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PEOPLE

The Power Series: Power of Collaboration with Reed Smith’s Anthony Woo

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• Anthony Woo, Partner at Reed Smith, talks to The Mag about the power of collaboration at work and in life.
• Humans are selfish by nature, but we can overcome this by working together and focusing on the greater good.
• Successful teamwork comes down to communication, a willingness to teach, share and be receptive of others’ ideas.
• The pandemic has changed how, but not why, we communicate, and collaboration is always about bringing people together to create results that are otherwise unachievable alone.

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What’s the one thing that motivates you? “The Power Series” offers thought leadership insights from industry experts at Taikoo Place on the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In February, we speak to Anthony Woo, Partner at Reed Smith Richards Butler about the power of collaboration.

Human nature is to be selfish by default. Sometimes, we’re unwilling to share just because we’re afraid of losing out, whether it’s credit, opportunities or resources. But no one can deliver the best results on their own; there are always situations in life or at work where we have to leverage on others’ skillsets and knowledge.

Collaboration means overcoming selfishness to consider the greater good. If you think about what your team can achieve collectively, you, as a part of the team, also benefit. I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who embrace this mentality, and it’s the main reason why I’ve stayed with our law firm for the last 17 years. I still remember back when I was a trainee, everyone around me was so helpful and patient with me. My supervising partner would even stay until 4am once to teach me how to amend an agreement! Such willingness to teach and share is a big part of our collaborative culture, and it’s all about driving progress through partnership.

“Even though the tools are different, the essence of communication hasn’t changed.”
Fast forward to today, teamwork is still crucial to my day-to-day work. With our industry’s demanding timelines, I simply can’t be everywhere at the same time. As senior partner, I have to identify the right people for the right jobs. I recently led the advice on a complicated merger of the largest shipping and logistics conglomerates in China, but we only had a 24 hours’ notice to pitch for the deal and 48 hours thereafter to commence work. I ended up gathering people across 11 offices from different regions to work on it together within this timeframe. Without teamwork, we wouldn’t have been able to manage everything in such a short time, nor would our clients get the benefit of multijurisdictional expertise and experiences.

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Find inspiration from your Taikoo Place neighbours –
Read more from The Mag’s POWER SERIES.  

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Effective collaboration comes down to communication. Everyone has their own ways to communicate: some may be more concise, others may prefer detailed explanations. No matter how brilliant your idea is, if you don’t present this in a digestable way, it just won’t work. This is why I find it so important to spend time to get to know those I work with – – not just as clients and co-workers, but as individuals and friends. Although we are an office of 180 people in Hong Kong, we are also a tight group of friends. Before COVID-19, my core team and I even had karaoke and dress-up parties!
Communication has changed in every industry over the past year. For us, we’ve been collaborating online using technology like video conferencing and instant messaging. What I’ve realised is that even though the tools are different, the essence of communication hasn’t changed: to understand, support and look out for each other. That’s why we’ve established a wellness team, and I’ve also been organising weekly Zoom meetings just to see how everyone is doing mentally and physically. It’s not quite the same as face-to-face interaction, but it helps the team to maintain our bond through these stressful times.

Having such a close bond has another benefit – we’re able to discuss things in an open and frank manner, which is key to a collaborative and diverse company culture. A common failure of some leaders, in my view, is that they feel they “know” everything. The truth is, every person – regardless of their level of seniority, gender, age and background – has something valuable and unique to offer, and you would miss out on a lot if you weren’t receptive of others’ ideas and constructive criticism. Of course, it takes time to cultivate trust within the organisation; we have, for example, consciously placed junior associates in the same room as a senior associate to encourage them to discuss things openly between themselves. Disagreements are sometimes inevitable, but it’s a matter of open-mindedness, maturity and most importantly, respect.
It’s the same in other areas of life where we have to team up with others. At home, I’m a husband and a father of two 13-year-old twin boys, and we all have to be team players to run our household. We openly discuss family decisions together and make sure we respect input from our kids. I often play team sports like soccer, tennis and “e-sports” (video games) to bond with my boys. You could say It’s practically the same strategy that I use at work, but if it’s a successful formula, why not?

At the end of the day, collaboration is about bringing people together. When everyone brings their talents, skills and ideas to the table, we can create desirable results that would otherwise be unachievable alone. In early 2020 when COVID-19 had just broken out in Hong Kong, our US colleagues went all out to source and send masks and alcohol wipes to us in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Later, as the pandemic hit the US and Europe, we sent 72,000 masks to Reed Smith offices around the world.

And that, I say, is the power of collaboration.

We need to be adaptable and flexible when collaborating with others. Read more about the Power of Flexibility with The Executive Centre’s Nadia Zhu.

Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.
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