As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia.
In this story, Rosa Lee, Executive Vice President of Bosch China, shares how strength-based development lies at the heart of diversity and team management, as well as how female leaders must lift each other up at the workplace.
Q: Since there tend to be more male leaders in industrial companies, what have you done over the years to stand out as a woman?
To be honest, in a male-dominated industry, the reason you stand out has nothing to do with gender. Fundamentally, for both men and women, the most important thing is to perform the current job. You must try your best to finish your work perfectly and exceed expectations that others have for you. The second thing is to go the extra miles. When an opportunity comes along, don’t say ‘No’. Make sure you’re fully prepared. Thirdly, and this is gender related, women should help women at the workplace. I firmly believe that, in a male-dominated industry, the economic term of ‘30% Club’ still works. You will be able to change something once you have women taking up 30% of your team. Therefore, it is not enough to stand out alone. You should also help other women stand out. In short, you need to first perform extremely well at your current job, be willing to go the extra mile, then help other women get to the same place too.
Q: How do you manage your team?
I firmly believe in this very simple principle, and I have practised it all the way: it’s about a strength-based development. I apply it to myself and I apply it to the team. I believe that a team needs to perform the rule ‘We at our best’. When aiming for a goal or executing a strategy, you should look at what kind of skills the team needs. You can’t just hire people you like. As the saying goes: ‘We don’t see what we don’t see’. You have to look at talent with multi-competencies so that the team can perform strategic tasks, even if these people have very different personalities and work styles. In addition to performing tasks, we need to have fun together. Diversity should be based on the team’s strengths, and the rule ‘We at our best’. This is the most effective way to manage a team.
Q: As a female executive, especially at the C-suite level, are there any unique experiences that you would like to share?
I would like to answer from two perspectives, one for women and one from the executive level. Let’s talk about the executive level first. As a HR and a Chinese Asian leader, I can say that I have met countless leaders from all over the world. From an executive’s point of view, we all have our own strengths. Everyone is different. But as a group, I think Asian leaders are very good at result orientation. We do a great job in customer orientation and delivering results. However, in general, Asian leaders’ ability to think strategically and change competency is perhaps not as good as Western leaders. This is probably due to our education system. Therefore, I think the first thing that Asian leaders should focus on is to develop strategic thinking. The second is change competency. Asian leaders should not only be more open to change, but they also need to lead changes.
The second is from a woman’s perspective. Particularly, I think that women’s leadership has a lot of advantages in terms of leading change. Women perform better than men when it comes to articulating the reason to change. Male leaders tend to hold the opinion that they drive the change, while female leaders think that they align the team to drive the change. In short, in addition to purposefully developing your strategic thinking and change competence, female leaders should continue to leverage their competency in aligning and communicating. Besides, as female leaders, we should pay more attention to the reason behind changes. Understand why you need to do it and then we empower the entire team to do it.
Q: What suggestions do you have for women who are aiming at the executive level? What should they do to prepare?
It’s very simple. As the old Chinese saying goes: know yourself and know your enemy. As I said, not only women, people should develop themselves based on their strengths. Therefore, I suggest every woman to first know about yourself, your passions, your strengths, your traits and working styles. Then do a gap analysis versus where you want to go. That way, you can identify the gap and the method of development. What matters most is being aware of the gap.
Q: When you first began your career, did you ever think that you would be at the management level?
I didn’t purposefully aim for the management level at the beginning. I think I was quite lucky as I met some great mentors. They had confidence in my potential and provided me with a lot of good tips. They taught me to find jobs that fit my strengths, and that if I liked the environment, then I wouldn’t need to distort myself. When your values are twisted, you are not going to last long. You need an environment that you enjoy and one that matches your values. The second thing is that you should like the work you do. For example, I have been working in HR for years and have touched almost every function. The one thing I haven’t touched is compensation. That’s not my strength. So to conclude, you need to find your strength, find an environment you enjoy, then develop in a natural way.
Q: Empathy has become a hot management topic due to COVID-19. What are your thoughts on this topic?
Empathy is closely related to the idea of Positive Leadership that Bosch and I have been promoting in recent years. As I said, personal development and team development need to be strength based. The development of an organisation, especially in the era of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), there might not be only one black swan, but a variety of black swans. In this situation, you can see more and more employees in workplaces feeling depressed and unmotivated. The direction of the organisation is also unclear. At this time, empathy will play a very important role. For positive leadership, if you want to appreciate an individual’s strength or a team’s strong areas, you should practise a positive leadership that’s based on empathy. I think the role of HR has been developing in China for several decades now, and even longer worldwide. We are no longer simply doing Attraction Retention Training, but truly thinking about the future of work, future of workers and the future of the workplace. Considering the various trends, one that is very related to empathy is energy management within an organisation. I even think that, someday, we can have a HR role called the Organisation Energy Coach. What we are thinking about is how to turn empathy into a positive practise in order to boost organisation energy. I am quite confident about this. The role of HR in the future is not like traditional HR we have now. We need to truly empower teams and the entire organisation with better humanity.
Q: 之前也听您的团队说您是一个非常善于挖掘团队能力的人。我想问一下，作为一个女性高管，特别在C level，您觉得从您的工作经验来说，有些什么样独特的经历可以分享给大家一些很好的故事？
我觉得你问了两个方面，一个是女性，一个是高管。 我想先谈一下高管，作为一名HR，作为一名亚洲籍中国籍领导者，我觉得自己可以说是阅人无数。我见了很多西方领导者，见了很多东方领导者。我觉得从高管的角度来讲，基本上各有各的优势，当然每个人都有其不同之处，但是作为一个团队，我觉得我们亚洲领导者，非常善于与服务和顾客为导向，我们的客服和我们的成果交付都做得很好。但总体上来说，亚洲领导者的策略思维能力还有变革能力可能因为某些原因，可能是和我们的教育体系有关系，我们跟西方领导人比没有那么容易突出，所以我觉得第一点是，作为高管，亚洲领导者要重点去培养是战略思考能力，还有变革能力。不仅是拥抱变革，还要能够引领变革，这个是亚洲领导者需要的。我再谈到第二点，你问题当中的女性。我觉得女性的领导，尤其在引领变革这个方面有很多优势，因为女性的领导在阐述变革的缘由方面，阐述重要性方面，在讲故事的方面，在为什么方面，在整合方面通常比男性更棒。男性领导者觉得“是我推动了变革”，女性领导觉得“我整合团队，引领变革”，所以我觉总结下来就是说，作为女性高管，除了有目的性的培养自己战略思考能力和变革能力之外，继续充分的发挥女性整合、影响力、沟通这个方面的能力，还有作为女性，我们更加重视背后的缘由，不是盲目行动。 了解工作的目的，然后赋能团队来做。
我觉得同理心，或者是说我跟Bosch，我们这几年在推的积极领导力有非常大的关系，其实我谈到个人的发展和团队的发展都要基于长处。做一个组织的发展，特别是在这个世界越来越VUCA（V-volatility易变性，U-uncertainty不确定性，C-complexity复杂性，A-ambiguity模糊性），然后可能不是一只黑天鹅，各种各样的黑天鹅来的这种情况之下，你可以看到我们在职场上越来越多的员工感到受挫，然后团队可能会没用动力或者是感觉组织发展方向没有这么清晰。在这种时候，同理心就会起到一个非常重要的作用。如果你要去欣赏个人的强项，或者是一个团队的强项，你必须自然地去证明，不是证明，要践行基于同理心的积极领导力。其实我自己觉得HR发展到现在几十年，在中国几十年，在全球的发展甚至更久，我们不再是简单的做ART，attraction吸引、retention保留、training培训，而是真的要想当世界越来越VUCA，然后想职业的未来，职员的未来，职场的未来。各种各样的趋势的时候，其中有一条跟同理心非常相关的就是组织的能量管理。 我甚至跟团队在想，有一天我们希望有一个HR的角色，不是个传统的招聘专员、招聘经理、薪酬经理，而是组织能量教练, 怎么样去把同理心和积极领导力变成一种实战方法，去提升组织能量，而不是去抑制或是压抑团队。我对这个充满了信心，我觉得未来HR做的很大的角色，已经不再是传统HR, 而是怎么样让个人团队和组织有更好的意识，更好的人员，所以能量会是一个很大的话题。
This interview was conducted by Yuki Chen, Managing Director, Michael Page China. Yuki Chen is Managing Director for Michael Page, responsible for the recruitment of specialist senior and executive-level professionals in the human resources, information technology and education fields, and leading Page Contracting and Page Personnel team. She has been with Michael Page since 2009 and attained a proven track record in the placement of senior-level executives within the multinational corporations as well as Chinese companies. Prior to joining Michael Page, Yuki spent 12 years working and studying in UK where she obtained her Masters degree in Human Resources in the University of Edinburgh.
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