired junior employees with senior executives, facilitating the transfer of knowledge and providing growth opportunities for aspiring leaders. Many senior people view mentorship as an extra burden on their already full schedules. A great mentorship program goes both ways – both people should gain from the experience. We recommend weekly or every other week sessions of about 30 minutes to address one or two of these questions.

1.How do you stay updated with industry trends and continue learning?
2.What networking advice would you offer?
3.Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or resources that have been particularly helpful lately?
4.What aspects of your career are you most passionate about, and why?
5.What skills are you currently focusing on developing?
6.Have there been any recent projects or tasks where you felt really challenged?
7.How do you organize and prioritize your workload?
8.What are you grateful for this week?
9.What are you proud of this week?
10.What are you struggling with this week?

2. Skill Development Workshops: She organized skill development workshops and seminars to help young professionals enhance their financial acumen. These workshops covered everything from financial analysis to risk management.

3. Encouraging Innovation: Sarah encouraged her mentees to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table. By fostering a culture of innovation, she empowered her successors to take the credit union to new heights.

Sarah Williams’s journey from a senior CFO with a desire for reduced responsibility to a strategic leader who developed both up and down in her organization is a testament to the possibilities that lie within seasoned professionals seeking a new direction in their careers. By embracing new challenges while nurturing the next generation, individuals like Sarah can leave a lasting legacy and continue to make a meaningful impact in their chosen field. In the end, it is not just about stepping back; it is about stepping forward in a different, more fulfilling way.



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