The rolling waves of the coronavirus pandemic have violently rocked the globe, flattening businesses across sectors.
As a result, and as the wave appears to slowly recede in various countries, finding recovery pathways in this uncharted territory would be a top priority for most corporations and economies.
These are tough times with no room for wishful thinking, hoping things would naturally bounce back to normal. Businesses have to prepare strategic crisis management plans alongside sustainable recovery roadmaps tailored, not only to their needs but that of a changed market too. While some organisations will primarily rely on in-house talent, others will tap consultancy firms for guidance, especially after the pandemic has died down.
Now, with roadmaps in place, the next task would be implementation, and this is where the rubber meets the road. It will take the steady hand of a competent management team to steer the ship to safety amid the raging economic storm.
For this reason, demand for top executives and managers with a proven track record is set to explode. Many businesses around the globe have found themselves in uncharted waters, feeling rather adrift and unanchored. The world as we know it has been swept upside down in the past two months. The worst part is that no one saw it coming.
Granted, most corporations already had crisis management plans and structures in place even before the pandemic struck. However, no one could be prepared enough for a pandemic of this nature that has claimed thousands of lives, broken global supply chains and dried up demand.
Consequently, many businesses will turn to tried and tested managers in the hope of making innovative comebacks. But the reality is that there are only a handful of such executives to go around, in what could spark talent wars.
The corporate landscape could witness movements of the same managers from one company to another, based on the offers and counteroffers on the table. Some kind of professional revolving door and could be likened to the Premier League’s transfer window for top players. Even then, businesses should not just focus on economic goals, while sidelining the equally important social and environmental pillars. Sustainability practices are needed now more than ever in light of increased natural disasters that threaten the existence of humankind.
These managers have branded themselves as turnaround artists. Their rise and evolution is, however, paved with a mix of fortunes in delivering the promises, sometimes returning wins, other times losses. This has especially been so in emerging markets, forcing them to jump ship every now and then. Still, they are viewed as experienced and necessary to have around, with their wins seen as proof of their capabilities while losses are perceived as lessons learnt that have sharpened their sense of judgment.
The so-called turnaround corporate CEOs/artists have in the past been sought after because of their leadership and managerial skills, experience and ability to deliver results. Demand for their services, in the wake of the pandemic, is only set to soar among corporations scrambling for a financial silver bullet.
These managers tend to have an irresistible professional appeal around them. They have solid personal branding – they don’t shy away from engaging the media and marketing their credentials and expertise in public.
These faces are also sought after in order to bring new and fresh ideas on board. When a company sees the success attributed to a manager during their stay in a given corporation, they would want to know what he is doing differently and how the same underpinnings can be applied to their company.
Besides, these top managers have branded themselves as change agents.
When they join an organisation and it performs well (regardless of their input), the success is attributed to them making them highly sought out individuals.
Generally, corporations across the world opt for the tried and tested or proven managers.
Professionally, top executives are bombarded with the never ending challenges of ethical dilemmas. They are continually faced with ethical impasses, especially in countries where corruption is rife.
The decision to do what is right vis-a-vis what powerful shareholders want is a puzzle for most managers.
Another curveball they have to live with is frequent burnouts due to the pressure to deliver under strict deadlines.
Social-wise, such top managers have limited time with their families because work is more likely to overtake their lives.
Also, the timeless challenge of picking the right people into your team could be a drain. There is always the challenge of making the cut — which employee goes and which one stays.
Now, when tapped from other organisations, the outsourced executive may have the advantage of neutrality and objectivity in making decisions that will impact the company positively.
The new blood basically comes in as a third and objective eye and makes the tough decisions without bias such as ridding the company of toxic managers and workers.
Moreover, with the outsider taking over, the temptation for internal influence in critical decision-making matters is greatly reduced.
The outsider manager or CEO is exempt to office politicking, favoritism and rivalry that would influence his or her decisions and strategies.
Also, businesses often opt to outsource in order to bring in fresh ideas that are almost unconventional to the culture of that company and which could be the only silver bullet needed for the business.
At the same time, organisations could nurture their own managers, coaching them up the ladder until they are fully prepared to occupy the corner office.
Whatever the approach, these turnaround managers should focus not only on profits, but on people and planet goals too, especially now amid uncertainty and climate change.
The writer is the CEO at Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC).