How Sochanna doubled her team’s engagement by being a more inclusive leader

Sochanna Thai, a Financial Controller for Manulife Cambodia, has a team of 10 members who are responsible for financial reporting and analysis, accounting and control processes and financial planning.

By nature, an accountant usually works independently and is usually an introvert. Sochanna’s expectation about her team performance and their understanding toward their role is always high. She forgot about team diversity, their level of understanding and responsibility and the uniqueness of each individual. She failed to properly address this diversity and individual uniqueness. As a result, team engagement score in previous year was not satisfactory.  Sochanna took a quick action and the result was a positive surprise!

Inclusive Leadership

Sochanna joined the ASEAN Leaders Programme in 2017 where she learned about inclusive leadership in the ASEAN context. The programme provided Sochanna with a framework to improve her leadership skills through collaboration, building networks and relationships, and broadening perspective.

“I have learned a lot from the programme on how to become a more inclusive leader. My biggest take-away is team empowerment through acceptance of individual uniqueness.”

Sochanna started to reflect on her leadership and on how to improve her team’s engagement score. She realized that the first thing she needed to do was to make sure understanding and respect within the team were established as this was the most important foundation for inclusivity.

Once that was established, she continued to implement a few changes, which also had been agreed as action points within the team: 

  1. Setting up team activities such as monthly lunch and learn, quarterly team meetings and team building activities
  2. Empowerment through listening during regular one-on-one meetings
  3. Encouraging the team to step out of their comfort zone by learning new skills and taking on more responsibilities
  4. Improving inter-department relationships through regular meetings and face-to-face interactions (instead of email)


From the ASEAN Leaders programme, Sochanna realized the value of group discussions. Participants on the programme are senior leaders especially selected for their diversity – organizational, social, cultural, and regional – from different sectors and backgrounds across the ASEAN and the wider region. The different perspectives that they bring enrich discussions and debate and offer new approaches to leadership and innovation.

Team Performance Results

As the result of the deliberate changes Sochanna has made to make her team more inclusive, their engagement score doubled compared to last year’s. Along with the support from her team, her line manager (CFO) and her Manulife mentor, Sochanna and her team successfully reached their goal.

Manulife award

The launch of Lawson Treasury and Concur would not have been possible without Sochanna’s outstanding “working as one” attitude. She corroborated consistently, coordinated efforts and communicated effectively with various functions locally, with Asia Treasury in Hong Kong, Treasury operations, IT team and IFS team in Toronto and Manila. In addition, with her “can do” spirit and “innovative” behavior, Sochanna was thinking out of the box and was finding solutions to overcome many challenges, which has helped the project to get across the line. Sochanna also demonstrated critical “owning our future” behavior by taking the initiative to demonstrate the benefits of the new system, get buy in from and subsequently train the users from various departments.

Sochanna’s motto: “There are many opportunities to learn in Manulife. All you need to do is “Embrace It” for transforming yourself to a better you.”

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a management approach that seeks to provide the right conditions for an employee to be able to excel in their role, commit to the company’s goals and values and be motivated to contributing to the success of the organization, with an enhanced sense of their well being.

For Sochanna, the team’s engagement score is a metric that captures how effectively she is able to make each member of the team feel more included, trusted, empowered and recognized.