Leading The Change Through Self-Awareness with The Kraft Heinz Benelux Managing Director, Bob Rog

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April 14, 2021
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With everything going on in our world today, building a culture of inclusion is more important now than ever. As we deal with uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders are focusing on building an inclusive and equitable culture to foster human connection and create diverse and cohesive teams.
Every week, Ebere Akadiri sits down with influential business leaders who are creating positive social change in diversity, inclusion and equity, finding out the backstory behind their journey to the top and how they are leading the transition towards a more inclusive and equitable world.
This episode featured a live conversation with Bob Rog, Managing Director Benelux at The Kraft Heinz Company. Bob is passionate about diversity and belonging and shared the backstory of how self-awareness has helped him lead more inclusively and equitably.

What does it mean to be an inclusive leader?

Firstly, Bob Rog kicked off by saying that to be an inclusive leader is to accept diversity as a fact because this is not a subjective opinion; it is objective and a fact of life. Over 30 per cent of the Netherlands is from a migration background. Secondly, Bob said that inclusive leadership involves understanding why diversity is important for business. There are many commercial reasons for this, but the place to start is a moral one; it is right to pursue a more diverse workforce and equal opportunities for all. From the business side, diverse teams are more successful. The key thing is to listen to people who are different from you.

How does Bog Rog define self-awareness, and why is it important in leadership and inclusion?

Self-awareness can help us embrace diversity and inclusion.
For Bob Rog, self-awareness is helpful on the individual level because he learned that he is “an individual part of a system of many people”. To be self-aware is to understand your strengths and weakness, what makes you happy, where you can help, and where you need help. For Bob, learning is nutrition for the brain; self-awareness allows you to know what you are good at and where you need to improve and grow as a person. Bob looks at self-awareness as the opposite of self-interest. According to him, it is an objective analysis of yourself with the help of others.
Self-awareness has helped him as a leader because it has allowed him to understand how lucky he has been in his personal and professional life. His profile ticks many boxes regarding success statistics as a white male. By understanding how fortunate he has been in his starting position, he developed a moral obligation to help others positively. Bob surrounds himself with people who have provided feedback to develop his way of thinking in terms of growth and inclusion.

What has Bob Rog chosen to challenge, and why does it matter?

Bob Rog stated that he has chosen to be more openly outspoken about topics he values. Heinz has been working hard to solve diversity in the organization more openly. There is still a way to go at the managerial level.

How is Bob Rog owning the responsibility of advancing gender equality at Heinz?

Previously, the Kraft Heinz Managerial team in Benelux did not have any women, and now there are four out of nine, so there has been some progress.
Below the managerial level, Kraft Heinz’s female employees account for 52% of its workforce. There needs to be an improvement on the managerial level, where few women occupy positions. It is an ongoing process – being more open to listening and creating more opportunities for women to attain managerial positions. Bob highlighted that women hesitate because if they go on maternity leave, they feel insecure about their career progression afterwards. Kraft Heinz has taken the initiative of providing a clearer exit and return-to-work plan for women to be set in place before maternity. Kraft Heinz will commit to being “a mirror of society” in the coming years, starting by improving mid-manager level female representation and taking it from there. Otherwise, Heinz risks losing a significant part of its junior workforce, which these women represent.

How is Heinz making its workforce more diverse for people of colour and ethnic minorities in Europe?

Bob addressed inclusion by distinguishing between the hiring process and the behaviour in the office and work culture. The first part of recruitment is to speak to a diverse set of candidates and develop strategies to form partnerships with these groups. The hiring process needs to be as inclusive as possible and artificial intelligence plays a role in assessing the candidates in the fairest way possible. Kraft Heinz supports many initiatives, such as the global leadership accelerator for women network, to help women in their careers. Kraft Heinz also has business resource groups for underrepresented segments of the company; this has held Kraft Heinz accountable for diversity in the workplace. Bob Rog was keen to follow up on where the company is later in the year.

How has Bog Rog managed his self-care, and what tips can he offer?

Bob highlighted that this is still a struggle. Meeting and interacting with people creates order and energy, mentally speaking. Acknowledging that this is temporary and that it makes sense that you are not as strong mentally and physically is a good starting point.
Working on the root cause is next. Socially interact with the limited number of people you can and create structure in your days. He also recommended treating your day as a fluid stream of activities and drawing limits on when to work and when to focus on health or social activities.

Bob Rog has a slogan: “You should improve your focus, reduce the noise, never complain and never explain”. Where does this slogan come from, and why does it matter?

The slogan refers to how, as a tennis player when he was younger, Bob Rog wanted a career in this sport. Through this sport, he learned how to win matches through focus, humility, and being in his zone. He translated this slogan into his life in general, focusing on the values and interests he deeply cares about and wants to pursue in the right way.

What skills, competencies or support contributed to Bob Rog’s leadership growth?

Bob Rog explained that what helped him was ignoring the concept of perfection as a leader.
You need to accept that you are flawed and could be wrong in some instances. You need to make sure self-awareness is built within yourself to build a team around you with an element of humility. You also need to manage your energy and endurance to lead as efficiently as possible. Be patient and trust the process, with your values guiding you.

In the COVID-19 pandemic period, as a Managing Director at Heinz, what has been the most challenging situation Bob Rog has faced?

Taking responsibility for looking after yourself physically and mentally. Learning how to manage at a distance and through screens created anxiety and nervousness. He overcame this by learning to stop worrying about how and to allow himself to be led by people observation, trust, and vision of where the team needs to go—the “how” element usually sorts itself out.

What is the biggest barrier to attracting a more diverse workforce at Heinz?

One of the barriers is the pipeline of attracting and nurturing talent. Firstly, Kraft Heinz needs to reach out and seek a fair representation of society. If Kraft Heinz doesn’t reach out to underrepresented demographics in its company, how are potential employees supposed to know what is out there? 

Want to learn more about the topic, understand the importance of self-awareness in leadership and how self-awareness can be a tool for driving diversity and inclusion in workplaces? Listen to this episode on your favourite podcast platform, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything!
The post EP2: Leading The Change Through Self-Awareness with Bob Rog appeared first in the Rise and Lead Women Forum.
Rise to Leadership Podcast, which launched on March 8th, is a bi-monthly show (weekly in March) that explores topics that matter while sharing stories of inspiring leaders who are creating positive changes.

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Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.

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