The best strategies of company leaders

Maneuver through the crisis like a shark: With a few tips and tricks, you can even get through stressful times.

Good morning, dear readers,

41 percent of top managers in Germany observe burnout symptoms themselves. This was the result of a recent survey by the McKinsey management consultancy’s Health Institute. In concrete terms, this means that more than every third manager and every third manager at the upper levels – people with titles such as CEO, CFO, Director or Vice President – regularly suffers from extreme tiredness, increasingly loses interest in work or locks up in the job like private. For employees who are not managers, this proportion is significantly lower at 24 percent.

A lot of responsibility makes you sick more often. A connection that is also likely to be due to the fact that the country and its companies are stuck in a large number of crises, some of which overlap or cause one another – and the end of which is hardly in sight. War in Ukraine, energy transition, inflation, recession, climate crisis, pandemic aftermath, digitalization of business models, shortage of skilled workers: all at the same time, all equally urgent.

And then there’s that uncompleted mandatory safety training course.

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Gone are the days when everyday management could be divided into crisis and normality, into short sprints, which were then followed by a longer phase of everyday entrepreneurial life. In our Friday cover story, we tell you what this concentration means for company leaders and what type of boss is now in demand.

Tip: If you don’t know what “contextual intelligence” means, you might not be one of them.

In addition, seven experienced top managers give us exclusive insights into the methods with which they master the daily madness. Oliver Blume, for example, who manages two DAX companies in Volkswagen and Porsche, always carries an up-to-date monthly and annual overview of appointments with him when he travels, printed out in DIN A3 format and with color codes for different types of appointments: Porsche is yellow, Volkswagen orange.

For Blume, managing both groups at the same time is like playing the Champions League, and that consistently: “They pass quickly and shoot at goal from every position.”

Anyone who ends up with Christian Graz, head of psychosomatics at the Max Grundig Clinic, which specializes in sick executives, could no longer keep up with the high tempo of the game. In communicating with his manager patients, the psychosomatic patient has gotten used to using his very own choice of words: “For example, if you come to us with typical stress symptoms such as tachycardia, dizziness and insomnia, I can’t just say to you after ruling out an organic cause: you are physically healthy but have depression. The top performer doesn’t want to hear that. We prefer to talk about work-related burnouts.”

Because our top readers might not want to hear that, we’re not just going to change the topic, but rather talk about a “newsletter-related transition” to the next topic.


The technology industry is firing more employees than ever before. In the first few weeks of 2023, US tech companies alone laid off around 60,000 employees, compared to around 160,000 in the previous year. And now a German software company is also cutting 3,000 jobs in SAP.

At first glance, the downsizing is surprising given that most tech companies are making good profits. SAP also earned 4.7 billion euros last year.

The technology industry has grown enormously in the Corona years. Facebook parent Meta and Amazon doubled their workforces during the pandemic, while Microsoft and Google increased their headcount by half. SAP also hired more than 11,000 new employees during the pandemic. Analyst Dan Ives of US investment firm Wedbush says many companies have “spent like rock stars did in the 1980s.”

In view of the ongoing shortage of skilled workers, the layoffs are surprising. If you let go today, you might want to be on board again next year. And severance pay isn’t just expensive. The motivation of the remaining workforce also decreases. Jeffrey Pfeffer from Stanford University brings “social contagion” into play as the real reason: “Companies imitate each other.”

Many managers would know that the layoffs hurt the company. But the supervisory boards saw the staff cuts at other groups and called for similar measures in their own company. Because the supervisors are often under pressure themselves because the share prices of most tech companies have fallen sharply.

Let’s be honest: If, as CEO, I had to fire thousands of hard-to-replace specialists against my better judgment because my supervisory board demands it, even though they also know better – then I wouldn’t be far from “work-related burnout” anymore.

The best thing about the stock annuity is its name. share, that sounds like high return opportunities. And pension, that sounds like maximum reliability. In sum, first an energy drink, then valerian.

FDP and Greens are arguing about faster planning procedures for motorways.

But can the new, funded arm of the statutory pension insurance that is now being launched fulfill these hopes? Bert Rürup, President of the Handelsblatt Research Institute, is skeptical: “The new share pension comes too late, and its share of pension expenditure is small.” This does not mean that it is wrong to build such a pillar – in many countries the share of funded pensions is far higher than in Germany.

Rürup makes the real problem clear using a simple calculation example: In the next 15 years, a share pension capital stock of 150 billion euros is to be built up. With optimistic yield expectations, the annual income can be used to cover the pension payments for six days – with a downward trend. Not enough to dampen the foreseeable premium explosion.

After more than three hours, the coalition leaders ended their deliberations on a possible acceleration of planning procedures in traffic without a result. The core of the dispute: Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) wants the future construction of railway lines, but also of motorways, for which an urgent need has been identified, to be in the “overriding public interest”. This is intended to speed up the approval process and facilitate court proceedings. The Greens, on the other hand, don’t quite want to see why motorways need such preferential treatment.

I wish you a pleasant, gladly accelerated transition into the weekend.

Best regards

Your Christian Rickens

Editor-in-Chief Handelsblatt

Morning Briefing: Alexa

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