20 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Moving Into A Senior Finance Role

As an accountant you are probably pretty ambitious, right?  After all you spent a lot of time, energy and effort getting professionally qualified.

One thing that I know having spent nearly 40 years in accounting is that often the only way to progress your career, is to take on some sort of significant senior management or leadership role.

Some relish the opportunity.  Others don’t.  Few really think about it before moving into a senior level finance role.

I believe it’s valuable to stop and think before moving into a senior finance role.

So what are 20 questions you should ask yourself before moving into a senior finance role?


What’s the attraction of a senior level role?

Your initial response might be money and benefits.  Nothing wrong with that. 

Equally financial rewards are rarely the big motivator in the long run.

Write down some words that capture the essence of what attracts you to a senior level finance role.


What do you really enjoy doing?

Of the things you do right now, what do you really enjoy doing?

Then consider how many of the things you really enjoy doing that you will be doing in a senior level role.


What are you really good at?

Senior level roles in finance require breadth and depth.

What areas are you really good at? If there are areas that everyone else points to you as the expert, chances are these are among your strongest areas.


What’s your risk appetite?

Stepping into a senior level finance role isn’t without risk.

Whenever a business hits challenges financially, it’s often the senior finance person who carries the can.


Where’s your gaps?

Everyone has strengths.  Everyone has weaknesses. 

Being aware of your gaps whether in skills, knowledge or experience can help you proactively deal with your gaps.


Why would you be great in a senior finance role?

This could well be an interview question.

You need to be ready with a great answer.


What type of organisation would be best for you?

Your career to date might well push you in a certain direction.

At a more senior level, sector knowledge seems to be a significant factor in decision making about who to appoint.


Are you willing to take ultimate responsibility?

The $64,000 dollar question.

In a senior level role (especially if you are the most senior person) the buck stops with you at the end of the day.

You need to be sure that you are okay with this.


Can you build teams?

We can get the impression that there are super leaders in organisation.  Yes there are going to be a few who are exceptional.

For the vast majority it’s about getting results through a team.


Are you okay being hands off?

Trusting others to deliver isn’t optional if you are going to succeed in your role.


Do you enjoy working across the wider business?

This was one of the big attractions for me.  Some prefer to be focused on their own function.

How about you?


What value can you bring?

The more senior you become in Finance, the more important it is to be focused on the value you can bring.

Not just to the finance function but to the wider organisation and fellow leadership team members.


What personal changes are you willing to make?

There’s going to be a need for change in how you work.  

Being aware of these is the starting point in making change.


What sacrifices are you willing to make?

 I’m not saying it’s right but the more senior you become, the more likely it is you will have to spend more of your time allocation on work.

How is the role different from what you are doing now?

Understanding this will help you avoid falling into the trap of seeing it as the same job you had previously with more money.


Will you move within your existing organisation or move outside of your current organisation?

Both have their advantages and disadvantages in my experience.  

It may be tougher to step up in your current organisation than it would be if you moved somewhere else.


What’s going to be your priorities in the initial few months?

You will have to set your agenda to a large extent.

Creating some early wins matters. 


What support are you going to put in place?

I remember a partner at one of the Big 4 firms I worked at saying being a leader in finance is a lonely existence at times.

I didn’t appreciate the significance of this at the time but got it 100% when I was at that level.


What do you want to have a reputation for as a leader in finance?

Being collaborative.  Being supportive.  Being demanding.  Being challenging. Being improvement focused.

These are just a few ideas.  What would you put on your list?


What would constitute success in the role for you?

Your definition of success in the role will determine what you give real focus to and help ensure you stay motivated.

So that’s my 20 questions.  I’m sure you will have others.  

It’s not about some questions being better than others.  

Merely taking the time to think before you step up to a leadership role in finance will be time well spent in my experience.