From the Playbook of a Team Player
An avid football enthusiast, Managing Director, North Asia, The Ascott Limited, Mr Kevin Goh, successfully transfers strategies from the field to the boardroom
Issue: Jun 2014
Mr Goh values teamwork and has assembled a capable team of locals who helped the China business grow
Since his junior college days, Mr Kevin Goh, Managing Director, North Asia, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), has been an avid runner and football enthusiast. He was part of National Junior College's (one of Singapore’s leading pre-university institutions) cross-country team and would play football with his friends as often as he could.
"I used to play almost every Sunday up till the time I came to work in China," said Mr Goh, who has been stationed in Shanghai for seven years.
"In fact, I had an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) operation on my right knee because of a bad game in 2007 just before I came here."
These days, while he still runs regularly, the football games he loves are much harder to come by.
"It is not as easy to gather so many people here to play," he lamented.
But the values of teamwork and cooperation from those football Sundays are still something he holds dearly to, and they are serving him as well in the boardroom as they have on the football field.
A football enthusiast, Mr Goh (in blue), picked up the sport actively while in junior college
Pick the Right Players
One of the first principles he took with him from the game is the importance of assembling a good team.
“Football is a reflection of how international the world has become - different leagues sign up players from many different countries. Ascott is like this, too. We employ talents from many different countries as a diversity of talents helps us weather challenges better.”
In 2013 alone, Ascott added 2,200 new units to its China portfolio. He attributes much of Ascott’s China growth in the last five years to the stability a strong local team has brought to the organisation.
In the time that Mr Goh (third from left) has been in China, Ascott’s business has grown phenomenally, averaging 20-per-cent annually, an achievement he attributes to having a good local team
Create Space to Score
In football, creating space for the player to gain territory and advance the ball up the pitch is vital to successful attacks. Giving his staff space is also what Mr Goh believes in.
“I give my team the flexibility to do the work their way and focus more on the outcome. If there is a problem, I will work with them directly. I also tend to listen more than I speak as I think it important to first understand then to be understood. This is how I like to work, too,” he said.
At the end of the day, though, Mr Goh said that there are no superstar players, only super teams.
“Strikers are often over-glorified when they score. It’s important to recognise that no matter how good a striker is, he cannot win the game unless he has team mates watching his back. In the corporate world, it is hard to accomplish much on your own. Like in football, you need to count on your other team members,” Mr Goh affirmed.
Get Home Crowd Support
Mr Goh’s family (left to right) – wife, Belinda; four-year-old Joel; 11-year-old Joyce; and eight-year-old Joshua - moved to China when he was posted to Shanghai
Finally, as any competitive sportsman knows, getting crowd support can greatly boost morale. Mr Goh certainly has the support of his home crowd. His wife, Belinda, who was his junior college classmate, has always been there for him.
“When we were still dating, she gave up an Oxford scholarship to be with me in Singapore. When I got posted to China, she gave up her job to follow me to Shanghai,” he shared.
Mr Goh having a precious family moment at a birthday celebration when his youngest son, Joel (left) turned 4 and Joshua (2nd from right) turned 8
Mr Goh freely admitted that the first few years in China were not easy for his wife.
“Our children were very young when they first came. So, they grew up here. Our youngest, Joel was born in China.”
Weekends with the family are precious to Mr Goh and they travel to nearby places like Japan and other parts of China whenever they get the chance
This June, though, Mr Goh intends to catch some World Cup matches with his family.
“I grew up watching the English Premier League. So, I will be looking out for England,” he smiled.
With his deep knowledge and love for the sport, Mr Goh is sure to pick up some more tips from the game play to enhance his own management style. And, judging from his scorecard so far, we would all do well to take a leaf from the playbook of this true team player.