Interview with Pierre
Lee Kok Leong interviews Pierre Teszner, regional director of Southeast Asia at Rockwell Automation.
February 6, 2017
By Lee Kok Leong
The thing that strikes me most about Pierre is that he is very passionate about his job and his determination to lead by inspiring his staff. Pierre recently joined Rockwell Automation after having worked for 15 years at Schneider Electric. He now has responsibility for business operation, sales and marketing in Southeast Asia. He has been working in Asia for the last 17 years.
You are trained in both aerospace and mechanical engineering and started your career in a technical position. Since then, you have moved on to become a veteran business leader. What is your thought on this transition?
The pivot started with my MBA from INSEAD. Engineers have a very structured way of looking at things. The training certainly gives us an advantage in making sense of uncertainty and contradiction and also the knowledge to understand our customers better. The MBA gives a better perspective on how to operate a business and how to grow people professionally.
What factors contributed to your professional success?
Whatever you do in life, it is my belief to always reflect back on past experiences and learn from them and to do better in the future. For me, there are basically two kinds of lessons: the business lessons like strategy on how to penetrate a given market; and then there are lessons from interacting with others like how to be a better leader to coach, be a reference point and have moral authority. When looking at issues, I always try to balance my perspective between the business side of things and the human side of things.
What is your view on leadership?
Leadership is helping my team to make sense of uncertainty and contradiction in the business world. We live in a very complex world with a lot of asymmetrical information. The people around us like customers, partners and distributors hold a different understanding of a particular issue. So, each brings a unique angle to the table. Leadership is about gathering all these views and making sense of what we need to do to leverage our strength and get a better footprint in the market. It is all about identifying our customers’ unfulfilled needs and coming up with a solution. And finally, leadership is also about growing and retaining good staff and creating the best environment for staff to thrive in.
How do you communicate to and motivate staff?
Generally, what I would like to do is put myself at the same level as them and to see things from their perspective. I do not believe in being authoritarian and having authority from a title. I believe in having moral authority. This is like a magnet attracting people because you put your staff before yourself, figuring out a way to grow the business in this very competitive world.
I believe I understand very well the message of Rockwell Automation about how to crack into this industry, and to find the blue ocean. For us it is centered on the connected enterprise. It is not anymore about the CAPEX and fixed asset investment of our customers. It is really about taking the existing premises and facilities and making them more productive. It is about upgrading the skills of their employees so that they can adapt to the connected enterprise journey. Understanding this, you can choose to either stay behind your desk or go out to the front, together with your staff, to bring the message to all the customers and distributors.
How do you ensure that you will continue to grow as a leader?
In the automation world, you have to be both technology-savvy and people-savvy. The concept of connected enterprise encompasses not only Rockwell Automation but extends to our strategic partners. These strategic partners bring pieces of the puzzle to the connected enterprise solution. I have to keep myself abreast of all these technology and understanding how jointly we can meet the challenges of our customers.
On the people side of the equation, I hope to enhance my coaching skill. I want to nurture and groom people not by hierarchy or title but by virtue of being a good coach. This is something that occupies 30 to 40 percent of my time. It may sound a little bit odd but this has a tremendous long-term impact on our business. It makes our operation sustainable and stable; it makes our people happy to stay and attract good people from outside to join us. It is the glue that cements the whole team. Being a good coach means helping our staff ask the right questions and finding solutions. We as leaders cannot be providing solutions all the time and I want to empower them to make decisions.
What is your thought process when making strategic decisions?
Complexity and uncertainty exist in our everyday life. I am hired by Rockwell Automation to grow the business, profitably and sustainably. When I wake up every day, I think about my WIG for the day, the wildly important goal. Then I think about the strategy to achieve this goal. First, you need to stay the course and stay on message. Then I will think about what are the resources needed, for example human capital. By its nature, strategy is long term and it needs to be over communicated. A leader has to have a pedagogy that is repetitive to reinforce the message to the staff. The staff also has to understand what is in it for them and for the company. They have to have clarity about their roles, what is expected of them and how their part contributed to the overall strategy.
What factors attracted you to work for Rockwell Automation?
Rockwell Automation is the oldest pure play automation company in the world. We like to do things that bring value to our customers and just be better at it every day. We win market share by being specialized and having a certain critical mass of specialization. I was looking to join a $1 to 5 billion euro company as I think there is great potential to grow if there is focus and value proposition.
What are the values that you bring to your new role?
I have got successful experience in the emerging markets in Asia in growing partnership, like partnerships with customers, distributors, OEMs and system integrators. It takes a lot of discipline, belief, continuous application of certain policy and consistency in the way we address and protect our partners. I can bring all that to make sure we gain market share.
The connected enterprise
It is Rockwell Automation’s vision to connect information across the plant floor to the rest of the enterprise. With the connected enterprise, companies can make better decisions faster, improve productivity and global competitiveness. Having implemented the connected enterprise within its own operations, Rockwell reported the following results: productivity increases by four to five percent per year; realized savings of 30 percent per year in capital avoidance, lead times reduced by 50 percent, among others.