During my tour, I worked with Kai Pong, Manager at PwC San Jose. Working with him was like having a coaching session every day because his wisdom and strategies are equivalent to some of the most successful people I have met and he has an innate sense for winning at the PwC ‘game’.
He attributes his disciplined work approach and resilience to the two years of compulsory military duty which he served in Singapore. I learned a lot from Kai and these are my favourite lessons:
1. Network strategically
Having contacts has little value unless you know how to leverage your network. Being the person that gets the important phone call takes hard work. The best way to stand out is to develop an area of expertise and let everyone know you how you can help in that area.
I sat in a meeting with Kai and a sales director at one of our clients. The sales director was buzzing from his previous meeting and he started talking about the year ahead, his new product and how it would change everything. I found it amusing and heartening to see someone so passionate about their work (a common and contagious trait in San Jose). Kai was happy to engage in the distraction and as I observed it I realized that, had I been alone, I would have followed my classroom training and steered the conversation back to the meeting agenda. I would have missed an insight into my client’s plans.
Later, Kai emphasized the importance of listening to clients, and his willingness to allow the conversation to go astray. This is your chance to understand the business and the issues they face. It’s also a chance to share with them regulatory or other requirements that they may not be aware of. When they come to realize this need, you will be the first person they approach for help, and that’s a great position to be in. You will establish yourself as a trusted advisor and spread your reputation as the best person to help and deliver.
2. Nurture and delegate
Whilst I was in San Jose, I was faced with an ever-growing workload. Kai nudged me towards delegating downwards on several occasions and encouraged me to nurture my teams to take on harder tasks by investing my time in coaching them. I interpreted this as a way to empower others, however Kai said that I was being far too noble. This is important because ensuring your team is well equipped with the skills they need frees up your time to work on big impact tasks. It also gears you up for success, as building a strong team that produces quality and performs highly reflects well on you.
Take care to develop trust in your teams also. If you are working with new team members, don’t delegate blindly and hope for the best. Stay close to them and guide them towards producing high quality work.
3. Manage your workload
One day Kai asked me why I was working on so many clients. I thought it was a trick question, but Kai enlightened me. You always have a choice about your workload, and the most successful people are aware of when their plate is getting too full. They can strike the balance between being a good team player and achieving what they want to.
Additionally, taking on a manageable workload is powerful when you are able to deliver to a higher standard than expected of you. This creates a stronger reputation than taking on an excessive, unmanageable workload.
Communication is key to managing your workload effectively. Refusing to help may cause others to question your readiness for team work. One tactic that Kai recommends is to share your challenges in bandwidth, and offer to help in any small, but manageable, way. The asker will appreciate that, and may find your offer sufficient to meet their needs.
Kai’s investment into teaching me these lessons will pay off as I am inspired to give more to my teams and clients and I am aiming for a ripple effect.