26th February 2024

What is Finance Director Coaching?

In the fast-paced world of finance, Finance Directors (FDs) have to deal with constant change as our industry evolves. With rapid change comes challenging leadership scenarios which test your skills – and it’s these situations that present awesome opportunities for you to grow personally and professionally. 

Coaching is one of many tools you can draw on to help you make the most of these growth opportunities.

In this article I talk through:

  • What does finance director coaching involve? (from my perspective!)
  • When might coaching be useful?
  • Questions you should ask when you’re thinking about trying coaching.
  • How to choose a good FD coach

What is finance director coaching?

Coaches help their coachees find answers to the things they’re grappling with in life, at work etc. by asking amazing questions. 

Coaching is built on the belief that the coachee has all the answers and it’s the coach’s job to get them out of the gate. It’s about getting to the real issues a person is facing. 

With this in mind it’s not essential for a coach to be an expert in your area/sector.

I do personally think it helps for a coach to understand where the coachee is coming from though. For example, I am a chartered accountant by trade, who worked my way up to become an FD, so I ‘get’ the day to day stuff finance people deal with.

It means I can empathise with their situation and dig into the deeper stuff they need help with. 

Ok, so what does finance director coaching involve?

As a coachee, ‘pure’ coaching gives you more time to reflect on your previous experiences and think about what you can learn from them. 

My sense is that it’s fine to be more reflective, but coaching is an investment, and with traditional coaching alone, it takes longer to create the impact. 

To reach goals quicker, it can help to take a more results-focused approach of coaching mixed with mentoring and consulting (which is what I do!). 

Mentoring is offering advice as opposed to relying on the coachee having the answer, and consulting is offering a range of finance specific tools, frameworks and methodologies for the coachee to implement.

This is especially true when it comes to finance. People in our industry face specific challenges and are often looking for someone with lived experience to give them advice and empower them to overcome their own issues. 

Why do finance directors look for coaching?

I love a framework, so here are three broad areas I see finance leaders tackling most commonly in coaching sessions.

1. Self development

Finance leaders come for coaching because they want some level of self development. 

People are either confused about what they want to do next, or they’re at crossroads with what they need to do to get to the next level in their finance career. 

The more senior folks get, the less likely it is that they have somebody above them who can tell them what to do and how to do it. So there comes a point where you need more support on how to progress.

You may want some to help figure out what self development looks like for you, or to show you tools and techniques to get you there.

As an FD, you’re an expert at what you do. But it’s hard to find the answers for yourself with anything (not just your career). The power is in having somebody else to do that with you and hold you accountable. 

Examples of self development scenarios coaching can help with

  • “I want to develop certain leadership skills.”

    I’m talking things like influencing, communication, or even technical skills. Coaching can be used to speed up your skills progression. It’s not training as it’s very bespoke, tailored towards your individual circumstances. 


  • “How do I make progress in X space?”

    You may have never really focused on development in the past and now feel like you’re missing out.

    You may have gone wherever your career has taken you to this point, but need to focus on getting to the next level.
  • “My company doesn’t have any internal support or proven methodology for me to progress in my career.”

When you’re at the top of the tree, it’s unlikely you’ve got someone above you to mentor you in your area of expertise. Getting a finance coach in solves this issue.

2. Team leadership

Finance leaders often have to think a lot about how to build their teams. 

There’s leadership, management, organisational development, organisational design – all of these different things that you don’t really get taught.

So a coach can help you to think about how to take your team forward. 

A couple of example team leadership scenarios you may work through with a coach:

  • “I’m completely self taught on leadership and management and I’d like to be better at it.”
  • “How do I develop my team in the right way?” 
  • “I’ve been given feedback that there are certain areas of my management leadership style that are lacking, so how do I improve?”
  • “I’ve just become the manager of a big new team and I need to develop different skill sets.”

Another key finance leadership question you might be dealing with as an FD could be:

  • “Am I influencing into the business or my external stakeholders enough?”

You might need a strategy or framework for increasing your influence in the wider business, improving your skills on the commercial side, or becoming a better finance business partner. Or it could be managing external investors, a board or shareholders.
Whatever it is, coaching looks at your specific situation and helps you move in the right direction.

3. Future of finance  

Great finance leaders want to stay one step ahead and understand the future of the industry and where it’s going. 

Currently, the big areas here are data analytics and AI, finance transformation, and business partnering – all of which require you to take a more strategic first approach.

Key future finance questions coaching can help you think through:

  • What is our strategy for data analytics, AI, and finance transformation?
  • How can we make progress in these areas?
  • How do I evolve my finance team to succeed in the future of our industry?
  • How can I support the future of the business and be a good finance business partner?
  • How can I stay relevant in a rapidly evolving industry?

Longer-term, it’s important to navigate industry shifts and align yourself and your team with changing trends so you can maximise the impact you have on the business. 

A finance coach can help you do this.

When is finance director coaching useful?

If you have specific pain points you’re tackling or unanswered questions about your career or life, then it may be worth considering coaching.

Common triggers that people come to me to talk through include feeling stuck in a job role, wanting career progression without clear guidance, or realising the need to develop certain skills. 

OR sometimes they are facing specific challenges in the role, the team is not evolving fast enough, there is feedback that influencing needs to be improved, the board want to see more commercial or strategic input from finance leadership.

Coaching helps you take proactive steps toward addressing these types of challenges.

Broader questions you can ask yourself to think about coaching: 

  • Is my development progressing as I’d like? 
  • How satisfied am I with my career?

How to choose a finance coach

Choosing a finance director coach involves more than just expertise, it’s about chemistry, trust, and results. 

Recommendations and chemistry calls (a 30 minute intro call is enough to gauge good chemistry) are effective ways to see whether you think you’ll work well together or not. 

A good coach should be able to give you at least one ‘aha moment’ in your intro call. 

If they can help you see things differently from the word go, they can probably make a meaningful impact if you work together longer-term.

If you haven’t been referred or if you’re not looking for somebody really specific, it’s always worthwhile to look into two or three coaches. 

This will help you define what you prefer in a coach. What you might not like about one will really help you decide on another.

Ask questions like this to decide if the coach is right for you:

  • Do I feel like I can trust this person?
  • Have they helped me make some progress in our initial meeting? 
  • How much of an understanding do they have of my space? (not essential, but you can often make faster progress if they do)
  • Do I like this person? 

Looking for a coach? 

If you’re a finance director looking for a new coach, I offer complimentary 30-minute slots to help you (and me!) see if we might work well together. 

Visit my contact page here to see my available slots. If my availability is a bit tight, use the contact form to reach out, and I’ll find a spot to squeeze you in.


What approach do you take to FD coaching?

Whoever I work with, my coaching style is a blend of coaching, mentoring, and consulting – always tailored to your unique challenges. 

My ‘coaching toolkit’ involves asking insightful questions, introducing resources, models, and frameworks, and, when relevant, offering opinions and thoughts. 

My main aim is to empower Finance Directors to navigate complex challenges, help them leverage their own expertise and give them the benefit of my own experiences as an FD and coach.

Should FDs go to a coach, mentor, or consultant?

Ok, so let’s explain the difference between these first.

Coaching = I ask you questions that help you get to the answer yourself

Mentoring = You come to me, and I tell you what I’d do if I were you and give you advice

Consulting = I step into your situation and help you solve that problem

So you can see where these things overlap and are useful in different ways. 

I apply all three of these, but you may wish to go to someone who focuses on just one, depending on the type of support you want.

But I am an FD, can’t I figure it out for myself?

In general, it’s really hard to solve big problems on your own. 

I use a coach myself, because even though I do this stuff all day, every day, it’s really hard to be both self reflective and use the tools and techniques I need to progress. 

But what my clients say is most useful, is having the opportunity to carve out the time and space to talk through things with someone outside of the immediate challenge.

How do I know which areas I need help with?

For some people, it’s super obvious! For others, there are probably a few things about your work or life that play on your mind a lot. These are usually the things that are helpful to talk through with a coach to begin with.

Scroll back through this blog and take notice of the prompt questions I’ve given – these could help you find common themes in terms of what you might want to work on.

Oliver Deacon

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