When communicating, leaders should keep in mind that their audience is a person, reminds Thomas Franky, General Manager, Indonesia at The Hoffman Agency. In this exclusive interview with Jerene Ang, he shares leadership characteristics necessary to operate in Indonesia, the importance of HR collaborating with the organisation leaders, and his top tips for effective communication.

Q What prompted you to join the communications industry?

When I was in High School, I received the opportunity to participate in the production of an ad campaign for one of Unilever's soap brands. At that time, I was mesmerised with the way the campaign came together and the work that went on behind the scenes. Working with the ad team, I got so inspired and felt that I wanted to do this too. I remember asking the art director for the campaign, “If I want to be like you, what should I study?” I’ve never looked back since and till now, I’m happy with my decision to be in the communication business.

Q Having been in the industry for over 20 years, how do you keep things "fresh" and exciting?

What I love most about being in this industry is weaving a new story every day for my clients. I have been blessed working in the consulting business, where I have come across a lot of new and interesting campaigns. Building a brand voice, telling an interesting story, adding to consumer experience etc. has kept my thoughts fresh and exciting.

Q With this recent career move to Hoffman, what are your goals and in particular, goals for business growth?

Hoffman launched the Indonesia office recently, so this gives me the opportunity to create and shape an ideal communication consultancy in the market. Hoffman’s strength lies in the deep understanding of the local market while still benefiting from international exposure through our network of experts across the globe. Establishing this kind of communication consultancy has always been one of my dreams.

My goal is to further build our clientele, doing campaigns which are innovative and disruptive but not forgetting Hoffman’s core value of telling the story that every brand has.

Q Keeping in mind unique characteristics of the market, what is your business strategy for Indonesia? What leadership characteristics would be required to execute such a strategy?

Indonesia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and also a very unique country with its diverse cultural backgrounds - this impacts consumer behavior. Having a communication consultancy that understands the unique treatment the consumers here require, while augmenting with international standards of professionalism, and our award-winning experience will help take the Indonesian businesses to the next level.

To be able to establish an ideal agency like this, a leader needs to be able to:
● Recognise potential talents
● Provide lots of opportunities for the team to grow
● Lead, not manage

Q Indonesia is known to be the land of Unicorns. Are there any Unicorns you have worked with? How has that influenced your leadership style?

Not directly, but I have worked briefly with one of these Unicorns in the past. Working with these unicorns has highlighted the importance of being agile and dynamic. We need to be flexible to shape our strategies around the various needs these unicorns might have - as each of them are at a different stage and will have different requirements.

As a leader, I want to hire the best talent in the market, nurture and mentor them in a manner which helps me create a strong team. Standing behind your team, leading by example is important to make them feel empowered regardless of what stage they might be in. I always make it a point to be there for the team, to hear their ideas and perspectives - what I’ve realised is that the best ideas are created when team members feel comfortable and know that the leadership is there for them.

Q How can the HR function contribute better to organisational goals? How closely do you work with your HR leader on initiatives for employees?

For most parts of ASEAN (or even the world), we are entering the era of the millennial workforce. This new generation has its uniqueness and mindset that is very different from both previous and next generations; leading to both minor and major impact on an organisation. Close collaboration between HR leaders and their team, as well as the organisations’ leaders is necessary. Without close collaboration between parties, the transition in the workforce as we welcome these millennial workers may be hampered; and companies might even miss out on the talent they bring.

Q What is one HR initiative you’re most proud of and why?

Transforming my previous agency’s traditional team structure to a task force structure. Through this transformation, I was able to provide more opportunities for the team to grow as they were now able to learn from multiple leaders and be more agile in adapting to different situations.

Q With effective communication being an essential skill for leaders to have, as an expert in the field, what are your three top tips on effective communication?

● Lead, not manage
● Before communicating a message, think on how you can improve it (make it more clear, simple and engaging).
● Your audience is a person.

Q If not this career, what alternative career path would you have chosen?

Very interesting question. Wow… I never thought of this question before. But since I have a fascination with film, perhaps I might pursue a career in film making.

Photo / Provided