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Transforming from numbers to leadership – your career success starts with you

“Self-reflection has been a big part of my career. I’ve been through many highs and lows. I’ve been made redundant 3 times through takeovers; experienced two ‘career deaths’ and have taken time out from being burnt out.”

That was one of the many insights shared by the inspiring David Grbin, CFO for W.H. Soul Pattinson at our most recent emerging leaders’ event.

Sharing his knowledge and wisdom about his career journey, he spoke about what it takes to make that leap from a technical, numbers-driven finance professional into a transformational leadership role like a CFO; but in the context of knowing yourself and your worth, being aware of those around you and having the courage and the knowledge to know that you can’t go it alone.

The journey to self-discovery – what’s holding you back?

“We all move through three stages in life (and work) constantly: order, disorder, reorder… my main piece of advice would be to read your life backwards, so that you can move forward,” says David.

The purpose of this is to self-reflect, understand what your core offering is to future employers and take control, rather than reacting to the challenges you are presented with.

It’s also about being able to take a step back and look at the impact you have, as a leader, on those around you. Often in our careers, and life, we’re so focused on our own tasks and responsibilities, that we’re not paying attention to what’s going on around us.

“In a job, even after you’ve gone, the decisions you made will have lasting impact,” says David.

His advice?

  • Take time out to stop and reflect – what impact do you want to have?
  • Let go of what people are telling you about life.Listen to your own inner voice.
  • Harness the power of your imagination – we are all unique. Figure out what your value is.Don’t be so reactive all the time and pushed to think or act a certain way
  • Listen and learn from others – collect advice, ideas, insights and use them to help you move forward.

How to take that next step and move forward in your career

So, what do you do when you find yourself at a point in your career where you’re in unchartered territory? According to David, there are a few things that helped him to go from surviving to thriving.

“I stopped being a ‘firefighting CFO’ to a calm, collected and self-assured CFO who knew what he was doing and where he was going,” says David.

  • Don’t try to go it alone: no one person is an island. Reach out to others, bring them in to what you’re doing. You can’t change your mindset by yourself – let others help you and show you what areas you need to work on.
  • Find a coach: someone who is objective, knows business, and people.
  • Network: the real value of networking is making a genuine connection with someone, building trust and being able to support them on their journey. Don’t just think about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them.
  • Learn from those ahead of you: talk to people who have been there before you, you never know what nuggets of gold they may have to share.
  • Give back: help others, not for your own personal reward, but just to support someone on their own journey.

The key to being a great leader

“I spent much of my late 20s to 30s accumulating technical skills in my career. But, then, one day you get to a point where they are no longer enough. You walk into the unknown and you have to evolve in order to move forward,” says David.

When you get to the CFO level, it’s no longer just about your technical expertise, says David, but your ability to understand and build relationships with people, get to know the whole business and bring people along on the journey.

The role of the CFO is many things – but the most important things to remember, that it’s not just about the numbers, but the people. A truly successful leader will:

  • Focus on giving back and developing others – without expecting anything in return.
  • Know where they have the most impact and can drive positive change.
  • Work to their strengths and not try to be everything to everyone.
  • Know how to tell a story and take everyone along on the journey – and it can’t be all about the numbers.
  • Be a trusted advisor to the CEO (which can take some time to establish, it doesn’t happen overnight).
  • Know that it’s okay to show vulnerability, as it helps you to be a better leader. We’re all human at the end of the day.

If you would like support with your career journey, get in contact with us today on (02) 9262 4836.

To learn more useful tips about leadership, check out our great learning resources here.

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