Collective team skills matter more than high-performing individuals. CEB’s Finance Pathfinder Research of 2,200 finance staff at over 75 global organizations finds that the finance departments that focus on building a well-rounded team that balances competencies at the department level rather than developing individual superstars deliver superior business value. Leading organizations look beyond individuals and structure their teams in such a way that all competencies are covered and team members cover each other’s blind spots.
As you build a balanced team, there are some competencies that you should emphasize more than others. Our research found that not all competencies are created equal; there are specific non-technical competencies, which we call Builder (ability to create vision and foster buy-in), Strategist (ability to understand financial performance in business-value terms), and Persuader (ability to challenge business assumptions) competencies that have a much higher impact on driving finance department effectiveness.
Tips for Developing a Balanced Team
There is no ideal checklist to follow or spreadsheet to fill that will help you in developing a balanced team. To build a team capable of delivering on business goals, influencing key decisions, and maximizing the returns of technology investments, we’ve identified guidelines that differentiate the effective teams from not-so-effective ones. This is not a prescriptive list that must be followed to develop effective finance teams; it’s a set of tips that, if implemented, help in developing a balanced finance team.
Identify Critical Competencies For Your Team: Every sub-function within finance requires a different level of skill proficiency to be effective; finding the candidate with a perfect mix of skills is rare. As a first step in building a balanced team, develop a department-level view of the competencies critical to success for your finance department and sub-functions (Tax, Treasury, Accounting). The critical competencies may differ by sub-function so a useful tip here is to clearly articulate the competencies that each team must demonstrate. The mapping will help you understand the relative emphasis on certain behaviors at the sub-function level.
Staff the Team Based on the Competencies You Need: Staff your teams based on individual strengths. Keep in mind that one person doesn’t have to demonstrate all the competencies that the sub-function needs to be effective. The team composition needs to be determined based on individuals that will complement and supplement each other’s skills – e.g. don’t just hire people that have really strong technical skills; make sure you balance out the technical experts with good communicators.
Assess Critical Competency Gaps: Ensure you keep assessing competency gaps so that you can make changes to team composition, if needed. One leading organization scores individuals in their accounts department on technical and non-technical capabilities to identify capability gaps that each person on the team has. Their learning and development strategy focuses on developing staff in the areas where they are weak so that they can each become more well-rounded finance professionals in the future.
Hire for Competencies Where There Are Glaring Gaps: As you assess each team and sub-function, you’ll probably identify a couple of competencies that are obviously missing. These are areas that are best filled by hiring externally, rather than disproportionately investing to try to build those skills in existing staff.
Use Peer Learning to Transfer Knowledge and Competencies: Drive a culture of peer- to-peer learning and knowledge sharing. People should be encouraged to learn from peers that are strong where they are weak. Over time, this builds teamwork and also raises the competency bar for the whole team.