CFO Thought Leader
by Jack Sweeney Speaks to CFOs About Driving Change | Middle Market Media, LLC
July 15, 2020 5:00 pm
CFO THOUGHT LEADER is a podcast featuring firsthand accounts of finance leaders who are driving change within their organizations. We share the career journey of our spotlighted CFO guest: What do they struggle with? How do they persevere? What makes them successful CFOs? CFO THOUGHT LEADER is all about inspiring finance professionals to take a leadership leap. We know that by hearing about the successes — (and yes, also the failures) — of others, today’s CFOs can more confidently chart their own leadership paths across the enterprise and take inspired action.
When asked to share a few of the experiences that he feels prepared him for a CFO role, Ashim Gupta recalls what he characterizes as a significant accounting problem. However, it was not the nature of the accounting snag that Gupta wants us to know about but instead how his initial response to the problem was somewhat clumsy and ineffective.
The event occurred more than 10 years into his finance career and did not lengthen the path to his next promotion because he had only just arrived in a new role as a divisional CFO for GE Water, a General Electric Corp. operating unit specializing in water processing solutions. Gupta remembers the accounting problem as being “the first thing to pass across my desk.”
Realizing the gravity of the challenge, Gupta picked up the phone and called the more senior finance leader who was responsible for a wide swath of GE businesses, including Gupta’s group.
“I was nervous about it, and I did not articulate the issue in the way that I should have. I didn’t really treat it as a business issue. I almost treated it with some amount of fear,” explains Gupta, who says that the uncomfortable phone call later led him to reach out to a mentor.
“He said to me, ‘Your job is to help the business face reality,’” recalls Gupta, remembering the words of his mentor. In short, the mentor told him that the senior finance leader wanted facts and not fear.
“I had to learn through trial by fire, and I failed the first time,” admits Gupta, who believes that finance executives must be keenly aware of the facts when delivering bad news and seek to expose possible avenues to where a solution can potentially take root.
Says Gupta: “You have to demonstrate that you are now a partner in navigating through whatever the problem may be.”
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