By Mary Thomason-Smith
Effective leaders understand there’s power in making connections. With your customers. Among team members. Even with yourself.
For students in the No. 1-ranked Kelley Direct online MBA program, connections happen through dynamic online learning experiences, transformative immersion courses, and opportunities to engage with an international Kelley alumni network. Kelley Direct’s webinar series—Conversations with the C-suite—connects Kelley students, alumni, faculty, and staff, offering valuable executive insights and advice.
A fine-tuned ability to connect sets Anton Vincent, MBA’93, president of Mars Wrigley, North America, apart as a renowned leader of a multi-billion dollar consumer brand portfolio. In his Conversations with the C-suite interview with Idie Kesner, dean of the Kelley School of Business and Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management, the Kelley MBA alumnus shares how you can tap into the power of connection:
“The first thing for me that’s important as a person and as a leader is authenticity. Understand who you are. How do you bring your values to your role as a leader? Make sure you bring your whole self to your leadership experiences. I’ve tried to stay true to that and I think it has served me well. The second thing is pretty basic: care about people. No leader is an island. There’s not much you can do by yourself as a leader. By and large, your leadership acumen, credibility, and success are driven by how you deal with others. Connect with others in a way that is supportive of their development.”
Pay attention to feedback
“When I was coming up through the ranks, one of the things I had to do was to have a healthy relationship with feedback, making sure I was listening and understanding the feedback. Grasp when people are trying to articulate things to you on your behalf, even though they’re difficult to hear.”
Get clear on what you need
“Whether you’re a coach or a CEO, you have to have a clear understanding around what you need. The first thing I do is to make sure my assessment of the situation, mandate, and framework is clear in my mind. Then, recruiting and team-building begins. Two things that are sometimes hard to find are people who can work together and move in pace. For example, I know I like to move fast, but I need someone who works more slowly and deliberately to offset my orientation for a fast pace. Make sure you understand your own tendencies. Finally, your team is always changing. Continue to position a team to get upgraded, to get more development, to get more expertise.”
“Learn how to integrate new things to be relevant. Vet your own thinking and tendencies. If you can’t connect the dots, or understand how to help others manage and achieve, you won’t be successful. I know what my core competencies are, and I spend more time connecting the dots to leverage the organization. I’m making sure all the talent, resources, and energy in the organization are connected at the right frequency. Connect with things outside of what you would consider business operations—other geographies, governments, regulations. Now, all of us, whether we know it or not, are in global businesses. Understand what’s happening in those markets. How can you get that information? How can you stay current? And then, how can you put other people in a position to be successful?”
Take measured risks
“I try to be fact-based and quantify risk, particularly when dealing with large amounts of money, or with implications for the brand reputation. Measure the risk and the parameters around it. Allow the data to guide you. Risk tolerance is a function of having that information.”
“I’ve developed an ability to understand how to recharge physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I think it helps me get through very long, intense days. I know that more frequent breaks are better for me. I take my vacations. I must say, I haven’t always done that. The human body and mind can run, but they may break. They work on cycles. I think I’ve learned how my body and my mind cycles.”