There’s a lot more to running a company than just hitting targets

pinpoint one human resources CEO and director Lucia Mabasa. Picture: Supplied

pinpoint one human resources CEO and director Lucia Mabasa. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 8, 2023


By Lucia Mabasa

Mastering your core competencies simply is not enough if you want to make it onto the C-Suite.

In fact, that is the very least you need. Today, you need to be able to navigate a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Doing that successfully means being able to have a view on Artificial Intelligence – and how it could impact the business – to being able to manage a disparate, hybrid and often asynchronous work force.

There is no escaping this. Even if you are the CFO and not the CTO, you need to be able to speak about technology. Even if you aren’t the CHRO, you need to be able to manage and motivate your staff.

It’s a nuance that stumps many aspirant C-suite contenders. AI is an easy one. It’s a buzzword and the board are going to want to know how you are going to handle it, because what they have read might suggest you don’t need any staff. They might be right, but what’s your take on it?

Sometimes processes can be automated – there are even moves afoot in some newsrooms across the world to replace journalists with ChatGPT.

Hollywood screenwriters and actors are out on strike, in fact, precisely because of the threat AI has to their livelihoods – and their futures. But some things can work better with AI: stock control and ordering, taking the minutes of the board meeting or even writing the annual report.

If you ask it nicely, it could even write your corporate strategy, but the point is that it’s still a machine, it needs to be told what to do and what the parameters are. So, you can’t escape the planning bosberaad to tweak the mission and vision - and the board can’t save the costs of the off-site three-day retreat in the Magaliesberg either.

The point is, if you are worth your weight as a C-suite member you need to be able to defend your corner and fight for the new technology and show why, or fight against it – and have a very good argument to back it up.

Blindly saying yes or accepting no could have major implications for the company – and catastrophic ones for your career if you get it wrong. In the boardroom, the directors will be looking to you to guide them, don’t let it be the other way around.

A similar difficulty occurs with the management of hybrid workforces. The pandemic forced us to work from home – and in most cases showed us we could.

Now, with lease agreements sweating the bottom line or empty buildings bloating the balance sheet, there is a huge pressure to get staff to return to the office. Where do you stand on this? You have to have a view and you have to be able to defend it –to your own staff and managers as well as the board.

If you believe in hybrid; letting people come in a couple of times a week and working from home the rest of the time, how do you manage this in an equitable way for all, while ensuring that time spent in person in the office is productive?

How do you get staff to buy in to a return to the office when it means they are going to be stuck in gridlock, because of load shedding; and, will no longer be able to play mom and dad during office hours watching their kids play sport, even though their own productivity is beyond reproach? And how do you manage yourself?

Are you a ‘first in, last out’ kind of manager, at your desk, or a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ type, giving instructions to the underlings but then making sure it doesn’t affect you?

These aren’t HR issues; they are actually all about how you manage. They are part of an evolution that was fast-tracked by COVID in which staff became more empowered, more confident and in many cases more productive, because they were given the opportunity.

The genie has been let out of the bottle and it cannot be pushed back in. It’s your job to manage that, to ensure that your team is cost-efficient and consistently meeting its targets, so that you can help your C-suite peers meet the expectations in the boardroom which are invariably about bottom line and always about Return on Investment.

The truth is the scope of your job is increasing. You have to manage the digital revolution well beyond the new dawn of the fourth industrial revolution. You have to manage a workforce that is increasingly empowered and unashamedly vocal – and you have to deliver results.

It’s not easy at all, but then again operating at that level in any company was never supposed to be – that’s why you get paid so much more because with greater responsibilities come greater rewards.

If you aren’t prepared to lean into these challenges and have a real answer for them; an authentic, measured and properly held one, then perhaps the C-Suite isn’t for you.

Make sure you are up for the challenge by starting your journey today if you haven’t already; upskill yourself, understand the new landscape, but keep on brushing up your core competencies too!

* Lucia Mabasa is chief executive officer director of pinpoint one human resources, a proudly South African black women owned boutique executive search firm providing critical c-suite, specialist and critical skills solutions across industries and professional disciplines, in South Africa and across Africa. Visit their website to find out more or read her previous columns on leadership; avoiding the pitfalls of the boardroom and becoming the best C-suite executive you can be.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.