It has been said that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
Well, recently, I was definitely in the right room – where I was left awestruck being amidst some truly incredible, talented and smart individuals doing amazing things all over Southeast Asia!
We were part of the inaugural cohort of the ZICO ASEAN 40 Under 40 – a flagship program by ASEAN Advisory, the consulting arm of ZICO. The program paid tribute to 40 trailblazers under the age of 40 in, or from, Southeast Asia who are driving positive change and creating impact in this region. Each honoree is addressing a trend or challenge in the ASEAN countries through our work.
You know that feeling you get where you meet someone and start asking yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” Yeah, that’s how I felt when I met some of these truly exemplary people (picture above, L-R):
Richard Yim – who co-founded Demine Robotics to develop better robots that more effectively remove land mines; starting in Cambodia where he was born, which unfortunately also holds the distinction of being one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world with an estimated 4 to 6 million land mines in the country.
Ada Chirapaisarnkul – who, among many other achievements, is the founder of the Thai Young Philanthropist Network (TYPN), which today sees 2,700 young leaders working to strengthen civil society in Thailand through youth entrepreneurship training for students and teachers as well as business consultation and capacity building support for to over 100 social-purpose organisations.
Danial Hakim – a young grassroots leader who balances his time between his full-time job and championing the issues and concerns of his community.
Pictured in the middle here and highly deserving of a shout out is Van Ngoc Ta, chief lawyer of the Hanoi-based Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, which is involved in anti-trafficking work. Van has personally helped hundreds of victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, working closely with authorities. He’s a real-life superhero: when I met him for dinner the evening before the awards event, he was on the phone in the midst of coordinating a case. I can’t speak highly enough of the great work that he is doing.
I also met many other amazing fellow honorees – including a dear colleague Warren Tseng, formerly the General Manager for Uber in Singapore.
It was inspiring to meet them all to hear their stories as well as perspectives. It truly augurs well for ASEAN’s future potential as a political, economic, and sociocultural bloc. I am truly humbled and very grateful to have been included as one of these great luminaries.
I thought this was interesting: according this McKinsey analysis, 89% of leadership effectiveness rests ultimately on four kinds of behaviour:
1) Effective problem solving.
This is about decision making – but about being able to effectively gather, analyze and consider information before making that decision. According to the study authors, “This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues (such as M&A) as well as daily ones (such as how to handle a team dispute).”
2) Operating with a strong results orientation.
Execution is as important as strategy! As the study authors say, “Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.”
3) Seeking different perspectives.
I like how the Netflix culture memo spells this out as “farming for dissent.” According to McKinsey, “This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.”
4) Supporting others.
This is something I truly feel strongly about and feel blessed to have had great leaders who supported me. I find this especially necessary in creating what Simon Sinek calls “the circle of safety.” As the McKinsey study shows: “Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.”
I’m thrilled to announce that, earlier this week, I started my new role at Netflix as Head of Communications – Southeast Asia, based out of Singapore.
In this role, I will report to the Vice President of Communications – Asia, and be part of a team to help to formulate, execute and sustain a global communications strategy for Netflix in the Asia region. I will also focus specifically on corporate and policy communications issues.
It’s really quite exciting, though somewhat surreal, to be working at Netflix. I mean, I still remember Netflix back in college (showing my age here!) when it was still mailing DVDs! Since then, I’ve watched how it’s pivoted – successfully – to become a leader in technology and entertainment today!
The Culture Memo lit a fire in my belly – it felt like I was screaming “YES” to a lot of things, like: “People Over Process,” “Working In A Dream Team,” and “Freedom & Responsibility.” It also crystalized my thoughts and gave me the language to appreciate how lucky I have been to have great leaders, managers and mentors throughout my career who have embodied these principles, which resonate so meaningfully with me.
It’s a privilege to now have this opportunity to play my part in making Netflix more of a hit here in Asia!