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Courtesy of PT Michelin IndonesiaWorking in different countries, Jean Pierre Kopp found the value of prioritizing language training in the initial months of his work. But when the Frenchman was assigned to lead PT Michelin Indonesia, he changed strategy. He started with cultural training.
In the first two months after he arrived in Indonesia 18 months ago, the president director was engaged in learning the Indonesian way of life, way of thinking and how Indonesian people react to different situations.
“People are so different. For example, in Northern Europe, if one is in disagreement about a subject, they say it right away and they can even become angry. In Asia, if one is in disagreement, people first listen by keeping quiet, and if you start to look angry, they close on them ourselves,” said the 61-year-old. “It is very important to listen and understand people.”
Arguing that managing people is not a handbook, he added: “There are billions of people on earth, and no two are identical either physically or morally. Each of us is unique. Everything cannot be managed through written instructions, such as motivation, enthusiasm, and the joy to have a good atmosphere at the office, the smile of your boss, etc.,” said Kopp, whose swept-back hair gives him the appearance of an
“Here in Indonesia, I started with something different. I started with cultural training and it helps me a lot.”
Kopp has been working for France-based tire company, Michelin, for nearly 37 years, most of which were spent in several countries in Europe. On Dec. 10, 2011, he started to lead PT Michelin Indonesia, an Asian country that was very different from European countries.
To be closer to Indonesian culture, he hired a private teacher, an Indonesian woman who lived in France for four years.
“I spent two or three hours learning Indonesian culture from the woman every week. The training lasted for two months,” said Kopp.
Even though the company has guidelines and values that he should follow, he is eager to think like an Indonesian because he believes it supports his efforts to be successful in the country.
Established in 2011, PT Michelin Indonesia is responsible for distributing Michelin tires to dealers in Indonesia, with products under the category of passenger cars, trucks and buses. The company also produces tires for mining.
As a relatively new enterprise in Indonesia, it focuses on building a basement or foundation in its initial year, with programs focused on training new employees to bolster the company’s growth.
Learning Indonesian culture is the strategic ingredient that Kopp applies, which runs parallel with the company’s five values: respect for people, respect for consumers, respect for shareholders, respect for the environment and respect for facts.
“The five values are very important to driving my management style. If I do something, I refer to them. So when it comes to management, respect of people is very important,” he said.
Employees should also refer to the five values that serve as a guideline in doing their job. When, for example, an employee makes a mistake, he or she has to take corrective actions instead of being punished. “We never use the word punishment. If you do something wrong, you have to take corrective actions,” he said.
As far as the five values are concerned, a crisis management team has been established to help employees solve problems. A case in point was when several employees faced the problem of being unable to reach the office on time due to a massive rally following the government’s move to raise the fuel price.
Referring to the respect of facts, the company’s crisis management team handled it without disrupting business. “The team also takes care of other traffic-related problems arising from floods that impede their travel from home to the office,” he said.
Kopp always tries to keep in his door open to people if they have something to ask. “It is a symbol of availability and working as a team member. If you need help or need to share, I’m available.”
He used the lessons learned from past experiences when he was a subordinate as a means to improve his leadership style.
“I have no secrets for others. During my career, I often wondered what my boss did. I do not want my colleagues ask similar question of me, so I work like them and with them,” he said.
“This year, I have started a special meeting in which employees can exchange questions on subjects,” he said.
Managing people means that “you have to love the people. If you don’t love or like people, you’d better do something else,” he said.
“If I see that one of my teammates does not fit and shows unusual behavior, I’ll ask him to change. In general, that is a personal problem, and it’s hard because he has his job. You must listen and comfort people if possible. As a manager, you have a choice and I choose listening and understanding. If I can do something then I will,” he said.
According to Kopp, a new company with a new team requires a lot of investment to train people.
“In the first year, PT Michelin Indonesia gave people maximum training to enable them to become experts in front of our consumers. To me, that’s the way my colleagues reach a professional level,” he said, adding that the training was catered departmentally, such as technical, financial and management.
He said that every employee had a yearly target set by their respective managers, and the manager had responsibility for integrating that target into the training through discussions with employees.
“To achieve the target, we have to see if there is something missing or not and then we design the training. That’s valid for all our employees. It could be training on sales, products or marketing. This means that they have to decide and have to identify specific targets and training,” he said.
As a leader, Kopp has tried to ensure that all employees find the right balance and that people working at the company are happy, motivated and work enthusiastically according to the spirit of the company.
Like other employees, he tries to find the right balance. He spends his spare time traveling with his family to satisfy his passion for discovering things in Indonesia.
“My wife is my private travel agent,” he said and paused.
“She always prepares things necessary for my traveling,” he went on. “Papua is a recent place that we visited. Previously, we traveled from Medan to Badui. Michelin is trying to develop mobility, helping people to be more mobile,” he concluded.
Name: Jean Pierre Kopp
Place and year of birth: Baden Baden, Germany, July 14, 1951
Bachelor degree at Lycée Charles De Gaulle in Baden Baden, University of Strasbourg, and Lille, Economic Sciences
December 1975 - January 1985: Michelin, commercial assistant in Périgueux, account manager in Rodez and Nancy (France).
January 1985 - October 1991: Michelin, Regional sales manager in Rennes (France).
October 1991- January 1993: Michelin Germany, in charge of the recruitment, the training and the sales methods.
January 1993 - July 1996: Michelin Germany, marketing manager for industrial products (Truck tires).
July 1996 - January 1997: Michelin France, commercial director in Paris.
January 1997- February 2000: Michelin France, manager of the CEFM, Michelin training center in Clermont Ferrand.
February 2000 - February 2004: Michelin France, European head, in charge of the European trailer manufacturer business (original equipment).
September 2004 - November 2010: Michelin Nordic AB (Sweden), commercial director in the Nordic countries.
December 2010 – present: President and executive director, PT Michelin Indonesia.