Walking the Journey: An Interview with Zann Lee, Managing Director of Skechers Southeast Asia, on Balancing Motherhood and Leadership

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As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s a moment to honour and celebrate the remarkable women who pour their hearts into every aspect of life, whether at home or in the workplace. Ms. Zann Lee, Managing Director of Skechers Southeast Asia and a devoted mother of two teenagers, aged 15 and 17 years old, stands as a glowing testament to this exceptional group of mothers who adeptly balance family life and career with finesse.

Zann’s journey at Skechers Singapore began in 2009 as a Brand Manager, and over the past 15 years, she rose through the ranks and to her current role as the Managing Director of Skechers Southeast Asia, overseeing the business’ strategic operations, achieving regional sales targets, and spearheading key brand and marketing initiatives across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other emerging markets. With her leadership, Skechers has expanded its presence to over 800 stores and a staff strength of over 1,150 across the region.

Her ability to balance the responsibilities of motherhood with the demands of leadership is truly commendable. Our editorial team had the opportunity to interview Zann where she shared her valuable insights, strategies, and personal anecdotes on navigating the delicate balance of motherhood and leadership. Read on to find out more. 

Interview with Ms Zann Lee, Managing Director of Skechers Southeast Asia

1. Can you share your journey of balancing motherhood and your career at Skechers? How did you navigate through the challenges that arose from juggling these responsibilities, and what served as your main sources of motivation during difficult times?

Zann Lee: I typically plan my work schedules in advance to ensure I can be there for my children when they need me. Establishing a support system is crucial, as there have been times when I could not be with them, and my husband stepped in. I make sure to communicate with my kids about why I might be absent, as I believe in maintaining open communication and fostering positivity within our family. My children are a major source of inspiration and motivation, especially during tough times.

2. As a mother of two teenagers and a working professional, how do you build and nurture your relationships with your children at home and your staff at work? Can you highlight some effective strategies you employ for fostering positivity and support in both settings?

Zann Lee: I believe in building relationships and creating strong bonds with my two teenagers as well as with my staff/colleagues at work. I will set aside time to interact with them and know them better through activities, such as family dinners or team-building activities at work. I am a strong advocate for open and honest communication to foster trust and mutual understanding with active listening to ensure their thoughts and feelings are valued.

3. How do you define work-life balance and what are your ways of spending quality time with your children despite your busy work schedule?

Zann Lee: To me, achieving work-life balance involves setting clear boundaries and defining dedicated times for work to prevent burnout. When my children were toddlers, I sacrificed my sleep to spend more time with them. I would then catch up on work after they were asleep. During their primary school years, I would make sure to make myself available to participate in most, if not all, of my children’s activities, such as graduations, meet-the-parents sessions, performances and competitions. I also prioritized spending valuable weekends with them.

4. What are some valuable life lessons that motherhood has taught you, and how do you incorporate those lessons into your management style at work?

Zann Lee: Raising two children has taught me invaluable lessons which I use in challenging work scenarios. I have learnt to be more patient and calm when dealing with difficult or stressful situations; have more empathy and understanding for colleagues and staff, and developed better resilience in the face of setbacks. These characteristics are essential in my leadership role because they allow me to overcome complex challenges effectively, strengthen relationships with my team, and inspire others to never give up and achieve their full potential.

5. Can you share some anecdotes or experiences that highlight the challenges, success, failures and resilience that you can share from your personal experiences, both at home and in the workplace?

Zann Lee: I strongly believe in the REST & GROW approach:-

R: Embracing calculated risk when making decisions.

E: Being efficient and effective

S: Simplicity and focus on necessities and priorities

T: Always be Thankful

With sufficient REST, we will then continue to GROW

G: Goals Setting

R: Responsible

O: Take Ownership in our mistakes and in all relationship

W: Be a Winner with the never say die attitude

6. Skechers is known for its supportive culture for working mothers. Could you elaborate on the initiatives you’ve implemented to support women in the workplace and how they have impacted the overall performance and morale of your team?

Zann Lee: We offer a supportive environment for working mothers to excel and ensure equal opportunities for everyone, free from judgment. A good percentage of our management and staff teams consist of working mothers, thus fostering a strong support system for one another.

7. With your extensive experience in the retail industry, what advice would you give to our readers who are working mothers aspiring to advance in their careers while raising a family?

Zann Lee:  My advice to the readers would be to build a support system with both family and with colleagues. This ensures that they are people available to manage responsibilities and tasks when you are away.  Secondly, plan ahead and also be flexible for schedule changes to accommodate both work and family responsibilities. Lastly, love and take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally so that you can be strong enough to be there for your family and work.

8. Skechers has experienced significant growth under your leadership. What do you attribute this success to, and how do you continue to drive innovation and expansion in the region?

Zann Lee:  Our primary focus has always been to understand and meet the needs of our customers. We consistently listen to feedback and improve our products and services, which has helped us develop a loyal customer base and fuel our growth. We are proactive in adapting to evolving market trends and behaviour. By staying updated on market dynamics and responding quickly to changes, we can anticipate and cater to customer preferences. For example, we partnered with several intellectual property licensors to introduce exciting collaboration collections, such as Skechers X Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Skechers X Demon Slayer, and Skechers’ DC Collection, which were well-received by our consumers. And with the popularity of the Hallyu/K-pop culture in the region, Skechers has also forged partnerships with A-list Korean celebrities, like Cha Eun-woo, who is now Skechers Regional Brand Ambassador.

And not forgetting our internal ‘customers’ – our staff. We have also fostered a culture of innovation within our organization by encouraging creativity among our team members. This is to encourage the contribution of fresh ideas and strategies to help the company progress and keep us at the forefront of our industry.

9. Lastly, as a role model for women in leadership, what message would you like to convey to our readers, aspiring female professionals, and mothers who may face similar challenges in balancing their personal and professional lives?

Zann Lee: To all working mothers out there, juggling both work and children responsibilities can feel like an uphill task but is achievable. Enjoy this exhilarating and precious journey called life, embrace every moment and challenge that comes your way. Even though you may not be perfect, I am sure you are already a positive role model to your children. Yes, always stay positive!

Zann Lee’s journey as a working mother and Managing Director at Skechers Southeast Asia serves as an inspiration to women everywhere. Her insights into achieving work-life balance, fostering relationships, and driving success are invaluable lessons for aspiring professionals and mothers alike. Through dedication, resilience, and a supportive environment, Zann demonstrates that it is indeed possible to thrive both in the boardroom and at home.

Skechers Friendship Walk 2024 at Singapore Sports Hub on 8 June, 2024 at 3pm

In addition, Skechers Friendship Walk is back for the 7th year, on 8 June 2024, 3pm onwards! This annual event where family and friends can forge deeper bonds and create unforgettable memories through engaging in an active lifestyle activity together will be held at OCBC Square at Singapore Sports Hub. This year, the event experience has enhanced where participants can take a nice walk or run against the scenic skyline with the inclusion of their pets. The family-friendly village-themed carnival with busking and game activities promises to make this an unforgettable event for everyone. For more information and to sign up, please go to this link


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