“I saw a role model in my company and I wanted to be just like them. Then I changed my mindset. If I cannot change others, then it starts with me. I have to be stronger and have more skills.”
As an individual contributor in an advertising agency, it can be hard to see the bigger picture when you face deadline after deadline. This was true for Piyanuch (Tu) Kangwankijwanich when she realised early in her career that her motivation to push on came from the leaders in her team, the strategic planners.
Their ability to understand their clients’ needs and motivate those around them showed her that to create a sustainable team, it wasn’t enough to just work hard. This moment years ago eventually led her to ADA, a data and artificial intelligence company that blends creativity and numbers together as their Head of Business Development.
In this edition of Middle Matters, Tu shares how her mindset shift shaped her career as she helps her team unlock their true potential.
The start of Tu’s career is synonymous with overcoming adversity.
“There were so many times that I felt so tired but I kept pushing myself because I have role models who were my coworkers . . . the strategic planners.”
What they were able to accomplish as a team in the face of adversity inspired her. “I wanted to be just like them,” she said.
“I told myself that I have to work harder to be better. Not to compete with others, but to compete with myself and be better than yesterday.”
Her leaders helped her see that despite not being able to change the difficulty of what lies ahead, you can change how you perceive them. She became determined to carry on that legacy to others as they did for her.
“If I can stand in that position and lead people one day, I will also feel really proud of myself.”
Prioritising and Delegating
With more on her plate when she finally stepped up as a first-time manager, Tu was overwhelmed. When everything seems like a priority, how do you do it all? You don’t. You have to trust your team and delegate.
“That's the challenge because everything comes all at once. So first you have to really focus. What is the most important? What is the most urgent?” she stated. “You prioritise the tasks [because] you cannot do it all at the same time.”
Empowering the rest of the team by giving them responsibilities is crucial for both the present and future. “You have to teach, you have to train them to grow and just be like you or better than you so that they can help and support you.”
Knowing how you can delegate tasks to direct reports starts by understanding them. Not just what they can do, but who they are and what their goals are too.
“The first thing is that I sit down with them and have one-on-one, personal conversations not about the job,” Tu explains. “I need to know them. What is their drive? What do they like? Or even what their hobbies are. Find their passion and use that to encourage them.”
She explains that in order to keep their passion burning, you have to set achievable milestones for them, pushing them beyond what they think is possible that aligns with their goals. With Tu’s encouragement and coaching along their journey, she helps them see what’s possible when they pair hard work with direction and purpose.
Piyanuch (Tu)’s journey shows the importance of having a direction and the power of a leader in helping to shape it.
- When was the last time you checked in on your direct report’s personal goals and motivations? Are they on the right track?
- The next time you delegate something to your direct report, how might the challenge of this delegation help them overcome any fears or weaknesses?
- We might feel reluctant to delegate sometimes. Think back to a time when you had similar thoughts or feelings. What are some reasons can you think of that made you feel that way? What benefits of delegation can help negate these reasons?