Raisibe Morathi and others say CFOs need to work closely with their stakeholders to navigate a crisis.
Stakeholder engagement is arguably one of the most important responsibilities for the CFO in any organisation. From shareholders to employees to regulators, and sometimes even the public, it is important to keep them informed about the goings-on in any company.
This became increasingly apparent over the last two years, as companies went into crisis management mode and had to change strategies instantaneously and regularly amid uncertain economic conditions.
Eazi Access CFO David Chadinha explains that he had to act as a servant leader who could reassure his stakeholders about what lies ahead. He notes that the impact and reach of Covid-19 made leadership crucial.
“There was a lot of uncertainty and people desperately craved clarity. This wasn’t the time to avoid tough conversations,” he explains. “As a leader, you need to be willing to initiate conversations that matter. This gives your team the confidence they need to keep going."
“You have to communicate, be honest about what steps need to be taken and be clear about the tough choices that need to be made. It is also about keeping your word and following through on your promises. People appreciated the transparency.”
Vodacom Group CFO Raisibe Morathi adds that one of the things she had to pay attention to during this time is that, with uncertainty, regulatory environments will continue to be challenging. “Regulators also have to adapt to the challenging environments. So when you set your strategy as a business, you need to ensure that you are in tune and not averse to what the context of your business is about. You need to continuously monitor these environments closely and work with all of your stakeholders, including your regulators, to navigate through it.”
With the world having to rapidly adopt technology in a new work-from-home environment, BCX CFO Lucas Ndala cites change management and relationship building as key skills for today’s CFO. “Change management is critical. When people think of digitisation, they think my job is obsolete, they don’t think about enablement. You have to take people on that journey, and that includes all stakeholders, including the unions. A failure of a lot of initiatives is due to fear of change,” he says.
Read more: NCX CFO Lucas Ndala leaving a legacy
Life Healthcare CFO Pieter van der Westhuizen also found himself adapting his leadership style, saying that the pandemic tested all leadership teams in the world differently. “What has been effective for me is to adapt my leadership style depending on the stakeholder, the situation and the challenge.”
Coming from a big family, NMI-Durban South Motors CFO Veliswa Rozani had an edge when it came to relationship management during the crisis. “In a big family there are different characters and personality types that I have had to deal with, and that has prepared me well for work. I come across people who are similar to my siblings, or my parents, and I know how to relate to them. I am fortunate that in the Barloworld and NMI-DSM teams I have been able to build good relationships with all stakeholders.”