'Give your staff the autonomy, but within boundaries'

Updated: 2018-03-02 07:08

By Lin Wenjie in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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As a professional who has taken leadership positions in multiple companies, James Dubow, managing director and head of Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) Asia, has outlined two important principles for managing people in a way that reinforces employee empowerment, accomplishment and contribution.

The first is to give employees enough room to meet their objectives. As different people have different leadership styles, for example, some believe that leaders need to have as much control as possible, and some think leaders need to give their subordinates as much freedom as possible.

For Dubow, he allows his staff the autonomy, but within boundaries.

"I give staff the direction and then stay out of the way as much as possible to show I've trust in them. As long as a leader can ensure the direction is clear, and the employees are able to achieve what they want, they'll be happier and more productive," he says.

Basically, people are motivated by money and compensation to work, Dubow admits. But, with everything being equal, people are more likely to thrive when they feel they're doing meaningful work and have an impact on society. "If they feel they're constrained, they can't give their best."

A leader needs to listen to his or her subordinates. As employees seek more attention, feedback and support, leaders must be more mindful of individuals' needs in order to more effectively inspire professional development. By listening to them, leaders can create trustworthy relationships with their staff, and this can breed loyalty.

"By listening to employees, a leader could know what's happening in the company, and he's able to figure out ways to give directions," he says.

As an old Chinese hand who has studied Mandarin for more than 25 years, Dubow has forged close ties with China throughout his career.

He joined A&M in 2002, where he worked on corporate turnarounds. He subsequently took a five-year hiatus from A&M to serve as chief executive of a power company with operations in China and South Korea, helping the company with its growth strategy following its acquisition by a private equity consortium.

He helped raise several rounds of syndicated and project debt, prepared the company for listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and finally assisted with its 100-percent equity sale to State-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation, spending the last year spearheading financial operations while helping the new Chinese parent company with its strategic plans and post-merger integration.

Recalling his experience in China General Nuclear, Dubow says he was lucky to have worked with a management team consisting of very sharp and hardworking people, and it's a memorable event for him working in the State-owned enterprise.

Dubow rejoined A&M as head of A&M Asia in 2012, giving a hand to private equity sponsors with the operating turnarounds of their portfolio companies, including taking interim management positions where required. He leads a team of professionals that provides various services to investors from pre-acquisition due diligence, to post-investment performance improvement, and exit sale support.

"My in-house experience gives me a good reason to return to A&M. Different from taking an interim role in a company, the permanent position prompted me to think more about the long-term strategy, and that influenced everything we did at that time. And now, even in a temporary position, I always keep the long-term goal in my mind."

In China today, Dubow sees the energy and capability of young people as their best assets. He advises the younger generation to follow good leaders instead of chasing after brand name companies when looking for a job.

"If you have to choose between a world renowned bank whose boss you're not sure of, and a small bank whose boss you know and will support you, you'd better choose the one who will be a mentor for your career."


'Give your staff the autonomy, but within boundaries'

(HK Edition 03/02/2018 page8)