In overseeing more than 14,000 employees and 220 restaurants in the Hong Kong market, Shirley Chang also has the distinction of being the first female managing director for McDonald’s within the Asia region. Originally from Taiwan and trained as a nurse, she joined the company as a crew member in 1984 and rose steadily through the ranks to become director of operations in her home market by 1996. In the course of her career, she has also had stints in mainland China and at corporate headquarters in the United States.
Holding an MBA from the Simon Fraser University in Canada, Chang’s approach is to be customer-oriented and to focus on enhancing the quality of products and services. She believes that good staff are the engine of growth and, therefore, stresses the importance of comprehensive training programmes to reinforce teamwork and add skills. She talks to Jan Chan.
What approach and abilities are needed to be a successful leader? My management philosophy is to improve myself through “How” - honesty, open-mindedness and willingness - and to guide others by using the three Ls - listen, learn and lead. I have found that the ability to motivate others is also very important. We have a big employee community in Hong Kong, and I have to keep exploring new ways to motivate everyone, so that as a team we work towards the same goals and enhance the business. For that, I need our three Ss - serve, simplify and speed – which are the essence of what we do.
What characterises your personal style of management? It is all about trust and respect. The company always treats employees as our most important asset, so I strongly advocate open and interactive communication with my colleagues. To make that happen, it is important go from the boardroom to the crew room to meet and talk to frontline employees directly and openly. Every month, I also get together with different store managers and listen to their opinions. My target is to meet all 220 store managers this year, which is a strong management commitment.
What do you find is the best way to handle criticism? We can always find ways to improve ourselves, and I always take an open and receptive approach to handling criticism. In particular, I still read letters from customers, listen to their comments, and look for ways to upgrade things by turning negatives into positives.
How essential is it to have a strategic vision? This is definitely important. The management team is like the brain of an organisation, so they must have a clear vision of what they want it to be and how to achieve that. One of our visions is to be the first choice for customers, which is why we constantly aim to differentiate our restaurants and offer fresh experiences.
Was your career more a matter of good planning or good luck? I started out as a nurse and certainly didn’t imagine or plan to stay in the McDonald’s family for over 20 years. However, I think I’m lucky to have joined a company that is able to offer vast career opportunities and which strives to nurture women leaders. In fact, over 80 per cent of our local restaurant management team began with us as crew members. What advice do you have for graduates interested in the field? In the quick service restaurant industry, the emphasis is on providing fast, friendly and accurate services. To be successful, you must be dedicated to attaining high standards and should never give up in the challenges. You must be passionate about your job and appreciate the opportunities you are given.
Rising to the top
Chang hopes to see more women in senior positions, lending her support to setting up the Hong Kong Women Leadership Network
She created an "open-door" channel last year, so employees can communicate with her directly