How CEOs Can Lead When The Winds Of Change Are Blowing

3 min read · 6 years ago


Sailing ship yachts with white sailsWe joined the Executives’ Club of Chicago for breakfast recently to hear Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO of the global snacking powerhouse Mondelēz International, discuss leadership in turbulent times. And Rosenfeld certainly offers a wise perspective on change: it was under her leadership that Mondelēz was launched as a snack spin-off of Kraft Foods, establishing itself as a world leader in chocolate, biscuits, gum, candy, and more. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows: growth happened slowly at first due to things like rising costs of supplies, climate change, explosions in world population, and all the other uncontrollable factors that any business owner knows all too well.

Asked to give a speech on how to lead during turbulent times, Rosenfeld laughed and said, “Times are always turbulent, so get over it!” and offered these 4 lessons she’s learned that she wants to pass on to CEOs and leaders facing change.

1) Control The Controllable

Rosenberg quoted Jimmy Dean for this lesson: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails.” Whether the winds that buffet your business are rising costs or shortage of much-needed resources, you can’t control what the challenges you will face. But you can control how you meet them. Rather than sitting tight and hoping the future will be better, adjust your course and navigate on.

2) 95 Percent Of Success Is Execution

According to Rosenberg, we should spend five percent of our time developing our strategy, and 95 percent of our time executing it. Once Rosenberg decided to make Mondelēz a snack spin-off of Kraft, execution took a lot of time and attention: changing the organizational structure to mesh with the company aspirations, simplifying processes, focusing investment on high-performance regions. New positions were created within the company to ensure that they weren’t attempting to do something new while approaching it the same old way. This is a particularly interesting way of thinking about and embracing change: it’s an opportunity to approach old processes and structures with a fresh set of eyes and goals.

3) Get The Right People On The Bus

A good CEO understands that changing a company isn’t hopping into a fast car and speeding off into the sunset, waving for everyone to follow. You need a bus—sometimes a lot of buses—and you need to get the right people on board with you. This means finding agile leaders with a global mindset, both internally and externally, mentoring them and nurturing them to be inspired and invigorated by change. You can’t do it alone, and the right leaders with the right levels of the excitement can guide the rest of the company on to greatness.

4) Manage Change Constantly And With Consistent Communication

Most CEOs have a clear and powerful vision of their company’s future—this is how they became CEOs to begin with. But communicating that vision is just as important as the vision itself, in ways that are effective and timely. Rosenfeld described global meetings with conversations led by her, but also videos, social media initiatives, internal community meetings, and videos, all with the goal of transparently discussing upcoming changes. Alignment can mean the difference between collapse and success.

It’s true—things are always turbulent when you’re running a business, and the bigger the business the more there is at stake. But when Rosenberg says “get over it,” she doesn’t mean resign yourself to a bumpy road. She means putting on your climbing gear and tackling the mountain ahead.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: How CEOs Can Lead When The Winds Of Change Are Blowing

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