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How CFOs can build a leadership brand

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Being a CFO takes more than being good with numbers. “The CFO role is getting broader and deeper all the time. You touch every single part of the organization, which means that you must be able to communicate in a powerful way,” says Suzanne Bates, author of “Speak Like a CEO” and an executive coach. “CEOs and boards of directors are expecting the CFO to be a fact-based voice of reason.”

A great tool to improve your communication is to develop a leadership brand. She offered some tips on how CFOs can start to build their brand at the CFO Rising conference in Orlando, Fla., on March 14:

What’s your story? Knowing yourself is the beginning of the brand conversation. Bates asks her clients to tell her their personal histories, such as the challenges they faced, the successes they’ve had and the lessons they learned along the way. “As we go through the process of uncovering your story, we find the values and principles that define you,” she says.

Three words. “The core of a brand is who you are and what you stand for,” Bates says. A helpful exercise to think about your brand’s core is to come up with three words you want to convey. For example, when Bates thinks of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ leadership brand, the words elegant, useful and innovation come to her mind. Boiling down your branding message to three words will give you insight into the most important values you want to spread throughout your organization.

Shares your leadership values. “You need to inspire people with purpose and passion and show leadership beyond the finance function,” Bates says. Once you know the values you want to promote in your organization, you need to tell a compelling story behind the numbers. Most of your audience, both inside and outside of the company, will not have a strong financial background, so it is critical to communicate the big picture in an compelling way. “The CFO’s value is based on your ability to integrate information companywide, analyze it and converting it into a competitive asset, into intelligence,” she says.