The 8 C’s for professional FP&A. Part 4. Candid and Courageous.

Posted by  Amrish Shah

What is this article about?
I have previously written about 8 qualities which I believe characterize good FP&A performers. This article zooms in in more depth on two of these – Candid and Courageous. There is a strong amplifying but also tension between the two, which is why I have chosen to combine them.

What is Candidness in context of FP&A and how can it be cultivated?
In an organization environment where there are power dynamics at play, FP&A is often confronted with when to give honest feedback on a topic. Candid feedback is normally solicited – i.e. requested by another.

The three elements to consider in being effective in being candid are:

  • Understanding of the motives behind the request for feedback and own motives
  • Ability to give the feedback in neutral and positive language
  • -Managing of any consequent conflict

When asked to give candid feedback, the first place to start is to understand as much about the request as possible. Why at that moment? What is specifically being asked? Are there any expectations behind the request? What will the feedback be used for? The art of appreciative inquiry can be a good way to try to extract the relevant information around the request.

Then one has to think strategically about whether to give the feedback and, if so, how to position it. A way to understand whether feedback can cause potential damage to your role in FP&A or you as an individual has to be made.

It helps to be able to give that feedback in a way that uses positive language. By that I mean it focuses on the issue and avoids making judgements on people and their intentions and actions. So, drafting and redrafting feedback and testing it will likely ensure it helps the requestor more.

Lastly, there is no guarantee that the feedback given does not lead to a conflict. However, be prepared that the feedback could lead to strain either between you and the requester or cause strain elsewhere if the feedback is used. So be very open about it in the feedback and discuss it with the requester.

What is Courageous in context of FP&A and how can it be cultivated?
I would argue that it is precisely because FP&A is expected to be part of the team and be “on the pitch” that there is a need to be ready to be brave when the need arises. Demonstrating courage is different from being candid because it is more often than not unsolicited. Which also makes it more complex.

3 elements that are important to being courageous.

  • Anticipating conflict and planning for it
  • Willingness to persevere and escalate
  • Exhibiting strong emotional control

Part of the potential conflict assessment can also be to ensure that there is some groundwork laid to also have support later on if the act of courage leads to tension and conflict. This may involve getting people on board that you trust.

An act of courage that in the first instance can destabilise and rock any surface harmony will also be better received if the language used to state it is positive and focuses on making clear what the intention is and how it would help move things forward. It is good to learn, practise and get comfortable with how to have brave conversations with people about people. Again, the focus should be on actions and behaviour rather than intentions, character, personality.

Very important in having to be courageous is the confidence in one’s own ability to manage the stress that may come afterwards. Cultivating enough self awareness can help here by identifying what can make you more easily stressed and how you can deal with that. Buying time for a time out when finding oneself in very difficult situations is also a useful counterweight to overcome the pressure to immediately engage.

JUDGEMENT - the key tension between Candidness and Courageous?
The key tension point between these two qualities is one of JUDGEMENT. It is about knowing and accepting the boundaries of your own power and circle of influence and how to use judgement as a sort of guide to act when in situations of ambiguity. One set of values may push us towards being candid all the time, but that can make us act very reactively rather than step up when it really does matter. Another set of values can push us to act with courage all the time and freely enter the lion’s den, but the risk is becoming the bull in a china shop. Judgement of when to act and, critically, why is what will help determine how we go about nurturing our relationship with “truth” in our work environment.

I hope in this article I have shown why both Candidness and Courage are much needed qualities for good Business Finance / FP&A professionals and what are some ways to continue to stimulate this.


Amrish Shah

Amrish Shah, of Indian origin, born in Africa, a British national and now residing in The Netherlands, is a seasoned and senior finance leader with over 20 years of financial management experience in international organizations. Some of the companies he has worked for include Unilever, O'Neill Group, Staples, Royal Wessanen, Kao and he is currently working in a senior FP&A transformation capacity at EndemolShine.

A qualified Management Accountant with CIMA, he has held regional finance leadership positions since 2001, based out of The Netherlands. He has held both staff and line roles, managing teams of up to 40 people. He has a clear belief in the value of finance at both strategic and operational levels to the organisation and is passionate about, amongst others, organisation decision making, organisation culture, high performing teams, leadership in general, organisation and finance transformation, change management and talent management.