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Leadership Lessons
IT veteran leads with vision
Jan Chan
update on Saturday, August 21, 2010
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Now overseeing strategy and business operations as general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong, Peter Yeung is a seasoned and respected voice in the IT sector. During more than 30 years in the industry, he has run the local operations for a string of IT multinationals and seen the high-tech revolution from up close. 

Before taking up his current position, Yeung served as managing director for Jardine OneSolution from 2005, where he was responsible for the company’s strategic planning and development. Prior to that, he was managing director of Hewlett-Packard Hong Kong for around three years.

Yeung holds a bachelor of social science degree from the University of Hong Kong.

How would you describe your style of leadership?
I find that being very open and approachable gets the best results. I trust people and enjoy coaching and helping them to succeed. Also, I respect and value diversity, not just in people’s backgrounds, but also in their views and opinions. In terms of running the business, I try to take a strategic approach, setting out the vision and agenda, then communicating and securing buy-in before letting the team execute the desired outcome. I enjoy working with people, and being part of a successful team gives me satisfaction and great pride.

What have you done to enhance your abilities as a general manager?
When I joined the company, I participated in a fast-start on-boarding programme during which I had to attend country manager conferences and one-on-one meetings with senior corporate executives. Besides that, our general manager in Switzerland is my mentor, and I have benefited a lot from his insights and experiences as a senior Microsoft veteran. I am also a member of the in-house learning circle for “matured medium” countries. On a regular basis, we meet, discuss and share opinions on a range of topical issues and challenges. And as part of the annual review cycle, I will invite colleagues to give anonymous feedback on my performance and to identify opportunities so I can improve as a general manager.

Is it difficult to build loyalty when many people have short-term perspectives?

Building loyalty requires a thoughtful, long-term approach. At Microsoft, we are committed to providing people with more than just a job. We give them the chance to build a career and fulfil their aspirations as part of a three-way partnership. Employees drive their careers in the long-term; managers provide individual coaching; and the company supports both with resources and further opportunities.

What techniques do you use to motivate and inspire staff?
We do that through encouragement, empowerment and recognition. Our culture is open and entrepreneurial, and I trust staff, as business owners, to make sound decisions. I empower them to manage their time and priorities effectively and to continually find ways to innovate and improve. We use a variety of rewards – not only monetary – to attract great people, motivate, and recognise exceptional performance.

At what point did you feel your career had really taken off?
I am fortunate that I have not gone through many ups and downs in my career. I progressed steadily up the career ladder after starting out as a sales trainee. But I still remember how I felt when I made my first major sale to one of the largest institutions in Hong Kong. It gave me great confidence and made me believe I could be as good as everybody else, so I guess that laid the foundation for my career.

Which experiences most shaped your attitude to work and life?
Obviously, my values and philosophy are the result of 30-plus years working for IT multinationals in Hong Kong. I have learned the importance of values like integrity and honesty, trust and respect, and a strong work ethic. The experience has also shaped my views on the power of technology and how it can be applied to improve the quality of our society. It has applications in everything from education to business, healthcare to government and community services. Those views have been reinforced since joining Microsoft by the belief that our work can transform lives and help people realise their full potential.

How do you make the company as competitive as possible in all areas?    
Our aim is to compete by “leading innovation and change”. This means setting trends that will bring truly transformational changes and being fully committed to them. In addition to our business investments, we also have to ensure that all employees and partners help businesses and consumers explore new opportunities, such as cloud computing, so they experience the positive impact it can have on their lives. At Microsoft, we are always motivated to develop and provide the best solutions for our customers and partners, helping them to find creative ways to solve business problems and develop breakthrough ideas.

What advice do you have for graduates interested in the IT field? 
They should develop a passion for technology and do whatever they can to stay up to date with the latest market trends. They should also have a good, intuitive sense of how technology can enable change and make a difference in workplace and other scenarios. To develop this sense, I would encourage them to be early adopters and to be aware of that R&D will continue to offer long-term career opportunities.


Manager's 'art'  

  • Yeung believes management is more an art than a science, since it concerns people, and that leadership is about setting vision, direction and strategy
  • His aim is to improve society with technology
  • He strives to create an open and collaborative working environment to foster ideas and encourage people to try new things

 

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