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Assessing the director: a CV is only tip of the iceberg

Corporate Governance Signium Africa

State capture, defined as “seeking to influence the formation of laws in order to protect and promote influential private interests”, and its resultant Zondo Commission, continues to shock South Africans from all walks of life.

Signium’s corporate governance specialist, chartered director and Chairman Dr. Simo Lushaba, and Director of Assessments, industrial psychologist Michelle Moss assert that directors, board members and other stakeholders across the range of affected organisations should have noted the red flags and taken appropriate actions.

“The strength of every country lies in its institutions and the robust backbone its professional members must bring to their positions of leadership and the public’s expectation of trust,” says Lushaba. “Directors, particularly those appointed to the Board of an organisation, must be the be-all and end-all of corporate governance.”

His key concern is that professionals are being appointed to these positions of power based only on the skills, qualifications and experience noted in their Curriculum Vitae (CV). “Principle 7 of King IV requires that the Governing Body, of which a Board of Directors is one, should comprise the appropriate balance of knowledge, skills, experience, diversity and independence for it to discharge its governance role and responsibilities objectively and effectively.

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One of the most important trends for 2021 is communication, which will inform every other strategy implemented on the long road to recovery in the new year.

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Navigating the impacts of Covid-19 on business has been likened to building the airplane as we’re flying it. Senior managers are using knowledge passed on from medical and business experts to determine their potential next move – but the catch with a “novel” virus that there are no absolutes.

The only thing anyone can be sure of at this stage is the importance of communications, and mastering the art of distance management. A recent Conference Board survey polled 1 100 workers in the USA and determined that only 28% expect returning to the workplace by the end of 2020, and 38% expect to return “at some point in 2021 or beyond”.

In South Africa, BusinessInsider reports that large corporates – including Dimension Data, Shoprite and RMB – are looking at longer-term “blended” options of allowing staff to work from home at least part of the time.

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Communication: How business success will be determined in 2021

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The speed with which the C-Suite was tasked with managing monumental change as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold is unprecedented, states Annelize van Rensburg, Director: Executive Search, Signium Africa. One thing is becoming clear: no “new normal” is possible without robust new communication skills.

One of the most important trends for 2021 is communication, which will inform every other strategy implemented on the long road to recovery in the new year.

Navigating the impacts of Covid-19 on business has been likened to building the airplane as we’re flying it. Senior managers are using knowledge passed on from medical and business experts to determine their potential next move - but the catch with a “novel” virus that there are no absolutes.

The only thing anyone can be sure of at this stage is the importance of communications, and mastering the art of distance management. A recent Conference Board survey polled 1 100 workers in the USA and determined that only 28% expect returning to the workplace by the end of 2020, and 38% expect to return “at some point in 2021 or beyond”.

In South Africa, BusinessInsider reports that large corporates - including Dimension Data, Shoprite and RMB - are looking at longer-term "blended" options of allowing staff to work from home at least part of the time.

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C-suite’s digital solution to maintaining vital networks

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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.

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Does artificial intelligence challenge corporate governance and the South African legal framework?

Harmony Gold Board Members 2016Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming more popular and powerful. Its application is gaining preference in everyday used processes and operations. It uses algorithms that require less human monitoring and supervision. AI does not only perform routine tasks independently, but now makes difficult life and death decisions on their own, which brings into question the issue of responsibilities and accountability for such decisions. Is corporate governance and the South African law ready for AI"?

Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala of the University of Johannesburg recently asked a fundamental ethical and accountability question to his twitter followers. "A self-driving car carrying a passenger encounters a pedestrian. It either has to avoid the pedestrian and kill the passenger or save the passenger and kill the pedestrian. What should it do? Kill the pedestrian, or kill the passenger, or depends on their age and or Do as the owner programmed". Interestingly, 63.8% of respondents said the car should do as the "owner programmed". Who is the owner in this scenario, Tesla Inc (USA) or the owner of the vehicle? Who should be held accountable for culpable homicide? Is it the ‘driver’ of the driverless car? Is it the manufacturer of the technology or that of the car? What about the directors of those companies that are involved? Do they take responsibility of how the technology/or car is programmed? How far does their duty of care extend to protect the company from such potential legal suites? Is it in the best interest of the company to produce technologies/machines that may have to make such crucial decisions on lives of people?

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Is it Spring or a new season in your executive career?

Spring your career Signium Africa

“The birds they sang, at the break of day. Start again, I heard them say. Don’t dwell on what has passed away.” Leonard Cohen, Anthem.

Spring is in the air, a season of new beginnings. For many executives it might be a good time to start afresh, to review your goals and to map out a new career path.

If there is one thing you will get from taking on a new position now, it’s the invaluable experience of leading an organisation at a unique time in history. If you are up to the challenge, there are companies out there looking for your unique skillsets.

While movement is still limited, there are several things you can do to get on the radar of talent sourcing professionals and win them over. They are still the best way to find a position at executive level.

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Top leadership tips from Maslow’s Pyramid

Although published in 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, remains immensely popular, especially in the business world. It describes human needs as a pyramid  consisting of five tiers of complexity, ranging from basic survival at the bottom to sophisticated self-expression at the top. It has become famously known as Maslow’s Pyramid.

However, it’s also a great model for understanding the role leadership plays in needs fulfilment and how that can help us retain, develop and motivate employees. Since people are more likely to follow leaders who allow them to scale the Pyramid faster, it’s an excellent idea to review it from that perspective.

The levels are: physiological (nutrition, shelter), safety (security, self-protection), love and belonging (family, friendship, community), esteem (achievement, recognition), and self-actualisation (living one’s highest values).

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#LockdownLessons: Keep it flexible, find the balance and remember - you're not alone

As part of our #LockdownLessons series, Bizcommunity is reaching out to South Africa's top industry players to share their experience of the current Covid-19 crisis, how their organisations are navigating these unusual times, where the challenges and opportunities lie, and their industry outlook for the near future.

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Here we talk to Michelle Moss, director of assessments at Signium Africa, to get her take.

BizcommunityHow has the Covid-19 lockdown changed your typical working day?

Michelle Moss: The team has been working harder than ever in terms of longer hours and quicker delivery for our clients. We save time by not travelling to work and meetings during the day and that time is now being spent behind our screens. The downside is that we are probably driving ourselves too hard and we need to find a sustainable pace. We are a people business and while we are still interacting with people all the time, we are doing it virtually rather than in person.

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