Core values, communication, learning culture and delegation. These were some of the key topics discussed at YPO Leadership Day Cambodia, which was held at Rosewood Hotel Phnom Penh in March. Organised with YPO Cambodia, the two-day event was part of YPO Southeast Asia’s support for smaller chapters in the region, and included recruitment, learning and forum aspects designed to amplify the chapter’s member engagement and growth. 

The event was well attended, with a total of 21 guests including 11 prospects and 10 members. Wouchlay Tang, Chapter Chair of YPO Cambodia, introduced the chapter’s offerings, before Sanjay Shah, Regional Strategic Project Officer, delivered opening remarks and an overview of YPO Southeast Asia. Next came a lively panel discussion, where speakers including Shah, Tommy Sim, Chapter Mentoring Officer at YPO Cambodia and Alan Hepburn of YPO Singapore shared their personal experiences with YPO. 

Following this was a YPO Learning workshop on Leadership, conducted by Hepburn, CEO of The Hepburn Group, which consults for private developers on leisure and hospitality projects. Hepburn is also CEO of Advisory Board Architects, which helps companies build high-impact director- and advisory boards. 

Building strong values 

The three-and-a-half-hour workshop began with an unusual proposition: participants were asked to imagine they had just acquired the Rosewood Phnom Penh and to create a mission and set of values for it. 

“A company’s values have to involve more than just making as much money as possible, because that’s not enough for people to align behind,” said Hepburn. “It’s also important to articulate these values clearly, build an environment around them and follow them consistently. A company’s values have far-reaching effects – they impact performance recognition, give employees a sense of purpose and teach them how to behave around each other and those outside the company,” said Hepburn, who also emphasized the need for defined internal and external communication. 

The interactive discussion proved eye-opening. “At least two participants shared that they were going back to their excos to spend time creating their set of core values, so it was a useful discussion,” said Hepburn. Eric Tan, a YPO Cambodia member, agreed. “I like the learning experience component of the event, learning the basics of how to bring our own company to the next level from the simple steps shared,” said Tan. 

Encouraging learning and delegation 

“Research shows that organisations with learning cultures are higher performing, with more market share,” said Hepburn. “The theory is that if you’re a learning person, you’re going to be a better and more engaged employee. Empowering workers with continuous opportunities to learn and upgrade themselves – whether it’s learning French, developing sales expertise or playing a new musical instrument – helps to develop a company’s learning culture,” said Hepburn. He also shared examples of companies who’ve done this successfully, such as by allocating their employees budgets to invest in their preferred courses. Event participants were then challenged to envision what a learning culture would look like, the kinds of developmental courses they would offer to staff and who would be responsible for driving initiatives. 

Hepburn also touched on the importance of effective delegation, a particularly important topic in Southeast Asia where a large number of businesses are family controlled or operated. “Family businesses have an entirely different dynamic,” said Hepburn. “For example, many important discussions and decisions may be made at the Sunday morning breakfast table rather than the boardroom.” He also shared how they face unique challenges. For example, while a company may have passed to a younger generation, its original founder may still wield considerable influence, complicating workflow and decision making. “This is why it’s important to conduct succession training, so people understand the need to delegate responsibility and give the next generation agency to make critical decisions.” 

Enhancing members’ personal and professional lives 

During the panel discussion, each speaker shared how YPO offers several areas of value as a “truly international organisation”, with 34,000 CEOs and 500 highly engaged chapters around the world. The Singapore chapter, for example, organises about one event a week, covering diverse topics ranging from business and leadership to personal development. Significantly, regional meetings in Southeast Asia are especially diverse, with multiple ethnicities represented and the highest percentage of female members (22% and rising). 

Hepburn also highlighted YPO’s “Networks”, global, opt-in interest groups which focus on specific themes such as personal investing or doing business in China. Unlike during other YPO activities, Networks participants are allowed to pitch for business as well as solicit investors or board members. 

Hepburn also spoke about YPO’s Forum, which he described as “a game-changer for most YPO members”. There are currently 3,800 Forums, each containing small groups of members, their spouses and young adult children. These are run by a specialised group of 100 rigorously-vetted, highly-skilled professionals in an atmosphere of confidentiality and respect, making them a valuable resource to which CEOs can turn to for insight and perspective only their trusted peers can provide. Whether it’s critical business advice or “where to go for the best African safari,” said Hepburn, “Forums are one place leaders can go and talk about anything without fear of judgement, get useful perspectives and make better decisions. It’s a fantastic value proposition when you join.” 

The event’s participants acknowledged this, along with the invaluable networking and learning opportunities YPO membership offers. Sokchea Van said she enjoyed the event as it served as a valuable new platform for her to “learn from other CEOs”. 

Fellow prospect Demi Kambur agreed, saying CEOs could use YPO as a powerful tool to improve themselves and become “better leaders for tomorrow”. “It’s a resource and support system that allows you to connect and collaborate with like-minded individuals, not only in business, but with personal growth as well,” said Kambur. “I hope that I can better myself, and use these tools and education to give back to the Cambodian community.”