What management traits are game-changing for today’s leaders of European organisations?
I’m a strong believer in creating as flat a management structure as possible and letting the experts in our business deliver on their areas of responsibility. But the one thing I think a leader can never delegate is communication.
Having recently brought together several business divisions into one organisation – with teams spread across many different countries, languages and cultures – communication was key.
In a fast-moving business environment, the chance to meet face-to-face with staff right through the organisation is still vital to gather important feedback. The approach I would advocate is:
1. Active listening: Truly listening to the feedback from the teams across the business is invaluable and actionable. Give people a platform to be heard and they will share valuable insights.
2. Transparency: By speaking openly about the company’s goals and challenges, you build trust and foster an environment where employees feel empowered to share their ideas.
3. Responsiveness: Make it a goal to respond to feedback and act as quickly as possible – sometimes on the same day. This ensures everyone can see the results and value being delivered from the sessions.
The issue of diversity and inclusion is particularly acute in the technology sector. How are you addressing this challenge?
It’s an imperative issue to address and it’s not just for the good of society – it’s also good for business. Research suggests that companies with diverse and inclusive decision-making teams will exceed their financial targets.
Introducing a virtual structure in our European operations has enabled individuals from different countries to take on corporate roles without having to relocate to the German headquarters. It also allows people to more easily manage family lives that might involve young families or older relatives to care for, while enabling everyone to pursue their career ambitions more freely.
Addressing the gender imbalance in the high-tech industry is another important focus for us. Recognising the lack of female representation in our field, we are spearheading a number of female-led programmes to help women connect across the wider organisation, provide coaching and mentoring and deliver more career opportunities for managerial and directorial positions. There is still much work to be done but the early signs are encouraging.
What other important issues are top of mind currently?
Now more than ever, I think it is important for a business to have a sense of purpose. To be able to meaningfully contribute to society in some way, besides making profit. Those organisations that are succeeding today often manage to combine these two elements successfully.
Purpose and authenticity may seem like modern phrases of the business world but it’s these clear attributes, inherent in our business philosophy, that are some of the main reasons that Panasonic continues to flourish. One of our seven guiding principles, established by our founder Konosuke Matsushita more than 100 years ago, was to contribute to society. In essence, we must always consider whether our activity is contributing to the development of society and the wellbeing of people.
This core thinking means the decisions we make are for the long term. There are potentially many decisions and actions we could take if we wanted to achieve short-term growth. But they would not be right for the business or sustainable in our commitment to the development of society.
It’s an approach that drives everything in our business. From product development, through to the way we treat our employees, partners and customers and now even our approach to sustainability. As well as addressing our own environmental impact, we aim to help further reduce wider society’s CO2 emissions by offering new energy-saving solutions and clean energy technologies.
That sounds like a very visionary approach. What are some of the other guiding principles?
I think the principles are still as important to business today as they were more than 100 years ago. For example, when thinking about our team, no matter how talented one individual might be, we will only ever achieve our long-term goals through team co-operation and spirit and working with humility and being respectful.
We should also show gratitude. A direct interpretation from the original Japanese principle translates as “gratitude and gratitude”; meaning to show our gratitude for the kindness that other people show us but also to consider how we reward that kindness.
Fairness and honesty are also key principles that lay the foundations for long-term relationships and ultimately business success.
Despite the time that has passed, what worked for our founder more than 100 years ago is still as important as ever today and for the future of business.
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