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Fit for the job.

Managing finance teams is a whole different ball game from juggling figures, and finding someone to lead and inspire is hard. A rigorous recruitment process is vital to making the right choice

The task of appointing a high-calibre person to lead a strong team can be like walking across hot coals: if you don't stay focused on the task, you risk getting badly burnt. Selection, assessment and integration are important in every industrial and commercial sector. Appointing a finance director is particularly important, however, because the job is crucial to the effective management of an organisation.

The decision can be so difficult -- and costly if handled incorrectly -- that many organisations seek the help of professional selection and assessment consultants, who can make the selection process more objective. But planning and forethought can improve the process for any recruiter.

A recruiter's first job is to develop a clear understanding of the following issues:

* where the organisation wants to go -- the big picture;

* the commercial challenges and objectives;

* the nature of the organisation's niche sector;

* the competencies required of staff;

* the type of personal and professional qualities needed to head a team of successful financial professionals.

The recruiter then translates these organisational objectives into the individual skills and behavioural requirements of the ideal candidate. This profile provides an essential link between the organisation's vision and business strategies and the behaviour of individual staff members, and allows behaviour you see during the interview or on the job to be linked with the required critical success factors.

It doesn't necessarily follow that a star accountant will be effective as a team leader. People in finance are often attracted to the profession because they have a natural affinity with figures and are good at solving problems. Managing people, however, is a much more complex skill. The natural tendency of financial people to delve into the details of a problem may make a team think it is not trusted to get on with the job -- and this is just one example of how financial scrutiny and team leadership may conflict.

The nature of the finance function also means that department members often have little experience of working as a team. Finance directors can end up with the added managerial challenge of trying to co-ordinate a disparate group of individuals accustomed to working independently into a cohesive team that works smoothly together.

This does not, of course, mean that there are no points at which the roles of finance and management intersect, nor that a brilliant accountant cannot become (perhaps with some coaching) a superb finance director. It merely pays to remember that, just because someone is successful at working with hard data, it does not mean they would make a brilliant team leader.

Those responsible for appointing a senior manager should conduct in-depth interviews, always with an eye on the profile of success. There is usually a mix of internal and external candidates -- it is a moot point whether people are likely to perform better under someone they already know, or whether they will be happier with a new face. Promoting someone to the position of finance director, for example, brings with it the risk of alienating others in the department who were not selected.

The interviews are necessary to assess candidates in detail by focusing not only on their previous job experience, but on subtle and qualitative factors relating to their personality, attitudes, aspirations, likes and dislikes -- their overall attitude to their careers. The recruiter should bring as much objectivity as possible to the assessment. This is likely to be particularly important in terms of getting to grips with the details of the candidate's personality and outlook: precisely the factors to be identified if a mismatch is to be avoided.

Ideally, after the detailed assessment interview, both the recruiter and the candidate should be aware of all the following issues:

* whether the candidate is likely to be a good fit to the job;

* whether the candidate really wants the job;

* whether, if given the job, the candidate would enjoy it;

* whether candidates are prepared to change aspects of their behaviour in order to be successful in the new job.

Getting the right fit does not just benefit the organisation; it affects how people spend their working lives. Just because a person is not the right fit for a position does not make them inadequate or a failure. It simply means that their best fit is somewhere else.

Orla Leonard is a chartered psychologist and a consultant with the OK office of global management psychology firm RHR International. She can be contacted on 020 7828 6652 or e-mailed at
COPYRIGHT 2001 Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:financial officers
Author:Leonard, Orla
Publication:Financial Management (UK)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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