A generational shift is fundamentally altering the workforce. And that includes new expectations for mentorship: 83% of Gen Zers say a professional mentor is crucial to their career development, per a 2023 survey by Adobe. But for the finance function, there appears to be a gap. Only 48% of senior finance leaders believe their CFOs invest enough time in mentoring, according to a 2023 global survey by EY.


Filling that void ensures that organizations are evolving in ways that will accelerate the learning curve for all accounting and finance professionals. In a conversation with Strategic Finance, CFOs KC McClure of Accenture and Karen Parkhill of Medtronic explore the power of mentorships to elevate financial teams and facilitate growth across the enterprise.


SF: What’s been your mentoring experience as CFO? And how has it helped promote mentorship across the finance function?

McClure: I’ve had many mentors support me throughout my career and feel strongly about paying that forward. My approach is simple: Work hard, try new things, and foster relationships with colleagues I admire and leaders who inspire me—and even a few who didn’t.


My finance leadership team and I make deliberate efforts to connect with our teams in local offices whenever we travel. We take time to get to know our leads and teams better, and they get to know us. We talk about our career journeys and share our experiences. We want people to know that we’re open and approachable. But it’s also an opportunity to learn from them—to hear their ideas and questions and ensure they know we truly care about them.


Parkhill: Nothing is more fulfilling than mentorship, helping others navigate tough situations, grow in their career, and reach their aspirations. I enjoy both mentoring and being mentored, particularly reverse mentoring, where someone in their early career gives me new knowledge and insights to improve myself as an executive and as a person.


Of course, leading by example is always helpful, so in forums where there’s an ask for mentors, I’m always first to raise my hand—and it’s fun to watch the other hands go up in response.   


SF: What formal steps can CFOs take to elevate mentorship in the finance function and build a system that adapts to shifting demands?


Parkhill: CFOs serve as catalysts for mentorship by initiating structured programs, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing, and leading by example through our own mentorship. By nurturing talent and fostering a supportive environment, we empower our teams to excel—driving innovation, collaboration, and long-term success. CFOs support mentorship programs by defining clear objectives and providing resources and training. We also can establish measurable milestones, create opportunities for feedback and reflection, and recognize and reward mentorship efforts.


McClure: In its truest sense, mentoring is taking care of one another. It’s part of the DNA of our company and it’s an expectation for all of us—starting from the C-suite and radiating throughout our organization. Developing our people is a way to retain the best talent. It helps people feel like they belong and can achieve their aspirations. Part of that includes developing future leaders through coaching and mentoring. We encourage people to take advantage of opportunities to build their leadership and mentorship skills.


We also provide training for people who want to be mentors and are looking to build the skills and confidence to do it. We’ve created a multilevel learning journey designed to cultivate leadership skills, mindsets, and behaviors across the company. This experience includes self-paced learning, live practice, learn-by-doing exercises, coaching, mentoring, and self-reflection opportunities. 


SF: How do mentorships help build individual careers and improve skill development? 


Parkhill: Mentors offer valuable insights, share experiences, and can even potentially open doors to new opportunities, accelerating professional development. Through mentorship, individuals gain confidence, expand their skillsets, and navigate career challenges with greater agility and success.


McClure: Mentorship is a clear component of ensuring our people feel supported and equipped to achieve their aspirations. Effective mentors provide candid feedback—pushing mentees to stretch beyond their comfort zones.



SF: How do mentorships strengthen performance across the organization?


McClure: Our research shows that companies focused on leveraging the full potential of data, technology, and people operate in the top quartile of their respective industries. It’s the human element that makes a critical difference. The bottom line: Leaders who recognize talent as a key force to drive change and competitive differentiation and take personal accountability to unlock people’s potentials will see more innovation across their organization.


Parkhill: Mentorship fosters a culture of continuous learning, collaboration, and innovation. Mentors share valuable knowledge, skills, and best practices with mentees, empowering them to excel in their roles. This is powerful—it not only enhances individual performance but also cultivates a high-performing workforce, driving overall organizational success and growth.


Reciprocal mentorships are increasingly common. How can they boost knowledge sharing across the finance team?


Parkhill: They foster a dynamic exchange of knowledge and perspectives, reaching across multiple boundaries. Pairing individuals with complementary expertise and experiences enriches the collective knowledge base of the team, fosters a culture of continuous improvement, and empowers individuals to leverage diverse insights for enhanced problem-solving and strategic decision-making.


McClure: They create stronger connectivity between people in an organization. For the finance function, this allows teams to build more connected operating models and look beyond their day-to-day needs to a more strategic vision for the future. Exposure across different roles and career pathways within the finance function provides greater visibility into new ways of working and measuring success.


SF: What’s the best way for accounting and finance professionals to find a mentor and learn from them?


McClure: Speak up! Let your team leader know that you want to find a mentor and what you hope to achieve. Think about people who have inspired you and reach out to people in your personal network, such as former supervisors or senior leaders.


Parkhill: I would highly recommend proactively networking within your organization to identify potential mentors whose expertise aligns with your goals. Reach out with a clear, concise request for mentorship, highlighting what you hope to learn and contribute. And, in the end, always go back and thank your mentors.


SF: As a mentor, what must-have career advice are you focused on sharing most these days?


McClure: Change is your friend. In the coming years, there will be careers and roles that we can’t even imagine today, so I encourage everyone to be a lifelong learner. Pursue your career with the long game in mind. During my own career, I had roles I never wanted to leave and others that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much. But the common denominator was that I learned a lot from both. So don’t let a challenging role chase you away—you might miss out on a future opportunity.


The other thing to remember is that working is a team sport. Each of us is inseparably linked to family, friends, neighbors, teammates, and colleagues. You don’t have to stand alone to stand out. Great things happen when we collaborate as a team and mentor the next generation of leaders.


SF: What’s the best career advice you received from a mentor?


McClure: First, learn as much as you can about your company. You’ll make a bigger impact if you really understand the business. If you work directly with clients, learn about their business. Second, recognize that no matter what your role is, you are in technology. In this digital age, every job is a tech job—you should embrace it and lead with that.


Parkhill: Be patient along your journey. Sometimes your best growth opportunities are where you sit today—not in what you are seeking for tomorrow.


Editor’s note: Parkhill is scheduled to become CFO at HP in August.

About the Authors