In last month’s It Starts With Me spotlight we focused on Jeff Yung and his attitude of constant improvement.
This month we are highlighting Ratchaneeporn, better known in OI as Ning. Ning sits in Bangkok as Key Account Manager for a major customer of ours, in charge of that customer’s orders originating in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Indonesia.
Ning’s results-driven, solution-oriented mindset; her work to create a collaborative working environment amongst her teams; and the active support she offers her colleagues, informed by the efforts she has made to improve her own leadership competencies, are why she also represents the spirit of It Starts With Me.
Ning started in OI eight years ago as a merchandiser in another customer-specific team. After only four years she became Senior Production Manager, and after another two she was promoted to her current position.
Much of Ning’s career in OI has been defined by her endeavour to develop OI’s operations in Myanmar, and the resulting part she played no doubt contributed to our incredible growth in turnover there in recent years. Ning remembers that when she started, “many people and teams didn’t believe in starting in Myanmar, because of how hard it would be to access the market.” But, in around four years’ time the annual turnover had increased exponentially. “I feel very proud of our success,” says Ning about her and her team, “we worked very hard to achieve it.”
Once she became Senior Production Manager for Myanmar, Ning had to make a crucial choice. “At that time many of our KPIs were not being met, many orders were not on-time. I knew if I went to Myanmar it would be easier for me to work with the suppliers, but I have two daughters with my husband: I had to think about the positives and the negatives. My husband said to me: “It depends on you. If you want to prove you can do it, I will support you. Then I thought to myself “Nothing is impossible, we can do it.” With that mentality, Ning moved to Myanmar on her own, and now our business there meets 100% of our KPIs.
Ning’s photo taken in a factory in Myanamar. Ning believes the factories there have changed dramatically in the last ten years.
In her current role as Key Account Manager, Ning has focused on improving working processes and building the confidence of her team members. To achieve this, she has held on to her solution-oriented attitude. “When I look at the big problems, I step back and think, prioritise. If you only see them as big problems, it’s hard to find the solution.”
She has made her teams more efficient by stressing collaboration through two simple but highly effective strategies: first by prioritising shared documents that are openly accessible to all, and by encouraging her teams to only use English when working. Ning explains that “before teams would keep separate files which could sometimes lead them to be quite argumentative with each other. Now we upload consolidated documents in our group chats, and I will randomly check if the files are up to date. It was difficult to change the mindset at first: some people are quite conservative and wanted to keep their own files, which I think can be explained by the Thai culture, but it had led to conflicting information. After one year of making the change, we are one team.” Ning also notes that the disagreements between the different function areas have decreased due to the bi-weekly meetings she holds where open discussions are encouraged and the team goes with the majority opinion.
OI’s company language is English, but for almost everyone here it is their second or even third language. This is a key reason why, as Ning states, people in her teams “are worried about the language barrier and are nervous to speak up in English.” However, given that her teams operate across various countries, Ning’s making them work in one common language allows them to collaborate more effectively. For her, the proof is in their improved efficiency: “before, we could work on three styles in one hour, now we can work on eight. This is because everyone has become used to [discussing things in English] in a more confident and natural way.”
By identifying the pain points and addressing them in straightforward ways, Ning has brought her teams together and fostered their cooperation, leading to improved results. As she says herself: “don’t just speak about problems, offer alternative solutions.”
But Ning also sees her team members being confident in sharing their views, especially in company-wide settings, as its own unique goal. She accomplishes this by offering them her support. She remembers that early on “the Quality Assurance team asked me to join their regular Global QA meeting and I said: “no problem!” I was not expected to join but I was there to help my colleagues if they needed it. After three or four times they did not ask me to join anymore. I am proud because they now speak up for themselves.”
Learning to LEad
Helping her colleagues in this way is a major part of Ning’s attitude towards her role. As a people manager, Ning takes responsibility for developing her own leadership skills, as in her opinion “you must be a good leader, instead of only just a manager.” She mentions that she has taken over 20 courses, including many of our internal e-learnings on leading others as well as some on coaching skills. “If you know how to coach, you know how to support your team: it is very important. Some people like to be given clear instructions, some people only like guidance. You have to understand the person.” With this mindset Ning actively ensures that she provides her team members with what they need to succeed.
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