Previously there was the chief, now the headlines are full of consultants who move directly into management positions at companies without contributing any management experience.
Management comes in many guises. At SMEs, little has changed in regard to management in the past 50 years, but this is different for large corporations. Successful managers of corporations can move to an SME, but the opposite is more or less impossible. A consultant often works for large companies and helps them to manage change processes. In this way he sees what works and what does not. If a consultant would like to be actively involved in the implementation of measures and take on responsibility, he can be an asset for the company. As a consultant, the specialist career takes precedence, but when changing to a management position, social skills are also in demand.
But what is successful management? What makes a good manager?
As former Federal Councillor Adolf Ogi said once, you have to like people. In addition to the fact that a good manager must reach the set objectives with his team, social skills are an important factor for sustained success. Good bosses can recognise the potential of their employees, develop their employees further and strategically deploy them to ensure the success of the company. A «modern» manager puts the focus on «we», the team. A good boss can inspire his team, regularly informs them where they are going, easily takes decisions and creates a culture of trust that offers enough leeway to exploit the employees’ potential in full. A manager must also accept that he cannot always personally win every round. He must be committed to the good of the whole rather than his own ego.
Your answer shows that social skills actually play a central role. Is this a priority when top managers are selected?
Yes. Strong companies have their own definition of the term «successful management». Only those who have determined what good management is can measure or at least try to measure good management. As a result, every selection procedure strongly emphasises social skills, which nowadays are always measured by in-depth assessments.
As a head hunter, what is your impression of the top management teams of insurance companies?
For many years I have had a very good impression of the management teams in the insurance sector. The long-term horizon that underlies the insurance business is expressed in the vision and actions of management. Insurance companies have a balanced approach to risk and a good understanding of how to measure objective achievement. However, all these advantages could also lead to a lack of innovation, as stability is more important than taking risks.
How will the requirements to be met by managers change in the next ten years?
Companies in future will be more complex, networked, global and faster. The employees of the future will be more confident, freedom-loving, reflective and much more choosy about when, how and where they want to work. To bring these two diverging developments together will be a central challenge for the managers of the future. Basic requirements include mastery of change management, the optimal use of new technological tools and the ability to positively negotiate this «jungle» where totally different value systems meet. In future, the management coach will be more in demand than the traditional boss. The employees of the future will be more focused on themselves and will make themselves available for a task if they can see its sense for themselves. Traditional incentive systems will no longer work for the confident employees of tomorrow.
Does limited willingness to perform explain why we have the largest proportion of foreigners in boards of directors and executive boards in Switzerland? Are the Swiss less ready to perform?
It can generally be said that above-average willingness to perform is not found to the same extent in a saturated market dominated by affluence and security as in a growth market. But this is not the primary reason for the large foreigner quota in top management. Switzerland has many globally successful companies. Because these companies only have a small local pond in which to fish for talent, they often have to import competent people from the countries where their competitors operate. Take Swiss as an example: if the airline needs to recruit managers, it can either look for them internally or at other airlines. But other airlines are only found abroad. It is far from wrong for companies who generate only 5% of their value in Switzerland to strengthen themselves with employees from the countries where they do the lion’s share of their business.
Will Swissness remain a success factor?
In an ever faster turning world, stability, trust and reliability will become even more important. Swiss companies and Switzerland as a whole are synonymous with these values, that are deeply rooted. In future we must build and rely on these strengths even more than today, instead of looking abroad.
Will pension fund benefits become a decisive factor when recruiting employees in future?
The pension fund is a hygiene factor. To be attractive as an employer, the hygiene factors — which include social benefits, a good location and an attractive work atmosphere — must be right. But they add little to differentiation: hygiene factors bring little advantage for an employer, but if they are missing, the employer will lose a lot of standing.