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Hi! Managers: Anything is possible if you want it bad enough: Janssen chief

Jean-Francois Cousin

Jean-Francois Cousin

Irene Hsu, managing director at Janssen Cilag.

Irene Hsu, managing director at Janssen Cilag.

Among our interviews with inspiring leaders in Thailand, meet an amazing and passionate lady, Irene Hsu, who grew up in Borneo, studied in Australia, Canada and the United States, worked in the US, then in Singapore, Vietnam and now in Bangkok as managing director of pharmaceutical company Janssen Cilag, with responsibilities for Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Irene, what is life all about for you?

Have passion in everything you do. Give your fullest to everything you do.

--And what is your purpose as a leader?

Healthcare is about people. We bring innovative therapies to address unmet medical needs, to save, improve and prolong patients' lives. We are in the business of caring for people. Imagine … an innovation that can lessen the anguish of a parent with a child diagnosed with a severe mental illness, or offer hope to a patient or his or her family members upon learning of a cancer diagnosis. It is a privilege to lead our team of employees who make it possible for our innovations to make a difference in patients' lives.

Janssen is part of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies. We have 'Our Credo' as our moral compass: our first responsibility is to our customers who use our products and services. Our second responsibility is to our employees. Our third responsibility is to the communities in which we live and work. We believe, if we do these first three things right, in that order, our shareholders will get a fair return on their investment.

As a leader, beyond articulating a clear direction for the company in Thailand, I believe it is vitally important for me to unleash the passion in all of our employees for the patients we serve, and support them - both in technical competencies and in leadership development, to help them realise their potential.

I do this in a very deliberate manner, with skills training tailored to each employee with individual development plans. We set clear expectations for bringing to life, the 70/20/10 development process - 70 per cent on the job experience, 20 per cent from feedback, and 10 per cent from classroom learning. This means we must cultivate a feedback-rich organisational culture that embraces openness and transparency where targeted feedback and open exchanges of ideas are valued.

Our middle managers are people leaders; we prioritise their people management and coaching skills.

Our goal for our key talents is to develop them towards becoming future regional and global leaders. In addition to giving them expanded roles, personal coaching with frequent 1:1's, we also leverage various corporate and regional development programmes to accelerate their development and enhance their exposure to the world outside of their home country.

--What gets you up in the morning?

The privilege to make a difference in people's lives, both of the patients we serve and of our employees'.

--What should leaders do most to inspire their people?

Have a clear vision, and show their people how to get there. Let them know how what they do every day contributes to the larger organisational mission and to the vision. Be authentic - be who you are, and do what you say.

--What are the personal rules you have chosen for yourself as a professional?

-Be authentic.

-Know my values and lead with integrity. Never make compromises on values.

-Have passion for the people, and purpose.

-Be humble, and have a healthy appetite for knowledge - every interaction with another person is an opportunity to learn something new.

--What quotes particularly inspire you?

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are a leader," by John Quincy Adams. Every day, I reflect upon my actions - did my actions inspire my team members to want to be more? Did my actions help them inch a step closer to realising their potential?

Another guiding principle for me is a favourite quote from one of our senior leaders in the region, "Anything is possible if you want it bad enough". The question is not whether it is possible or not. Rather, the question is, "do you want it bad enough?" Think about the possibilities, not about what's not possible.

--What advice would you like to give to managers?

-Know your values. Your values define who you are and will be the guiding principles in your decision-making.

-Show that you care. Your actions speak louder than words!

-Be clear with your expectations.

-Reward and recognise achievements; celebrate successes.

-Don't be afraid of failures. Failures can be the best lessons.

-Embrace diversity. It starts with an appreciation of the power of diversity.

--Any additional advice to Thai managers?

Challenge the status quo. Your opinions are valuable - have the courage to speak up, be willing to do things differently, and be comfortable to disagree. You can do this in a respectful manner while embracing Thai values.

Be comfortable with not having all the answers. Encourage diversity of thoughts and opinions, and learn with your team.

--Top-3 skills for managers to excel?

-Effective communication skills. Words are powerful tools. You ability to articulate ideas and directions in a clear and concise manner can improve your effectiveness as a manager/people leader.

-Connect with people. We all communicate, but do we engage? Do we connect?

-Listening skills - both for content and for feelings (intelligent and intuitive listening). This is important skills for all managers and people leaders everywhere in the world, and more so in a culture where hierarchical relationship is expected and respected. Managers and people leaders need to be much more conscious of the need to practice listening skills, as well as creating an environment whereby team members can feel free and safe to express their opinions.

Jean-Francois Cousin is an accredited executive coach (www.1-2-win.net) and the former managing director of a Fortune-500 company in Thailand. Follow his articles in Hi! Managers every fourth Wednesday of the month.


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