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Inspiring Financial Leadership - How the course helped me

Beccy Reese, Management Accountant at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), completed CFG’s Inspiring Finance Leadership (IFL) 2015/16 cohort. Beccy shares her experience of the course and how she has incorporated the knowledge she gained into her role at the TUC.

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I work at the Trades Union Congress, the voice of Britain at work. The TUC brings unions together to draw up common policies on issues that matter to people in their jobs. We are, in effect, a not for profit entity and face many of the same issues and challenges as other charities and I found that meeting other NFP finance professionals on CFG’s Inspiring Financial Leadership course highlighted that despite coming from a range of diverse organisations, the challenges we face are remarkably similar.

I have held my current role as Management Accountant for two years and started on the IFL course shortly after moving into my new position and completing my CIMA qualification. I had previously worked as a Finance Officer within the team at the TUC and my new role required me to oversee the management accounting function and play a role in business partnering and providing financial advice to the strategic direction of the organisation and the IFL course was recommended to me by a colleague.

Although the current CIMA qualification covers some of the topics in the IFL course, reviewing issues around leadership, strategy development and change management within a not-for-profit environment helped to give my theoretical knowledge a more practical focus. The insights and sharing of experiences from other participants was a vital part of the course and fundamental in making the leadership models and research accessible and immediately usable in developing my skills base and work approaches.

The way the tutors ran the sessions really enhanced the practical outlook. No model was ever presented out of context and we were always given the opportunity to talk about how it applied to us and our organisations, or to pick them apart if they didn’t quite fit. The last hour of every session was given over to a guest speaker and it was inspiring to hear those in senior positions from a variety of organisations share their experiences, challenges and triumphs.

At the TUC we have three major organisational change projects running concurrently across the organisation, together with our 150th anniversary next year and our on-going work delivering for our beneficiaries. Understanding the different reactions to change and finding ways of encouraging the organisation to ensure that finance is involved in any project every step of the way, were key themes in IFL. I’ve used the change and transition models to understand and explain the impact of change to colleagues and although the theory provided a useful framework, listening to other participants’ experience of change and how they met the challenges was invaluable.

There are some ideas from the course that I keep coming back to. I’m not sure whether that’s because I haven’t quite learnt the lessons or that they are continually relevant. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

Firstly, the need to reflect on all aspects of leadership. In an environment of change it’s easy to get swept along and not take time to assess whether the finance team and the organisation are moving in the same direction and whether both are aligned with areas of strategic importance. I’ve found that taking the time to ask yourself questions about what is working well and what could be done better, is better than doggedly pursuing a strategy that’s out of step with the organisation.

Secondly, the notion that “talking is working” is something I come back to almost every week. Often we prefer to send an email rather than picking up the phone or wandering over to a colleagues’ desk, and perhaps an email seems the most efficient and clear method for imparting information. But, whenever I do take the time to talk, I get a better insight in to what I’m delivering for colleagues and what they expect from me and the management accounting team.

In one of the IFL sessions a presentation on volunteering as an accountant overseas sparked my interest and I’m very excited to be able to take my experiences from this course out to a NGO abroad with Accountants for International Development this autumn. I have no doubt that throughout my placements I will rely on the knowledge gained at the IFL course.

I’d recommend Inspiring Financial Leadership for anyone involved in managing finance within a not-for-profit organisation. The exposure to some great finance and leadership experts together with a peer network provide a great basis for ensuring that financial management remains relevant, supportive and at the centre of our not for profit organisations in these times of great change.

Looking to progress your career and gain invaluable experience and networking opportunities? Book now for this year's Inspiring Financial Leadership course.

This article was originally published in CFG's members magazine Finance Focus, July 2017 edition.

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