How To Catch The Eye Of A Headhunter

1. What is the difference between a head hunter and a recruitment agency consultant?

A head hunter would at all times work on exclusive assignments on a retainer basis. This means that we work very closely with our clients against very specific criteria to fill a position. Thorough environmental scanning and third party sourcing would be done before we contact potential candidates. No confidential reports will be submitted to the client without a personal interview with the head hunter and the approval of the candidate to submit his/her confidential details to the client.

Remember ± 85% of head hunted candidates are not active in the job market. Various employment agents can work on the same position for a client. It has happened that candidates are not even aware that their curriculum vitae’s were submitted to a client! If too many agencies contact a potential candidate this can also result in candidates indicating no interest in a position.

2. What are the kinds of personality traits that you would look for when trying to fill an executive position for a firm?

First and most important is displaying that you are able to walk in a fellow executives ‘moccasins’ (empathy not sympathy). Long-winded executives that cannot make a point will never make it to the ‘real’ top. Communication skills, whether verbal or written, are critical.

Integrity and honesty are well received. Even well seasoned executives sometimes cannot answer this question “what is the biggest mistake you have made in your life and how did you rectify it?” Executives must also be aware of their development areas.

3. What sort of qualifications should people have if they want to be headhunted for a top executive spot?

It very much depends on the industry. It is highly unlikely that the group CEO of a mining house would not hold a relevant mining degree from a reputable university coupled with an MBA. On a lighter note I cannot imagine the CEO of a well known wine, beer and spirits company not having a keen interest in wine tasting and not knowing the difference between a good or mediocre wine.

A solid basic university degree or a good B Tech degree from a technikon is only an entry point not a guarantee to success, similarly a prestigious MBA might raise your profile, but at the end of the day if it cannot be applied optimally in the work place then that prestigious qualification is only good on paper.

4. What experience (for example, how many years in an executive post) do people need to be considered for an executive placement?

The first criteria is work history and a proven track record. Good executives are not ‘job hoppers’. Executives that have steadily climbed the ladder with the same employer is a positive. To change jobs just for better remuneration is a no go. Hard core competencies are non-negotiable.

It is not the number of years that is important, but the knowledge you have gained during those years you worked and what change or turnaround record you have to offer to a prospective employer. One can have ten years experience, but in fact only have one year repetitive experience.

5. What kinds of behaviour would turn you off a potential candidate?

Executives with big ego’s and “I did this and I did that” (as if his/her team does not exist) leave a bad taste in the mouth. Mr know-it-all can often shoot himself in the foot when being interviewed by a knowledgeable panel.

Trying to ‘sweet talk’ can be irritating, it always makes me wonder if he/she has a habit of ‘brown nosing’! This is a very negative indicator for future success in the work place.

Bad cell phone habits and being more interested in the emails coming through is not only disrespectful, but this kind of executive will do the same in an executive committee meeting or a board meeting.

This is not a minor detail – dirty shoes, often executives are wearing Armani attire and beautiful ties but forget to clean their shoes! This certainly also applies to female executives.

6. Does age matter – for example, would there be a minimum age you would consider?

Officially age should not matter, but it would very much depend on the retirement age policy of the organisation at the older age spectrum. The pendulum is returning to where companies would consider a 55 year old for executive level employment. The age cut-off depends on the skills set the executive has to offer. At the younger end of the scale it would depend on the position requirements. The determining factors being qualifications, competencies and most importantly emotional intelligence.

It is often said that age is not a criteria. The youngest Group CEO of a well respected listed company that I know of was appointed at the age of 28. Was it a good appointment? Certainly yes, today he is the Chairman of the company and still relatively young.

Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer is a founding director of and shareholder in Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.

How To Skirt The Danger Zones At Your End-Of-Year Party

Looking forward to letting your hair down at the annual office party? That’s understandable. You deserve a chance to unwind, relax and have fun with colleagues. But be warned: letting your hair down can degenerate into letting yourself down.

In worst-case scenarios the end-of-year party can become the end-of-career party. Festive gaffes can turn upward progression into regression while missteps by those already in leadership positions can compromise credibility and authority.

Performance appraisals apply to office parties, too. That’s not official, of course, but be aware that scrutiny is not restricted to formal HR processes. Subjective social assessments are made and can either be damning or career-enhancing.

Just like an annual performance review, an annual party is an opportunity to impress. For senior personnel, it’s a chance to set an example. For up-and-coming talent, it’s an indicator that you have what it takes to reach the next level.

You can still have fun, but the following danger zones are best avoided…

ALCOHOL: The ability to hold your drink is vital at corporate social occasions. Often this means just that … holding the glass and taking the occasional sip rather than drinking to excess. Take it easy and make sure a designated driver is on hand to take you home. An arrest for drunken driving can arrest the development of your career and could be a nail in your career coffin.

BEHAVIOUR: Be friendly and cordial. Greet everyone; those in lower staff grades as well as immediate colleagues and superiors. Being an executive snob is outdated and emotionally un-intelligent. A good supply of free eats may be on hand, but don’t gorge yourself. Don’t help yourself to an extra bottle (or two) to drink on the way home. This is tantamount to petty theft and a sign you can’t be trusted.

Creating a total mess (littering) at the party reflects badly not only on your personal standards, but is indicative of a messy attitude towards your office environment.

Don’t ‘get carried away’. Kicking off shoes or shedding clothes can best be left to royalty. Prince Harry can’t be sacked from the British royal family for what the newspapers called “a naked romp”, but corporates rarely have hereditary middle and senior management positions. Harry Windsor’s job is safe for life; yours might not be.

DRESS: Relaxed or flamboyant attire may be permissible but don’t go overboard. Women should avoid revealing tops and short skirts. A ‘flash’ from Madonna does no harm to her pop career, but what about yours?

FLIRTING: A little flirting may seem like harmless fun, but can get out of hand. A show of affection for a boss or a personal assistant can be misinterpreted. It will raise eyebrows if colleagues of the opposite sex leave together. Don’t put yourself in a position where your actions and motives can be misconstrued.

In the contemporary corporate world, we are all responsible for managing our ‘personal brand’. Be careful what brand attributes are associated with you and your reputation.

LANGUAGE: Watch your language. Formalities may have eased, but this does not mean risqué jokes are in order. Even though you may have been encouraged to use first names, don’t fall into the trap of being overly familiar.

A man might be tempted to show he is ‘one of the boys’ and a woman may want to show she is not a prude, but a sense of balance is required.

SOCIAL MEDIA: The paparazzi have been invited to your party. That’s not an official invitation, but these days every one of your colleagues comes to the office festivities equipped with a cellphone … which means they all carry cameras.

Unguarded moments can easily be captured. They seem like harmless fun at the time. Unfortunately, it is not so harmless when junior colleagues share the pictures with everyone at the office or the photos end up on Facebook.

Some prudent companies have quietly developed social media policies. They are mindful of the risk to their reputation if embarrassing photos of corporate events are published on line. Extra vigilance is needed at party season.

Individuals should also exercise care. Prospective employers check social media sites. In effect, pictures of your most embarrassing moments can go on your curriculum vitae, due to diligent reference checking pre-employment offer – the offer may never be made.

These early alerts are not meant to spoil the party. There is no need to be a killjoy. You can enjoy yourself and still enhance your company image.

Remember, there is always a morning after the night before. Make sure in the cold light of day you can look back and say ‘I had a good time and did my career some good at the same time’.

Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer is a founding director of and shareholder in Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.

From Kitchen Table to Boardroom Table

Well appointed Illovo offices, blue-chip clients, a leadership position in its niche, international growth, no debt and a positive cash flow… Talent Africa puts a tick in all these boxes, yet it’s a start-up that began life in the depths of recession.

The business principals moved from an oak kitchen table to a walnut boardroom table in two years – an encouragement to every entrepreneur, both young and old, with more ideas than money.

The company offers integrated talent solutions to corporates, with strong focus on the recruitment of senior executives and professionals. The founding vision called for world-class development of customised talent solutions for every client, local or global.

Yet this “home grown” business started life in the kitchen of the Sandton home of co-founder Auguste ‘Gusti’ Coetzer.

Home doubled as initial offices until Talent Africa moved to its well positioned premises in Illovo in late 2011. Yet in the first two years, all the strategic decisions that drove unprecedented growth were made in the ‘kitchen boardroom’.

In that time, Coetzer and her partners cooked up a recipe for entrepreneurial success involving just six ingredients …

1. Self-funding is smart funding: even with interest rates at historical lows, it still makes sense to commit your own money – it motivates high performance.

2. Strength matters more than size: five strong partners (four women professionals and a seasoned businessman) launched the business. They remain a tight-knit unit with a passion for what they do.

3. Small doesn’t stop you being world class: adopt world best practice from the outset and deal only with top international associates.

4. Be the solution you sell: Talent Africa is hired by firms looking to build multi-racial, multi-talented, gender-empowered executive teams – a model solution adopted from day one by this start-up. This isn’t window-dressing. We were committed to achieving a BBBEE level 2 rating. Live your values and clients respond.

5. Be multi-generational empowered: a range of skills, experience and insights balances the business, even a small one. Partners with different ages, from the early 30s to the 60s, bring built-in balance. Older contributors draw from the risk taking attributes of the youth. Younger top team members benefit from access to wise and experienced older heads.

6. Get a good accountant and lawyer: legal requirements, compliance issues and red tape complicate local business growth. Among the first outsiders you hire should be a top legal and accounting professional to handle these matters.

“Our recession-tested business model continues to serve us well,” says Gusti Coetzer.

“In less than two years, we repaid our seed capital from earnings. Our new offices create the ideal ‘face’ for a business focused on senior corporate talent, but overheads are still strictly controlled.

“We interrogate every expense. Growth has not gone to our heads.

The kitchen-table heritage helps keep our feet firmly on the ground.

Annelize van Rensburg, another founder-partner, comments: “We’re not embarrassed by our beginnings. They’re inspirational. We still chase every business lead with the same energy. We’re still passionate about our business and totally absorbed in the search for ideal solutions.

“We now serve agri-business, the airlines, telecommunications, financial services and manufacturing as well as multinationals eager to build revenue streams across Africa.

“These building blocks were all in place in our first two years – the period when 62% of local start-ups fail. We succeeded against the odds because we stayed humble, stayed faithful to our founding vision and stayed disciplined. Other start-ups can do the same …”

Auguste Coetzer

Director Executive Search


Gender Correctness… The Taboo Executives Don’t Even Discuss

Women are finally beginning to enter that previously male preserve, the senior executive suite, and a good thing, too. How do men – and women – adapt to this situation? Regrettably, there is little discussion of this topic.

There should be because some unforeseen consequences are becoming apparent as the skirts join the suits in the upper echelons of business.

The behaviour of some men is changing. They are becoming defensive, and evasive. Apparently, they don’t so much fear female competition as the female ‘predator’.

As a result, they are adopting some American practices that seem bizarre until they are put into the context of that big corporate growth area – the sexual harassment suit.

We should be seeing gender sensitivity. We see gender correctness instead.

For example, ‘correct’ behaviour for the executive male is to wait for the next lift when he sees that the lift he was about to enter is occupied by a lone woman.

Going into a lift with a single woman occupant could be injudicious. If the woman complains something improper happened, considerable reputational damage may ensue, even if the charge is baseless.

Similarly, if a woman colleague wishes to see a male colleague in his office, one on one, the ‘correct’ male behaviour is to make sure the office door stays open.

I am told sexual harassment cases are backing up at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Many complaints may well be valid, but judging by feedback from senior male executives there is growing suspicion that many are not and some women are becoming adept at obtaining a financial settlement on flimsy grounds.

I work with senior executives all the time. The men tell me the issue of false or exaggerated claims of sexual harassment is a genuine concern.

They not only worry about one-on-one scenarios, they are also careful about:

  • What they say if this might be interpreted as sexist or perpetuates stereotypes such as the dumb blonde or the scatter-brained, non-technical female
  • What jokes they tell if the joke might appear sexist or suggestive
  • What jokes they laugh at if a laugh might be regarded as an endorsement of a sexist viewpoint
  • Complimenting a woman, in case this is interpreted in the wrong way

In the US, a flood of sexual harassment cases was initially seen as positive. Women were cheered on talk shows for their bravery in coming forward.

Then doubts surfaced. Were all cases well founded? After all, some hefty financial settlements were made. Male executives went into defensive mode, resulting in ‘correct’ behaviour and an arm’s length attitude to women colleagues.

Then male employees began bringing sexual harassment suits against women managers. It’s hard to say how cohesive teamwork can be achieved in a toxic environment like this.

The dilemma has yet to reach these proportions in South Africa, but the potential is there.

Sexual harassment is a crime. False and flimsy claims are also abhorrent. Once the suspicion gains ground that women are making false claims it becomes that much harder for real victims to stand up and complain.

As more and more women enter what was once a male-dominated arena, it is important for organisations to ask what sort of culture they wish to create.

Equal opportunities must be offered. Women must be allowed every chance to advance. Men should be careful of the language they use and the attitudes they adopt. But women have responsibilities, too.

Dressing for the office in a revealing or provocative way is simply not appropriate. Women have to exercise discipline as well.

Bad tempered, bullying male bosses are bad enough, but now there are whispers that we are beginning to see the emergence of the bitchy boss – the female senior executive who behaves in an aggressive manner to male colleagues to distract attention from her own shortcomings.

Spouses and partners at home should also be involved in the gender sensitivity debate. After all, having drinks with the boss after work may mean that a mid-tier male executive will be socialising with a female superior or vice versa.

At the moment, the entry of women at senior management level seems to be leading to male defensiveness and gender correctness. Do we want this?

Will we over-correct into a situation where spontaneity is destroyed and there is no joy in the workplace?

Having an equal opportunity policy is wonderful; but it is also necessary to look at some other rules and office practices.

Should evening meetings be scheduled at all? Should there be a policy on socialising after work? Is gender sensitivity training necessary? Should this involve both men and women?

South Africans have made great strides on the issue of racial sensitivity. The next challenge is gender sensitivity. Unfortunately, few business leaders even talk about the issue. Perhaps it’s time they did.

Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer is a founding member, shareholder and director of Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development. 

The Role of the Go-Between in Executive Remuneration

The worldwide financial crisis opened the floodgates of discussion about executive compensation and the role it played. The debate and discussion continues unabated as media, government and statutory bodies thrash out the what’s and wherefores of remuneration policy while the public grows more incensed at the number of Executives who are being handsomely compensated despite poor company performance.

The As-Is of Executive Remuneration

Large listed organisations are currently operating a number of different long and short-term variable compensation plans, whereas prior to 2004, the two most prominent schemes were almost exclusively a share option plan and a discretionary annual bonus plan.

However, there is increasing pressure from institutional shareholders, media and governance forums for the introduction of corporate performance targets on long-term incentive grants. There is a movement away from discretionary bonus plans to target based plans were specific performance requirements and contingent reward outcomes are set in advance. The targets for this type of remuneration are both quantitative and qualitative and begs the question of’ how did the executive earn it’.

The To-Be of King III

The King III Code on Good Corporate Governance in South Africa contains principles that have significant implications for executive remuneration and disclosure. King III applies to all entities regardless of their incorporation and responsible companies will be embracing it and not merely complying with the stated policies.

The implications of King III will ensure that remuneration committees are progressively more informed and equipped to make strategic decisions on remuneration. Furthermore, remuneration policies will become more aligned with a company’s strategy, reviewed regularly and linked to the executive’s contribution to company performance and shareholders will be invite to participate in discussion of remuneration of executives.

What can Executives expect from a remuneration committee regarding their compensation? Nick Icely of Deloitte Consulting suggests that the following considerations be taken into account by all Remuneration Committees:

  • Executive remuneration should be a fair level of guaranteed pay, defaulting to median market positioning unless very special circumstances exist.
  • Executives should be challenged and rewarded for above median performance.
  • A reasonable level of retention for a constant median performance should be rewarded
  • Executives should be challenged and handsomely rewarded for consistent upper quartile performance

While guaranteed pay will continue as an entitlement – supplementary, variable pay will become a privilege, predominantly afforded to executives but one that will need to be earned.


The role of Executive Search in Executive Remuneration

According to research (Nienaber & Bussin, 2009), while a monthly salary and guaranteed remuneration is an attractor for executives, while performance and career management are both motivators and retention factors for executives, in that order.

Whereas in the past, Executives being ‘head hunted’ could expect a 25% increase in remuneration, in a subdued market, executives can expect between a 12 – 18% increase in remuneration. The draw-card for moving is now firmly placed on the prospect of future growth and enhanced incentives.

The role of the Executive Search consultant is to manage the expectations of both their client and their candidate, ensuring that the executive remuneration package is fair, equitable and transparent for both parties. The remuneration must be fair compensation for qualification, experience and the anticipated complexity of work, whereas the package must be affordable to the company and aligned with the company’s strategic intent and the individual’s personal performance.

Executive reward is earned by individuals for bringing to and applying their skills in the organisation and for focusing on and achieving both operational and long term sustainable performance. Truly skilled executives will outperform their peers over sustained periods of time and should be rewarded for that.

Executive compensation should be attractive to executives, affordable to the company, proportional to the executive’s contribution, fair to shareholders and employees, provide payouts clearly aligned with actual performance and compensated for accomplishments instead of general industry trends.

For additional information please contact Annelize van Rensburg or Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer.

Mentors Can Open New Doors For Young Leaders

Africa’s leadership vacuum must be addressed if talented business leaders are to emerge in the future.

Annelize van Rensburg writes that Africa is on the ascendence, a continent that is being reassessed by international investors as a worthy place of investment.  This success is, however, bringing into focus Africa’s challenge of a lack of business leadership skills, which is characterised by inexperienced managers, poor succession planning and a need to increased levels of corporate governance across all spectrums of business endeavour.

Read full article in the HR Future Magazine

Leaders Wanted… Good Managers Need Not Apply

It may seem unfair, but today’s hard-driving, highly successful managers confront a chilling reality. What got them moving up the corporate ladder is less and less likely to get them to the top. Organisations planning to succeed for the next 30 years are looking for leaders, not managers; not even great ones.

Over the last decade the single biggest trend in the South African private sector is the emphasis on leadership quality. Companies looking to fill the top job regard managerial competence as a given. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.

Managers who sweat assets, cut costs and get results are indispensable. But if that’s all your CV says about you, then you don’t fit the bill for the highest echelons in business. Putting ticks in those boxes means you know your ABCs when the X Factor is the principal requirement.

These conclusions are supported by years of experience at sourcing candidates who meet the job specifications for executive management jobs at some of South Africa’s largest companies. International literature suggests the same applies worldwide.

We see growing awareness of the distinction between leadership and management.

Management is transactional; leadership transformational. Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing. Managers work within the status quo; leaders often don’t. Managers think short term; leaders take a long view. Managers chop down the trees to penetrate the jungle; leaders go round the jungle. Managers know the rules; leaders the exceptions. The list is endless.

Many erudite papers now pontificate about leadership. But getting philosophical and quoting Lao-tsu probably won’t help perspiring managers become inspiring leaders.

What might help is greater awareness of certain characteristics that identify top candidates for the very top jobs. Here are six:

People power: Leaders get the best out of people. They are often charismatic. Don’t confuse this with being flamboyant, though on occasion they might go together.

They give direction, but team members are happy to go further than directed. Tomorrow’s leader says ‘they work with me’, not ‘they work for me’.

For a task-driven manager the job is more important than people. The executive with leadership potential believes people are more important than the task (yet still gets the job done). Motivational power comes through. The leader will coach and encourage rather than coerce.

Vision: The would-be leader knows last quarter’s figures, but is more focused on the future. He or she talks about the bigger picture and is not afraid to invest to achieve long-term goals.

These strategists avoid tunnel vision by focusing on broad objectives. They know the numbers, but never get bogged down in detail.

Confidence: One result of future focus and strategic thinking is optimism. This is apparent even in tough times – a quality main board directors appreciate. Tomorrow’s leader has quiet confidence. This never morphs into arrogance. Many strong, powerful leaders are known for their humility.

Inner confidence enables these individuals to look at business risk in a positive way. They see opportunities and if the risk-and-return proposition justifies the step, they are not afraid to make some big calls.

Confidence is also apparent in their approach to technology. Today’s leaders are techno-savvy. They may use a range of handheld devices. They are not PA-dependent when they have to Google or Skype or go on to Facebook and Twitter to check consumer feedback. Technology is an opportunity, not a threat and certainly no mystery.

Diversity leverage: Individuals who identify themselves as good leaders are comfortable working in groups of dissimilar people. This extends beyond race and multi-culturalism. They appreciate the contribution of various personality types. They tolerate (even encourage) some mavericks; perhaps because they have maverick qualities of their own.

Lateral movement: Their CVs reveal some side-steps or time out for reflection. They may take a gap year to study philosophy, travel the world or climb Mount Everest.

Lateral movements like this often confirm the individual is a lateral thinker with inner self-belief. You don’t walk away in mid-career if you are worried about your capacity to get back on top.

The individual gathers wider experience and develops in new ways. The rat that wins the rat race remains a rat. The well-rounded individual who evolves, learns and adapts is trying to be a winner in the human race.

Balance: The new generation of leaders have greater balance in their lives than some of their predecessors. They are not workaholics. Their conversation extends beyond work.

They attend their kids’ school sports day. They walk down to the shop floor or chat to the guys in the warehouse. They attend the little office party for Lebo, the accounts lady who thought no one in management was interested.

Leaders have various styles and strengths, so these six qualities are accompanied by many more. But this ‘six pack’ is common to many of those who have broken through to the very top this last 10 years.

They are six of the best, most important leadership characteristics. Develop them and a good manager just might make a great leader.

Annelize van Rensburg is a co-founder and director of Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.

Are You a Chameleon or a Protean in Managing Your Career and Your Organisation?

South Africans are becoming adept at change management. Industries are changing. Managers have to build greater flexibility into their organisations. They track trends and technologies. They engage in risk assessments and prepare for a future that may move their companies in entirely new directions.

They do all this for their organisations … but forget to do it for themselves. There is a mismatch here. If business has to be future-ready, so does the individual.

This logic is increasingly accepted internationally where personal preparedness for a new future leads to the development of ‘the protean career’, a term that is now quite common among career professionals and industrial psychologists.

This career is driven by an individual’s own values and goals. The individual is eager to try new things to foster personal growth. New skills are embraced and time out may be taken to achieve some personal ambition.

The traditional careerist is a chameleon who only adapts to immediate delivery requirements and thinks in linear terms, moving ever onward and upward. He (or she) follows standard practice rather than personal inclination. But if the business changes, narrow, industry-specific skills may suddenly seem irrelevant.

In contrast, the protean career-builder is ready for change and savours the chance to do something new.

Locally, we now see growing acceptance of CVs with some protean elements.

Until recently, a ‘gap year’ raised a few questions. Flitting across industries raised eyebrows. Moving into seven or eight different jobs in perhaps 10 or 12 years raised a red flag. Not any more!

Locally, such behaviour no longer excludes a candidate from an initial interview. Internationally, it might catapult the candidate onto the shortlist!

One factor driving the trend to the self-directed career strategy is the realisation that in 10 or 15 years an individual may be applying for a job that does not currently exist.

Blogger-entrepreneurs did not exist five years ago. They do today.

Other careers are just over the horizon; for instance, advances in bio-tissues, plastics and robotics could turn body part manufacture into a highly lucrative niche industry.

Pharming (rather than farming) could be another growth industry as the need for genetically engineered livestock and crops will increase dramatically as the world’s population increases.

Longevity will increase the demand for old age wellness managers. Genetic screening is another niche opportunity.

Some niches, like social media, will go mainstream, creating career opportunities for ‘social media officers’ who will have the job of building the number of ‘likes’, ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ for consumer brands.

The protean has the mental flexibility to succeed in an environment like this. The traditional careerist is more likely to sit tight in a declining industry and decline along with it.

So, how does one develop into a potential ‘shape-shifter’ (another term for the protean)?

International experience highlights six distinct patterns of behaviour:

Downscaling – these individuals live within their means and create a financial reserve (not for retirement but for mid-career). They need money to take a sabbatical or enrol at Heidelberg University to study philosophy or go to the Himalayas.

1. Developing supplementary sources of income – perhaps by turning a hobby into a small business or earning extra cash from consultancy or weekend work (not only to build a financial reserve but to take the individual out of the nine-to-five rut).

2. Getting fit – by looking after yourself, exercising well and eating properly. Mental flexibility requires physical health and energy.

3. Cutting TV time – to create space for more reading and self-development. Future-spotters engage in lifelong education and are rewarded accordingly.

4. Knowing themselves – protean career-builders have a clear sense of personal identity and core values and an acute appreciation of what is important in life. They also have a clear idea of where they want to be in the next five or 10 years.

Adopting non-traditional criteria for success – these highly adaptable people set their own standards. To do something meaningful, they will move sideways in their careers or even take a step down if it fills a gap in their lives or enables them to make a contribution. In some professional situations, taking on pro bono work is one way of making a difference.

Protean attitudes are another key differentiator.

The protean is in charge of his or her career (not the organisation). The protean demands the freedom to grow. That may or may not involve advancement.

Their self-esteem is not based on salary or job title. They derive satisfaction from their work and their level of professionalism, no matter what they do. Their own happiness is a key benchmark.

Mobility and adaptability are increasingly evident in the South African corporate environment. However, it is still rare for major organisations to overtly specify the flexi future-spotter and shape-shifter when looking to fill a senior post.

It’s probably just a matter of time. After all, an IT specialist recently became Master Chef SA. That’s quite a shift.

Michelle Moss is Head of Assessment at Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.

The Great Eight Ways to Build a Business Leader’s Legacy

Leaving an organisational legacy is the lasting test for those hoping to succeed at senior corporate level. Yet the ‘L’ word is rarely used in South African business circles and is typically omitted from a leader’s job specification, even when fundamental change and moving the organisation in new directions are mission-critical.

What’s more, a new appointee rarely uses the word. At the outset, any reference to a legacy seems premature. Later it seems pompous and may suggest an incumbent leader is coming to the end of his (or her) tenure when this is not the case.

The word may go unspoken, but any leader will have been working on a legacy since entering the corporate world, whether consciously or unconsciously.

A new executive has to establish a reputation for hard work, intelligence, honesty and integrity. This personal foundation is a prerequisite for any leader hoping to leave a corporate or industry-wide legacy.

Thoughts about legacy-building may not surface for decades, yet form the unwritten subtext of an executive CV as career successes pile up. That subtext reads: ‘I always exceeded expectations and never messed up’.

When the life-defining top job comes, it becomes possible to attempt a legacy because no impropriety attaches to the leader. People already respect the person and personal performance. It is not unreasonable therefore to expect respect for the achievements that will crown the executive’s career – achievements that may become a lasting legacy or may not, depending on the legacy-builder’s approach.

What, then, are the key steps that ensure an enduring legacy?

After working with senior figures in government and the private sector and checking international experience, I believe at least eight elements are essential. Here’s the Great Eight …

1. The vision thing: Often this entails futuristic thinking and a dramatic break with past practice. An important example is the adoption of business sustainability strategies that look beyond today’s bottom line. Environmental sensitivity, energy efficiency and concern for the wider community are often the critical strategic drivers.

2. Values and morality: A moral sense is not like fashion sense. It never goes out of style. Embody the values you endorse. Live a good life, not the good life. For you, Scandal has to be something you watch on TV, not something touching you or your business.

3. Emotional intelligence is key: Learn to deal with your emotions. Top executives can’t manage a transition unless they can manage their own feelings. You may feel threatened or slighted as you begin to make way. This may cause you to delay or under-estimate the need for robust legacy planning. Work through your emotions. This enables effective legacy formulation.

4. Great leaders should leave great successors: But often don’t. Preparing for the next incumbent goes beyond formal succession processes. Developing potential is an essential attribute of great leaders. Create the space – head room – for subordinates to grow. Develop them as decision-makers, not decision-endorsers.

5. ‘My way’ is rarely the only way: You’re a leader, not a dictator. Canvass an array of opinions – from the board and other executives, from professionals and other stakeholders. Demand action but encourage discussion. This climate enables you, little by little, to fashion your legacy.

6. Continuity culture: Don’t take all the knowledge with you. Share ideas and information. Don’t exclude other executives. But remember, providing information to today’s subordinates is not enough. Engage in plane-crash planning. Make sure all the information needed for effective organisational leadership will be at the fingertips of your successor – even if you die tomorrow in some disaster and an outsider takes over. This approach often characterises strong family businesses in which ‘the life of the business’ has been key for generations. Some listed companies have still to entrench this continuity culture.

7. Personal loyalty, sure, but wider loyalty is crucial: Leaders prize personal loyalty. But executives have to commit to something bigger than the Big Chief in the CE’s chair. Build a sense of wider mission. You can’t create a legacy if key contributors feel rudderless and quit soon after you leave. They have to stay to carry on the work.

8. The mission is never accomplished: Don’t focus solely on the completion of the current mission. It is important to work on new developments, even though you won’t be able to see them through to closure. Successors may reap the benefit five or 10 years later. This does not lessen your obligation to ensure these initiatives get off to a good start.

Above all, legacy-leavers know how to behave. Your conduct, public and private, will be closely scrutinised as you reach new career heights.

You are not only remembered for what you did, but how.

Integrity, hard work and unfailing courtesy leave a lasting impression. Legacy-builders behave accordingly … from the first day in the corporate world until the last day in the CE’s chair.

Mosima Selekisho* is a director of Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.

Build a Better Candidate for that Top Job… YOU!

No one is born into senior management. Top performers are invariably built, not born. But here’s the thing … they build themselves. They are DIY experts at equipping themselves with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that take them up to the corporate suite and then into the boardroom.

Yet many successful executives at career-end confide that it took a setback to get them started on the self-build to success.

One catalyst is assessment feedback – the report on traits, strengths and gaps in your knowledge or experience you receive after failing to get a better job or getting one. You might be handed a similar appraisal during a performance management process or after psychometric tests.

Research on talent development, specialist literature and personal interaction with self-made achievers spotlight common themes that may help some other high potential candidates make even faster progress.

Here are 12 …

  1. Don’t stew, review: Assessment feedback highlights areas of strength, but also identifies weaknesses and gaps. You might feel uncomfortable about some comments, but calmly review what the report has to say. Take time to reflect. The information could give you career-building insights and help you grow as a person.
  1. Clarify the vision: Write down your own Vision & Mission Statement. Clarify what you want to achieve in life and in your career. Stick to the big picture.
  1. Set goals: Use feedback to map areas for improvement. Set goals and attach timelines – short, medium and long. Targets should be doable, relevant, measurable and tough enough to stretch you. Don’t focus solely on career issues. Include health, relationships, family and personal interests. You still encounter monomaniac corporate achievers, but most are multi-faceted, broadminded and have a life beyond the boardroom.
  1. Create a how-to list: Goals go on your to-do list. You also need a how-to list that tells you how to achieve targets. Cut down TV time and do more reading; books, journals and articles. You could find yourself following certain blogs or carrying out Net research to expand your knowledge. Building wider personal or career networks will probably go on the list along with gathering new experience and obtaining a mentor or coach. Further training and education usually feature high on the list as do lifestyle changes to promote fitness and wellbeing.
  1. Role-modelling: Formal executive coaching and mentoring can be a big help, but you don’t need to wait for the organisation to put you on a programme. Quietly ‘co-opt’ your own mentor or several. Who are your role models – at work and in everyday life? You might admire the people skills of one senior colleague and the time efficiency of another. Try to spend time with these models. Copy and adapt some of their techniques.  You can also identify a negative role model, somebody who displays behaviour you purposefully reject and don’t want to copy.  Become a keen observer.
  1. Start a learning journal: Carry an old-fashioned notebook or the digital equivalent. Jot down learnings or pieces of useful information. As you start to network more, read more and interact with role models import insights come your way. Record the data, reflect on it and put it to work.
  1. Active listening: Make a conscious effort to listen more. Develop the habit of asking questions, noting the answers and encouraging discussion. You learn by listening not by talking.
  1. Learning by doing: The way to develop new skills is to try them out. Apply your new knowledge. Look for opportunities to expand your experience. Volunteer for assignments that take you out your routine. Job enhancement stretches you and makes you more valuable to your organisation. Training courses are important, but learning on the job ensures skills are bedded in.
  1. Optimise errors: Put mistakes to work by learning from them. What went wrong? Why? What would you do differently next time around? Ensure you cover issues like this in your learning journal. They ensure better outcomes down the line.
  1. Unlearn: Things change. New knowledge creates new insights. You may have to unlearn some ways of doing things to apply fresh concepts. Alternatively, fresh ideas may turn out to have a short shelf-life. Unlearning keeps you open to new input.
  1. Give and take: Don’t simply absorb information from others and learn from your role models; share information. Help others. Become a ‘sage’, a source of trusted information and encouragement. Give back.
  1.  Reward yourself: Self-development is not a chore. You should enjoy the progress you make in life and at work. Ensure you stay the course (it lasts a lifetime) by giving you and your family some rewards as you reach goals and move on.

These techniques are common to many top corporate performers. Another characteristic is worth noting. They never feel sorry for themselves.

Achievers don’t say, “Oh, I never got the chance. The firm never developed me.” That’s because they develop themselves – and make an exceptional job of it.

Michelle Moss is Head of Assessment at Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.