Every good executive has stories to tell and plenty of lessons to teach about effective leadership and management styles, but even those at the top had to learn from somewhere else along the way. Earlier this month Mondelez International CEO Irene Rosenfeld penned an essay for Fortune magazine discussing the biggest leadership lesson that she herself has learned within the past year. Rosenfeld, the biggest lesson learned—and the lesson she is passing down to anyone else who may need it—is the critical importance of being transparent and open in communication with your employees.
“One of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned over the past year is the importance of leading from the front in challenging times,” says Rosenfeld in her essay. “What I mean by that is getting out to the markets, providing employees with context for the changes we’re making and being transparent about what’s working and what’s not. In times of change, people need to understand the context for the change so they can more fully appreciate why it’s necessary. Change is hard, and so you need to have a clear and powerful vision for others to believe in, and you must communicate that vision constantly and consistently.”
Indeed, when changes are issued from the top without explanation, it can be a strong source of frustration for employees—and in many cases, it can raise suspicions and lead to employees theorizing explanations of their own, ultimately cutting into morale. But when changes are preceded by clear strategies, employees may be more understanding and even excited, willing to get on board with new mandates and directions.
Rosenfeld also praised the prevalence of new communication tools in helping with this management technique, especially for a global business like Mondelez International. “With thousands of people in 80 countries speaking many different languages, we must depend on other channels of communication as well,” she noted. “A priority is to equip our leaders with the skills, messages and tools to engage face-to-face with their people, complemented by a steady drumbeat of news updates via intranet stories, social media chats, videos and so on.”
Check out the full essay for more.