Dear Controllers:

I have a confession to make.  At home, when it comes to cooking, or taking a digital photo, I have no fear of failure.  Burnt dish.  Start over.  Fuzzy photo, delete it.  Start over.  However,  I have spent an entire career terrified of failing at work.


The Everyday Controller

So, let’s discuss the fear that might be holding you back by discussing some of mine.  Here are a few of those big fears (in no order of importance):

1) Forgetting something important like a meeting or a deadline.

2) Creating a flawed spreadsheet.

3) Creating budgets, forecasts or business plans with flawed data or assumptions.

4) Concern about mergers that might lead to job loss (mine)

5) Fear of new bosses.

6) Fear of owning an idea or project that once underway cannot succeed.

7) Fear of not knowing what crisis is out there somewhere waiting to pounce.

8) Fear of losing the respect of direct reports

9) Fear of losing the respect of people I reported to

10) Fear of publishing inaccurate Financial Statements

Shall I go on?  There’s more.  But I try to keep my articles and posts to around 500 words.

Is there a cure for I.T. projects run wild?  Or Accounts Payable sending out a duplicate $700,000 payment.  What about forecasts that are wide of the mark and for which there is really no defense?

These are just a few of the ‘horrific’ events I have lived through.  The worst of them are the ones you don’t see coming and are usually the result of a staff member failing to follow through.

How do we survive these and live to work another day?  Meds?  No.  Here’s some advice all of which I have learned the very hard way.

1) Always take responsibility for the mistake even if it’s something that occurred at staff level.  After all, you are responsible for them.

2) If you undertake a project, try to take ownership of it as best you can.  If it’s a project assigned to you by your CFO or CEO, if there are problems – just keep them posted so that there will be no surprises down the road.  Communication is key.  Put your updates in E-Mail form and retain them in the project file.  It’s the professional thing to do.

3) Whenever possible, try to validate your data.  There is nothing scarier than data that comes from spreadsheets using links that need to be refreshed.  (See my earlier posts on Spreadsheet errors)

4) Do not spend time building spreadsheets as a time filler or so you look busy.  There are always lulls in your work schedule.  Fill them by getting up and ‘walking around’ as some famous efficiency experts have long recommended.  Talk to people.  Go on line and read controller blogs like mine! Join ‘Linked In’ and find groups of like minded accounting and finance people.

5) Repeat after me ‘my staff usually knows more about what’s going on than I do!’   I can’t begin to tell you the number of heads up I received from staff members warning me of impending doom (or danger).  If you take the position that you are the important boss of everybody and no one is as smart and educated as you are………….you are risking falling flat on your face.  And your staff……….they’ll just step over your body.  Or, you can be a coach and a mentor to them.  You can be happy and not threatened when they do well or stand out to upper management.  You can care about them and their personal challenges (there will be many).

Next week we will delve into the area of ‘change management’ or how you can become an ‘agent for change’ within your sphere of influence.




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