Leadership is about creating trust and having the right values and culture where your team feels empowered, says Dione Song, who recently spoke at a Power Ladies Breakfast session. Dione is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Love, Bonito, the largest womenswear brand in Southeast Asia.
In her session, Dione drew from her personal entrepreneurial experience and shared illuminating insights on:
- How leading by example is the most direct way of influencing culture
- How managing ourselves makes us better managers
- How the right systems can make a difference for your teams
Being a role model to build culture
How we portray ourselves as leaders or managers defines the values we cultivate in our teams. For example, if we want our teams to be responsive, then we need to be just as responsive and prompt when we reply on Slack or email.
To be your team’s exemplar, Dione suggests identifying a role model of your own that embodies those qualities.
Dione herself seeks inspiration from the brands and leaders she admires, such as the transparency and progressiveness of Netflix’s culture set by their CEO. She also admires Apple’s attention to product and customer excellence, which are qualities that she wants to bring to Love, Bonito.
Look toward other leaders you've worked with, both inside and outside your organisation, for inspiration and guidance in building your business.
Managing ourselves productively
It sounds simple, but knowing how to manage ourselves is a huge advantage for leaders to build better teams. Dione suggests that we can start by asking ourselves:
- Have I designed a system at work that actually works for me?
- Do I have personal rituals that keep myself optimised and hyper-productive?
It’s all about finding your personal groove and rhythm for being productive. As for Dione, it took her some time and experimenting with her weekly schedule to accommodate her daily goals and that of her team to structure her work week. In essence, productivity is about understanding what you really want to do, then building systems to make it work for you.
Dione recommends these self-management resources which she herself found useful:
- Think of productivity as a pyramid, with foundations and stages you can work on.
- Learn how to figure out what you should simply focus on.
Designing the right team systems
Once we’ve ironed out the kinks in our personal management systems, we can now focus on the systems that make sense for our teams.
People often find team meetings a drain, for example, and we might ask ourselves if some meetings could be skipped so that they could be doing something more productive. To tackle this issue, Dione suggests we can make meetings more fruitful by doing skip-level meetings.
A skip-level meeting is a meeting where you, as a manager, meet one-on-one with the people who report to the team lead or manager you manage. Doing these meetings allowed Dione to know and feel what is exactly happening on the ground and pinpoint improvements she should be making for her team.
As managers, Dione believes, we are also team coaches who must design the right environment for teams to flourish. The path to creating inclusive and high-functioning teams begins with how we act as role models for the team, and then paying close attention to how the organisation’s operations affect our people’s ability to work and thrive.