Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #12. Being an Inclusive Leader with Pierre Cheung

April 21, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 12
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #12. Being an Inclusive Leader with Pierre Cheung
Show Notes Transcript

Inclusive Leadership is shown to have a big impact on both business outcomes and employee engagement - as well, of course, as being the right thing to do. And yet we don’t see enough leaders being inclusive.

In this podcast Jean talks with Pierre Cheung who puts inclusion at the heart of his leadership approach. Pierre is Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) for Kreed Entertainment Inc - the first inclusive K-Culture entertainment firm focusing on Kpop academy, NFT community, and IP management with a purpose to raise youth mental awareness.

In this episode he shares

  • The importance of positive energy in having a successful career
  • The role purpose plays at work
  • How we are not born to be inclusive - we have to learn it

Until recently Pierre was SVP and General Manager for Viacom CBS Networks Asia business including  Greater China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. This included digital media, programme sales, consumer products. He also led the charge for the company’s VIS (Viacom International Studios) business in Asia to drive local content creation.  

He moved to Viacom CBS from BBC Worldwide where he worked for 14 years, latterly as Vice President and General Manager for Greater China where he was in charge of BBC Worldwide’s channel, content distribution, consumer products, local production, and brand development activities across China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

You can find Pierre here

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pierre-cheung-933b7026/

The programme for the BBC in China

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_China


The Freakonomics information  

https://freakonomics.com/


You can find Jean here

https://jeanbalfour.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanbalfour/


Interested in training as a coach

https://baileybalfour.com/

Jean:

Hi everyone. And welcome to today's podcast. Today. I'm really pleased to be joined by Pierre Cheung and welcome to the podcast, Pierre.

Pierre:

Hi Jean. How are you?

Jean:

I'm really well. Thanks. How are you?

Pierre:

Good.

Jean:

So to kick us off, let be tell you a bit about Pierre until recently. Pierre was the SVP and general manager for Viacom, CBS networks, Asia business, including greater China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia, and his work included leading on digital media, program, sales, consumer products. He also led the charge for the company's Viacom international studios business in Asia to drive local content creation. And he moved there from the BBC world wide service where he worked for 14 years. Lastly is the vice president and general manager for greater China, where he was in charge of BBC worldwide channel content, distribution, consumer products, local production, and brand development across China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Pierre has extensive experience of Asian markets. And this is provided him with an invaluable insight into diverse markets, such as the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and particularly China to name a few. Leads with high energy in an intensely competitive environment. And we'll hear a bit about the acceleration from traditional to digital platforms and beyond, particularly with local production. And I guess I'd like to see a bit about how I see Pierre as a leader. I know you Pierre to be a visionary and compassionate leader who works really hard to create both inclusive workplaces and inclusive content. And I'm really looking forward to our conversation today.

Pierre:

Thanks for having me. I mean, it's such a pleasure. We know each other for a while now, and then the interaction that we have has been amazing. So I'm so excited. Great. Well, thank you. We always start with how's work at the moment. Work's been very interesting because like, after I left Viacom CBS now called Paramount. I was advising a Korean, entertainment firm, but now I've officially joined the firm, in the senior management team. And I've been doing business trips and escape from Hong Kong lockdown. Which is a fantastic way of like getting out is to do business trips. And, it's been an amazing few months and we're planning our sort of like expansion plan for, K-pop as an art form to get international markets, which is already very popular, but we also dabbling into the word NFT. I think everyone's doing that. So there's a lot of new things that we're trying to do. And its been amazing. It's incredible that you're kind of at that edge. I think of a will that many of us are already just hearing about and learning the language, even NFT. Yeah, absolutely. So it has, it has been a lot of interesting conversation with like both Asian counterparts and US counterparts. So it's, it's very fascinating. I mean, I'm still learning and also apart from doing so, which is fantastic.

Jean:

I imagine there's a few people listening who are curious about how is it traveling again after you know, not, not traveling for so long. What are you noticing about the impact of traveling?

Pierre:

That's a huge cultural shift. I think between Europe, us, and Asia, um, I think a lot of Asian countries do have a lot of, um, like rules and regulations. Some Southeast Asian countries opening up, but like China and Hong Kong completely shut. When I first landed in Los Angeles two weeks ago, nobody was wearing a mask. I was like, whoa, that is big. It's like the sudden freedom that you get that, you know, you didn't have for the last two and a half years. So it's a huge difference.

Jean:

That's amazing. I think that it's really interesting that exaggeration of cultural difference that's happened during the pandemic, because we've been in, in the countries that we were living in during that period so much.

Pierre:

Yeah. And then when you also hearing the international news. I mean, the agendas are so much different, you know, about the war versus covid. Yes. There's do covering COVID but then people just moved on.

Jean:

Yeah, yeah, no, that's really changed so rapidly. Now, when you have a really good day at work, what does that look like?

Pierre:

So lately I kind of like an epiphany, like when we were discussing new projects, when I talked to my new CEO, the main reason I, joined, her to the, to the expansion plan is that we will agree on diversity and inclusion plan. Which is amazing because like, we want to do like, uh, uh, mental health for youth project and sort of like a community center when we raised enough money to, or have enough profit. So that's always in my mind that we need to do something with a purpose, you know, according to our values. And I was just talking to you before that. Um, a lot of times when we do this kind of, uh, Mission and value purpose on diversity and inclusion. A lot of the company put this, like at page 25, 26 on a company deck, I purposely put it on the executive summary as mentioning on top of the business so that whenever we talk about any business related projects, this topic is still in the conversation, which I find it really refreshing. When the conversation about the business being so challenging, or we are frustrated about the process or this, any like up sort of like incoming challenges with that purpose in my mind, the difficulty is almost gone. Like I keep reminding myself, like this is a bigger thing than just the problem in front of you. So I think that that to me is really refreshing.

Jean:

I think that says about a lot about you as a leader that you. But values and leading through purpose are really fundamentally important for you in the way you lead and how that also connects into your own values.

Pierre:

Yeah, like when we first start our careers, like these things, we don't talk about it at all. Like 20 years ago, everyone just looking at the PNL, the profit and loss statement or the financial report or the sales report about the numbers. When you make the numbers, everyone's happy. That was that. That was then. Yeah. But after so long and the world has changed so much, it's not all the, not just us as like a senior management people, but also to the younger sort of graduates and interns, or like people who are just coming to industry these things. If you don't put it on top, they're not interested. They're not interested in working with. Because they are growing up in a different world, like the messaging and the purpose and the value is way more important than financial return.

Jean:

Wow. I think it's going to be really hard for some organizations to make this pivot that is going to have to happen in order to attract the talent that they want working with.

Pierre:

A lot of people are doing it. I, when I sort of like did the wrong in LA last couple of weeks, I realize on a lot of company's profile, they are doing it. It's just that what it comes to actual doings. I can't see how much is it actually incorporated into like, The culture, the daily doings, the communication, or is it just lip service? So that that's a. big piece I think the whole world in the work environment need to like study and focus on like there's enough seminar and, and forum talking about these things. Are they doing it?

Jean:

Yeah. Yeah. It does. The rubber hit the road.

Pierre:

Yes, yes. Yes. That's the challenge. Yeah.

Jean:

So could you tell us a bit about your career? How did you get to, how did you get to be here? What happened along your career journey?

Pierre:

I started in the media since day one. I started a local TV, not really in Hong Kong. Uh, TBB back in 1997, I just told my age. And then, uh, since then I was, you know, media firms and then went to internet in China before the internet, boom, back then, what everything was like.com with the website. Back in 2000 and then I worked for. Internet, uh, first as well. And then joining the BBC worldwide for 14 years, just I think every two or three years, I'm moving along the ladder up to management roles, uh, from a sales role, I think one week recurring theme was like, I just keep everything positive, like 90% of the time. Yeah. And try to find a solution. And it's interesting, even like when I'm with other friends, sometime they reminded me you don't have to come up with a solution for every problem. I so love to do that. Even some of the solution might not be a hundred percent correct. At leastI'm willing to be the positive one and make suggestions then I guess the, the, the perseverance, I guess.

Jean:

Um, so you think that that helped you to kind of move progress in your career because you were always willing to keep looking into solutions and problem solving often.

Pierre:

Because the last 20 years we see a lot of challenges, political, economical, you know, all sorts of things comes up and my glass is always half-full. So if you don't keep a positive energy into dealing with things in general about personal life and work life and all that, it's tough to even stay in the game.

Jean:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think so. Especially in the industry that you're in, because it's, it seems from the outside to be incredibly competitive and a bit cutthroat, to be honest.

Pierre:

Yeah, it is. But then also I learned from a lot of people also a long time veteran in the industry is that. You know, being positive and sticking around, are, quite important to sort of like, I mean, I wouldn't use the word survive, but to be able to, um, adapt to whatever changes has come to you.

Jean:

I think this is a really important lesson for all of us to keep, keep looking for the positive and the optimistic and stick around. I'm really curious. I wonder if you'd be willing to say a bit about what was it like working for the BBC in, you know, because that, because there's such a cultural difference, I imagine from where you grew up to working for the BBC

Pierre:

It was initially it was a little bit of a cultural shock for me because I grew up in Hong Kong study in the us, and then came back to Hong Kong for work for a local media firm from a local media firm to a British media firm suddenly, which is an institution as well. It was quite a cultural shock in the beginning, but then the love of the BBC programming was on top of every single conversation. Like whoever I work with. You know, on our end, on the client side, on the partner side, we all love what BBC created. As you know, as a program producer, like all their amazing shows and documentaries that they make. I mean, talk, we will talk about it for years. I was still talking to my ex colleague who, uh, was involved in a project we created. Called Wild China, which has a natural history documentary. We did it back in 2005. It was such an amazing journey, just being part of it. So I think BBC is such a know value and respected organization. I mean, It has his issues. Of course, all these years, you hear all the ups and downs, the news management change and all that. It has. I mean, I will be lying to you if I say it's, you know, it's a perfect company and organization or wherever, every company has different issues, you know, you got restructuring layer issues. And then the government going against the BBC constantly trying to like cut the, uh, license fee and all that. Is that entertaining, but also the challenges makes it more, even more fun to work in.

Jean:

Um, I mean, that's already appearing as such a theme for you. I think that bring on a challenge and I'll look to find a way around it. Yeah. Yeah. One of the things that you and I have talked a lot about is, um, is the importance of inclusion, both being an inclusive leader, who's creating a diverse and include. Workplace, but also because of the industry you work in kind of holding that responsibility of how do we, uh, ensure that we're representing the local community or under served and underrepresented groups in the community. And it would be great, just to hear a bit about first of all, about how do you see inclusive leadership, what does it look like to you? What does it mean for you to be leading inclusively?

Pierre:

I think doing it, instead of saying it that's number one thing in my mind, when I talk to people and trying to do active listening, instead of like projecting my ideas to others, like, I love the idea of love, including everyone. And, uh, we got lists of like all sorts of backgrounds race and, gender and every everything that's under the sky. Um, and also being aware cause, We are not born of having the knowledge of how to become an inclusive, not leader, just a person in general in our daily doing so. I mean, learning, it tried to find out, you know, what's going on in different countries and different regions all have different, you know, differences. Like in Japan and China, the gender issues more. Um, apparent compared to Southeast Asia or some other more like developed, uh, cities or countries, um, in different parts of Asia, the agenda is also different and us and Europe, you know, the agenda is even more liberal, so it really about learning it, listening to it and doing it.

Jean:

How does it work for you when you're a leader when you've got people? So you've led big organizations. How do you ensure that the people who are working for you are also being inclusive because so much of what happens in an organization happens, you know, two or three layers below the senior leadership, how have you helped to create that culture where inclusion was filtering down through the organization?

Pierre:

I think you start from, even from hiring. Um, when we formed the team, we need to remind people that we actually had inclusive employer. So people would notice that. And then when I interviewed people, I remember interviewing some people in Singapore before from a financial or finance role, the lady sort of like appreciate it. We emphasize that we are inclusive leaders that, you know, we don't see, gender and backgrounds and everything. And then I was surprised that she was like, the first one she talked about was, oh, I really appreciate you guys. Uh, Uh, employer. So that's, that was a really good example of you start from the beginning and then all the way with the operation, the frontline, teams that deal with external partners. So it really is, you know, you start from day one before the person who comes into the company.

Jean:

I guess also from what I'm hearing is that, that means that you constantly having conversations about it and about how do we ensure this decision that we're making is inclusive all the way through, from hiring and to performance management to talent, succession and career.

Pierre:

Yes. But the issue in Asia in general, I can say is that the diversity piece is still, I wouldn't say limiting, but still got differences, you know, between the west that the agenda that we're putting out usually on gender issues, um, and, uh, background race. And, so I mean, the topics are only on, on a field whereby you know a lot of the global organization, especially not in Asian territory, they move on to more diverse agenda. And the US is a different world because like, You know, the last two years, like BLM movement makes a whole lot of difference in the us and for Asia is less of a, a critical issues because of the, um, profile and matrix of the workforce in our countries. So it really depends, but yeah, I guess one of the things that I see is, uh, It's a challenge for them, for multinational organizations to be hiring enough, uh, senior Asian leaders in country.

Jean:

So local leaders within so for example, a Singaporean leaders in Singapore, or people from Hong Kong and senior leadership in the multinationals. And I wonder whether you've got any perspective on that, because I know. It's a challenge. I know there are lots of different perspectives about why people perceive that to be a challenge. Um, what are your thoughts about that?

Pierre:

Is it though? Cause like, but depend on industry. When you look into the tech industry all the CEO from south Asia, or at least south asia origin, like grew up in the U S and Europe, that's the global trend. People looking for talent regardless, you know, where they come in. And what the, what the backgrounds are. So it's changing like all the major tech firms. If you look up for the CEOs and for the, um, the Asian the Asian American on the American company side, also getting a lot of awareness. So it doesn't reflect to the Asian. Management profile because like a lot of the senior management here in Asia, Asians, there's more about on the global firm platform. I think the awareness is there, whether or not they're doing it. I mean, there's all sorts of reasons about, you know, not just racial profiling, but also like, are there enough talent in that pool of senior management pools? So I think. Create a lot of challenges for, you know, CEO and Board of Directors or a director to decide who to choose, not just based on background and race, but also merit and experience and capabilities.

Jean:

I think it's an interesting point about sector because I probably in some of the sectors I work in, which might be for finance related, it may be, it may be has a different profile. So I think it's interesting.

Pierre:

I think we also, I don't want to fall into a trap when I deal with this issue. When I deal with a typical Caucasian colleagues, it's like a reverse thing now. I I'm very mindful that you know what I'm dealing with, Caucasian colleagues, they matter as well. Not just, not just the different race from different countries. So it's a, it's an interesting balance.

Jean:

It's all about true inclusion

Pierre:

True inclusive. Everyone should be on the table, dealing with the challenges, you know, enjoying each other to sort of like solve those challenges. And all that.

Jean:

Yeah. I'm going to shift gear a bit. Uh, cause it'd be interesting to talk about your industry a bit. When I think about your industry, I think it's, it must be one of the ones that's moving most rapidly changing most rapidly. If I think about myself, you know, I'm a bit of a Luddite, but I don't watch live television anymore. Um, and so if I'm doing that, what are gen Y and z doing that we don't know about yet? Or we haven't heard about, you know, how are they. Uh, consuming things. And I guess, I guess I'm curious about from a leadership perspective, because this brings a question about as leaders in your industry, you presumably need to be ahead of the curve and really helping people move the people you're leading move very quickly, even when things are ambiguous and you've really got no idea quite what's coming. It'd be great to hear a bit about your perspective.

Pierre:

I think because of the technological disruption, it's like all this new technology, new platforms coming up, it really disrupt the industry, traditional media, losing sort of like momentum and growth and the, you know, the new media growing so rapidly, but it doesn't change the way media does business is the storytelling business. So,, we got less if it's like music, production, drama, production, animation production. And celebrity led, uh, content on reality shows is all about the stories. When you have good stories, you audience will find it regardless of where they are. So I think we've been talking to a lot of industry people from a new, newer. Whenever we talk about, you know, what should we create? It's always about what is the story? What is the story about a celebrity? What it is, story about this, you know, production project that we are talking about when we have the story, fix. And some would confirm. Everything would come along, even sort of like the audience, because the platforms now out there, you know, you've got all this, like, uh, over what we call OTT platform or media. Those guy would come for good story.

Jean:

Hmm. That's really interesting. A very early episode. I had a conversation with Serena Evans and Serena's an actress. And so her world is stories and she was talking about how, um, each of us just also wants to tell a story because she teaches people now how to tell us, tell stories at work and. It's it's a lovely connection. That what you're saying actually is all of this is about story and how we're connecting into story and presumably feeling some reflection of that story back on ourselves so that we can resonate with it, uh, and enjoy it.

Pierre:

I think even on daily life, as far as I sorta like immerse myself and talk to people when I know someone new and I was, you know, I was trying to figure it out. What is your story? Background upbringing. And, you know, in between my breaks, the last couple of months, I read a lot of, articles about, how your childhood actually affects your adulthood. And. It's fascinating. So I treat everything. The storytelling bit is quite important in my mind when I dealing with work and even my personal life, um,

Jean:

plus a really lovely connection to inclusion. Actually, if we invite people to tell their stories,

Pierre:

And before we judge, oh know, know other people's stories first. And we don't know.

Jean:

And often my experiences that when somebody tells me this story, uh, any form of preconception or bias that I might have actually slips away because I see the person as a whole human being in the context of their story. And yeah, that's great. That's really fun. That's very human actually. So, so even NFTs. Whenever the hell they are. Yeah.

Pierre:

We asked that question too. Like, what is the story? When you create an NFT projects it cannot be just taking a picture and trying to sell it and it has to be a story. That's brilliant.

Jean:

Yeah. Okay. So in all of this, one of the things I know that you do is you create vision and purpose really clearly. And I know because I've spoken to people who've worked for you that you really gifted at that they, they know where they're headed and some leaders actually find that a bit harder. And I wonder if you could share a little bit about how you go about creating that kind of vision and helping people to get aligned with that.

Pierre:

I like interaction and conversation about work and life in general. So I mean, I get a lot of ideas and way of people see things, but then I pick up the sort of like, uh, outliners and then just think of like, okay, what would it be better? If we drop everything now, you know, the, the, the ultimate goal, what would make everyone feel like fulfill and, um, not cause COVID really pushes people to the edge. Like everyone knows. I'm sure. Like on your podcast, you also talk about a lot of like the burnout and also the last two and a half years, almost three years now and change people's, you know, tremendously. And people also, we think about the work-life balance and what should they do with all the like great resignation and people just quit their job and just travel around the world. All sorts of things happen. So for us to stay in the workforce, but try to find a meaning of it. So I talked to a lot of people, but I also have a lot of like, um, people who are not in industry about the same topics, um, in different industries, the message and the sort of like comments are very coherent people. All everyone wants to find purpose and that purpose can be like giving back or create something for someone or finding joy from your work hours. I mean, they all similar, regardless of what people do.

Jean:

So helping people really connect to that purpose is powerful. Yes. Yeah. It's powerful. I'm noticing we're kind of coming to the end of our conversation. And one of the things that I'm noticing about this is this idea of purpose and story actually weaving through so much. And then even in a world like yours, where you're kind of at the cutting edge of. Digital and you know, where, where technology is going. It still comes back to these human qualities of, do I know your story? Do I know who you am? Or can I tell you a story that will draw you in? Yeah.

Pierre:

And are the stories, relevant to people, you know, who are, if we are targeting to who you're talking to, I think I would urge a lot of like management people and, uh, HR experts to consider, you know, blending in storytelling, into the, the daily dealings of the workforce. I don't know how, but you know, that, that is quite interesting and people would be receptive of that journey, I think, because it's not just for work for, for, for anything that they experience.

Jean:

Um, I think in our world of work, we've gone back to data as being the way we tell stories instead of creating stories that are about the human experience. And, and I think we've forgotten that actually people will respond very well to stories about the human experience. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's beautiful. So as we draw to a close what book will podcast do you listen to or read, or would you recommend to people.

Pierre:

Yeah, I, I, I think years ago I read the book Freakonimics, but lately I've been religiously listening to the Freakonomics podcasts. Um, it's really inspiring. Interesting. Just listening to, you know, economic problems with a lot of like professors in different schools, but also government officials and, uh, successful CEOs and all that. Um, so I would recommend people like check it out.

Jean:

Great. Thanks. I'll put a note in the show. Of the connection to it. Yeah. Yeah. Good. Well, Pierre, thank you so much for joining me. As, as I've said, I'm, I'm going away to think about stories again, actually, and the role that stories play in leadership as well as the work that we're doing and the way that stories have an impact on how we are inclusive and hearing people's our own personal stories can help with that. So thank you. That's given me some fresh things. Yeah. Yeah.

Pierre:

Thank you. I mean, it's such a pleasure. brilliant. Thank you.