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C-suite’s digital solution to maintaining vital networks


Connecting with like-minded people to broaden our parameters of success is an age-old practice, writes *Annelize van Rensburg, Director at Signium Africa. Now, though, we’re navigating unprecedented times – which call for new ways to engage in building robust business relationships.

Finding our feet during the global pandemic has required business leaders to tap into their collective agility, while maintaining stability within their organisations. Some have been fortunate enough to retain their resources, while others have had to make tough decisions.

Pre-pandemic networking often saw the C-suite getting together with their peers at an intimate breakfast, conference or even a golf day. Covid-19 not only changed the conversation, but also way in which we could maintain those vital connections.

Talk turned to the virus, effects of lockdown on the economy, and re-opening markets safely – and all this networking had to be done virtually.

Virtual challenges in the real world

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, CEO of insurer Generali Deutschland AG, Giovanni Liverani, says he held regular phone calls and video chats with CEOs of other companies about the virus, talking to airlines to deal with logistics issues, and regulators to address policy issues.

Importantly, Liverani notes that he also engaged with his own personal network of chief executives to discuss the broader impact of the virus and specific strategies to keep things running.

For executives trying to determine what the post-pandemic “new normal” will look like, Liverani says: “I’m not sure we’re going to get back to normal. We are trying to define a new way of working in the insurance industry that does not rely on big offices.” Therein lies the value of broad networking among business leaders.

Digital as the new boardroom

In any market, leadership leans heavily on effective communications, and 2020 has created a global boardroom on Teams, Zoom and other platforms for us to keep organisations and their networks in touch. In many instances, management had to play catch-up to ensure engagement at a professional and impactful level.

Big business in South Africa quickly perfected the art of the virtual meeting, and communications continued. Leaders with a presence on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn were able to use those to engage and grow their network - but for some, this was new a whole new playing field.

Getting the best out of social media

The value of social media platforms for executives is hard to beat, especially when you note that “social” is interchangeable with “network” for businesses. When updated regularly and with articles or blogs valuable to your specific market, LinkedIn can help create an international network of like-minded professionals and provide the opportunity to learn innovative ways to deal with issues from various quarters.

Twitter is a tickertape of information from people you choose to follow, where you can encourage readership of your blogs, articles and ideas, resulting in a network keen to share your experience and their own with others. WhatsApp calls and videos, webinars and online communications such as blogs and vlogs also provide speedy and simple ways to connect.

As we continue to step lightly into an era of some uncertainty, business leaders need their network more than ever before. By taking advantage of the digital space, a world of opportunities awaits.

To paraphrase Liverani, 2021 offers us the chance to explore a new way of working – and networking - that doesn’t rely on big offices.

Annelize*Annelize van Rensburg is Director: Executive Search of Signium Africa, a leading executive search and talent management company that assists organisations across sub-Saharan Africa.

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