On a learn­ing curve

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG - By EMMA DAI in Hong Kong em­madai@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Work­ing hard is a pre­req­ui­site for any and ev­ery suc­cess­ful busi­ness. But it’s not just about work­ing hard ... The ca­pa­bil­ity to work with peo­ple of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, back­grounds and lan­guages is crit­i­cal ... Ev­ery­one should fo­cus on the com­mon good.”

Only the sec­ond chief ex­ec­u­tive of Chi­nese ori­gin in the en­tire seven-decade history of Cathay Pa­cific, an air­line with a Bri­tish back­drop since its very early days, Ivan Chu Kwok­le­ung is not very fond of peo­ple call­ing him a “Chi­nese CEO”.

“I do not think my­self as a Chi­nese CEO. I con­sider my­self a CEO who hap­pens to be Chi­nese,” he said.

Lead­ing a com­pany with more than 33,000 em­ploy­ees rep­re­sent­ing 50 na­tion­al­i­ties world­wide, and one that ap­pointed a woman to the post of di­rec­tor of flight oper­a­tions (Anna Thompson) on April 10 this year, Chu said di­ver­sity is the

fifth are bud­get op­er­a­tors.

Hav­ing worked for Cathay also in Tai­wan, Thai­land and Aus­tralia, and built the sales team on the main­land, Chu told China Daily that the key strength of the air­line lies in its “out­ports”. “Over the years we have built strong brand in tra­di­tional

a strength of Cathay Pa­cific.

“When it comes to pro­mo­tions, we al­ways fo­cus on one is­sue, which is merit. The best per­son shall get the job,” he said.

And yet, Chu told China Daily that work­ing with peo­ple is what one needs to learn, par­tic­u­larly in a com­pany em­ploy­ing mul­ti­ple na­tion­al­i­ties.

“Work­ing hard is a pre­req­ui­site for any and ev­ery suc­cess­ful busi­ness. But it’s not just about work­ing hard,” Chu said. “I’ve seen on dif­fer­ent lev­els — even with some very se­nior per­sons — peo­ple some­times have very big egos and don’t work well with oth­ers. That lim­its ca­reer (growth).

“The ca­pa­bil­ity to work with peo­ple of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, back­grounds and lan­guages is crit­i­cal. It’s eas­ier in good times. But when there is pres­sure and dif­fer­ence of opin­ion, I’ve seen peo­ple don’t know how to han­dle it. I think ev­ery­one should fo­cus on the com­mon good and try to man­age the dif­fer­ences.”

Chu al­ways re­minds him­self to keep learn­ing. “I see man­age­ment as a self-per­fect­ing process,” he said. “Many young peo­ple grad­u­ate from univer­sity and stop learn­ing. That’s how peo­ple grow old. But as a 70-year-old or­ga­ni­za­tion, we are still young and in­no­va­tive. To stay sharp, we have to con­tinue to ask our­selves those ques­tions: how can we do bet­ter than be­fore? How

mar­kets, like cor­po­rate and MICE (meet­ings, in­cen­tives, con­fer­ences, ex­hi­bi­tions) travel. All the way through Asia Pa­cific, we are in the main­stream cor­po­rate busi­ness. It will take years for main­land car­ri­ers to mimic the re­la­tion­ship we have built up with our clients. They are do­ing well in num­ber terms, but can we do bet­ter than our com­peti­tors?

“What wor­ries me a lot about our or­ga­ni­za­tion is that we can­not get into pre­ma­ture ag­ing — the past is al­ways the best and we just do what was suc­cess­ful be­fore. Then some dis­rup­tion comes and we will be dead like a di­nosaur.

“If you’d like to be for­ever young, you need to con­tinue to grow and learn,” Chu as­serted.

That youth­ful cu­rios­ity is re­flected in his read­ing habits, as fore­most among the books to be found on his bed­side ta­ble is A Cu­ri­ous Mind: The Se­cret to a Big­ger Life by Brian Grazer and Charles Fish­man.

“I couldn’t put it down un­til I fin­ished it. That’s the best book I’ve read about cu­rios­ity so far. It’s about how be­ing cu­ri­ous en­ables that per­son to be­come the

not in terms of yield and cor­po­rate travel.”

And the rat­ings back up that claim. Cathay Pa­cific was named “World’s Best Air­line” for the fourth time in the 2014 an­nual Sky­trax World Air­line Awards.

Be­sides, Chu added that cor­po­rate trav­el­ers also choose pre­mium best Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer and many other things. Over the years, we be­come less cu­ri­ous, less will­ing to learn. But that’s what we have to do to im­prove our­selves and stay young.”

Another read Chu rec­om­mends is How Will You Mea­sure Your Life? by Clay­ton M. Christensen, James All­worth and Karen Dil­lon.

“Peo­ple plan their lives. But there is fate and for­tune and we have to adapt. It’s about peo­ple who have come through a lot of ups and downs. It’s about how to work out the right life ob­jec­tives for our­selves,” Chu said.

“Ev­ery­one’s ob­jec­tives are dif­fer­ent. But it’s im­por­tant that life is not a pro­ject for mak­ing money. If you lose the world then what’s the point? ( The book) re­minds me to spend more time with my fam­ily.”

econ­omy when they take their fam­ily on leisure trips, and that con­trib­utes to higher yields for the car­rier. “We will con­tinue to strengthen the sales team and the re­la­tion­ship with cor­po­rate clients,” he pledged.

Con­tact the writer at em­madai@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY

Ivan Chu Kwok-le­ung, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways Ltd Ivan Chu Kwok-le­ung says Cathay Pa­cific is in pos­ses­sion of a “dream fleet” of air­craft and plan­ning a “very bal­anced” flight net­work as it con­tin­ues to add fresh long-haul des­ti­na­tions to its ros­ter, which al­ready sees it con­nect to nearly 200 air­ports world­wide.

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