Identifying the Right Leaders during Crisis Management – Can you hire someone you haven’t met?

Identifying the Right Leaders during Crisis Management – Can you hire someone you haven’t met?

This global coronavirus pandemic has placed us all in unchartered territory where business plans have been thrown out the window overnight and we are all adjusting to globally ever-changing circumstances. Consensus is that we won’t return to ‘normal’ and as such we have to deal with this new reality. We find ourselves having to act quickly with the information as we get it and react quickly to come up with the answers in real time.

This is rapid ‘business survival of the fittest’ unlike anything we have seen before, and how our leaders respond to the current situation will dictate what our businesses look like ‘on the other side’.

It is a time to make decisions quickly, to get the balance between consulting with everyone and making a quick decision based on 80% of the information. It is the time to rapidly assess your business and your people, understand what the new reality looks like, where the opportunities are and innovate quickly to capitalise on these where you have the capability.

Critically across your business, you need to identify who are your key leaders to steer you through this phase and who are your strong operational implementers who will quickly adjust your systems and processes to new ways of working.

For many, cashflow challenges have led to widespread and rapid employee cutbacks and unfortunately this is not the time to carry underperformers or individuals who are unable to adjust to change.

Fred Swaniker, Founder & CEO of Africa Leadership Group, recently stated on a crisis management webinar hosted by, ‘It’s easy to fall into the victim mindset. We need to move out of that and understand the things we CAN control’. So, what can we control and what can we do?

There are pockets of industries where this pandemic has led to unprecedented demand for exciting products and services, but even these may need to be delivered in a new way, often through the rapid adoption of new technologies. What we CAN do is adjust business plans and refocus to work out how these demands can be met.

Some manufacturing companies have moved to working two, sometimes three shifts in a 24-hour period requiring solutions to human capital and leadership challenges, and to accessing greater supplies of raw materials. This may place strains on working capital, but the banks are ready to lend where a strong finance leader can demonstrate a robust business plan which will give sufficient security to new lending.

There are other businesses whose strong cashflow positions and an agile leadership team are enabling them to take advantage of a ‘pause’ by their competitors and maximise on commercial opportunities which will enable them to gain market share. What we CAN do in this situation is act quickly and decisively with solutions which offer different ways of working or new Terms of Engagement which meet the needs of the current environment.

Indeed, Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, believes we may be entering a ‘winner takes all’ phase which would be the ultimate ‘survival of the fittest’ and that many businesses will fall by the wayside in the coming weeks and months, unable to evolve to the new reality.

What is also rapidly becoming clear is that this will also lead to demand for a different set of skills post-COVID-19;

There will be the need to identify leaders who can quickly realise new revenue streams and effectively navigate their business to formulate and achieve new long-term strategy and objectives.

Almost all of us were not expecting this, which means many business-critical leadership roles are open at a time when organisations really can’t afford for them to be. Many of these positions cannot wait for the lockdown to be lifted or for travel bans to be resumed in order to get these leaders on board, even if that means they will be working virtually in the immediate future.

Many companies still need to hire, still want to hire leaders to get that competitive edge. So how do you navigate this? Most people like to meet potential new employees face to face and historically wouldn’t make that final hiring decision without ‘seeing and feeling the product’. This has to change in order to stay ahead.

At Executives in Africa we are sitting on the front row, witnessing the companies who are pushing forward and who are finding ways to hire without meeting people ‘in the flesh’. Indeed, our first four weeks of lockdown have seen every member of our nearly thirty strong team working flat out to deliver between four and six shortlists each week for multiple Business Development roles, for key Governance positions and for start-up divisions who have spotted an opportunity to expand at this time.

So, don’t let the lockdown stop your business moving forwards and competing in the new landscape.

If you are in the fortunate position to hire, how can we help you have the confidence to hire someone you haven’t actually met?

We have put together a practical guide to mitigating against risks when hiring remotely. We want to support your business to have the confidence to move forwards with 90% certainty that you have done the right due diligence on your new Business Leader to make up for the fact that you might not be able to physically meet that person right now.

We have done it ourselves and for clients. We would welcome your thoughts and feedback, but most of all we want to support you by giving you the confidence to hire at these challenging times.

Please reach out to either of our MDs, Richard Putley at or Sarah FitzMorris at and we will help you make the right decision for your business.

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Download our guide ‘EiA Virtual Hiring Report’ as a PDF below.

EiA_Virtual_Hiring_Report_2020 (PDF)

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