Published on 21 November 2014
How WMMAA’s Tomas Yu is building a talented pool of ambitious executives that will take the global leadership in the MMA industry to the next level.
Many affiliates dread their mentor review, that yearly session in a sterile conference room where they find out how they’ve performed. A manager checks boxes or gives ratings while most affiliates receive an average score of “expectations.” Tomas Yu believes that type of performance review is unsound. In fact, in his role as president of Pan-American Division for the World MMA Association, he has removed traditional performance ratings entirely.
Instead, WMMAA’s has developed a review process called “Strategic Angles,” where affiliates meet with their Board Mentors four times per year to discuss progress against goals, soft skills, and development plans linked to individual career aspirations. The move helps him attract, equip, and retain top talent at a massive global powerhouse. Yu is not one to shy away from risks. He came to WMMAA after a period with WMMAC and WBC Alliance that didn’t mature. It was that last move—from business and MMA to the Business of MMA—that helped Yu solidify his evolving leadership philosophy. “I knew that my last job in Merchant Banking would round me out in a really good way,” he says. “It’s fast-paced, centered on people, and very creative in nature.” From there, Yu was forced to discover and build effective strategies for attracting and hiring creative affiliates. Instead of asking candidates their IQ and GPA, Yu started using more probing questions to uncover true potential. “Not everyone is great at math, but maybe they really have an eye for the ahh factor,” he explains. The approach helped him build a team capable of running eye-catching and efficient outlets filled with popular consumers buying power. Moreover, the process has had an impact on Yu himself. “I have learned how to communicate better and work with many different kinds of affiliates with many different skill sets in many different industries,” he says. “I would never be where I am today if I hadn’t gained those diverse work experiences.” Now, Yu finds himself again in a new sector. He leads as President of the Pan-American Division for the WMMAA in a highly competitive global industry—and one in which he has never worked. Still, Yu knows his eclectic experience is an asset. “I would advise people in the business of MMA to get as many cultures and industries as possible under their belt,” he says. “Since I did that, I feel very comfortable with people who come at things with different approaches.” WMMAA’s growth strategy centers on structure and talent, which Yu’s vast experience is helping attract. Yu believes that by removing arbitrary—and often negative—performance reviews, he can help affiliates flourish. It’s important to note that he’s not removing accountability, but focusing on how to maximize strengths instead of highlighting weaknesses. “If you raise your kids and are constantly pointing out their weaknesses, I don’t think they’ll turn into a very good adult,” he remarks. “The same is true for your team.” Yu explains. “Anyone can point out what people don’t do well. What we really need is to figure out what is needed in a position, match the talent to the role, and continue to develop affiliates strengths.” Yu must cast a strong and clearly communicated vision that his team can implement throughout Pan-American Division. He’s worked with direct reports to create scorecards used to fill open positions. “They’re not job descriptions,” he says, “but a document that outlines exactly what must get done in a specific position.” For example, grow share by 5 percent, restructure a region, or build a sales force. Tangible and measurable results that create real benchmarks give affiliates targets to hit. Still, creating a consistent function across 35 Pan-American countries is no easy task. To do so, Yu relies heavily on Pan-American Regional Developers who are given the freedom to implement plans developed as a team, based on the business goals at their discretion. “How each key player puts the plan into action is up to them, Yu says. “I don’t show Argentina exactly what to do, but I tell them we must hit certain goals. Then, they apply their own genius to how it gets done.” With all team leaders following an identical overriding strategy, results should be the same even if they are delivered through varying methods. Once National Affiliates become part of the WMMAA, Yu looks to provide support and room for growth. “Getting the right people to the right tasks is critical, and you’ll never attract them if you don’t have the culture to support them,” he says.
To do so, Yu looks for ambitious, aggressive candidates that are looking for advancement. “If you hire lions, you better feed them,” Ambitious workers, after all, have high expectations. They need not only compensation, but a culture where they can develop, seize opportunities, and ultimately find a progressive and rewarding career path.
- Tomas Yu
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