Written by Staff Writer

In the age of talent wars, Nadia Schaerer shares with us her strategy for not only getting the most from staff, but also making sure they feel connected to the bigger picture. 


Nadia Schaerer, CFO of Nedbank Wealth, recently spoke to the CFOConvo Webinar about her human centered leadership approach. 

“It’s all about making sure you’re seeing your staff as human. That you’re engaging with them on a regular basis, that you’re concerned about their well-being, and that you’re creating an inclusive, diverse workforce.”

Nadia’s approach is not just rhetoric. She highlighted four solid principles that underlie her management philosophy. 

The four ingredients to an excellent management sauce 

Firstly, pay attention to the numbers. Particularly the net retention ratio. “It’s not just about the number, it’s about the inputs to the number and understanding the drivers.”

Dig deeper. Perhaps the ratio is stable, but you’re losing newcomers or maybe experienced staff are leaving. “It’s around understanding the inputs, but also overlaying that with other sources.” These can include exit interviews, and workplace surveys. 

The second ingredient concerns emotional fallout. 

“If there is emotional fallout you’ve got to deal with it and practice a bit of leniency. Not just driving deadlines and outputs, but understanding what it takes to get there.”

The third ingredient involves creating an active learning environment. “I think there’s a place for the formal development stuff, your bursaries, your courses, etcetera, but you also need to encourage your team to see every engagement, every report, every process, every project as a learning opportunity.”

Nadia encourages her staff to reflect on these experiences. 

“If it’s going well, what is contributing to it going well? If you were leading that project one day, what would you have taken from it or what would you do differently?”

Lastly, Nadia encourages leaders to apply big picture leadership. 

“Make sure that not only your finance team understands how it’s contributing to the bigger picture, but also how your finance functions and your organisation are contributing towards society and creating a world that’s a little bit better.”

“I do think people today want roles with a purpose that aligns to their values. As a leader you have to help them connect those dots.”

The fine line between connection and being too close 

Much of Nadia’s strategy hinges on human connection. This is not always easy. 

“It is a bit of a fine line between forming a friendship bond with somebody versus having an open, transparent relationship.

“You’ve got to be careful of not being seen to be inauthentic. If you don’t care what John did with his family on the weekend, then don’t ask him. But make the effort to know, does John have two children or a dog or enjoy cycling? So that you’re at least seeing a person as a whole and you can have an open conversation with the person when necessary.”

Learn from your own managers

Nadia says that this framework came from her own experience being managed. Nadia recommends a similar approach for aspiring CFOs and managers. 

“You can go on leadership development courses, and can read all of that is critical. But you need to observe the managers and the people you work with from when you’re starting your career and wherever you are in your career, because I think there’s managers who navigate different things really well. 

“There are managers who are great at managing a team. There are leaders who are fantastic at navigating the political landscape. There are managers who are better at running projects, and then there are the managers who are strong at the technical aspects. 

“My advice to all of the trainees and my teams is to look at the people who do things well and try and understand why they’re successful at that and understand your own gaps.”


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