Jan Zijderveld - President of Unilever Europe
I have worked in virtually every part of the business, in countries across the world with very different cultures. Mentors and great managers have helped me to learn in every role. They have consistently supported me to develop my career. Now I’m currently mentoring several people, including some of our great women leaders. It is a big part of my day, and I see it as a real contribution to helping our business achieve the next level.
I get inspiration from both inside and outside of the business. Having spent an important part of my life in New Zealand, I am deeply inspired by the country’s legendary rugby team. Ian Foster, my university friend and an assistant coach with the All Blacks, has shared some great insights. He stressed that the art of mentoring is about understanding how each team player requires a different approach, and then helping them figure this out for themselves.
Our consumers, society, the economy, the retail landscape and technology are going through some of the biggest changes we have seen. My role has evolved into something much broader and holistic. Leaders today need to be engaged with societal and environmental issues. This requires a whole new set of skills and competences, including a knowledge of the digital space. That is why I particularly value mentoring new graduates, who keep me up to speed with the latest trends.
Investing in talent is at the centre of everything I am doing, and I am asking my leadership team to reflect this thinking too. I see myself as a conductor that enables teams to reach excellence. This means developing people’s capabilities and helping them to understand what is needed in today’s dramatically changing business environment. It is about unleashing their power and showing how they can add value by being curious and focused on the dynamics of the world around us.