670: Judgment: At the Heart of Every Decision | Gary Golden, CFO, Cherwell Software

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If we were asked to boil down our discussion with CFO Gary Golden to a single word, our answer would be: “judgment.”

It perhaps goes without saying that having good judgment is a prerequisite for every finance leader, and the quality frequently tops the list of reasons that CEOs give when asked to describe what sets apart one CFO candidate from another.

Still, the word comes to mind not because Golden uses it—which he does multiple times—but because he routinely draws our attention to the “decision-making” central to every CFO position and the experiences that have helped to shape the judgment that he uses to make sound business decisions.

Golden’s professional life began as a lawyer in a Dallas law firm, where his goal was to become a top mergers and acquisitions attorney, but along the way he jumped to American Airlines.

“One of the reasons I left private practice for American is that they had a reputation for moving lawyers onto the business side of things,” explains Golden, who says that attorneys frequently found finance to be a convenient door-of-entry at American.

“Interestingly, at American, my mentors were not really attorneys, but I found mentors inside the finance organization,” remarks Golden, who says that his legal experience has served him well as he has taken on a number of different CFO roles.

“When you start training as a lawyer, you have a very detailed ‘what can go wrong?’ orientation that I have found to be very helpful to me as a CFO because you’re always thinking about what can blow up and you want to have this orientation that forces you to anticipate next steps,” comments Golden.

“Many times, you find yourself making judgments on things, and you decide not to do things even though you would really very much like to,” remarks Golden, who frequently uses the word “judgment” interchangeably or alongside “deciding” or “decision-making”—as in the sentence “As a CFO, your decision-making judgment is critical.” –Jack Sweeney

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