From Mars to mastery: VP Jennifer Contreras on navigating business change
June 14, 2024

From Mars to mastery: VP Jennifer Contreras on navigating business change

A pre-webinar quick Q&A teaser.

Next week, on June 19th, we'll be hosting our first webinar in our new 'Fresh Perspectives' series. We'll be talking about all things change and transformation with Jennifer Contreras from Mars. A solid People and Organisation VP and Global Experience Owner at Mars, Jennifer brings a wealth of insight to the table, and we know she will have some excellent advice for anyone embarking on business change. Don't miss it. You can sign up for your spot here.

Want to learn more about Jennifer, her role and her experience? We loved interviewing Jennifer earlier this week. Check it out.

Q: What is your role at Mars?
People and Organisation VP & Global Experience Owner.

Q: How long have you been at Mars?
15 years.

Q: What sort of programmes have you been a part of since you started your career? And what does your role at Mars encompass now?
I came to HR later in my career. I started in comms, so change is near and dear to me. I've done everything from when the internet was new, the first online meetings and instituting those, the first travel bookings, whole region organisational restructuring, new operating models, ways of working, and new capabilities. My role now is the full-scale global rethinking of the skills, capabilities, processes, work, and systems involved in how we work - a wide gamut of things - Small change, big change, single function, whole regions. It tends to find me, or I find it because I love to reimagine what can be possible.

Q: What does your role look like in practice?
It covers all things related to people as they relate to the transformation, and that covers the gamut from change, organisation, staffing, resourcing, the change and the transformation itself to thinking about our people processes in the future and how we might transform those to meet our needs better. So it's a wide variety of things.

Q: What has been your most significant achievement since being at Mars?
I have had the pleasure to participate in building some lasting programmes. These are once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-career opportunities, and I've had the pleasure of a few of those: to rethink our operating model and our HR and people function, to rethinking how we do employee relations, to fundamentally shifting the capabilities of our sales organisation in North America to reimagining the capabilities in many of our corporate functions. So, I've had the pleasure of doing things that will live well beyond me, making me hugely proud.

Q: What lessons have you learned through your extensive career in transformation that you would like to share with somebody who was about to embark on a transformation programme of their own?
A few things:

- You have to take a hard look at your leadership and how much currency is in the bank. During a transformation, you will start withdrawing, and it's far too late if you haven't built that currency up until then. Often, everyone wants to run to the transformation and go, "I'm here to help," but if you haven't built that, you're not actually helpful to these people, you don't have a relationship. Just like in a personal context, you're not helpful in a crisis if you don't have a relationship. So, evaluating where that state of affairs is and who those people going through the transformation will look to and see as help.

- Another one is that it's going to be longer, take more time, and cost more money than you think. We're often optimists. We step into these things, and the complexity catches us, but if you're somewhat aware of and planning for it, you're not taken off guard.

- Finally, don't wait to engage in the change for the people-related aspects. The minute there is a transformation, there is something to think through. Don't wait until you've built 'the thing' or decided on the change. Engage early and often.

Q: What personality strengths and characteristics does a leader embracing change need to embody?
Curiosity because everyone's experience of change is wildly different, and it ultimately comes back to an individual level, so if you think you know the answer, you quit asking the question. So, remain curious throughout this change; why do they perceive this? What might need to be different? It is hard to do when you're the one trying to drive this change forward, and you need everyone to get on board.

Focus and resilience. It's very easy for the noise to drown out what you're trying to do; sometimes, that noise is the complexity. Suddenly, it can get very big, and you might have lost focus on the original 'why' or the original vision for the change. You are continually bringing people back to that vision and focus, and you have to have the resilience to weather it. Particularly inside of transformations, it's metamorphosis; it's what is needed from you today. It's ever-changing, and you're on your own change journey as a leader in this space, and you have to recognise that. You're going through this change in some way, shape or form. It will challenge you, and there may well be old ways of thinking that you might need to let go of or old ways of leading that you might need to lay down, which also becomes part of the story.

Want to hear more from Jennifer? Join our free webinar on how you can 'Master Change Leadership' with insights from Mars. Find out more and sign up today using this link:

Join our free 'Change' webinar with Jennifer.

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