What is it with FDs? I don’t need any sarcastic comments about Mr. Anchovy who should be a lion tamer (courtesy of Monty Python*) but why do they systematically kill meetings? What don’t they get about how they could and should be so great for the boards they sit on?
I’ve succeeded in witnessing the most bizarre behaviour from some five FDs in the last fortnight. These are almost identical scenarios that run as follows:
The FD states a series of some five to ten numbers in quick succession using a series of rarefied three-letter-mnemonics.
Next, they get all defensive when asked what that meant.
Then they make some slightly sardonic or under-the-breath comment like “Why didn’t you listen when I mentioned this last meeting?”
The next stage is that they get all huffy when asked to explain in layman’s terms what they are talking about.
More huffing and puffing.
Finally, the FD goes silent when it is suggested that they present the information in a more palatable or understandable format.
To be clear, I have received hate mail from accountants and FDs on more than several occasions. Why? Because I have suggested that they could be delivering so much more value to their clients… because so many short-change their clients… because they don’t fulfil their potential… because some settle for second-best.
Fundamentally I believe that FDs can deliver awesome value to their boards. But they just can’t see things from the clients’ point of view. By the very nature of the sort of people that find the FD role attractive, they often aren’t the very best at understanding how to effectively communicate. And that is the problem.
They mean well. They understand the issues. They know the numbers. But sometimes they fail to translate all this into a message that the other side can understand.
That’s it. It is simply a communication problem. A problem where logical, numbers-driven, spreadsheet-loving people try and impart their knowledge to people who are not necessarily so logical, numbers-driven, and spreadsheet-loving.
But how to get each side to reach to the other side of the chasm without upsetting the other… that is the challenge!
* Mr. Anchovy’s report said that he is an “appalling dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab and awful… whereas in most professions these would be a considerable drawback, in chartered accountancy they are a positive boon.” (www.MontyPython.net)
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