The Chief Financial Officer at a mid-western farming co-op was excellent when it came to the spreadsheets. She understood future forecasting, money at present and future value, and fiduciary responsibilities. For the most part she was excellent at her job.
Yet there was one little thing that aggravated her boss -- she gave away a lot of money. While many managers would terminate an employee like this, leadership dictates a different course.
Leaders find root causes of employee failures and then find ways to redirect them so each employee is engaged in the organization's goals.
The co-op used very specific activity-based costing for its charges. Competitors rolled some of these charges into general service fees, giving the impression these activities were free. At face-to-face meetings the farmers would object to these charges, citing that other co-ops did not charge them. The CFO would immediately reverse the charges, thereby eroding the bottom-line.
A careful review of each trait identified by the assessment revealed nothing until a comparison of multiple traits uncovered an obvious solution. In the farm country of the Great American Prairie people learn to be hospitable and to play by the rules. This CFO had learned these lessons well. When someone claimed the charges were unfair, she did the hospitable thing by reversing the charges. However the assessment also pointed out she had a strong sense of compliance. In other words, she would not break the rules
Her coach intervened and saved her job. He redirected her thoughts by getting her to view review reversal requests as a matter of compliance, not hospitality. She agreed to give it a try. Surprisingly, it had an immediate and complete impact on the way she perceived reversal requests.
As this is being written it has been more than two years since the assessment was reviewed. The CFO remains in her position and has reversed just three charges – which were the result of input errors. Not only has the co-op has realized a triple digit return on their investment, they escaped the cost of hiring and training a new CFO.
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