How can finance leaders engage colleagues in strategic financial planning? Be proactive and follow these steps.

Business experts are often exhorting leaders of support departments like HR or marketing to partner with their finance colleagues to build a better understanding of strategic financial planning efforts and the financial drivers that might help them better present ideas and recommendations to earn that coveted "seat at the table." But what if the tables were turned? What if finance leaders were to engage other organizational leaders on strategic planning efforts aligned with business objectives in ways that demonstrate real, bottom-line impact?

Finance leaders don't need to wait for others in their organization to come to them for advice or input on strategic planning efforts. In fact, such passivity is likely to reinforce the siloed relationships that often plague organizations.

Instead, proactively reach out to aid and educate department leaders in the following ways:

Build Relationships

The first step in engaging organizational leaders in strategic financial planning initiatives is to build relationships. Pleasure before business, in other words. After all, we tend to work best with people we know and trust. Reach out with invitations for coffee, lunch or other casual get-togethers that can help develop strong personal relationships.

Educate Department Leaders

Work to ensure that colleagues understand the organization's strategic financial planning efforts, why alignment between departments and finance is important and how department directors can achieve this alignment through their own planning activities. This can be done through either one-on-one or group meetings, as well as via online resources and tutorials.

Search for Mutual Understanding

Making assumptions about department leaders' motivations can lead to misunderstanding and dissent. Take time to understand the unique challenges that departments may have as they attempt to align their plans with strategic financial planning efforts.

Give Credit When It's Due

Recognize the efforts of departments that have done a good job of tying their planning efforts to strategic financial planning. Showcase examples of efforts that represent best practices. Engage these department leaders in helping to spread the message of alignment and interdepartmental support of planning efforts.

Finally, avoid any tendency to be overly critical of departmental efforts. While you yourself may be steeped in financial acumen and expertise, your colleagues likely won't be. If they learn they can turn to you for answers to questions and support, barriers will break down and they'll become stronger partners in the preparation of solid strategic financial planning efforts.

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