The Year of the Tiger calls for courageous collaboration

Illustration of a tiger in multicolour, by Flatwhite Motion.

Artwork by Flatwhite Motion

Every Lunar New Year brings valuable opportunities to start fresh, face big obstacles, and be brave.

But given how strange and, at times, solitary our daily lives have been since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 2022 seems particularly poised to be a year that rewards bravery and rekindles collaboration. It should be one of exciting possibilities, boldness, reclaiming control and coming together.

2022 is the Year of the Tiger, an animal that represents confidence and strength, and it’s a vital moment. It’s a chance for teams — or should I say packs — to spring fearlessly into a future of prosperity and potential. In 2022, there’s urgency and real business value in extending out across our individual screens to collaborate in integrated ways that our current realities and new hybrid workplaces demand.

From joining forces on strategy development and creativity to working on documents in connected ways through technology, courageous collaboration can be a true difference-maker in the year ahead. Here are five ways leading organizations are embracing this idea to win in the Year of the Tiger.

1. Redefine what successful collaboration looks like.

Remote and hybrid work demands a new approach to collaboration — one that involves both technological tools and human elements.

For businesses at all levels, finding new ways to work together effectively can help team members stay engaged with each other and build virtual workspaces that will allow for deep, productive cooperation across functions. Teams can collaborate more efficiently and enjoyably by strategically leveraging technology — such as digital document solutions and integrated applications — while ensuring richer customer experiences.

Quote card: "Technology is a tool to get things done efficiently. But for it to be effective, the people aspect plays the largest role." - Wick Veloso, President and CEO, Phillippine National Bank.

Critical to meaningful collaboration is marrying the right digital tools with the right human touch — not only internally with colleagues but also externally, establishing stronger connections with partners, vendors, and influential creators.

“Technology is a tool to get things done efficiently,” says Wick Veloso, the president and CEO of Philippine National Bank. “But for it to be effective, the people aspect plays the largest role.”

2. Build company culture and share best practices.

Working remotely will continue to be a challenge for many organizations, especially in terms of collaboration and culture-building. But business leaders can instil some structure into an often less-structured work environment with scheduled meetings that are less agenda-driven and more for touching base with employees, learning from one another, or just having a little fun.

The 1, Thailand’s largest loyalty program, has implemented agile squads that allow business and technology teams to self-organize and deliver against their collective goals, virtually and in the respective ways they deem most fit.

“Best practices are then shared and replicated across squads during weekly ‘Jim Joom’ (Hot Pot) meetings for continuous learning and improvement,” says Kawin Tangudtaisak, managing director of The 1. The company holds regular town halls to update employees on news and build culture, with a cross-functional Culture Squad responsible for organizing activities to engage employees. Those activities have included virtual fitness, virtual karaoke, and celebratory New Year lucky draws.

“All these have been small but important steps to maintain good levels of engagement as the company continues to work remotely,” Tangudtaisak says.

3. Improve organizational communication just by asking, “How are you?”

For the Philippine National Bank, the past two years' events led to significant changes in how the company does business and communicates internally. The bank made it a point to support and encourage frequent, open communication between management and employees, and Veloso says they’re interacting more — and more constructively — than ever before.

“We have regular ‘kumustahan’ (loosely: How are you?) sessions where we ask employees how they’re coping with the challenges in these pandemic times,” he says. “In these sessions, we let them share experiences and learn from each other’s best practices. The sessions are done virtually, and I think it’s safe to say that I have interacted with more employees in the last two years than I had pre-pandemic.”

But it’s about more than just casual conversation, Veloso says. The Philippine National Bank has “intensely driven a speak-up culture” to proactively and sensitively create space for honesty and directness, opinion and feedback, even dreams and fears.

“Because we rarely see each other, it has become more crucial to be able to articulate ourselves to our peers and superiors — our ideas, our concerns, our aspirations,” Veloso says. “Filipinos are not exactly known for being frank and vocal, but I believe that open communication is key to productive collaboration. Slowly but steadily, we hope to get there.”

4. Execute strategy through clearly defined roles and processes.

At any company, productive collaboration occurs when everyone is on the same page. Each person needs to be aware of the organizational structure and long-term business goals, and each team should have the same voice that leadership has. Clarity of role is essential, and processes define how things get done.

“We have outlined our vision and strategy for the next three years,” Veloso says. “This has been communicated to our senior management team, who have cascaded it to their members down the line. Everyone must know how they fit into the equation in the execution of the strategy — more importantly, how they can contribute to making the vision happen. The goals and key performance indicators of each individual must be aligned so that each person’s role is much clearer.”

Veloso adds that proper recognition of individual and team performance contributes to the Philippine National Bank’s overall vision and should be part of the execution process. “Follow-through and consistency are crucial in ensuring a collaborative culture,” he says.

5. Be like the tiger.

This is the start of our third year of living with COVID. Globally, we have experienced extensive challenges and overcome great adversity, and there are still many uncertainties brought on by Omicron.

However, the tiger is bold and fearless. In the Year of the Tiger, business leaders should be equally courageous and daring in their decision-making, creative and quick to pounce on new opportunities, and open to change within a fast-evolving environment.

“For me, honest-to-goodness collaboration is only possible through frequent, robust dialogue,” says Veloso. “And robust dialogue will only happen if everyone involved is courageous enough to speak the truth or what they believe to be good for the organization. That’s how problems will be identified and solved. That’s how great ideas are born and turned into reality.”

In 2022, the Year of the Tiger, let’s shake off any reservations and leap into action. Let’s try on the uncomfortable, walk the untrodden path, dive into a sea of surprise. Let’s #SpringIntoFearless. And let’s do it together.