CFOs discuss the power of bringing their purpose to work

Most CFOs agree that their purpose is making a difference to the world around them.

On 9 September, South Africa’s leading finance professionals gathered online for another edition of the CFO Community Conversations in which they discussed the power of purpose. 

The attendees shared how they aligned their personal purpose with the purpose of their organisations to help drive growth. 

Consumer goods company Mars’s purpose is working towards a better tomorrow with the belief that “the world we want tomorrow, starts with how we do business today”. CFO Sam Hopwood said that this ambition must be matched with actions today from all the company’s associates (employees). 

Sam’s personal purpose for the South African business is about developing a long-term, sustainable organisation that every associate in South Africa will be proud of. “That for me is twofold, the first is the business KPIs and value creation, the second is talent and people development.”

Sam explains that he has a strong passion and responsibility to ensure that he’s growing his team, build the succession plan for himself and for the rest of the leadership team so that when he leaves, the business and people are in a better place than they’ve ever been before.

Deloitte Africa CFO Jen McDonald agreed with Sam, saying that leaders talk a lot around succession planning. However, she said that the real question is, when you’re ready to move on, have you made enough of an impact on the individuals that actually report into you so they are able to step up and take over? 

Jen has taken her organisation’s purpose and applied it to her personal life. “I’m a very big believer of work-life integration, and so it makes sense to me to work for an organisation whose purpose resonates with your own.”

She explained that Deloitte’s purpose statement is to “Make an Impact that Matters”. “As a company, we need to make an impact that matters to our clients, to our communities and to our people. If what we do does not make an impact that actually matters, then as an organisation we become irrelevant.”

Jen has also taken that purpose onboard personally to try and make an impact that matters and makes a difference in her own life. “I want to make an impact that matters to my family, to the people I that work for me and as a leader in the organisation and in life”

Resonating with what Jen said, CFO Craig Sumption explained that Hatch Africa’s purpose is the passionate pursuit of a better world through positive change. “I like what Jen said about making an impact that matters and add that to my personal vision so I’m making a change that matters.”

His personal purpose is also to make a difference and when, within the business environment, people come to him with questions, he doesn’t just give them an answer of one or two sentences. “I try to understand what they’re asking and why they are asking the question so I can give a more informed and better answer,” Craig said. “You can add value into their day by simply answering more specifically and more in line with what they are trying to understand.” 

The other side of making a difference is supporting some of the supply development or CSI initiatives that the organisation works with. “We’ve got one entity that we support on an annual basis, which has been struggling a fair bit. I was asked to speak to their accountant to assist him,” Craig explained. “He sent me all the information, I read through it, and we had a session where I took him through my thoughts, what he should be looking at and how he can manage through this process.” 

The CFOs agreed that making a difference in people’s lives played a very big role in their personal purpose as leaders.  

The ETDP SETA’s purpose is to empower people by educating them and providing them with the skills they need to rise into the next level of their careers or to fulfill a life goal. CFO Nonhlanhla Mona said that she didn’t know what her purpose was until she came across a phrase by poet Maya Angelou, saying: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” 

Nonhlanhla explained that she is not a survivalist, but thrives in everything she does – and does it with passion. “I have a lot of compassion, which is why I am attracted to people, people development and mentoring. I believe I do it with a lot of humour and style.” 

Following on from what Jen said about choosing an organisation with the same purpose as your own, Nonhlanhla said that she couldn’t have gone to a better place than where she is now at the SETA. “I get to be who I am every day and, more specifically with the work we do, I get to help people rise to their full potential.”