Looking back at 2010, leading a business clearly was difficult. Coming off the worst economic downturn in decades, facing a shifting political landscape and dealing with new regulatory compliance mandates, corporate executives were confronted by myriad challenges.
As hard as it was then, the job of company leaders now appears to be even more difficult. In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, roughly two-thirds of chief financial officers said being a business leader today is more challenging than it was five years ago. Only 4 percent said it’s easier.
However, the research also found a silver lining for executives: Their employees appreciate their work. Nearly nine in 10 workers (87 percent) said they are confident in their company’s leaders.
Noted Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald, “Professionals understand how challenging managing a department or company can be and respect the work of their supervisors. Successful executives engage their employees, help them build their leaderships skills and work to grow the business together.”
Following are seven challenges facing leaders and their teams today and the attributes financial executives need to address them.
1. Taking a ‘big picture’ view
As CFOs whose work outside of finance has expanded in recent years know well, executives are no longer tasked with just overseeing their department. They must draw on their strong business acumen, understanding how their unit’s decisions and performance affect the broader organization.
2. Managing a dispersed workforce
Managers need to engage and build trust with a workforce that often includes team members in different locations. Leaders must be adept at reaching across geographies — and frequently, time zones — to build trust with employees and learn how to motivate each person.
3. Overcoming staffing challenges
Building a skilled team in the face of candidate shortages and retention concerns requires special talents. Business leaders today are tasked with fostering relationships with recruiting sources and developing an effective staffing management strategy, blending full-time personnel with specialized professionals who can be brought in on-demand.
4. Turning data into strategic recommendations
The unprecedented amount of information available to companies today is a potential boon to the corporate decision-making process. However, its advantages can only be exploited by executives who understand the data they need, how to obtain it and how to turn it into actionable guidance.
5. Maintaining an edge over diverse competitors
Firms face threats not just from traditional competitors, but also increasingly from organizations disrupting the marketplace with new business models. Organizations need leaders who can anticipate changes in the competitive landscape and inspire innovation to stay on top.
6. Remaining compliant with evolving mandates
Regulatory pressures continue to mount for many industries and companies. Executives today need to be experts on the mandates affecting their business and understand how compliance is more than meeting a set of requirements and can instead help the firm prosper.
7. Keeping up with technology
As history has repeatedly shown, technology can change everything at a moment’s notice. The onus is on business leaders to monitor the technology trends affecting their organizations and positions and adapt accordingly.
Here are some additional results from the Robert Half Management Resources survey on the leadership challenges today's financial executive face:
- 5 Ways Managers Squash Innovation — and What to Do Instead: Make sure you’re not ending great ideas before they even take flight.
- Strategic Solutions for Common Staffing Management Mistakes: Examine frequent pitfalls for leaders – and how to avoid them.
- Benchmarking 2015: 6 Staff Management Takeaways for Accounting and Finance Managers: Read up on management issues specific to the finance function.