In last month’s It Starts With Me spotlight, we focused on Linh Chi with her positive outlook and drive for inspiring change around her.
This month, we are highlighting Kathy Liang, the Merchandising Lead for one of our key customers in the Dongguan office.
Kathy inspires her colleagues to constantly grow by bringing them together, fostering collaboration and leading with empathy. She represents the spirit of It Starts With Me through her excellent customer management and her ability to synthesise diverse viewpoints to create win-win solutions.
During her 16 years at OI, Kathy has formed deep connections with those around her. Starting as one of three merchandisers in the Dongguan office in 2006, she has been agile and resilient in dealing with the increasingly expanded organisational scope of the Dongguan office and being promoted to Senior Merchandiser. While not easy, her ability to create strong bonds with her team members helped her to persevere, as she became a well-loved Merchandiser Lead.
Kathy shows she cares with her team spirit, as she believes “one person’s success may not lead to real success, but one team’s success certainly does”. So she ensures that the team meets regularly for open conversations. “I love to hear from them. We strive to give each other feedback regularly. It doesn’t matter whether it is positive or constructive; such open communication is essential for us to learn from each other and grow together”.
As her responsibilities have changed, she has expanded her network to collaborate with her global colleagues. She recounts that when she first tackled the task of creating a budget plan, “I reached out to other senior merchandisers in the Shanghai office and even got support of the finance department to get more information.” When facing unfamiliar circumstances, Kathy actively searches for the solution by consulting with her colleagues. “We discuss options, and then I seek advice from my manager. By collaborating with others, we can always succeed”.
Leading with Empathy
For Kathy, the key to such successful collaboration is being open-minded. She explains that “You cannot expect things to happen as you envision them in your mind because everyone is unique”. This philosophy has allowed her to give her team members the space they need to flourish.
Therefore, Kathy takes on a coaching role in helping her colleagues find the best solutions when stressful business situations arise. When her teammates discuss their challenges with her, she avoids giving specific instructions, encouraging them to consider multiple alternatives with her. “My goal is for them to learn from these experiences so they may deal with challenges independently in the future”.
Driving results through trust
With this positive outlook and solution-oriented thinking, Kathy embodies customer-centricity at her work by forming lasting relationships with our customers. As she likes to say, “OI is a bridge between our customers and the suppliers. To succeed in my role, I need to be able to put myself in both their shoes and understand their needs”.
She remembers one such experience when a customer wanted to create modifications to the original sample they purchased but could not articulate the exact changes they wanted. “So,” she says, “I created two versions. First, I made sure to get our supplier on board and then gave the suggestions to our customer. They finally found a design they liked!” By understanding the needs of both parties, she says, “we could make the process simpler and find a win-win solution.”
Over the years this perceptiveness has allowed the suppliers and customers Kathy works with to place much confidence in her. “It comes down to trust and respect. If you respect others, they will respect you too. When our suppliers feel supported, they also help and support us.”
Kathy is also committed to her own growth by proactively investing time and effort in learning, motivated by the learning culture at OI. “In 2018, I was very lucky to join the Train the Trainer program. It helped me get qualified to be an internal trainer responsible for feedback training.” Kathy says, “I always find myself applying the lessons from this training to my daily work.”
Moreover, she also seeks to inspire others to continue learning whether by sharing informative articles with her team or encouraging them to use our learning platforms. “Learning is essential because it helps us keep up with all the changes in the business landscape.”
When the team is less busy, Kathy also takes the initiative to hold informal training sessions. “I often choose a topic, and in two small groups, we research in-depth to prepare small presentations. We then share and often we learn things we didn’t know before.”
Through these small activities, Kathy has created a significant and lasting impact on those around her. As she says, “In my opinion, people are the most important.” By valuing and caring for everyone, she helps everyone to grow together.
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