MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for:What is the biggest leadership lesson you’ve learned in the past year? is written by Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez.
One of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned over the past year is the importance of leading from the front in challenging times. 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.
Being transparent has also been critical to our transformation. For example, since last year when we announced our most recent initiatives, we’ve had regular and extensive communications with our colleagues. Of course, this includes regular global updates from me. But with thousands of people in 80 countries speaking many different languages, we must depend on other channels of communication as well. 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.
In fact, I brought our top 60 leaders together in Zurich at the end of last year. You can imagine that was a tough decision coming in the midst of our zero-based budgeting process. But I have to tell you, it was worth every penny to get our top leaders together to hear our story, understand where we were going and ask questions. They left our meeting aligned and inspired, and they brought that enthusiasm back to their teams. The key to managing any kind of change is to communicate honestly, frequently and consistently. In times like these, the news isn’t always rosy, but I’ve learned over and over again that silence is far more frightening than bad news.