Reflections on NACUBO's 2014 Managerial Analysis and Decision Support Program

I’m just back from a few great days in Charlotte for the NACUBO 2014 Managerial Analysis and Decision Support program. It was a powerful session with strong participation from insightful leaders across the board. I want to reflect with you all my key message and some of my own insights now that you’re back to work.

Your primary job as a communicator is to educate, engage, and inspire your audience to action.

If there is any one thing I’d like you to come away from our time together at the NACUBO MADS conference, that’s it, and here’s why.

As financial officers, we have a natural affinity for the weeds. We live in data and analysis, and thrive at our most authentic place when we’re communicating with others who live in that space with us. But most of our institutional world does not live in our data. To reach them, we have to change the way we see ourselves. We have to recognize that cultivating an environment of creativity means telling the story of our data in a way that inspires others to act.

In that light, here are three key points from our time together which serve as a reminder of our purpose at the leadership table.

  1. Keep Focused on the Big Picture. It’s easy to follow the data down the rabbit hole. In most cases, your audience will not follow you.
  2. Make a Case you can Stand For. If you want to inspire others to act, obviously you have to paint a picture that is worth acting on. That’s easier said than done. The real question to ask yourself is, “when I stand up and deliver my pitch, is it something that I am personally willing to advocate for?” If you believe in your story, your audience will feel it, and they’ll be more likely to follow you. If you don’t, you can bet they’ll pick up on that, too.
  3. You are the Guide for your Audience. Before you take your first step on stage, before you design your presentation materials, ask yourself this question: “What are the key outcomes I need to see from my audience as a result of my story?” If you have these outcomes in mind as you design your talk, you’re in a better position to guide your audience in their role in this presentation. Make sure you’re actively reminding them that they play a part in this presentation dance with you!

I love connecting with rubber-meets-the-road finance leaders, it’s a very comfortable space for me — home turf, as it were. But just as it’s comfortable space for all of us personally, it’s important to be aware when our own work does not translate clearly and effectively to others. As leaders, the responsibility to educate, engage, and inspire others to act is all ours.

Thank you for your time and attention in Charlotte. I look forward to connecting with you all, and hearing your stories at future events!

— Howard 


Photo: James Willamore (Flickr)