To celebrate International Women’s Day, Principals Choo Chiou Yu and Serene Ong from our Singapore office share their thoughts on being a successful leader and managing work-life balance.
Q1. What do you think makes a successful leader?
Chiou Yu: Being able to listen and be empathetic. Build good relationships with the people you are working with. On a broader level, build relationships with people in other groups who you are not working with but still interact with on some level. Treat everyone with courtesy and professionalism. Your team will often look to you for advice. It is acceptable to say that you are not sure of something and that you will need to check. We are all humans and we are learning as we go along. It is not a failure to not know everything, the key is in knowing how to look for and arrive at a solution. Try to have a good support group as people say it is lonely at the top. Having a good support group with like-minded colleagues will help you get through any difficult periods in your career.
Serene: I think a successful leader is one who has nurtured the next generation of leaders. In our business, I consider a successful leader as one who has raised others who keep the clients’ interests and the firm’s service standards paramount in their practice while having an interest in raising another generation of leaders.
Q2. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Chiou Yu: Be a positive role model at work for the people you are leading. Be prepared to make sacrifices, work harder than before, and not shy away from “hard projects”. Try to understand the difficulties your team members may encounter in their work and try to help them achieve efficient work practices.
Serene: Congratulations! Be grateful for being given the opportunity; think about the influence that you would like to make to the business and the practice that you want to build.
Q3. What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Chiou Yu: Be humble and be willing to learn. Take control of opportunities given to you and do not shun them. Keep an open mind and be willing to put in constructive effort. Be valued as a “doer” rather than be seen as someone who complains. Treat all colleagues with courtesy – from the office assistant to your boss. Always behave in a professional manner even in non-workplace settings.
Serene: Always keep an investment mentality. Invest in yourself, which can be in the forms of reading and learning as much as possible. Step up at work because every time you do so, it is an opportunity to learn. Invest in your networking: make good friends who inspire you to be better at your work and glean from others who are a few seasons ahead of you. Someone once told me, ” You are the result of the people you have met and the books you have read five years ago.” So let’s start investing today for tomorrow’s success.
Q4. What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace today?
Chiou Yu: Having to juggle work pressures and family commitments, which I believe has always been a perennial challenge for all working mothers. I have two young children in primary school now and at different times of their lives, the amount of time required for them and the sort of interaction that they expected from me was different. I know that things will not always remain the same or that things may not necessarily improve in the future. As my children grow their requirements and ideologies will evolve too. This will present new sets of needs and problems. Meeting the expectations of my clients, my colleagues and my children require a fine balancing act that I am still trying to achieve.
Serene: Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is being present in the moment in a well-connected world. This may not be a challenge that is only applicable to women. We are constantly receiving emails/messages and getting updates on different issues. Sometimes, all at the same time. So, it is important to find a way to manage – prioritise, compartmentalise and just be in the moment, dealing with the matters on hand – one matter at a time.
Q5. What do you think is key to finding a successful work-life balance?
Chiou Yu: Try to create moments for “me-time”, this will give you the space and time to recharge away from work and family.
Serene: I have two young children under the age of seven whose needs are always changing. Therefore, I remain open and use different tools to help me in work-life integration. For example, I use a tablet to read work-related documents while waiting for my children to finish their classes or activities. This allows me to remain involved in their school lives and social circles.
Read more from the female leaders across our Asia Pacific offices:
- Hong Kong