SMR: There is a constant discussion that management and leadership are not the same. What are your thoughts?
Vincent Sim (VS): There have been interesting debates about the differences between management and leadership. For example, some schools of thought argue that management is about getting things done efficiently and effectively without the need for leadership. I tend to disagree with this separation of management and leadership. I believe that management is about planning and optimising the use of corporate assets to achieve a set of targets or objectives, in which corporate assets include financial investment, information technology, IT infrastructure, and human resource, among others. I define leadership as the ability to galvanise and organise a group of individuals towards the accomplishment of a set of goals. At Fuji Xerox, we consider human resource as the most vital aspect of the organisational eco system. It is therefore my view, that good managers are good leaders as well.
SMR: What is your leadership style?
VS: Given the highly dynamic industry that Fuji Xerox is in, I adopt a mentorship approach to management. In this approach, I play the role of a motivator and facilitator of end-goals while emphasising staff empowerment and the delegation of authority and responsibility. I believe in a delegate-and-lead approach, where our managers are encouraged to exhibit their own entrepreneurial style and innovation. I believe less micro-management can reduce bureaucracy and enhance good decision-making. I actively encourage participation during meetings and often this has led to better ideas, which has given us greater results. It is also important to me to ensure that all staff understand their own key performance indicators (KPIs). With this, there is significantly greater staff involvement, leading to higher staff loyalty and buy-in of management policies and directives.
SMR: How do you manage and lead Generation X, Generation Y, and the baby boomers?
VS: Managers should recognise the cultural and characteristic differences among the three demographic cohorts. In any office, there will be a congruence of the three cohorts and a challenge for modern managers to effectively manage the differences while trying to align all three co-horts towards a common corporate goal. Baby boomers and Gen X tend to be rather similar in characteristics. They tend to have a traditional view on management style—expecting strong and autocratic style of leadership with a defined and established set of objectives and processes. They are less adventurous in nature and prefer to stick to conventions or a tried and tested methodology. These groups respond more positively to clear directions, recognise greater levels of power distance in the workplace, and establish clearer boundaries in work roles than Gen Y.
Gen Ys (also known as the Net Generation) are exposed to greater international cultures, the Internet, and digital technologies. They are adventurous and are not afraid to speak up. They seek instantaneous gratification and recognition, and like to be challenged. They do not like to be governed by processes or be micro-managed. Generation Y are definitely leaders and pioneers in their own right, and respond better to a nurturing mentorship style than a prescriptive one.
I have no defined or fixed methodology in managing Gen X, Gen Y, or baby boomers; although I am mindful of the uniqueness of each cohort. I believe every member of my staff, regardless of demographic cohort, possesses different qualities. As a manager, one should seek to understand the strength of each staff and draw that out effectively. A good manager would recognise the areas that require improvement, and work with them closely through training and mentoring to overcome or strengthen these areas.
SMR: How do you coach and mentor your employees?
VS: I spend six to eight hours each week communicating to each employee on an individual level. I have personal discussions about their thoughts, opinions, and hold a two-way feedback sessions on team and individual performance. Periodically, I organise review meetings with my managers for organisational performance feedback. These communication sessions allow me to gain a better understanding of each employee. This enables me to gather a good grounding to ensure proper planning for the coaching and mentorship of each employee.
During these one-to-one communication sessions, I actively encourage my staff to voice their opinions and suggestions without restriction. I respect the feedback of my staff and believe strongly in gathering honest views to ensure good decision-making. This feedback facilitates an open and constructive conversation between me and every single member of my team that is ongoing and contributes to the growth and optimal performance of our organisation.
We believe in creating clear and specific key performance indicators, KPIs, which are designed for each individual employee and reviewed every half year rather than on a yearly basis. I believe a review that spans this period allows for more timely feedback and for our management team to formulate effective training or mentoring programmes.
SMR: How do you get buy-in?
VS: I believe that clear and constructive communication is crucial. The age of managerial direction being a one-way street is over. I believe that as a manager in this modern era, communication with my staff should be as open as possible and definitely two-way. I believe a good manager should start by listening closely and respectfully to the employees’ feedback and understanding their point of view. Employees are people too. Many have valid points and a good succinct picture of the job that management and the entire organisation is doing. Always listen to your employees. By effectively doing so, a manager can align his follow-up instructions or directives to the feedback. What you get is an ongoing, genuine conversation in the workplace where everyone is engaged and a stakeholder in the team—that’s the best sort of buy-in one can get from their staff.
SMR: Where do you think the printing and enterprise information technology industry will be in the next five years?
VS: The document management and enterprise information technology industries are undergoing significant changes. I believe customisation and managed print services will dominate the industry in the next five years. To meet this demand, Fuji Xerox Printer Channel has introduced PagePackTM in January 2012. PagePackTM is the market’s first channel-driven managed print service and designed specifically for SMEs. This is a utility based service designed for SMEs in Singapore. Since our launch, the response has been very encouraging.
Fuji Xerox has been keeping its ear to the ground to understand our customers’ requirements and evolving needs. Fuji Xerox launched its Research and Development, R&D, Centre in Yokohama, Japan in 2010. This allows each business to have personalised access to the R&D team and in doing so, offers customer-centric solutions and creating a culture where the customisation of solutions for businesses by R&D is the norm now.
Vincent at the Fuji Xerox press conference.
SMR: What advice would you give to someone who’s contemplating a career switch to the industry?
VS: The changes in the printing and enterprise IT industry are fast paced and radical. Anyone with a strong affinity for IT and a strong desire to manage and overcome challenges will find this industry rewarding. I would definitely encourage anyone who is interested in IT and enterprise solutions to apply to this industry and experience the rewards and challenges it brings.
SMR: Being a highly competitive industry, how do you motivate your team and influence them so as to keep ahead of your competitors?
VS: I believe that developing and keeping a strong team starts with the basics—investing in a deliberately rigorous and strategic recruitment process. During Fuji Xerox’s recruitment process, we look at both the psychological temperament and other key factors such as experience. Upon recruitment, extensive training is provided.
To keep my team motivated and ahead of the competition, I stress on the following:
- Constantly mentoring and communicating with each employee. This ensures maximum productivity, results, and alignment of efforts.
- Encouraging each employee to challenge the status quo.
- Setting measurable KPIs for employees to help them better understand their roles in an organisation and reviewing them periodically.
SMR: Any anecdotes to share that made an impression on how you lead or manage now?
VS: I get my management inspiration from a manager in my first job. As senior vice president of a division with 100 employees across the Asia-Pacific region, he amazed me with his ability to understand each member of his team.
He found time to communicate with each of us personally. He had a very unorthodox leadership style—he combined a typical corporate style of management with an inclusive and engaging style of leadership. All meetings chaired by him were highly interactive, fun, and interesting. He ensured that good decisions were made and clear directions were given to the staff at the end of the meeting. This unique combination of styles was able to resonate with the employees across the region, which led to high staff loyalty, and a high degree of buy-in.
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