Ep. 141: Anders Liu-Lindberg - INFLUENCING as a Business Partner

September 20, 2021 | 14 Minutes

Anders Liu-Lindberg, Partner, COO and CMO of the Business Partnering Institute, joins Count Me In again to share more of his insights into business partnering. In episode 45 of our series, Anders covered exactly what business partnering entails, how to get more time as a business partner, and the development process for ultimately creating an impact for your organization - insights x influence. This time around, Anders specifically discusses the key components of INFLUENCE and explains how finance and accounting professionals can increase their influence with finance leaders. For step-by-step instructions on how to gain influence and hear how it ultimately leads to impact, download and listen to this episode now!

Contact Anders: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andersliulindberg/

IMA's Count Me In Ep. 45: Anders Liu-Lindberg - "Insight x Influence = IMPACT": https://podcast.imanet.org/45

Additional Resources from Anders:
Adam: (00:05)
 Welcome back to count me in IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I'm your host, Adam Larson. And this is episode 141 of our series. For today's conversation, we welcome back Anders Liu-Linberg. Anders is an advisor to senior finance and FP&A leaders on how to succeed with business partnering. He is a partner, the chief operating officer and the chief marketing officer for the business partnering Institute. Back in episode 45 of count me in Anders talked about how insight time influence equals impact when it comes to business partnering. In this episode, he focuses on the influence piece of that equation and shares how business professionals can increase their influence across the organization. Keep listening to hear more about business partnering and contributing to overall impact. 
 Mitch: (00:58)
 So first Anders, thank you for joining us again in our first podcast episode, I know we really talked about, business partnering at a little bit of a higher level. You know, you gave us your definition of insights, times influence equals impact, and we really appreciated all that information you shared. So we wanted to bring you back and for today's conversation, we really want to dive into the influence piece of that equation and how, developing influence leads to more effective business partnering. So to start off our conversation, you know, as far as influence goes, what is the first step? You know, what does it take to be an influential business leader? 
 Anders: (01:36)
 So if you're a finance professional today and you want to influence business leaders, I guess the first simple step that you need to take is to identify who are those business leaders that you're most likely to be supporting, because that are always clear to people, right? So who is, who's my stakeholder, who is this person or these few people that I need to influence? I think that's, that's really step number one. And then step number two, once you have intensified them is really to reach out to them and say, Hey, you know, I used to work in accounting and finance, and now when I get closer to the business and, you know, help you drive your agenda, can we have a talk about what you're doing and how it can maybe help, right? So then you can have the first conversation and of course, then you build on it from there, but at two steps, identify and engage and then, you know, we can get it into the more details. 
 Mitch: (02:33)
 And then the business leaders that you work with, they're not always just interested in data and reports, right? There's a little bit more of a relationship, I think that has to be built, especially when we talk about business partnering. So as far as influence, how can I become part of the team? 
 Anders: (02:49)
 Yeah. So, so key for someone to send to you is obviously that they trust you and in any kind of human relation, you know, we want to get to know people before we start to trust in them, of course, from a finance and accounting perspective, we come often with the numbers and with the data and, you know, the foundation is that they can trust those, right? If our accounting is not working so well and the numbers keep changing, I mean, we need to fix that foundation first because otherwise there's not going to be any trust. The second bit is then to develop the interpersonal trust and build the relationship that can best too, by spending as much time as possible with your stakeholders. So today many finance teams, you know, they sit on their own floor in the building and they sit together and they do finance stuff. But if you want to build relationships with business leaders, you got to get out from that cubicle and move your desk and your chair down to those people you want to support and sit with them, if not for a full week, then at least three to four days a week. And then maybe you can one day finance because that's the best way to build trust, to be around them, you know, have the coffee side chat and all those small info and sometimes follow up is that we need to do, because that's how you get to know people. And if you don't know people, they probably don't trust you either. 
 Mitch: (04:09)
 That's a great point. And it is a lot of times I feel some of those more casual conversations as well, where you kind of learn about each other. So putting yourself out there and kind of forcing that opportunity, I think is a great recommendation, kind of building on this, you know, a little bit more, as far as the steps, is there a proven structure, you know, that could help me to really start influencing these business leaders and the decision-making, you know, beyond the relationships. Now let's get back into the business a little bit. 
 Anders: (04:36)
 Yeah. So we generally have like a three-step process you could follow. The first step is what we already talked about is to identify your stakeholders or the business leaders that you want to support. And then do a small, let's say a desktop, a biography of analysis and say, how strong is my current relationship with these stakeholders? How much influence do they have in decision making? And what are the currently thinking about, right? Because then you sort of know, you know, that the important ones where the relationship is maybe not so strong and then maybe they don't have such a good impression of you. That's where you need to start to identify the person and say, Hey, I want to sit down, have a lunch or talk with you. So at that talk with our coffee or lunch, or virtual, whatever it might be, you sit down and talk about three things, introduce yourselves if you haven't done that already talk about how their business is going and then, you know, get an idea about what do they think about finances right now, because that tells you one of their priorities and what do they think if you. Then you had, when you've had that talk would be half an hour, an hour, it doesn't have to be long. Then you go back to them and say, thanks for having that chat with me. Now, I know more about your, let's say your top three priorities. Now I want to try to help you. So, can we discuss how it can be a part of that? And so maybe they have some priorities. Some are maybe very far out in terms of this transformation or some very customer centric things, but some of it could be very relevant also to finance and accounting to get involved in. So you might pick one of that top roads and say, I'm going to spend some time analyzing the numbers and figuring out, you know, what could be some good insights that can help you make better decisions in this area. So you spend the time, you know, then you sit behind the desk, you do analysis. Maybe we still have to work with data reports and analysis, just not as much as we do today to generate those insights. And once you have looked at it and probably have talked to some of the team members and that the business leaders team and develops a business context around it, you put it on the meeting with the stakeholder, at the meeting, you present your insights and say, here's what I've learned about your situation, your priority. And maybe you even come with some suggestions of how you can move forward, but then you discuss the insights, you discuss some actions and then you take action, right? That's how you really get involved in the decision-making of these senior business leaders. They want you there, you got to bring the right things to the table. 
 Mitch: (07:03)
 And so again, I just want to kind of recap the equation, if you will, that you put out there, insights, times influence equals impact. And I know you were just talking about insights, so tying it all together, a lot of times, as you said, finance professionals have the insights, right? They have the numbers, they have the data, and we're talking today about developing that influence. So even as you follow this proven structure, these three steps that you just summarized for us, I think it's pretty often that you'll see the decisions that are made from your insights are often relayed to you after the fact, right? So a lot of people interested in business partnering, you know, that end piece of the equation, making an impact. They want to get ahead of the curve. They want to be a part of the decisions. So how do I get ahead of that curve and how do I become, somebody who can be consulted for these decisions moving forward? 
 Anders: (07:54)
 So I think, I think it's important to state that, you know, Rome wasn't built in a day. So just because you start to come with some great insights, they might say, thank you might have a discussion with you, but there's decisions might still be made behind closed doors with other senior stakeholders, but what's high as you consistently show up with great insights. And you're a great discussion partner and the insights you give these great decisions that leads to great financial outcomes. At the end of the day, the business leaders, they will pull you in more and more. Suddenly, you're not just part of operational discussions where the budget once a year, suddenly you are in part of the strategic discussion to say, what are we going to do in three to five years from now? What do you think business partner and the gold standard of course would be that no business leader would make any important decisions without consulting you the business partner first. But to be honest, I think few people have arrived at this, this stage here. But that's the gold standard you can even go further than, but let's, let's say that for another conversation. 
 Mitch: (08:58)
 Okay. That's great. We're again, trying to go full circle here with this conversation and business partnering is such an important topic. It has been for a long time, but it's really top of mind for many finance individuals today. So let's just say I'm often involved in these business leaders decisions. Now, you know, once the decision is made, maybe I don't get the progress, the results, right? The what happens afterwards, then what's really my role. How do I continue to maintain and be a part of that conversation? 
 Anders: (09:28)
 I think that that's a great point, right? Because we often talk about business partner as a means to making better decisions in the company. But we also know that just because the decision is made, it doesn't mean that action or the right action is taken, or it could even be the right action is taken, but it doesn't lead to the desired outcome. Right? So the execution part of it while the business partner is not out there moving the nuts and bolts of things that needs to be done, he or she can follow up on these things, be the catalyst that ensures action is taken. And then once action is taken, you follow up on the results, did we achieve what we wanted? If yes, maybe you can push for more, but if, no, you should be part of the conversation to figure out why maybe you would do that independently and come with new suggestions for what to do instead. Right? So business partnering is an end to end activity, starting with, you know, getting hold of the data and the numbers, true to making the decision and going through the whole execution and feedback loop where, you know, so it's, it's a circuit and I think that's very important. It doesn't stop once the decision is made, right. You have to be part of the whole thing. 
 Mitch: (10:36)
 So I do want to ask one more question if that's okay, and we can maybe use this as a preview for the next conversation, like you said, but, the end result being impact, right? So if we develop this insight, we follow this full circle of the full feedback loop. And after a decision is made finances, such an evolving function right now, what does impact really look like? And what should a business partner really kind of be focused on when it comes to analyzing the results of the decisions that have been made? 
 Anders: (11:04)
 Yeah, so I think, you know, if we talk about the outcomes that we want to create business partners, or, you know, the fan is functioning in general and how we want to measure ourselves. And we firmly believe there are three things to look at. The first is, are we as a business achieving the goals that we want, you know, could be a relational, tactical, strategic goal, and, you know, you name it, but how are we reaching our meeting of beating those goals? That is number one, because we were failing business, we also failing in finance. We cannot succeed in finance by improving a process or, you know, making a nicer tool or something like that. We can only succeed if the business succeeds. So that's, that's number one. Number two is then are you part of it? Are you part of the success and a good measure to look at there is customer feedback or stakeholder feedback. So as a finance function or an individual with multiple stakeholders do you actually ask for feedback, am I part of creating these results here or am I just the person that comes to the report, because obviously those are two different things. And, you know, by all means it could be that the stakeholder says, yeah, you're a great support, I love the report, and I can really use it for a lot, but then you're still just doing the report. That's probably half the third step. The third step is to sort of document what have you been doing to help create this impact? And we use a simple formula there called SCRI most the situation pose the challenge we face as a business that we needed to overcome. What resolution did we come up with and what was the impact? So you sort of, as a finance professional to try to have not a few of these impact stories documented throughout the year. So at the end of it, you know, finance get some power for ourself and say, we have these 35 fantastic impact stories that we were part of to help the business succeed. And boy, did we have a good year this year? Right? So we were also part of the success finance, but those are the three things, you know, how we succeeded in the business, how are we getting good customer feedback? And can we actually document and articulate what our role was in that success? 
 Closing: (13:09)
 This has been count me in IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like, what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.