No soldier dares go to war without their armour, says CFO Nonhlanhla Mona-Dick


The ETDP SETA CFO explains that learning and development is a finance leader’s armour.

In an ever-changing world, finance professionals need to take on new skills and capabilities in order to become business partners of the future. Now more than ever, the finance professional of the future needs critical thinking skills, but also soft skills, the ability to collaborate, but also to make tough decisions. Over the next few weeks, we interview some of South Africa’s leading CFOs to find out how they are incorporating continuous and broad learning and personal development into their lives.

ETDP SETA CFO Nonhlanhla Mona-Dick explains that, in her home language, Siswati, there is a saying: “Ufundza uze uyofa,” which translates to, “You learn until you die.”

“No soldier dares go to war without their armour. The same applies to finance professionals. Our armour is our knowledge, and we owe it to ourselves to approach each day as prepared as we can be,” she says.

She adds that she has always been open to accepting new projects and responsibilities, forcing herself to step out of her comfort zone and learn new skills, new knowledge, meet new people, and take in whatever she is faced with along the way. Part of this has included attending conferences, formal classroom studies, workshops, webinars, and more.

“No two working environments are ever the same, and no two financial years bring the same challenges either,” Nonhlanhla says. “I have had to invest in my own learning and development in order to be able to appropriately guide the teams I lead and the broader stakeholders looking to me for guidance.”

Putting on her armour
In order to feed her curiosity to understand systems and how things work, Nonhlanhla recently pursued a certificate in business process analysis, which she completed with merit. “I have learnt how to go about gathering knowledge on any business process, how to structure questions, how to identify key role players, as well as how to document the results by using different tools.”

The decision to enrol in this program was driven by the many IT-related projects she has been part of, where the ETDP is automating processing for operational efficiency. “I personally wanted to make a meaningful contribution and, most importantly, understand what needs to be done in order to achieve the best results out of the process.”

Nonhlanhla has also recently attended a focused workshop on governance matters, as well as director training, and she annually attends IFRS/GRAP and tax updates in order to keep up with changes in legislation.

“I also continue to attend sessions on leadership by Unleashing Leadership Potential, which has given me the opportunity to hear leadership stories from some of the most celebrated leaders in South Africa,” she says.

She is a member of the Black Management Forum, where people can learn about the issues leaders are facing in the country. “I must also mention that my participation with the CFO South Africa community has brought about invaluable insight into the many issues that have been on top of CFOs’ minds throughout the pandemic and beyond. It is from such engagements and platforms that one gets to draw inspiration and energy to go back to the office and think more broadly and creatively.”

Becoming a soldier
Nonhlanhla says that, as a professional and leader, when you are confident in your knowledge, you show up differently. “You can never go wrong by spending time learning a skill or reading up on a topic which will ultimately impact your work. I have found I grow through these quiet moments of reflecting, reading and thinking.”

She adds that each stage of a CFO’s professional life has demanded a different person in each of them. “You have to continue to pour into yourself to draw closer to becoming a whole professional.”

Nonhlanhla explains that she never fears not knowing, because even if she doesn’t know something today, she will make sure she goes and finds out more. “Continuous learning and professional development empowers me to offer sound guidance and advice to my colleagues, to report accurately and confidently to the board and its committees, and to our broad range of stakeholders.”

She further adds that her positive attitude towards stretching her own limits has resulted in being entrusted with projects both at strategic and operational levels. “My principals had confidence in the contribution I would make on such projects and they had faith in my abilities, simply because they understand I will make sure the projects are well executed. These projects have been some of the biggest highlights of my career.”

The art of negotiation
Nonhlanhla reflects that, of all the courses she has attended in recent years, the most meaningful piece of learning has been a masterclass on the art and science of negotiations. “I have plans to continue to learn more about the art of negotiation as the skills I learnt in that masterclass remain useful in my day-to-day and personal life.”

She adds that, at an executive level, every encounter is ultimately a negotiation, and you have to be best equipped on how to handle situations appropriately.

Nonhlanhla will also be attending a masterclass on storytelling and public speaking. “This is purely to build confidence in how I make presentations and engage with stakeholders at different levels.”

No one left behind
As a CFO, the most important investment is in yourself as an individual, as well as the teams that report into you, she says. “Colleagues should be motivated and supported so they remain dedicated to their own learning and development,” Nonhlanhla says. “This culture of learning and development can easily be embraced if the CFO is an advocate thereof.”

At CFO level, you have a direct influence on the organisation and culture, she believes: “The CFO is privy to the finances of an organisation and can therefore make sure funds are directed towards staff development, making it an achievable goal for the organisation.”

Nonhlanhla adds that: “This era we live in has no room for rigidity in our thinking or approach to day-to-day problems and how we run our organisations. We have to lead teams and organisations that embrace diversity in thinking and agility. Globally, it has been proven that the best performing organisations are those that continue to be agile.”

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