CFO Nishlan Samujh reflects on lessons learnt from life’s lowest moments

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CFO Nishlan Samujh reflects on lessons learnt from life’s lowest moments

Dec 29, 2023 | Strategy & Leadership

Becoming an Executive Director on the board of Investec Plc has been one of the highs of Nishlan Samujh’s career. It gives him a completely different lens on the organisation and on what he does. ‘However, I also count as highs all the times that I have been allowed to perform at my fullest. These are the various cycles the company has gone through where I have been able to participate and partake in the execution of the key objectives and processes that were applicable at the time.’

Low points

A low point in his life, was his mother’s passing when he was twenty-two. ‘This was just as I was launching into a new phase of my life and my career,’ Nishlan says. ‘It pains me that she is no longer around to share my personal and professional success with me. My memory of her is of someone who dedicated her life to ensure that my brother and I had bright futures. All we can do now is to continue on the path she set us on and live life positively in her memory.’

Like any other professional, Nishlan has experienced lows in the workplace, too. He recalls one incident when he was called into a meeting and challenged for not seeing the big picture on a project. ‘It was tough because I was put on the spot to explain what I thought was the crux of the problem we were facing. It took me a few days to get to the bottom of why the meeting went down that way. At the time it felt like a personal attack, but in hindsight it was a lesson in leadership because it was a worthwhile challenge for me to push myself.’

On that note, Nishlan explains that constructive criticism is vital and that it is important that you should teach yourself to pause and listen to others. ‘I am the kind of character who is continually on solve mode where I want to race to find solutions. As a result, it is quite possible to miss the warnings from others who are seeing things through a different lens. The importance of listening cannot be overstated.’

Introvert

If Nishlan had a time machine that could take him back twenty years, he says he would take his participation levels at the inception of his career a notch higher. As a self-confessed introvert, there often were times when he could have spoken up and contributed to solving problems, but he chose not to. He advises young professionals to make their voices heard rather than floating through discussions in the workplace.

To be successful, Nishlan advises professionals to be honest with themselves and to trust in their abilities. ‘You should also be ready to put in the hard yards and do not frown upon the tough phases of life because any challenges you experience are the things that build you. When you are young, you do not have much patience; you are eager to touch success, yet accomplishment takes time, vision, tenacity and being alive to the world around you’.

 According to Nishlan individulas who enter the workplace should realise that management is never looking only for one type of individual and it is therefore in order to be yourself. The most successful teams are those that have team members who all think differently. ‘Therefore, you should not go to work just for the sake of it; be thoughtful in the way you show up, seek to improve, seek to adjust and seek to add value.’

Strategy

When it comes to strategy, Nishlan thinks it can both be overplayed and at times underplayed. For instance, it can happen that a strategy is developed when there are a particular set of conditions and when those conditions change, the management team of a company is so dedicated to it that they fail to adapt it to the new environment. On the other hand, strategy can be underplayed when companies simply go with the flow. In such an instance they usually lack clear guidelines of what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it.

‘A good strategy strikes a balance between these two positions,’ he says.

Furthermore, a good strategy exhibits simplicity and is built on solid knowledge. Strategists need to have a deep understanding of their business landscape, they need to know their organisation, their capabilities and their market. Challenges are inevitable and leaders need to remain centred and understand what they can control and what they can’t.

Nishlan believes handling crises requires a pragmatic approach and you need to take time to evaluate the environment you have to navigate. It is important to acquire the right tools and develop the appropriate skills to handle crises and respond to changes in your environment. ‘Always be careful not to get too comfortable because comfort is the enemy of change. It is important to sit down regularly and evaluate whether you are moving forward.’

This article is an extract from the book Masters of Money – Strategies for Success from the CFOs of South Africa’s Biggest Companies available here – https://www.takealot.com/masters-of-money/PLID90121297?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiAyp-sBhBSEiwAWWzTnmLGsW3EWthrsEzrN69lcPhFqkxkQjPsxSF6CHoP2oj6-XRBtDB5gBoCfA8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

 

 

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