b2b marketing Marketorium Tricia Weener CMO HSBC leadership

HSBC’s Global Head of Marketing Tricia Weener: What a bully taught me about leadership

The UK-raised, Hong Kong-based marketing leader says the biggest lessons in people management often come from unlikely sources.

Tricia Weener has worked for and with some inspiring leaders. From starting a fashion distribution business at university to running her own marketing agency to becoming Global Head of Marketing at HSBC Commercial Banking, she has picked up many valuable lessons in leadership. Now based in Hong Kong, she is regarded as a progressive and inspiring leader herself.

The biggest lessons, however, emerge from the most difficult situations. Or as Weener told the audience at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum in Sydney: “You can sometimes learn as much from poor leaders as you can from really inspiring ones.”

For Weener, a valuable lesson came from working for a bully. "He was really divisive, and he had huge negative energy," Weener said. "This had a profound effect on me. From that experience, I learned all the things I never wanted to do, and never wanted to be known for.

“Most importantly, it built my resilience. It made me a much stronger person.”

Weener said authoritative leadership requires a complex integration of skills and mindsets. As well as having the ability to make decisions, effective leaders are driven to accomplish goals and can energise the entire organisation.

She nominated 10 core attributes of successful leaders. They are driven, discerning, innovative, foresightful, judicious, incisive, tolerant, honourable, motivational and professional.

Of these attributes, Weener said marketers need to be better at showing foresight. “I think we focus a lot of our insight on tracking what’s going on in the past as opposed to allowing ourselves to actually help the business inform the future,” she said.

Marketers often underestimate their influential role within organisations to effect change, she said. "We have a privileged position in that we're able to see across the entire organisation rather than perhaps seeing things in specific verticals."

Weener nominated five ways leaders can create a healthy, high-performance working environment:

1. Find the right talent

“The biggest challenge is to find the right talent with the right skills mix to operate effectively is this rapidly challenging world,” Weener said. “This might mean you’re not going to go fishing in the traditional grounds for your marketers. Of course, we’re upskilling our existing teams but if you just recruit the same campaign managers and marketing managers you have recruited before, you’re never going to change up your marketing function sufficiently.”

2. Set a clear vision and clarify

"As a leader, you need to consider the answers to some simple but really critical questions for your team," she said. "Why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important right now? Who must do what?"

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

"Once you've created the clarity around the answers to these questions, you must communicate those answers to everyone clearly, repeatedly and enthusiastically," she said. "There is no such thing as too much communication."

4. Reinforce clarity

“For an environment to remain high performance over time, you must establish a few critical, non-bureaucratic systems to reinforce clarity in every process that involves people, in every policy and every program,” Weener said. “Every activity should be designed to remind everybody what is important.”

5. Be open and a good listener

“You need to hear – listening is often not enough.” Weener said her HSBC team has exchange meetings where leaders attend but say little. “It’s a feedback loop, so you can hear not just from your leadership team but throughout the organisation where the potential issues are. You can help address some of those, but most importantly [you can] help the team address them themselves.”

Weener said marketing leaders, in particular, must ensure their teams are "future fit". "Mastering art and science is the new normal – one or the other is not optional." She said you can be an inspiring leader "by understanding your passions, your values and your talents, and establishing your leadership vision, your personal purpose and the ways to achieve it. Know what you want to be known for and create a healthy, high-performance environment."

Tricia Weener’s top sources of leadership knowledge


The Inspired Leader by Andy Bird

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

TED talks:

Why work doesn’t happen at work – Jason Fried

The puzzle of motivation – Dan Pink

What it takes to be a great leader – Roselinde Torres

Why great leaders make you feel safe – Simon Sinek

How to start a movement – Derek Sivers

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Further reading: Essential skills of the future CMO