One of the main concerns of Kitoko Ltd. is to connect and listen to top leaders from different enterprises and industries, gain insights from their experiences, and share them with our community. On this occasion, we connected remotely with the Latin American region to speak with Norberto Carlos Rodríguez, Sr. Foreign Trade Manager in LATAM for Kellogg Company. Through his knowledge, Norberto shared with us his thoughts on how leaders should lead high-performance teams in the current post-pandemic times.
We know that the world today is not as we used to know it before the pandemic. Processes within organizations have been modified and the way talent within organizations is managed has demanded leaders to readapt to new leadership schemes. In our talk with Norberto, a series of questions on how to lead high-performance teams in the current post-pandemic times were asked to him. His experience and thoughts are shared through his answers and highly valuable knowledge is shared through his +15 years in a leadership role in different MNCs.
From your leadership experience, was it harder to lead teams before, during, or after the pandemic?
“Incredible but today, it is easier to manage your team’s talent from a distance. In the wake of the pandemic, what many employees in organizations were asking for became a reality. Today, working from the comfort of your home allows you to enjoy time with your family, less commuting time to the office, more time to exercise, and generally have more time for yourself. Organizations have realized that flexible and remote working schemes are here to stay. All corporations need to understand that if they want to attract the right and competent talent they need to offer this to the labor market. COVID has taught us as managers and enterprises that the right talent can be anywhere in the globe, not necessarily and very probably in your city or even country”.
What are the interpersonal skills that leaders need today to lead teams effectively in this outliving world?
“Like many others, the most important skills for leading remote teams are not always taught in school or at home and are acquired through experience and development. Flexibility and open-mindedness are essential today to manage your talent. As leaders, we must be very sensitive to our people and be aware that teams cannot be connected 24/7 on the computer and that professional life is getting closer and closer to personal life. You have to open your mind, be flexible and empathize with your team by giving them the support they need”.
How can a leader boost a team’s energy and engagement to aim not only a professional but as well personal development today?
“This is one of the difficult points that working at a distance with our teams has brought us. Despite having virtual meetings constantly, it is true that the sense of aspiration and growth has been affected.
Here I strongly believe that the most important thing is that as leaders we maintain transparent communication with the team and take an interest not only in the professional but also in the personal situation of each member. Making the individuals in our teams feel that before being their leaders, we are human and empathize with their circumstances is crucial to awaken that sense of connection. Even two years after the pandemic, there are still many people who are personally hit by complex personal situations, and that is where we must connect and empathize to inspire”
How can leaders acquire and sharpen their leadership skills to become aspirational figures for their teams?
“Today more than ever, strengthening our soft skills and continuing our personal and professional development is essential. Specifically, our communication skills become crucial. Being transparent with our teams gives them security, being empathetic on a personal level gives them confidence, and demonstrating optimism and resilience shows them security.”
Which do you consider today are the success criteria that companies seek in the agile labor market?
“In the first instance, the same that I have mentioned previously as today’s leader’s requirements. The top talent in the market is composed of individuals who are flexible, open, and transparent. Knowledge is something that will always have a great weight in people, however, nowadays competencies, interpersonal and soft skills can be equally important as knowledge. «Being a good team player, agile, with a strong sense of values, and willingness is something that leaders and recruiters look for in the new generation of talent».
If you could give other leaders only one piece of advice to reshape and become aspirational leadership models with their teams today, which would it be?
I don’t want to sound repetitive, but totally what I have remarked before. Be open-minded towards your people and your team. Many times they have great ideas and proposals on how to work better at a distance, how to accomplish objectives faster, and more. It’s all about listening to them and trusting their capacity and their skills.
The post-pandemic world has forced organizations to redesign the workplace as well as the organization itself. In that sense, leaders have had to reinforce and acquire new skills to be able to (from a distance) lead their teams effectively and continue growing personally and professionally. According to Norberto’s experience and his learnings from this new journey, organizations are day-to-day in search of talent that goes beyond the “know-how”. The bet is to the talent that enriches the organization through their competencies, soft, and interpersonal skills. Being a leader today implies having a great sense of flexibility and an enormous capacity for open-mindedness. People today need to see their leaders beyond the formalities of the office, they need to see their leader as a person who supports and understands them.
Norberto is a multicultural executive in Supply Chain, Customer Service, Logistics, and Foreign Trade with 22 years of experience in CPGs (Consumer Packaged Goods), aerospace, automotive, and electronics industries. In addition, he has more than 15 years of teaching business subjects at Tecnológico de Monterrey, ranked as the third best university in Mexico and 28th worldwide.
He currently manages remote teams for 8 different countries in Latin America for Kellogg’s.