Keep doors open and be passionate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 August, 2010, 12:00am

In overseeing more than 14,000 employees and 220 restaurants in Hong Kong, Shirley Chang also has the distinction of being the first woman managing director of McDonald's in Asia. Originally from Taiwan and trained as a nurse, she joined the company as a crew member in 1984 and steadily rose through the ranks to become director of operations in her home market by 1996. In the course of her career, she also had stints on the mainland and at corporate headquarters in the United States. Holding an MBA from the Simon Fraser University in Canada, Chang's approach is to be customer-oriented and focus on enhancing the quality of products and services. She believes that good staff are the engines of growth and, therefore, stresses the importance of comprehensive training programmes to reinforce teamwork and add new skills. She talks to Jan Chan.

What approaches and abilities are needed to be a successful leader?

My management philosophy is to improve myself through 'How' - honesty, open-mindedness and willingness - and to guide others by using the three Ls - listen, learn and lead. I have found that the ability to motivate others is also very important. We have a big employee community in Hong Kong, and I have to keep exploring new ways to motivate everyone, so that as a team we work towards the same goals and enhance the business. For that, I need our three Ss - serve, simplify and speed - which are the essence of what we do.

What characterises your personal style of management?

It is all about trust and respect. The company always treats employees as its most important asset, so I strongly advocate open and interactive communication. It is important to go from the boardroom to the crew room to talk to frontline employees directly and openly. Every month, I also get together with different store managers and listen to their opinions. My target is to meet all 220 store managers this year.

How do you pass on your knowledge to colleagues and subordinates?

I never hesitate to share my experiences and knowledge with colleagues. Through regular company activities and store visits, I get the chance to talk to them and answer questions. I'm also involved in planning training programmes to make sure our employees get the best. This year, we opened a new training and development centre in Hong Kong. In addition, I always encourage colleagues to attend regional training sessions and global meetings to learn about other markets, and mix with people from other parts of the world.

What do you think is the best way to handle criticism?

We can always improve ourselves, and I always take an open and receptive approach to handling criticism. I still read letters from customers, listen to their comments and look for ways to upgrade things by turning negatives into positives.

How essential is it to have a strategic vision?

This is important. The management team is the brain of an organisation, so they must have a clear vision of what they want and how to achieve that. One of our visions is to be the first choice for customers, which is why we aim to differentiate our restaurants and offer new experiences.

Was your career development a result of good planning, or simply good luck?

I started out as a nurse and didn't imagine or plan to stay in the McDonald's family for over 20 years. I think I'm lucky to have joined a company that is able to offer vast career opportunities, and which strives to nurture women leaders.

What advice do you have for graduates interested in the field?

To be successful, you must be dedicated to attaining high standards and should never give up [when facing] challenges. You must be passionate about your job and appreciate the opportunities you are given.

Rising to the top

Chang hopes to see more women in senior positions, lending her support to setting up the Hong Kong Women Leadership Network

She created an 'open-door' channel last year, so employees can communicate with her directly