I really enjoy the game of tennis, and I’ve been an active player for over 50 years. Unlike the professional we see on TV, I’m a clear example that practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does provide some clarity on what perfect might look like. I’m still working on elements of the game that I probably was told in my first few lessons. Notice I said “told” and not “learned” because it’s clear that I didn’t learn them well enough to execute on the court with consistency. And yet those few basic elements are pretty easy to identify:

  • Move into position quickly, placing yourself not too close and not too far from where the ball will arrive. Turn your body to present the best angle to attack the ball.
  • Get your racquet back in plenty of time, so the motion of racquet preparation is clearly separate from the forward motion that contacts the ball, enabling more time to hit the ball properly.
  • Keep your eye on the ball right up until you make contact. Know exactly where you want to hit the ball to get it heading in the right direction at the right arc and with the right speed.
  • Follow through after making contact, so the path of the ball is not interrupted at the last instant, sending it wildly off the court.

So, if you don’t play tennis why should you care? What’s the parallel with managing a company or a project? Well, consider this modified application of the above list:

  • Get into position to guide your area of responsibility by ensuring the right information is distributed on a timely basis to the right people. This often means taking action to ensure that the information is ARTistic, that is, Accurate, Relevant, and Timely. Yes, that applies to more than just your monthly financial reports.
  • Get ready. Prepare yourself for your role in management by reading those reports, digesting them, and forming your view on the action the company should take based on them. A good example of how not to do this is the all-too-frequent example of managers and CEOs who don’t really understand their financial reports beyond the P&L statement, but rely on others to translate and form the appropriate reactions. Cash flow statement, anyone?
  • Get clear about the action that should be taken based on your reports, including getting a consensus from your team if it’s not obvious or if their buy-in is needed. Designate the right people to take the action you’ve decided upon, and give them the authority to act with the knowledge that you believe they can do it.

Want to learn how to play? We are Your CFO for Rent.

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