Staying afloat in choppy waters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2011, 12:00am


Addressing business leadership issues was the focus of the first in a series of executive summits organised by Classified Post, which took place on October 31.

Under the theme 'CEO Challenges in 2012', a panel of Hong Kong-based business leaders featuring Travelport's Asia Pacific president and managing director Simon Nowroz, CLP Power Hong Kong managing director Richard Lancaster, and JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong general manager Mark Conklin provided insights and perspectives across different business sectors.

The presenters unanimously agreed that chief executive officers should be highly principled, uphold the core values of the companies they lead and be responsive to advice from others. They should also be good listeners, committed to company and self improvement and foster employee engagement while ensuring the company behaves responsibly.

According to Conklin, for companies to retain and motivate talent, CEOs need to encourage a culture of trust, influence and integrity. 'The goal of a leader should be to bring out the best in people, inspire a shared vision and enable others to act,' said Conklin, who has been with Marriott Hotels for 30 years.

He said Marriott Hotels' strategy of referring to staff as 'associates' generates a sense of partnership. He cited feedback from the Hong Kong Marriott Hotel Associate Survey, with 94 per cent of replies indicating high levels of engagement. 'Associate satisfaction translates into guest satisfaction,' Conklin said.

Nowroz said the challenges CEOs had experienced over the past two years are a warm-up for challenges ahead. 'The ability for CEOs to adapt to unleash growth and reinvent the economy is more important than ever,' said Nowroz.

'Incremental steps are not working. We need risk to come back into our businesses to inspire customers and companies,' he said.

To engage and offer career growth for staff at every level, Nowroz believes companies need to trim bureaucracy. He told the audience of CEOs and human resources professionals that one of the most important developments needed in the workplace over the next decade is for companies to understand how people think to drive creativity and innovation. 'We are taught to think, but not how to think,' said Nowroz.

He said it is vital for CEOs to create an environment where innovation can thrive. He added that it is important for business leaders to review the traditional ways of conducting business.

For Lancaster, how companies incorporate 'green practices' and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives is essential to long-term success. 'Customer and society expectations are changing in terms of what they expect from products and services and the way businesses give back to the community. Part of doing business successfully is anticipating these changes,' said Lancaster.

He said it is important for CEOs to understand the objectives of CSR programmes and sustainability initiatives and ensure they have a strong alignment with board of directors, senior management, employees, customers and the wider community. Lancaster said if companies implement appropriate CSR strategies, they can expect to stay in business for a long time. If they got it wrong, they could find themselves struggling.