Irene Rosenfeld is the CEO of Mondelez International, one of the largest snack companies in the world. With $26 billion in annual sales, they count Oreos and Ritz crackers among their products. So it’s probably safe to say she knows a thing or two about how to manage women (and men!) to create results.
When asked for her best piece of business advice, she shared this:
“I think my very best piece of advice is be yourself.
You know, I grew up in business at a time where there weren’t very many female role models, and so in the early days we wore little bow ties like the guys, and we talked about the Army even though we weren’t in the Army. And the reality was that wasn’t the right way to approach the business world.
Over time, there is more understanding of the value of diversity… [more opportunities] to be able to express ourselves and approach business in a way that makes the most sense for us.”
Interview with Sara Silverstein for Business Insider, 2017
A different style of leadership?
As Irene points out, it’s only relatively recently that women have played an active role in the workforce and been able to show up as ourselves in business.
As more and more of us begin to take leadership roles, and to nurture and support those rising up beneath us, the question of how to manage women is vital for us to consider.
Of course, Not all women are the same. There’s no “one way” to manage women any more than there’s “one way” to manage men.
But the growth of a more diverse and balanced workforce has triggered a healthy evolution of what was once a very uniformly patriarchal, masculine model of doing business.
As more and more women have risen to positions of leadership, we’ve all gained a greater understanding of the unique role women can play in helping businesses reach their goals.
This can help all of us, both women and men, approach business in a more nuanced way than before.
As Irene reflects,
“Our emerging workforce is not interested in command-and-control leadership. They don’t want to do things because I said so; they want to do things because they want to do them.”
Being a manager requires flexibility
Managing people works best when we understand that flexibility and openness to different ideas allows us to tap into the techniques which are most effective at any given time.
After all, all sorts of factors influence the best choices to make when it comes to managing our teams.
- The current business environment
- The length of time the individuals have been in post
- Previous management styles
- Company culture
- Current priorities and goals for the business
And if you’re not in the corporate world, you can probably apply these to your own situation, or even your family (Teething toddler + family goal to get a solid night’s sleep? That’s a leadership challenge if ever I heard one!)
Managing women tends to flow best when we add into that context an awareness that most women experience regular cycles (whether or not they’re menstruating). Our mood, motivation and talents fluctuate, and will respond best to leadership that’s able to flex and adapt to that.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that you ask your team personal questions about their cycles, or ascribe poor performance to “hormones” or “women’s troubles.” After all, that would simply be perpetuating the idea that there’s one linear “norm” that anything else diverts from.
But try noticing how your team, whether they be men or women, are feeling at any given time.
Do they feel fired up, energetic, bursting with ideas? It could be a great time to harness that exciting energy to come up with new strategies…
Are they fed up and complaining? Maybe that decisiveness and awareness of what’s not working could allow you to trim unnecessary processes and get clarity on any areas that have felt fuzzy.
Women know how to manage women
As women managing women, we also have our own cycles and flows to pay attention to. We have access to powerful styles of leadership that allow us to draw on our natural strengths and embrace the flow of our energy to maximise how effective and fruitful we can be.
When it comes to enhancing your strength as a leader and giving your team the best chance of getting on board with your plans, knowing your strengths and weaknesses is invaluable. It’s also helpful to know how your energy flows throughout the day, week or month, and which tasks and activities are optimum for you to undertake at each time.
Bringing this level of nuance to your own workflow will bring a fresh momentum that can completely revitalise your ability to reach and surpass your goals.
There’s no one size fits all
So, how to manage women? There’s no simple answer to that question. We’re creating a new paradigm of leadership, that involves paying attention to the people we work with and ourselves, and using that connection to find what works for us.
There’s no need to follow tired ways of doing things, just as there’s no need to reinvent the wheel without good reason. Staying open, following your instincts and never being afraid to shift things up or experiment is what will create the future we all want to see.
Do you want to transform the results you get with your team, your clients or yourself? Register for our complimentary training to explore this topic further and discover how the 5 Women’s PowerTypes ™ can be used in your coaching, consulting and management to bring the best out in the women you work with (and yourself). Click here to access The Essential Skills for Coaching Women.
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