EY alumnus Senele Mbatha talks about how his “so what” questioning technique helps him come closest to clarity.
Senele Mbatha, now CFO of AIG Africa, joined EY in 2005. It was his first job and full of experiences and discoveries. It was at EY that he discovered his own style of working and management, the styles he’s compatible with and the ones he isn’t, and the importance of values. “The nice thing about EY is that it's built on values — values of integrity, trust and doing the right thing,” he says.
In fact, of all that he learned from his eight-year stay at EY, what he cherishes most are the soft skills. He believes those are the biggest of all the skills that he took with him from EY to AIG in 2013.
Senele is still connected with the EY fraternity and is committed to staying connected for the rest of his career. “I will always be connected to EY — firstly, with the relationships that I made and, secondly, with the technical capabilities that is around the organization … I met a lot of professionals here. And they are people who are decision-makers, wherever they are.”
Navigating the information jungle
Technology has made oceans of information available at our disposal. It has also empowered us with tools to analyze and view this information from different perspectives. With so much information and analyses readily available, the lack of information or awareness isn’t as much a challenge now as cutting through the noise and getting to the essence. In fact, being able to do so has become an indispensable skill for both organizations and individuals alike.
Senele is an ardent advocate of better questions. He employs the “so what?” questioning technique in board meetings and complex audits. “It is really about asking the right questions until you're comfortable that all your ‘so what’ questions have been answered,” he says.
He recommends practicing this style of questioning until “it becomes part of your DNA.” Respond to assertions and feedback by saying “I hear that. So what? What’s the risk to us?” and keep doing so until you are comfortable that you are at the root of the problem. And this feeling of comfort is a sign that, in spite of the complexity and chaos around, you’re as close to clarity as you can be.