[CFO Weekly] Episode 17: Letting Go of What You Can't Control

September 15, 2020 Lydia Adams

Letting go of what you cant control

Let it Go -- we hear that mantra from Disney princesses and personal growth gurus all the time. But what does it mean? And what are the benefits of letting go of what we can't control?

On the latest episode of the award-winning CFO Weekly podcast, Sean Rizer, Chief Financial Officer at Harding Group, a construction company based in Indianapolis, discusses how to manage your own destiny.

Delegate Tasks to Your Team, AKA 'Train Your Replacement'

For most financial executives, the C-Suite is about managing it all, but that doesn't mean you have to do it all. Delegating allows you to focus on what matters most. Rizer takes this advice even further, saying that CFOs need to always be ready to train their replacement. In fact, he says, this the only way to grow, learn and take on higher-risk (read: more impactful) areas.

“Once you've accomplished a task, figured out how to do it efficiently, now train your replacement," Rizer said. 

When some CFOs hear "train your replacement," they fear they're going to work themselves out of a job. Really, it's the complete opposite. Training someone else opens up more doors to be able to do what people typically perceive as the fun stuff  — higher-level thinking and strategic decision making, for instance.

Sean Rizer, CFO

Update Technology & Embrace Change

Yes, technology is always changing. Let the old tech go and keep moving forward. Technology is in constant flux. Today's tech problems didn't exist six months ago or even three months ago. Often, while these sticky situations seem prevalent, they aren't huge when considered objectively, and we just have to deal with a changing environment. 

One helpful tip is to remain positive and believe the solution is out there. Tackling new things should feel fun and exciting. If it doesn't, maybe you just need to reframe the situation. But tech isn't the only place where changes occur. And sometimes, it's an issue with your team's work.

It's a challenge when you meet with your stakeholders, find out there's something wrong with the financials, and you don't know the answer. It's always easy to say, "It's my fault" and fix it. But trying to control everything prevents other people from growing.

The solution? Work with your team to get things corrected, and realize that mistakes can happen, and it's going to be OK.

Riding the waves of change, whether it be with technology, business strategy or human capital is what makes you adaptable, and therefore successful.

Make A Plan & Follow it Through

What is the best advice for managing fear and letting go of what you can't control as a CFO? Make a plan. Plans help us deal with fear, and right now, there's plenty of fear and worry to go around.

Rizer said that in today's economy, you need three or four plans to survive out there. Whatever you thought was your budget back in January may not be relevant anymore. So spin out a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario with a budget and a plan that can change accordingly. Being prepared allows you to control what's important and let go of what is less important.

Make sure your plan is easy to implement by putting a roadmap in place and then, trust that the team that you've assembled can follow through on the what's fundamentally important to you as the CFO.

This leads us to the next nugget of advice from Rizer, hire a great team and give up enough of your control to delegate and trust them with your plan.

Trust Your Team

Your team can build the foundation of a successful business. Figuring out how to manage your team and delegate responsibilities will appropriately relieve stress and pressure. Getting out of the day-to-day minutiae will help you grow stronger mentally and physically. When you do that, you've also laid a foundational building block for a successful business. 

Create a culture of questions and safety on your team. If there's ever an issue, your team members need to feel comfortable saying to you, "Hey, this falls outside the norm. Will you help me out here?" Too often, team members who struggle with confidence bury things that are wrong and hope they don't get caught. That head-in-the-sand approach can create many issues down the road. 

Train your replacement

A great team, on the other hand, feels safe about asking questions that can help the CFO identify things that may not fall directly in their control. Focus on the positive things your team is doing well, the things you can control, and the ways you can empower your team. 

“Letting go means trusting other people. And as we grow in our professional careers, we've got to find people we can trust and surround ourselves with those types of people," Rizer said.

The Benefits of Letting Go of What You Can't Control

The first benefit? Improved mental health for you. Focusing on things we can't control is a fruitless exercise. Strong mental health is paramount to leading a happier life. Focusing on what we can't control drains our energy and makes us unhappy people, creating a negative spiral.

Letting it go also gives you more positivity at work. A positive CFO can make a huge difference to the team -- and the company as a whole. Nobody wants a negative CFO who's doom and gloom all the time. More importantly, all this positivity leads to efficiency.

Finally, with the flexibility of letting go, your plans have a much better likelihood of staying the course. With a strong understanding of the detailed transactional level, a good CFO can explain any variances from the plan. 

So, even though it's hard -- especially in 2020 -- to let go of things that you can't control, the bottom line is, it's worth it.

 

This post is based on a CFO Weekly podcast with Sean Rizer. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to our show on Apple. If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can go to Spotify or your favorite podcast player!

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