Better Boss – Ng Chong Lam
After becoming a calmer and more approachable boss, Chong Lam finds it easier to manage businesses regardless of type and location.
Ng Chong Lam was the first member to join TEC (now Vistage) Penang in 1997. As General Manager of Malayan Electro-Chemical Industry Co Sdn Bhd (MECI), he was well versed in all aspects of the company’s core business in PVC resin and compound products. But he knew he had a shortcoming as a leader. Chong Lam reveals that he was a snobbish and distant boss. He was also an aggressive and easily agitated person. Thanks to Vistage, Chong Lam believes that he is today a friendlier boss and calmer person.
As a boss, Chong Lam says he wanted to get the optimum from his staff. However, it was ‘Yes, Boss’ most of the time when he dealt with his subordinates. ‘There was a gap between us,’ he recalls as his-subordinates would keep their distance and kow-tow to his proposals. In reality, he wanted them to use their intelligence and logic to come up with better ideas. Through Vistage, he says he learnt how to get better results from people, how to get ideas via discussion and how to achieve better teamwork.
Chong Lam notes that he learnt a lot by modelling other CEOs in Vistage. ‘I observe other bosses, their good practices and adapt their ideas,’ he points out. One idea was the use of incentive trips to reward top performing staff. He studied the concept for his sales team and devised sales target that tied in with such trips.
He says the key to people skills is building relationships. ‘Build relationship with your staff, superiors, vendors, bankers, customers.’ He emphasizes. Once the relationship is in place, there will be sincerity, trust and respect. ‘Trust them and delegate responsibilities, let them make their own decisions,’ he advises. It took two to three years to change this trait.
Loosening his dogmatic management style, Chong Lam found that he became a calmer person. No longer easily agitated, he observes situations carefully and discusses with his staff, before making decisions or announcements. To his delight, Chong Lam says his cholesterol and stress levels have dropped. He even turned to learning Buddhism and practises its principles.
The calmer and healthier Chong Lam says a leader can apply people skills anywhere. He does so in Penang as well as in China. He is now training his successor to run MECI in Penang while he spends more time managing businesses in China for his company’s shareholders. He is overseeing a joint-venture shoe manufacturing plant in Zhongshan as well as property development in Xiamen.
He says he is applying the same principles he learnt at Vistage in how to deal with people , build networks, marketing and public relations. Chong Lam says he never envisaged himself in property development as it is a totally different cup of tea. Yet, he is doing well and able to build good relationships with Government bodies, bankers, customers and vendors. He has also discovered the do’s and don’ts for business success in China.
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