5 key strategies for pan-Asian leaders to thrive in today’s fast-changing environment

5 key strategies for pan-Asian leaders to thrive in today’s fast-changing environment

Change is an inevitable part of life – both personally and professionally – and it can often lead to feelings of stress and uncertainty. It can however – and often does – also lead to growth, providing an opportunity to build and display skills such as adaptability and resilience.

For professionals seeking their next role, the idea of change can create an additional barrier – real or perceived. To help us explore this idea and consider ways to adjust our mindset on how to approach and react to change, we spoke with Faisal Kazi, President and CEO of Siemens Canada, about strategies for not only navigating through change, but thriving through it.

A career characterized by change

Over the three decades of his career, Kazi has experienced a great deal of change, yet the most challenging situation he faced was brought on by COVID-19. With over 4,000 employees in Canada, working from factories and offices, Kazi and his team had to quickly transition to ensure employees had access to safe working environments. On top of that, Siemens employees had to continue providing products and solutions critical to Canada’s infrastructure.

As such, Siemens had to change up processes within their factories to ensure workers could be at least six feet apart. They also had employees supporting and servicing technology in hospitals and long-term care centres.

When asked about the characteristics that have enabled him to succeed and manage effectively through change, Kazi lists several qualities. “One of the most important characteristics is to have ownership. In my role, we have offices across Canada from coast to coast. If anything happens anywhere, it is my responsibility to stand up and own it.”

He adds that loyalty, lifelong learning, integrity, and the ability to take critical feedback are all essential attributes for leaders today. He also considers purpose-driven leadership as a must-have. “I am very purpose driven, and that matches very well with my organization because Siemens is also very purpose driven. It’s not only about financials, but what we are trying to achieve.”

5 ways to navigate change

As a pan-Asian leader who has successfully navigated his organization through the largest disruption in recent history, Kazi shares some tips to manage through today’s environment of ongoing change.

Stand by your purpose.

As Kazi explains it, his core mandate as President and CEO of Siemens is to grow Siemens profitably, but more importantly, to create a positive societal impact using Siemens technology. “We believe the main purpose of any organization has to be to create benefit for the society.” In fact, Siemens globally spends over 6 billion Euros on innovation, research and development every year to address some of the biggest challenges the world faces today – such as climate change and healthcare.

This is why when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Siemens stood by their purpose of supporting Canadians. “Our purpose was to support our country,” Kazi says. “There was no way we could stop operating.”

Anticipate change

Sometimes, change is quite visible, Kazi explains, giving Artificial Intelligence as an example. “Technology is changing very rapidly, and we can see AI moving away from being a predictive machine to performing tasks. So, it is extremely important to keep learning, to watch the trends and anticipate the changes that may be coming.”

Whether on a personal or organizational level, preparation is therefore key. “If you are reacting to change, you’re already losing,” he says.

Understand how change can impact you

Once you understand the trends and potential changes ahead, determine what that could mean for your career. “From there, start training – or the retraining,” he says.

It’s not just what you know – it’s also who you know

“Networking is very important, and that’s where organizations like Ascend Canada can play a huge role. Volunteering also allows you to create a network because when you volunteer, you are there to give and not to take – and the other people are also there to give, which creates a very strong network. I have seen –– that the more you give, the more that comes back to you.”

He adds that mentorship is crucial – whether that’s being a mentor or a mentee. “I signed up for a mentorship program and I got a mentee,” he shares. He quickly realized that he could learn a lot from the mentee and asked if she would be willing to reverse mentor. “I learned a lot through that process,” he says.

For those in the pan-Asian community, Kazi believes that a strong network is particularly important, given that unconscious bias exists in the workplace today. “I don’t feel we are at a disadvantage, but we do need to demonstrate performance, have the network to support us and recognize that unconscious bias exists. My experience however is that this can be overcome.”

Adopt a growth mindset

Kazi believes that one’s ability to thrive through change comes down to mindset. “It’s all about your attitude. Do you see the glass half full or half empty?”

He shares that every time he has seen change, he has seen great opportunity. “It’s a mindset thing. When something changes, it’s human tendency to resist it, because it disrupts the status quo. But, if you can embrace change and approach it with a growth mindset, you can leverage change for opportunity.”

Any kind of change can bring pressure, which can present a challenge. “But if you are convinced about your purpose and the vision you’re trying to achieve, a lot can be done,” says Kazi. He quotes the mystic poet Rumi, who has said:

“Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. But today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

As the adage goes, “the only constant is change.” While change is indeed an inevitable part of work and life, and can cause uncertainty and at times anxiety, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. When you’re not afraid of change – and when you can embrace it and see it as an opportunity – then you can be ready to not just navigate through change, but thrive through it.