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56: Kiyo Weiss, General Manager, Asia Pacific, Air Canada

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station description ENJAPAN.DALECARNEGIE.COM
Japan's Top Business Interviews Podcast
Duration: 01:12:10
Kiyo Weiss shared extensive insight into her path to leadership starting from an OL in a Japanese corporation to becoming the first female General Manager of Air Canada’s Asia Pacific region. Born and raised in Japan, Ms. Weiss entered Mitsui & Company in an administrative role after graduation but
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Kiyo Weiss shared extensive insight into her path to leadership starting from an OL in a Japanese corporation to becoming the first female General Manager of Air Canada’s Asia Pacific region. Born and raised in Japan, Ms. Weiss entered Mitsui & Company in an administrative role after graduation but became interested in pursuing a more active business career. She recalls: “watching the guys working globally going overseas all the time taking out their clients at the beautiful Japanese restaurants and luxurious places…really made me wonder if there's anything I can do, somebody like me, a women can do.” After working for Mitsui for a year, Ms. Weiss brushed up her English skills at Simul Academy and entered Business International, a consulting subsidy of British Economist. After a year, Ms. Weiss found an opportunity to work for United Airlines as an Account Executive. Within 10 years working for United and starting a family, Ms. Weiss moved on to a sales training manager role and then became the first female manager leading a team of 150 people including call centres and ticketing offices. After being promoted to a sales manager role at United Airlines, Ms. Weiss was invited by Air Canada to be their head of Sales and Marketing, before becoming GM of the Japan office and now, Asia Pacific.   Ms. Weiss’s first leadership experience was leading 150 unionized employees working at United Airlines’ call centres and ticketing offices. She claims this experience as extremely challenging, as she dealt with daily union issues from overtime work, customer complaints and wage negotiations. On being a young female leader, she recalls: “Being a woman, almost like a girl from their point of view, I think there were strong reservations by some of the people [in the beginning], but since I was young and energetic, I was very committed to be successful because my boss from the US trusted me. I worked really hard. I think I had a lot of sleepless nights dealing with the union members, but I think I had passion.”   As a sales manager at United Airline, Ms. Weiss introduced certain American sales methodologies but recognized that Japanese clients and colleagues had different communication styles from their western counterparts. Thus, she encouraged her staff to develop their communication skills by learning how to ask better questions to their clients and focus on consultative sales. She also advised her team to take public speaking courses to gain more confidence, step out of their comfort zone and build a stronger presence. As the GM of APAC, Ms. Weiss explains other countries require training in different field. For example, with Australia, rather than communication skills, they would need more training in accountability. On moving from United Airlines to Air Canada, Ms. Weiss says as an active Star Alliance Committee Member, the Air Canada staff knew her from before, which made the transition between the two companies smoother.   On engagement, Ms. Weiss raises the importance of having small team activities like holding birthday tea time every month so that her staff gets to know her and each other on a more personal level. Ms. Weiss also encourages her staff to engage with members from other countries in regional meetings. By mixing her Australian, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese staff during these regional meetings, Ms. Weiss finds they are able to stimulate each other. Ms. Weiss explains: “I like those passionate energy [from other APAC staff] and I want the Japanese to be that way. They have different qualities that we value and they don't need to be the same, but still, if they can acquire that kind of emotional attachment in public, the team will flourish even better.” Ms. Weiss also adds that by encouraging her Japanese staff to hold discussions in groups, they are more likely to present innovative ideas as they feel they will not be the sole individual who stands out. After the brainstorming sessions, Ms. Weiss also comes up with an action plan and assigns people to be responsible to leading an agenda with a set time frame, which she feels gives them a sense of responsibility and trust. Ms. Weiss claims: “I like to delegate…because I can show my confidence in that person so that the person will feel trusted and get motivated.”   In order to gain trust from her employees, Ms. Weiss advises to communicate openly and show her vulnerability as she is not always the one with all the answers. She also adds that having the right balance between being flexible and decisive is key to leadership. She finds this is particularly the case, where Japanese people are used to receiving specific instructions and diligently following them. She maintains close communication with her direct reports by having one to one weekly meetings, and also holds group meetings as well. Ms. Weiss also advises new foreign leaders coming into Japan to not be discouraged by the lack of enthusia
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