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.
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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.
This is one of the many stories in our Leading Women series. For more inspiring stories of women breaking conventions and taking the lead in Asia Pacific, visit the official Page Executive blog below: