Friendly approach pays dividends

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 November, 2008, 12:00am

In his daily interaction with members of his closely knit team of five at Otis Elevator (HK), senior sales manager Kent Cheung Kin acts more like a friend than a supervisor.

He believes this friendly atmosphere in the workplace, infused with mutual trust, enhances the effectiveness of mentoring.

No matter how busy he is, he always makes sure he gives his team members full attention when they come to him for advice on their work or for personal matters. This building of mutual trust not only helps his team members enhance their self-knowledge, it also improves his understanding of their individual characters, strengths and weaknesses.

'When a manager builds a relationship with his subordinates based on friendship, the staff will become more willing to open up and share their feelings,' he said. 'This is crucial for effective mentoring.'

Mr Cheung cited an example of how he had helped a male subordinate become a better team player unexpectedly. Several months ago, he noticed this team member appeared less enthusiastic at work and he took the initiative in approaching him to find out what had happened. It turned out that the man had gone through a bad patch with his girlfriend because she had found him to be too self-centred.

'I listened to my team member patiently just like any friend would. I also dispensed advice where I saw fit. But the result was a surprise,' he said. 'I actually helped him modify his behaviour at work. Since then, he has become a better team player and is able to collaborate with his colleagues much better.'

Mr Cheung also invites the families of his team members to participate in company-wide social activities such as open days. 'I will try my best to get to know their families. Not only does it help me acquire a better understanding of my team members, it also enhances our friendship,' he said.

Mr Cheung began working as an apprentice mechanic at Otis in 1982. With diligence and initiative in studying relevant regulations, he was made supervisor of the service department in 1997. A senior manager recognised the good relations Mr Cheung had built with his clients and transferred him to the expanding sales department two years later. Mr Cheung was promoted to district manager in 2005.

He took up the challenge to become a senior sales manager in charge of a new sales team focusing on expanding the service business for non-Otis elevators in 2006. His daily routine involves meeting clients and Otis service supervisors.

Headquartered in Connecticut in the United States, Otis's connection to Hong Kong dates back to 1888 when it installed the city's first elevator in the Hong Kong Hotel. It employs more than 1,200 staff and about 900 are in the service department.

Middle Management

Five keys to effective mentoring

Ensure team members have access to the manager whenever they want to seek advice

Build mutual understanding and trust through informal meetings

Practise effective listening

Provide honest feedback

Be open-minded and willing to share expertise and experience