In July 2020, I became Bank Windhoek's Chief Financial Officer (CFO), where I am responsible for the Finance function, which includes planning, organising, auditing, reporting, accounting, and controlling the Bank's finances. In banking, the Finance Department is often described as the guardian, overseeing a bank's financial health, regulatory reporting, and financial data.
I have been a CFO for three years and I have learnt many lessons in that time. The following are some of the most resounding ones that I would like to share:
The first one hundred days in the office
As we all know, there is much literature about the one hundred days in office and what you should have done during that time. The one thing I agree with, is that you need to be yourself from day one. Quiet observance and gaining an understanding before rushing to implement change is crucial. There is always a reason for certain organisational principles. It is imperative to develop an appreciation for them before changing anything.
It is essential that you allow yourself to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the team. There may be various external opinions and assessments of your team, but your independent review is essential. Another equally important aspect is the ability to communicate the leadership culture and values you subscribe to. This trait will help in pruning the team, and those not necessarily aligned with this vision can decide whether they are willing to buy into your ideas. Whilst technical competence plays a key role, culture and team dynamics are essential to the team's success.
Be a star maker
This feature is a spill over from your team's strength and weakness assessment. When we take the spotlight off ourselves and shine it onto others, the result is that they respond in incredible ways. Most engagements should be about allowing your team to lead and you offering support. Your ultimate role is managing the expectations of your fellow executives, the managing director, and the board. However, if the team needs correction on judgement calls, be deliberate in providing these as soon as possible. Becoming a star maker is about planting an idea of the desired outcome with your team. After that, allow sufficient room for the team to be the pacemakers in achieving the outcome. In most cases, they will surprise you.
Credibility and trust
Trust is earned. When you set foot in a new environment, most people will doubt your professional competence. It is not easy to come into an organisation where you have to earn the trust of a team. Be confident, trust what you know and do not succumb to the pressure of abandoning your conviction when challenged. View challenges with an open mind.
Remember, all innovative ideas will face opposition. However, you should never grow weary of explaining the purpose and thought process behind your ideas to get buy-in from your team and the organisation. As I continue this CFO journey, I am excited for the future.