I was watching a dance face-off on television the other day. Both dancers were undoubtedly talented. One was a professional but it was the other dancer I found particularly stunning. She was like poetry in motion – her moves were fresh, innovative and natural. The behind-the-scenes telecast in between showed that this young girl had worked very hard, trained night and day, even with a tender ankle one week, so that she could reach this far.
When the results were announced, two judges gave each dancer a perfect 10. The third one awarded her 2 points lesser than her opponent due to a minor technical flaw. This judgment eliminated her out of the competition. To tell the truth, I was rather dismayed; I would have liked to see her dance again. But when the camera zoomed in on her face, she seemed a little disappointed – but that’s it. No trauma there!
When the host interviewed her, she gave a remarkable answer: “Well, I know that I did the best I possibly could. I came here to win. Had I let the fear of defeat bother me, I could never have committed myself to this dance. I would be standing here, giving excuses about why I made the mistake I did or how it was unfair that I was pitted against a professional. Truth is, I can control only my dance. The result lies with the judges, and I accept their verdict with respect.”
Needless to say, the audience, whose sympathies already lay with her, responded with thunderous applause.
This extraordinary dancer’s remark got me thinking about my role as CFO. Often, we have meetings with our CEO in which we are invited to offer our insights on certain subjects. These meetings usually end up providing fodder for some revolutionary decisions; some have the potential to transform the working of our business. So, a lot of thought and care goes into preparing for this meeting. All of us come ready to express – and ferociously defend – our point of view. We are so convinced that our views can lead to the right decisions that we feel dejected if they are dismissed, however gently.
But this show gave me something to chew on: No matter how deep my research, detailed my planning and thorough my preparation, the final decision is left in the hands of my CEO. All I can do is offer the best insights I can given my skills, training and experience. If I come underprepared after a previous rejection, I will never be able to give my best. I cannot define my CFO success quotient by how many times my ideas have been accepted. Instead, I can measure it by seeing how I could contribute, trust the CEO to do his job and dutifully execute the final decision in the best interests of the company.
At the end of the day, the only thing we can have absolute control over is ourselves. Our focus should not be on the judgment of our performance but on doing everything we can to meet our goal. What do you think?