Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A little ‘crazy’ can go a long way

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Chris Lee, President, Medtronic Asia-Pacific.

While leaders tend to encourage the benefits of boldness, it is natural for them to follow usual market practices or follow what the majority would do in difficult times. Then there are always a few who approach it completely differently, even during a recession or turbulence. Are they crazy? Or is there a method in their madness? The world needs rational people, but in my experience “going a little crazy” sometimes works.

Here are three examples of how going against the grain can help you for further success in the future.

1. There is always an opportunity in a crisis. Try to find it.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 hit Korea hard. This led foreign investors to reduce their exposure in the country. The International Monetary Fund had to intervene to prevent a sovereign debt crisis.

I was then working as general manager of the country in a global pharmaceutical company. Our global headquarters instructed me to restructure the company and cut the salaries of our employees by as much as 40%. I refused to do this and instead pushed for a 10% increase. My reasoning was simple: because of the depreciation of the Korean won against the US dollar, the increase would hardly have affected corporate earnings.

My boss agreed after many rounds of discussions and some persuasion. We announced the move and it made national headlines the next day. It cemented the company’s reputation as a company that values ​​employees, even in difficult times. From then on, we had no problems with hiring, and the Korean division posted record performance in 1998 and beyond.

The typical corporate mindset would have been to cut costs. That’s what many companies in Korea did. I went the other way and that resulted in better long-term performance. There are opportunities in crises – you just need to keep calm and find them.

2. Don’t accept the status quo. Ask why instead.

From the early to mid-1990s, I ran Japanese and Korean operations for a global pharmaceutical company. Evening entertainment was a common practice, with sales representatives treating customers to huge and expensive business dinners. As a result, all salespeople in the industry were male.

I asked the human resources manager, “Why don’t we hire female salespeople?” The answer was that it would not work due to the reasons mentioned above. I was not convinced and continued my case. I believed that women would bring a different perspective to the table.

My company became the first in the industry to bring in female salespeople, and my suspicion was correct. Female representatives performed as well as male representatives, and this approach became a new phenomenon. Imagine 100 salespeople come to your office – 99 were men and only one was a woman. She would, of course, stand out and the client would remember her.

Business stats have improved across the board. The female reps ended up spending more time discussing real matters with the customers, as they didn’t have to stay up late to entertain them. They were also more disciplined and organized.

Find your blind spots and remove them if possible. It can be the catalyst for your personal and business growth.

3. If everyone is going to the left, consider going to the right.

Twenty years ago, as the first Asian in a global healthcare company leading the Australian market, I had two options for my next step: lead the Japanese division of a company that generated $2 billion in revenue with 3,000 employees, or take a pay cut and run a smaller company in China. Most would choose the former, but I chose the latter. My decision surprised many industry insiders. Some even asked if something bad had happened in my previous position.

The truth was simpler: I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could make a difference to the company in China. Unlike Japan’s offer—the organization was already the first in the country—it meant going to Beijing to join the 15th-ranked $100 million company and drive it up.

Eighteen months later, it became number one in China, with sales exceeding $1 billion. I had a clear strategy in mind: rapid expansion. Most companies in China usually only add about 20 employees per year. I started hiring 3,000 extra workers at once to penetrate second and third-class cities. It took me 10 trips to global headquarters to convince them of my plan, but after much persuasion, they agreed. After this, other pharmaceutical multinationals in the country started to follow a similar strategy.

It was a career move that could have backfired. But I knew that if I wanted to make a difference, I had to come up with something bold. Sometimes you have to leave the safe harbor and go in a direction that others can’t even imagine.


• People may forget what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel. This is all the more true in difficult times. Treat your colleagues, colleagues and associates with respect and show that you value their contributions through tangible action.

• Everyone has blind spots, but not everyone is aware that they have them. You lead the way if you are self-conscious enough to seek them out. From there, you can discover solutions that no one would ever think of because they never checked their own blind spots.

• Crisis always offers opportunities. Instead of following a common path, consider alternatives, even the ones that you would initially reject like crazy. The long-term results may be better.

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