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How Lascelles did it! - Business mogul shares his successful leadership secrets

Published:Friday | August 21, 2015 | 10:36 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller opening a bottle of iCool Cran-Strawberry Flavoured Water, presented to her by Dr Eileen Chin (left), then-managing director of LASCO Manufacturing Limited. Sharing in the moment are Lascelles Chin (second right), founder and executive chairman of the LASCO Affiliated Companies, and Cleverick Doughorty (right), production manager for the Liquid Plant, during a tour of the new LASCO Manufacturing facilities.

Lascelles Chin, founder and executive chairman of LASCO Affiliated Companies, addressed dozens of Digicel employees recently as part of the Digicel Leadership Series. Chin shared how his extensive roster of both successful and unsuccessful ventures has led him to earn the reputation of one of the nation's top manufacturing stalwarts.

In presenting lessons learned from his vast business experience, Chin highlighted his five secrets to leadership success: optimism/perseverance, compassion, earning trust, flexibility, and passion.

The business mogul gave a candid account of his rocky road to success, commenting on the value of perseverance in the face of challenges. "Failure is not in my vocabulary, even when the business may not have achieved the outcomes we had established in the plan. You only fail when you do not learn lessons from an experience," said Chin, who joked that he had many "learning experiences".

The manufacturing executive cited several of his now-defunct businesses as training for his successful LASCO enterprise.

Under Chin's leadership, LASCO is one of the top-10 most capitalised companies on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, and holds the largest factory space in Jamaica. His most recent leadership successes have led to market success with the introduction of iCool.

Chin was careful to note that having a personal connection with his team enables him to display compassion, which he feels is a key component in leadership.

He also stressed the importance of gaining the trust of his staff through listening to their input and acknowledging their positive contributions.

The LASCO boss was adamant that adapting to change, especially where technology is concerned, is a must.

Here is an excerpt of that presentation:

"My leadership of LASCO has been marked by five key factors or secrets:

1. Optimism, determination and persistence to succeed.

2. Care, Compassion and respect for Team members.

3. Flexibility and being adaptable to change.

4. Earning trust and acknowledging and rewarding efforts.

5. Passion for excellence - committed to the mission of the organisation.

Failure is not in my vocabulary, even when the business may not have achieved the outcomes we had established in the plan.

Failure in not learning

You only fail when you do not learn lessons from an experience. I have experienced tremendous unfilled expectations. However, out of them emerged some of my most valuable life lessons. I closed business ventures when the market changed and they could no longer achieve the desired objectives and went on to other ventures. For example, when the importation of adhesives was banned in the '80s and it was doom and gloom in the market, I grasped the opportunity and went into manufacturing adhesives.

I, therefore, now have a storehouse of strategic business lessons from my experiences in down times that guide my decisions and leadership.

I do not lose hope; neither should you when the going gets tough, as it certainly will.

I have found out that hope is contagious and will filter to those who report to you. My team knows that I am determined and persistent. This inspires them to keep focused and determined also.

I talk with my workforce at all levels, and they talk with me. I do not expect my managers to do all the talking. I will respond to a boisterous, irate customer, and face the music some of the times. I have found that difficult messages are best delivered personally instead of hiding behind an impersonal email. These actions express in a real way that you care, because actions speak louder than words.

When the heat is on and competition feels like a war zone or a jungle, I go into the proverbial kitchen heat with the managers and face the sales reps and workers on the factory line. I know how their children are doing in school, and who needs a helping hand to university or college.

Another hallmark of my leadership is the flexibility to adapt to change:

This is the elephant in the china shop in this world of amazing technological advancements and rapid change. The changes are at lightning speed for you in the telecoms industry. It can be daunting, but only for the timid. However, as the extraordinary making others extraordinary, you cannot be timid.

I operate now in a very different world from the one I entered business in. I had to go through an operator to make a telephone call. It was the age of a type writer. No email, no computer, not the many gadgets that you have at your fingertips. I remember the awe with which the fax machine was greeted in the mid-eighties. I was sure then that work life could not get any better.

Therefore, I have had to change and be flexible or watch my company fade into oblivion. My admin assistant is far more technologically savvy than I am. I have no difficulty with her knowing my limitations. However, I am learning and adjusting.

When my staff members suggest technology-based solution that I am not familiar with, I listen and adjust, difficult as it can be sometimes. I hope you do the same. If you cannot embrace change and adjust, I can tell you, from my experience, you will not be able to inspire and lead your staff to do the same.

Earning trust and

acknowledging and

rewarding efforts

I recognise that to lead and inspire my staff, I must earn their trust as I demand and expect them to approach their work with passion and determination. However, this must be followed up with acknowledging and rewarding efforts. I also listen to my team. When I walk through my warehouse, I gain valuable information and suggestions to improve processes that can guide my decisions.

I listen and acknowledge their contributions. However, this comes from earning the trust of my workforce. I say what I mean and mean what I say.

The traditional meeting and suggestion box for ideas only work if followed up with genuine action and implementation.

Word must get around among those you lead that their suggestions and observations will be acted upon, and that they will be recognised for their contribution. It is not a book thing; it is really being sincere and open.

Let me hasten to point out that it is not all about money in the pocket. I make every level of the workforce feel a part of the success of the organisation.

Your staff wants to be involved and recognised. I know they want to feel their ideas count and contribute to the company's success.

Sometimes, it is a word of commendation as I walk the organisation floor, or just knowing what is happening in their family. Another time, it is sharing the mangoes, star-apple and avocados from my home across all levels of employees, not my managers only.

I have lunch with my staff sometimes, and even play domino with the factory workers. Those occasions offer opportunities to inspire and understand my team members. It also helps them to get to know me as a person, as a human being with a heart.

Of course, the monetary rewards are essential.

Developing a passion for excellence that will inspire commitment to the goals of the organisation

Difficult as it may seem, it can be done. Your staff does care about the future of the company. They want to be extraordinary, too, just as much as you do.

However, from my experience, it comes back to having a purpose for your life.

My purpose at LASCO has been to make living affordable for the Jamaican family, and to support the best family values. My staff understands that all our strategic goals must be aligned to that principle. Of course, I must make profit.

My sales and marketing managers and manufacturing workforce know that LASCO products must be of the highest quality at the most affordable prices. They know I am happiest when I can put a product on the market at the lowest cost.

That's my purpose for my Jamaican people. They know that LASCO cannot be daunted by changes in the market. We have taken on large international corporations and have searched worldwide for the best-quality products at the lowest cost.

As John Quincy Adams said: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."