Role modelling and open doors: Leading CFOs on how they get the most out of their teams.
When CFO South Africa asked a group of top South African CFOs what they do to get the best out of their teams, they responded:
Jan Hofmeyr, CFO at OUTsurance:
“I like to be both detailed and focused on the big picture. I need to be visible to my team and participate in their conversations on the floor. I see my most important job as giving the team the broader decision-making context. I love taking them out of the office for a couple of hours to explain what we are trying to achieve and keeping them motivated and engaged. I try to be authentic and honest, as there is nowhere to hide in our corporate culture.”
Christine Ramon, CFO at AngloGold Ashanti:
Winner: 2018 CFO of the Year Award, High Performance Team Award, Compliance and Governance Award, and Moving into Africa Award
“I believe very much in role modelling as a leader, being open and transparent, and communicating with people. I believe that good leadership is accessible, visible, and consultative. I have a very open-door style. When I come in in the morning, I walk past all my direct reports, not only to greet them but to ask if there are any issues they want to pick up on. I have regular coffee sessions with my team. We talk about key things that have happened, and how they impact on their portfolios. I encourage people to share and come up with ideas, and if there are challenges, to talk about them. This sets the tone how the finance function gives input and integrates across the business. It is encouraging to see that the input of Finance is actively sought and valued in the company.
"I like to give people accountability and empower them, but likewise expect them to keep me informed on key issues. I’m not a person who likes surprises. We have Finance exco group meetings once a month. In between there are individual ad hoc meetings, and it’s important for me to be alive to key developments."
Peter Walsh, CFO at Servest at the time of interview, now group CFO at ITL Holdings:
Winner: Transformation Award
“Thinking back to when I was younger, right up to the age of 30 and maybe even older, I used to think that I knew everything there was to know. Also, that it was expected that I knew everything. The extent of ego and the lack of understanding of where my place was in the world that existed then was both harrowing and exceedingly distressing. This has changed enormously in the intervening years and with that change has come the realisation that I am who I am and that’s enough. I’m so much more comfortable within myself today. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself.
“As a leader if I can just get the sense of this across to the leaders and team members in my sphere of influence then I have achieved what’s most important to me. It’s about leaving egos at the door and sitting down together to solve a problem. It’s about leaving behind the sense that in order for me to win and succeed you have to lose and fail.”
Michelle Pienaar, CFO at Marsh Africa
“For me it is important to lead by example. I like to believe that I have an open-door policy and I feel like I have a responsibility to develop the colleagues in my team and help them to be successful in their roles, even if that means that one day they will go somewhere else. We often collaborate as a team and have open discussions about what they feel is working and what isn't.
“I also think it's important to challenge the team. One of our global priorities from a finance perspective is to elevate the strategic impact of finance, moving away from simply reporting to providing business insights.
“My current head of financial planning and analysis Ugen Pillay is someone who has grown so much since she joined my team. She has developed into someone who is very analytical and provides valuable insights to the business. Ugen also now sits on the SA executive committee. It makes me so proud to see my team grow. It is really very rewarding for me.”
Osman Mia, CFO at AstraZeneca South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa
“Team management across the organisation cannot be achieved sitting behind one’s desk. You have to be curious and want to understand the whys and hows across your team network as well as across the entire organisation. This is how you build your financial and business acumen, which you then translate into coaching and mentoring your staff to be business partners and financial controllers who are valued and trusted. I always have the best interests of my team at heart.”