CFOs need to be both the sandpaper and glue within their organisation

CFOs need to take a "yes, and" approach, but they also have to say "no" when it's necessary.

On Wednesday evening, 1 July, CFO South Africa hosted a CFO Community Conversation with longstanding CFO South Africa community member and iOco CFO Jo-Ann Pohl. Jo asked the attending finance professionals whether they are the glue or the sandpaper of their organisations during this difficult time. 

Jo explained that finance professionals need to take the “yes, and...” approach in business instead of working against the best interest of the organisation. They need to be the glue that says “yes, and” to people’s innovations and ideas, or sometimes the sandpaper that says “no”. 

“As finance, we can have a fundamental impact on our organisations,” she said.

PepsiCo SSA CFO Ted Willcox said that the “yes, and...” response really resonated with him. “In our organisation, we’re trying to change our mindset from the reporter and the steward to the catalyst and driver of change in the organisation. Giving that response and belief to the team and seeing them take it on really does bear fruit over time.” 

However, attendees agreed with Jo that it’s finance professionals’ jobs to be both the sandpaper and the glue in their organisations, especially in a time when digitalisation is becoming more important for organisations’ survival. 

Hulisani CFO Masibulele Dem said that finance professionals have the fortunate position of seeing across the entire business. “That puts us in a very good position to play both the sandpaper and glue role. We really need to take this role seriously in terms of adding value to the business, but also putting the breaks on when we need to.” 

Publicis CFO Karen Clarke said:

"There are time when you need to be the sandpaper because sometimes the business does go on a tangent, especially in my industry where we're trying to get the clients back on board. When things are starting to come back on board we have to pull back the business a bit. Then, in terms of being the glue, I've spent more time strategizing, forward-thinking, mentoring and coaching - even my fellow executives - than actual finance work."

DHL Express CFO Craig Henery said that it’s quite an exciting time for finance. “In the space of digitalisation there is so much opportunity for us to become streamline and more efficient.” 

He said that finance professionals need to drive digitalisation very hard, but that they also need to take their people along the journey.