“The ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for” – Albert Einstein.
Yes, Ansarada Vietnam and PYCOGROUP were my shore in the past several years. I had the most amazing boss, a very high performing team and very supportive co-workers, not to talk about a very stylish office. I had everything that one ever wishes for a job. I love my job, but there it was the time to say goodbye. A chapter is closed – a successful and memorable one.
What I have learnt during the past 3 years is huge. The Operations Manager covered the wide scope of work, including but not limited to Finance, Accounting, C&B, Admin and Event/Communication. I seriously could not complete my tasks without the guidance and backup of my boss, the collaboration and experience sharing of my peers and the support of my team. No word can fully express my gratitude toward them. More importantly, I treasure the working spirit of the team Ansarada Vietnam – we were are like a 2nd family, a crowded one with stubborn and playful members who fought for the tennis table or argued on very serious subjects (such as the final destination of human life) … Going to work was fun, and comfortable.
Especially thanks to my super boss Pieter for everything over the last 7 years – all the challenged tasks that you put me in for my personal learning and growing. Thanks to Voltaire for your support in my tenure at Ansarada Vietnam, to make the transparent culture of Ansarada really means what it is supposed to be. Thanks to my team for all the achievement and fun we had together. Thanks everybody for making my journey such a pleasure one.
The significant thing about Ansarada is the culture, the one where I was, like many others, encouraged to grow for the benefit of the company and of ourselves, even if that means to grow out of the company’s scale. In no company that I see the concept of “servant leadership” as strong as it is in Ansarada. This is the culture that I strongly believe in. Some days when I will have a company of my own, this will be the culture of it.
5 levels of leadership
We often talk about the difference of a manager and a leader. A manager title is just a start for power. It is not associated with respect. Leader title is something to earn over time, either by the personal connection and trust you gain within the team, or by the performance and the ability to deliver that you can prove to others.
In the connection perspective, leaders should make the effort to understand the teams’ personal situation, their weakness and strength. Common mistake is asking them to correct their weakness. Instead, they should try and limit the impact of their weakness to a minimum level. They, on the other hand, should definitely work on their strengths, as those are their potential – the one will set them outstanding from the crowd. In the production perspective, leaders are recognized by the ability to perform, or the ability to coordinate the whole team to perform. It is easy to see that A team will attract A members. One leader can choose to go either way, or both.
To be honest, the effort to gain a connection with the team while giving them a push to the productivity is not an easy task. It takes time and a lot of efforts. It takes a full heart to make it happen. That’s servant leadership. That’s what I learnt from the founders of Ansarada. That’s what I’m proud of doing for the whole time in the position.
360 degree leadership
Leading is no longer the act of telling the subordinates what to do whether they like it or not. Nowadays, leading is all about INFLUENCE, and it’s towards everyone.
- Leading down by influencing team members
That means explaining the reason behind every major decision. That means providing opportunities for team members to brainstorm and propose solutions, then sitting down with them to discuss about those. That means providing them with the hook to catch their fish – to make their own decisions in the future. That means encouraging them to develop their strengths and have a clear picture about their career path.
Not only that the leader’s responsibility is to achieving the KPIs of the team, but also is to develop their team members. It is exhausted sometimes as one more major task named “team development” is added to the plate – beside work related ones . But believe me, it’s totally worth it. When leaving the company, the thinking that I had helped other junior members in defining next steips to do in their career path was what made me feel valuable the most.
- Leading across by influencing our peers
The office is composed of three team – Development, Operations and People & Culture. The three leaders, called management team, work very closely with each other. The team sit down to share the update of each team weekly, both good news and problems. Major decisions are discussed and agreed by all, as a collective, under the chair of the General Director. Communication and transparency are the key factors to make this happen. Being around those strong and reasonable people was the big opportunity to widen my point of view, and I’m grateful for that.
“Disagree and commit” is a concept being talked about a lot. Sometimes, we might not fully agree with the final decision, but as long as the collective is aware of our reasons together with its pros and cons, as long as the final decision is eventually made, we commit to achieve it. Team members work on the team goal, leaving aside the personal ego. That’s team work.
- Leading up by influencing our leaders
I’m lucky enough to work in an environment where concerns are heard and new ideas are welcome. Of course, there were many times that my suggestions were turned down, but I had the opportunities to argue for my stands, and received proper feedbacks. In Asia culture where we were taught from the young age about the importance of power hierarchy, arguing against the managers and the crowd is not a thing to do. It takes time and a very good environment to create this new good habit. Unfortunately, I still see a lot of my friends being still in the mode of receiving orders, instead of contributing ideas. Good people are not hired for implementing decision, good people are hired to make good decision.
Agile environment & definition of “complete”
Agile is a concept not only applied solely to the software development. Being in the IT industry, it is easy to apply this concept to Ops team as well. We had such a lean, but effective team where everybody took ownership of their tasks. There was no finger pointing even when some the sub-tasks were assigned/delegated to someone else.
Definition of complete is very important to mark the end of a task. To us, “complete” status was achieved if and only if there was no more action to follow. That means all the questions and concerns were answered, either when we achieved the goals, or accepted the status or agreed to drop the issues. Put-on-hold meant further follow-up was still needed – it was not complete.
Follow-up from the team might sometimes be very annoying to me, especially when there were too many things on my plate at once. In fact, I was glad that they were so persistent in doing so, as I was the bottleneck – I was the culprit who blocked the way to achieve complete status. Delegation was needed, and I learnt about it a lot. Team management does not mean the leader makes the decision all the time. Team management means each person in the team plays their part to achieve the team goal, not being afraid from making decision and being hold responsible for it. It is the leader’s duty to provide the team with enough training and information, and to grant them enough power to do their job. To my team, I’m so proud of you, and so proud of what we had done in all those years together.
“Conform zone is a dangerous place to fall to. If you don’t step out of your comfort zone and face your fears, the number of situations that make you uncomfortable will keep growing.” – Theo Pistorius.
I could have not asked for more than what I had. Thanks a lot for being part of my journey. I’m ready for what’s next.