#012: How To Lead with Impact in Accounting & Finance

with Kelly McCleary

Our Guest Mentor:

Kelly McCleary is currently Vice President Finance at Simmons Foods, the largest supplier of store brand wet pet food in North America, serving customers in more than 40 countries worldwide, and has previously held a number of senior finance positions at Walmart and Cargill, two of the largest enterprises in the world.

Kelly is based out of Siloam Springs, Arkansas and holds an MBA from Witchita State & is a Chartered Management Accountant. As well as her professional successes Kelly’s passion for developing others has seen her have two books published, the latest was co-authored with Christine McLaren and released in September 2017: “You Are Born To Lead: Reflect, Adapt, & Make an Impact Right Now,” which we discuss more of on the show.

Kelly has held a and she is also a volunteer board member for Habitat for Humanity Benton County & Wayside House. She’s married to Russ, her high school sweetheart for over 30 years, and they have 3 children together.

Key Quotes From the Episode:

 “ . . . we got to the point where we wanted to write the book we wished we had at an earlier point in our careers because we made a lot of mistakes along the way, and when you embark on a career in business and leadership really as you progress you through your career there are different demands of you along the way and often no one really gives you a heads up or warning that that’s often going to be the case and so many of us are left to stumble along the way in our careers as leaders and learn those lessons the hard way and so much pain and suffering could have been avoided if you will if we just has some heads up and some coaching along the way.” [03:30]

“Leadership today is really just about influencing and influencing is something that all of us can do from the moment we start our careers regardless of title and role.” [06:47]

“All of us have the ability to influence and with the increased importance of finance business partnering in our roles that is really about bringing insights, the ability to influence and drive impact in our business so this is where I think we have the worlds of finance and leadership nicely meshing and why a career in finance and accounting brings the best of both.” [07:40]

“The first step on the path to leadership is knowing yourself as opposed to knowing what you want.” [08:03]

“There’s no one right model of leadership and so we can all influence others, we can all get others to follow us regardless of title or role and it’s more about being authentic to yourself and leveraging your strengths.” [09:19]

“We all have different natural abilities and talents but we also have different passions it’s a matter of tapping into that what makes you uniquely you. I view it as we all have an ability to create a competitive advantage and that is in leveraging our strengths . .. an I think it’s really important and because of the feedback we get we tend to sometimes focus too much on our opportunities or our weaknesses instead of our strengths yet it is our strengths that make us unique and have helped us achieve the success that we’ve had and we need not to forget to continue to building those strengths throughout our careers because that’s what got us where we got and makes us special and unique and will give us the competitive advantage going forward.” [09:50]

“It’s critical to get feedback. It’s the only way to improve as a leader, to understand the impact you’re having on others and to develop that self-control that’s important in emotional intelligence.” [16:06]

“[For Diversity Finance & Accounting teams] tend to be a good role model because women are attracted to it out of college and a lot of finance and accounting folks tend to go into core operations as well so at least we certainly have that role to play but [maybe] we brings, facts, numbers and logic to bear on it as well.” [26:08]

“Organisations never have enough strong good leaders and we have an obligation to develop those on our teams to meet the obligations of the future and there are too few leaders that have had good role models in how to develop others but it’s a skill that no one taught me but simply by practicing it it’s something that can be self-taught.” [30:43]

“I always tell folks who come onto my team for the first time that we’re going to spend a fair amount of time on your development plan and it’s purely selfish because I will get more work out of you because people always work harder for themselves than they will for anybody else. When that alignment happens you win across the board, employees win because they’re working on the things they’re passionate about, the company wins because they get more out of them, you get a reputation or leadership brand as someone who can develop others, so it’s just a win-win-win.” [31:33]

(Other resources and how to connect with Kelly below).

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Key Points From the Episode:

  • The four things people are looking for in an effective leader.
  • Three practical ways to get accurate feedback from others.
  • The two dimensions of emotional intelligence (the key attribute common in all the great leaders).
  • How we can leverage our strengths to develop a competitive advantage.
  • Although there have been some pockets of success some steps we can take to address some of the challenges for minorities and women in finance.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

[03:30] – Kelly shares the reasons behind writing her second book.

[04:56] – Her journey into her current leadership role in accounting & finance.

[05:25] – Why she ultimately went into the field of finance, her main passion and the most rewarding part of her career.

[06:43] – Dispels the myth that individual contributors can’t be leaders too and provides advice on why they can.

[07:41] – Why a career in accounting & finance provides a great opportunity to lead.

[08:11] – The key attribute common in the great leaders she worked with.

[08:35] – The two dimensions of self-control and self awareness.

[08:57] – Kelly’s favourite three-word definition of a leader and why there’s no one right model of leadership.

[09:49] – How to build a competitive advantage.

[10:13] – Why it’s important to focus on our strengths.

[11:18] – How she gets students and MBAs to dispel the myths of one-size fits all leadership.

[12:05] – The four things people are looking for in a leader.

[13:37] – Her favourite chapter to write in the book.

[14:25] – The advice she gave those taking on global finance roles.

[14:48] – How buying souvenirs is an analogy for minimising regrets.

[16:23] – How we can bring our best self to every interaction.

[17:09] – Why it’s important to actively pursuing feedback.

[17:33] – Three practical ways to get accurate feedback from others.

[19:09] – Why not all feedback should be reacted to.

[21:40] – The main reason why there are challenges for minorities and women in finance although there have been some pockets of success.   .

[23:20] – The steps that can be taken to overcome such challenges.

[26:06] – We discuss ways the finance & accounting team can help overcome such unconscious bias.

[28:35] – Shares how change management is another area finance & accounting can develop a competitive advantage in.

[30:36] – Discusses why the obligation to develop good leaders is key for our future success.

Resources Mentioned:

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