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Suite Talk: Jim Bujold, Honeywell Southeast Asia

Jim Bujold, president of Honeywell Southeast Asia, explains to Aditi Sharma Kalra the three elements of leadership he follows to get the best out of his people.

How did you get to where you are today with Honeywell?

I was previously president of Honeywell India from 2010 to 2013. I also held various leadership positions within Honeywell Building Solutions (HBS) for nearly a decade and was part of Honeywell’s global leadership team from 2007 to 2010 as vice-president and general manager – EMEAI, based out of Bracknell, the United Kingdom. I also served on the HBS Americas leadership team from 2004 to 2007.

How would you define your leadership style?

Our chairman and CEO Dave Cote always says leadership requires three elements: The ability to mobilise or excite a workforce; the ability to pick the right direction and to do it even in the face of what’s considered the collective wisdom at the time; and the ability to get the entire organisation moving step by step in the right direction. I fully agree with him and have been following these elements to build my leadership style.

A lot of people put a very high emphasis on the first element – and it is important – but the second and third elements are perhaps even more important. While exciting and mobilising the workforce gets a lot of attention, having the ability to pick the right direction, along with demonstrating the diligence and continuous focus required to get the organisation moving in the right direction and keep it moving, can pay tremendous dividends.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I would not point to any one thing. The reality is I am very fortunate to work with great people in an exciting and fast-growing part of the world, and I get to do this while representing a great company. Honeywell offers a diversified portfolio of products and solutions across industries such as aerospace, real estate development, oil and gas refineries, and turbochargers.

As a leader, making tough decisions is part of your life, and the toughest ones are usually about people.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make?

As a leader, making tough decisions is part of your life, and the toughest ones are usually about people. You need to make sure you get the right people, motivate them to work together towards the same goal, and eventually help them grow. The decision making becomes even tougher when you have to end a programme, initiative or investment. You need to make the call and communicate it clearly to the people who have committed to it for a long time, with a sound rationale, and get the team focused on the new initiative.

How do you unwind?

Thankfully, there have been a lot more really good days here at Honeywell than bad days, but that being said, we all have to deal with stress and the occasional disappointing day. When something doesn’t go the way I had hoped, I always try to reflect on the issue with real intellectual honesty. If you put the emotion aside and apply strong critical thinking, or ask others to look at the issue and give their unvarnished assessment, it may not be pleasant, but at least it gives you some answers about what went wrong.

It’s all part of holding yourself and your organisation accountable for performance. It may be a difficult process to go through, but if you hold yourself accountable for something, it means that you can do something to change the outcome, and that is very empowering. Feeling empowered to correct something relieves stress and builds energy.

How do you engage and motivate staff when they are struggling with work?

We have a comprehensive and well-established talent management system aligned with our business strategy that ensures we have the right people, are organised the right way, and motivated to do the best job every day for our customers. We offer employees numerous on-the-job learning opportunities and top-notch leadership and career development training programmes.

I personally host quarterly town halls to inform employees of our company’s global and local performance, key initiatives and to recognise best performers. I also host brown-bag lunch talks with employees to address their individual questions or concerns.

In addition, Honeywell deploys an in-country HR model so we have a very strong HR team in each of the Southeast Asian countries to support me in employee communication and retention.

Having strong local leadership that is empowered to make decisions allows us to deliver fast and right for our customers.
What’s your view of HR as a business function?

We believe people are our ultimate differentiator, so in our view, the human resources team plays a critical role in leading organisational development and growth. HR is more than a business function. It is an important business partner that has real insight about our strategy, products, technologies and organisation framework.

The ability of our HR professionals to help build strong local capability is critical to our growth strategy in the region. Having strong local leadership that is empowered to make decisions allows us to deliver fast and right for our customers. As we continue to invest in building strong local capabilities, our HR function will continue to play a critical role.

How can the function contribute better to organisational goals?

Like all functions, HR is continuously evolving to satisfy the needs of the business and to ensure our organisational development; HR understands business priorities and partners with the business units to achieve them. HR will continue focusing on critical areas such as talent management to attract, develop, engage and retain talent to support business growth. We focus on retaining talent through consistent and aggressive talent management, career progression opportunities and strong employee engagement.

These actions build organisational sustainability, improve our bench strength, increase competency and readies the organisation to take on its business challenges.

You’ve worked in India and across Southeast Asia. Can you share some lessons on working across these cultures?

There are two important lessons I have learned. The first is that you need to be open to learning different ways of looking at problems and working with people to improve business results. Each country has its own unique set of circumstances.

Whether it is cultural sensitivities, economic conditions, regulatory issues or other factors, you need to be immersed in the local environment and build understanding of those conditions and how you can be successful.

The second lesson is while the qualities of the local environment are important, you can’t lose sight of what you have in common. At Honeywell we have developed a very strong culture that all of our employees share, regardless of geographical location.

While we work very hard to build local capabilities and to empower our local leadership teams to make decisions, we are also very mindful to leverage our global strengths to benefit our local business.

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