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Bjorn Martinoff with Angela Chen on Leadership Exponential Power

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BJORN MARTINOFF: OK. Great, fantastic. We're here on the call today with Angela Chen. Angela Chen is the global brand Vice President at GSK Denture. And I'm very honored to be here on the call with her today. She's in London as we speak, while I'm talking from Manila, Philippines. It's a very different time zone. It's 4:00 PM here. It's about 8 o'clock in London. Angela and I have worked together over the years, and I'm very impressed with her as a leader. And today I've asked Angela what she would want to talk about. And in my book, Develop Exponential Power, which was just endorsed by Marshall Goldsmith, she would like to talk about the power of authenticity. So welcome to this call, Angela. I'm excited to have you. ANGELA CHEN: Thank you very much, Bjorn. I feel very, very honored to be asked for-- to giving this opportunity to me. So I truly appreciate that. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yeah. Same here. Same here. It's been a few months since we spoke, and I'm excited just to hear your voice and see how you're doing and how your family is. It's always been fun working with you and very exciting. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean first time we spoke on that was 2005 back in Japan. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yeah. ANGELA CHEN: That's a long time ago. But yet, other days it feels like it was just yesterday. BJORN MARTINOFF: That's true. ANGELA CHEN: And it does feel really good to hear your voice. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yeah. That was at Aoba Castle, right, just about an hour from Tokyo. ANGELA CHEN: It was. It was. BJORN MARTINOFF: I remember we were sitting out on the lawn and talking in teams. Fantastic, fantastic. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah, absolutely. And such a very [INAUDIBLE] moment for me, day for me, that event. Because I actually decided to have a child, and now I have a two-year-old boy. So it was absolutely a critical milestone of my life, rather than just a professional event. So it's astonishing as how things go, really. BJORN MARTINOFF: It really is. Before I had children, I had no idea how important that would be to my life, and to me, personally. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah. It's true. Very true. BJORN MARTINOFF: And I would probably guess it's that way for most people. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah. I would say that thought nearly everybody who has a child, I guess, I would assume. BJORN MARTINOFF: It's also a very humbling experience. You're working with professionals day in, day out, the very high level conversations, and then all of a sudden there's this little human being and all we talk is oo-oo and ah-ah and ga-ga. It's just mind blowing and it's so heartwarming to see them grow up and just smile. Just to smile at you. ANGELA CHEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. BJORN MARTINOFF: What a wonderful experience. Very cool. Very cool. So what inspired you to talk about authenticity, Angela? ANGELA CHEN: Well, actually really, I think as you got to know me over the course of the last eight years, I think authenticity's truly the backbone, if not the principle of my value as an individual. I do see the importance of, call it being real, because I think in the world where-- I don't know whether it's bad to say that people is perhaps getting more afraid of saying what's on really their mind. But there are other mediums allow them to say, i.e. the social mediums, other sort of faceless, so to speak, [INAUDIBLE] for everyone to express their point of view in general. However, I think authenticity remains a precious quality that you could acquire as an individual in a real life, rather than just in a cyber life, if that makes any sense. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yeah, it's so true. ANGELA CHEN: And for me, that's a foundation on anything you build upon, obviously where there's trust. Without that, I think this world will be just an empty, fake, made up concrete, if that makes any sense. Because I think authenticity brings you real realness and the real-- sort of the blood and the heart for human beings. I think I see that and it certainly worked for me in the last 21 years of my career. And how I-- sort of being myself, if you like. So always people come around to ask me so, I need to get some career advice to how you have progressed. And funny enough, when you actually really think about it, one very important quality or one important fact throughout, whether you're 21 years old just starting your job, or whether you're a 50-year-old in the hype of, even sort of in the top of your career, or when you're 60, about to retire. One important common thread for me is so critical is about being yourself. Because the job might change, the challenge might change. The tasks that you work on might be different. The people you work with is going to be drastically different in this global organization, or any global world, if you like. BJORN MARTINOFF: So true. ANGELA CHEN: But what can't change is yourself. You can't be possibly trying to re-shape and then making things up as you go along, because eventually you'll be mad because you can't reprimand yourself No one else can either. So to me, it's a fundamental stone, of bone, of everything to be built upon. BJORN MARTINOFF: Absolutely. Absolutely. Some people try it, nonetheless. They're one way in work, and then another way with this type of friend, and another way with that kind of friends. And then they're one other way, again, with the family. And then when you have a birthday party and everybody comes to the same party, they don't know anymore who they are and get completely confused like that. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah. I mean maybe some people can do that. I mean that perhaps there's nothing wrong with them, because if they can naturally do that, and that's the way, how they unconsciously or even without having to think, to behave like that, then maybe that's OK. But I certainly can't do that, because I believe human nature only have certain amount of energy, brain power in your entire body. And when you're occupied in trying to be something else, then you've actually lost the focus in doing what's really important. And hence, almost-- sort of politically incorrect-- but it's almost lazy to try not to be myself. BJORN MARTINOFF: In a way it's also hiding, when we hide ourselves from others. Maybe we don't want to be perceived a certain way, or we do want to be perceived a certain other way. Or we don't want to make any mistakes. But in the end, I think people can tell when we're not real, when we're being more plastic, or when we're hiding something. From your career, and you've grown very far up and in very different, very powerful organizations, what difference does it make as you go up the ladder and become a leader? What difference does authenticity make there on a team? ANGELA CHEN: I think, as I was saying, that being yourself is important, no matter what stage your career is. But I think authenticity perhaps come in different weight in terms of the impact, as what has influence, can reach different people. When you go up in the ladder from a sort of corporate point of view, as a natural tendency of the hierarchy, you tend to have less interaction with people because that's how the world operates in a corporate world [INAUDIBLE]. And hence, I think you already become distant as an individual to the majority of the population. And when our moment of touch point comes, whether it's a meeting, whether it's a greeting in the hallway, or whether it's a big event, you stand on a stage. Be coming in those sort of events or a moment as truly being yourself, and to embrace who you are, and then share with the group who you are has become magnified. Because given the choice, given the moment you actually get exposed to the team, so to speak, is actually less. So the [INAUDIBLE] about those moments or day's events, then that gets magnified so large. And that if you then do not present yourself authentically, it equally only gets magnified, if that makes any sense, because their spotlight is on you. And people look at you not just as a leader of the organization, more so as the individual human being, how they can relate to. And also, the relatability coming from how truly you are being real to the [INAUDIBLE], being real to yourself. And the impact can be then made very correlated, if you like. As you said, other people can tell whether you're being plastic and just reading off the script, or whether you're actually speaking things from the heart. Every human being, whichever country they come from, whatever degree they had, whatever road they're in, they can tell. Because we're all humans. And this is something just-- you come with it. You can detect it. And I think, actually talking about that, we were talking about Trojan early on. I think [INAUDIBLE] is probably the best example we can learn being very real. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yes. ANGELA CHEN: They were authentic. They didn't have to hide any feelings. They probably sometimes can be very quiet, but they definitely had no afraid of where the boundary is. They completely brought themselves, and that's truly inspiring as you watch them. And they have so much energy because they don't have to worry about what people might think about them. They just truly express themselves, enjoy themselves to the full, in the life that they have, in the world they have. And I think that's probably the ultimate dream of being authentic and being real. BJORN MARTINOFF: I agree. And they have no worry about oh, I should have said it this way, or I should have said it that way. Just life moves forward. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah, absolutely. No, they just sort of see the world as their way to see it, and they expressed the way they saw it. And you say rather than casting [INAUDIBLE] down to say is this the right way to say or is this the right thing I should say. And when you do that, you lose the focus of what's really required then-- required for the business, for example. As well as what's really those sort of laser focus of the issue or the challenge, because you're preoccupied about what other people might think. And I would truly present what you think. And sometimes you might not have the right answer when you're dealing with questions or real business challenges. But it's fine. I think people would accept that, because not everyone has an answer. Not everyone has the right answer, and that's where the team comes to play. Because I think often people relate to you if you get yourself exposed, that means you're vulnerable, but that means you're not a very good leader. At least I believe that majority of people I have led will not take as a weakness. More so they would take as a strength because only the truly confident individual would admit their weakness. And then it's more about working on that, rather than trying to hide it, as you were saying earlier. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yeah, that's true. And people are going to be more open when their leader is self expressed and authentic. And they may even come forth with more ideas, something that they may have otherwise never expressed. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah, exactly. I think, as I was saying, authentic's the foundation of everything. I So your book talk about a chapter of growth, talk about the trust, talk about the empathy. I think once you open your heart, your mind will open. That everything else would then open doors, and I think to me, authenticity's a key to many doors. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yes, that's so true. It'll open many doors. Even the door to the hearts. ANGELA CHEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. In my world, I see that's the only key. [INAUDIBLE] there is different sets of keys in terms of openness of multiple doors. Because I think when-- you might get away with once or twice being not so authentic, but you won't get away with it a third time. And then the doors will be shut forever, because you've then broken the foundation of the trust. BJORN MARTINOFF: Exactly. Exactly. People don't trust anymore. And I think it's been said that the myth of communication is-- well, the problem with communication is the myth that it's taking place. So many times people are talking, their lips are moving and sounds are coming out, but nothing's being said, much less is being heard. And I think the problem with that is usually authenticity is missing. Once we start speaking with authenticity, people truly start opening their ears. They start being present. They try to tune into us, and really be there with empathy. Like you said, it's the door to trust and empathy and to so many other things that can make a real difference, especially when we have to, as leaders, inspire others. If we don't just treat them as parts of a machine, but as human beings, we can then fully unleash their real potential. ANGELA CHEN: Um-hmm, absolutely. Absolutely. It has sort of a-- Bjorn, I think it's going to be easy-- no. Sometimes maybe certain individuals it comes naturally because their style to like-- But it does take a lot of courage and effort to be truly authentic, because as we were saying, we live in the world of corporation. And naturally, as a human being, you're probably worried about what people might think of what you say, what people might react in what you do. So it does take quite a great amount of courage and effort to be consistent authentic, even in situation where you're completely being seen unpopular by acting the truth, if you like. Where people, probably, about the table would be nodding vividly and viciously, if you like. However, they will be too scared to bring up. So authentic is only truly just be your own self, say, but also it's genuinely for majority of the business, say, where not everybody necessarily has the courage, has that courage to speak for the truth. Or do they know where the truth is, if that makes any sense. Once authenticity can actually take many people forward, rather than just one individual. BJORN MARTINOFF: That's so true. And I think you brought up a very important point. And that is courage. That it takes often courage to be authentic, especially when we're not used to being authentic in the beginning. It could take a lot of courage. It's sort of a muscle that we need to build. But when it's there-- ANGELA CHEN: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. BJORN MARTINOFF: And when it's there, however, it doesn't just work in authenticity, it works in many areas. Once we have courage in one area, it's like a balloon, it increases in size. And then we may also have courage in other areas that will then turn out to be more positive. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah. It is. It's really true. And also I think, [INAUDIBLE] another sort of chapter for the book. So talk about authenticity, but I also talk about being yourself more with skill. I think this is something you discover as you grow older, like me. I think also, authentic is different from being blunt. And different from hurting people's feelings. Saying something real, and then say it in a more constructive way, rather than destructive way. It would require some skill and thoughtfulness, otherwise it can come across rather blunt and potentially can hurt people's feelings. BJORN MARTINOFF: That's true. ANGELA CHEN: So I think the skill element is also quite important. As you were asking me, as you progress over the years on the corporate ladder and what's important. One is about the magnify impact as you go up. But there's also the skill requirement, because the people then you start to manage, you're leading, you're influencing is also different, if that makes any sense. [INAUDIBLE] the skill element comes in play quite intricately. BJORN MARTINOFF: It does. It does. You brought up another important point. It's how we are being authentic. Are we being authentic in a way that we're complaining or pointing fingers or putting someone down? Or are we being authentic in a way that we talk about how it could be more powerful, how you could be better, and how we could improve. The complaining I call like we're stuck in the past, so I call it past-based language-- that it's language based on the past. On the other where we're more constructive, I like to call that future-based language. So where we talk about how to be more powerful, more successful, more effective in the future. Everybody likes to hear how they could be more successful in life, in their career or at work. So it makes quite a difference which one we use. Are we talking about the past? Are we talking about future? People tend to be much more open when we talk about the future. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah. You refrain things, if you like, because often when I-- the other thing that worked for me, it's not the [INAUDIBLE], than just being pragmatic. Because often I think-- I guess it's sort of being pragmatic or not, being too cautious about yourself, if that makes any sense. Because I think you can't change the past, but you can-- you learn from the past and don't repeat a same mistake, or actually making some new mistakes, if you like. At least you actually learn from the new things. [INAUDIBLE] using future language is actually very important to refrain the mind, to focus on the influence we can make, rather than dwelling over the past. And all of this, I think also a leader or an individual, to be honest, I would think, do not take yourself seriously, but take the subject, i.e. the business seriously is also equally important to keep the business agenda going, as well as the authenticity impact to be maximized. BJORN MARTINOFF: It's so true. The business impact you brought up, can you share maybe some examples, one or two examples maybe, or anything else you want to say about how authenticity had made an impact maybe on one of your teams, or one in a project, or in your leadership. Any examples, because people always like to hear examples. ANGELA CHEN: Yeah. Absolutely. I'm just thinking now. I'm not 100% sure whether they're a good example. So let me share one individual team member example. So [INAUDIBLE] that was my time in [? Ava ?] about a year ago. I had a marketing director working for me. And she is an Irish lady on the [? express rate ?] plan with the company. At the time I arrived, she was on the potential risk of not continuing her contract, and potentially might be leaving the organization. But having just arrived, [INAUDIBLE], I quickly got some facts around the table. Also maybe some judgment based on their initial observation of her behavior/leadership style [INAUDIBLE]. It come obvious to me that she has a tremendous value to organization, and despite there might be cost challenges, there is definitely value in continuing her-- the path with [? Avon ?] through that, the contract [? term. ?] I think during those conversations, I had quite-- have discussion with my boss. But equally spending time being very transparent. Very authentic with the individual. I hope she doesn't mind our calling her name, Angelene, for example. Angelene's her name. And I'd been very, very truth with her in terms of what I'm trying to do, and there's certain things might be out of my control, but I'll do whatever it takes to achieve objectives, which will be a win-win situation, both for her, as well as for the organization. And that situation actually happened twice-- actually three times. So her contract extension comes to three point injunction where I have to face the challenge of not extending because whether it's internal policy or whether one individual's point of view. Now, although I have to peddle quite hard in front of my boss and us doing the HR network, in front of Angelene, I also equally had shared with her that the challenge I'm going through, so not pretending it's easy. Nor I'm pretending I have everything under control. And I made it very clear with her saying, this is why I'm fighting for this case, because all the value I brought to the business, et cetera, et cetera. However, these are the three elements might be out of our control, whether it's policy, whether it's decision-makers find a decision, whether it's eventually the cost, for example. And throughout, we stayed very close. And I will never forget the day when I actually got the last expenditure which is breaking the policy. Which is [INAUDIBLE] exception to get that extension when I had [INAUDIBLE] the letter to her. She normally doesn't show her emotion very easily. It brought tears to her, and it was a very touching moment. And she truly appreciated how much effort and how open I was with her throughout the process in terms of how I'm getting and am I making process rather than making one empty promises that yes, I'm going to sort it, but eventually turned around, because she's been let down in past. And then she appreciated the truly transparency and how the whole process I went through with her. So I'm not sure that's a very good example. I think that example came to my mind how I stayed real to her as an individual. How I related to her family situation from her needs. And as well as, shared with her my perception of the business situation. Does that make any sense, Bjorn? BJORN MARTINOFF: Absolutely. It makes a lot of sense. And that probably had a lot of impact on your relationship afterwards, as well as the results that she produced, no? ANGELA CHEN: Oh, absolutely. I think the [INAUDIBLE] infinite if I were to say. So I think I have built on an unbreakable trust with her. And I think that's going to last forever and ever. Even sort of on the personal level. But definitely in a professional level. If I had carried on working with Angelene, and I think I can [INAUDIBLE] through under [INAUDIBLE] and so can she on me. BJORN MARTINOFF: And there's real benefit when we can connect to other people, not just as parts of the machine. I'm a gear, you're a gear in this machine, but rather as human beings. We're so much more than parts of machines, and there's so much more possible when we are being human beings rather than just some parts of the machinery. And so all of our potential can be unleashed, and we can bring all of our creativity to the game when that happens. There's no holds barred, basically. Would you agree with that? ANGELA CHEN: Yeah, absolutely. Totally. I mean sometimes also, one could underestimate the impact of authenticity. Again, it's all about real. I mean we use this authenticity as a word, but in plain English, it's about being real, being who you are. And then [INAUDIBLE] who you are. I remember the first day when I started my job in [? Avon ?] four years ago-- five years ago now, almost. I shared with my team-- that's the first time I met them. So almost my arriving, so to speak, speech. And I had no hesitation to share with them actually I started my career as a secretary, as an assistant to a marketing manager. And of course, then how I progressed my career. And later on, you can't believe how numerous feedback I got from the team and say they were stunned by the fact that I actually, happily to share that. Because first of all, they didn't expect that level of openness. And they were really genuinely surprised, but equally they were really encouraged about how possible one can make out of their career no matter where you start. And I was asking my team, why are you surprised, because that's who I was, and then make who I am today. I have no-- I don't feel embarrassed about it. Everybody has different paths to their success. Everybody has a different starting point. And they said oh, OK, because some might think, actually, how could you share a rather humble start, or rather low start because you're already now a VP. I said well that's the whole point about you're actually staring in a very different place. It's not just people appreciate authenticity. But then taking that into a truly inspirational possibility to life. So someone who was [INAUDIBLE] assistant. And then thinking, actually, I could do that, because if she did it, I could do that too. And it's truly happening. And when I was there for four years, we would talk about career progression and how we then promoted people from very low grade jobs, i.e. team assistant into marketing role. And actually they flourished. And more and more those examples sort of build on each other. And you're then making the organization that believed in possibilities and believed in how your, once courage can take you very far. So I think the ripple effect of being real and being authentic and being who you are, and then sharing with the team who you are is much more than just single dimension. Now they know you're a human being with bones and body and a heart. BJORN MARTINOFF: Feelings, yes. ANGELA CHEN: But it's much more because you would inspire creativity, you would inspire courage, you would inspire ambition. Because what I believe is leadership is all about developing people, and that's actually a truly rewarding thing to see how people then respond to your authentic approach. BJORN MARTINOFF: Yeah. I could not have said it better. Authenticity I think can be totally inspiring others and can bring out more in them. Bring out more of their potential. I think people who are authentic, who are real, not plastic, people who are real people, I think they grow faster in their careers. Because they're more trusted and they will speak what needs to be said, especially even to higher levels in the organization. And higher levels, we all know, it becomes difficult to receive real and authentic feedback or information even, because it's often hidden from them. And so I feel that when we're higher up in organization, it's refreshing to hear someone talk with authenticity, being real, not holding back. And so I feel that often these people are growing faster and they're being promoted more often. It's a wonderful tool. ANGELA CHEN: It's a button hole-- I can't think of an analogy. I often think of an analogy where it's almost like a little match box to lit up all the other possibilities. Or is a key to the door, is the ultimate goal of them, if you like. [INAUDIBLE] that [? after ?] either creativity, either to courage, or to the foundation of a solid relation to last lifetime long. Everything. That's why I said in the beginning it's the basic foundation of everything, is just fine with me as a human being. BJORN MARTINOFF: Absolutely. I'm honored to be here on this call with you. I'm totally grateful we are having this conversation. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking this time. You completely re-inspire, inspire me, and encourage me to move forward with these conversations. You should see the smile on my face right now, Angela. Thank you so much. ANGELA CHEN: Thank you, Bjorn. [INAUDIBLE]. I probably should have articulated better. But I think that's two examples that came to my mind. If you need anything more drop me a note if you want to have a little follow-up call. BJORN MARTINOFF: Sure. Wonderful. I thank you for sharing about your very personal experience about the power of authenticity as described in my book. And have a great day.

Video Details

Duration: 31 minutes and 13 seconds
Year: 2014
Country: United States
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Bjorn Christian Martinoff
Director: Bjorn Christian Martinoff
Views: 313
Posted by: victoriamanila on Jan 24, 2014

Series of Interviews with Global Leaders, today with Angela Chen Global Head

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