Thursday January 3, 2013
Lessons from Corporate Malaysia
SCIENCE OF BUILDING LEADERS By ROSHAN THIRAN
THE year 2012 has rolled along and every year-end, I usually reflect on the past year and see what lessons are learnt. Last year, I looked at different organisations in Malaysia and lessons learnt from them. There are a ton of great lessons I learnt last year. Here are my pick of top 10 lessons learnt in 2012 from Corporate Malaysia:
1. Talent Corp Passion will win in the end
Last year, I had the opportunity to interact with Talent Corp CEO Johan Merican and his leadership team. During a recent strategy discussion, I was moved by the passion of his leadership team. Each person in the team that Johan had painstakingly built, showed a desire to “make Malaysia a better place.” Their hearts were burning with desire to solve the talent issues Malaysia faced in the hope of making a difference.
Rarely have I seen a more committed and passionate leadership team so focused on their goals. Passion is the starting point of all success stories. Grameen Bank founder Mohamad Yunus burnt with passion to help Bangladeshi women. Henry Ford passionately built Ford Motors so that everyone could afford a car.
The best leaders have passion for what they do and they hire people with passion. Passionate people win. So, my money is on Johan and his team at Talent Corp to passionately change Malaysia, one talent at a time. How about you? Is your passion in line with your career?
2. Malakoff Leaders must teach
Zainal Abidin Jalil, CEO of Malakoff, is a man of courage and conviction. Most CEOs have no time to spend with their employees. Yet, Zainal goes against conventional Malaysian leadership by spending time teaching his employees. He teaches them his values, his vision for a 21st century Malakoff and his desire for behaviour and cultural change. He really teaches (not just talking or lecturing).
The last CEO I knew who taught his employees was Jack Welch. Jack spent a chunk of his time at Crotonville, GE's training centre, where he taught. By teaching, Zainal is role-modelling one of the most important aspects of a leader to teach and multiply.
One thing that Zainal teaches is that everything can be done better if we keep learning and changing. He is a great example of a learner as much as a teacher. All great leaders are teachers but also great learners. For 2013, we should challenge the learner in us to teach more, and the teacher in us to learn more.
3. The Star It's always a good time to innovate
The Star newspaper has always fascinated me. They have one of the most highly developed production systems a 24-7 value chain from content development to design to production to print and delivery.
In many countries, newspapers have been labelled as “sunset industries” due to stagnant circulation. But not in Malaysia.
The team at The Star have continually innovated regardless of the challenges and obstacles thrown their way. Last year had seen the launch of the e-paper, iSnap and other innovative cross-media platforms increasing circulation. While circulation in most countries is dwindling, it has increased here in Malaysia.
The lesson I learnt is that you must never give up on your business or industry. Innovation helps you reinvent yourself. AirAsia reinvented aviation in Asia. Starbucks reinvented cafes. The cinema was supposed to be a sunset industry in the 1980s, and yet it made a comeback. Likewise the radio.
So, don't give up on your dream or your industry regardless of what others claim. Through innovation and trying new things, you may just reinvent your industry.
4. ECM Libra Giving is good
Through its foundation, ECM Libra is blessing many poor Malaysians. I had the privilege of attending a dinner and witnessing the number of real lives this foundation is touching.
The foundation has an objective of providing poor Malaysians with financial assistance for educational purposes, irrespective of race, religion or creed. Its founders, Datuk Seri Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan, Lim Kian Onn and Datuk David Chua Ming Huat, collectively donated RM63mil to the foundation.
As Kalimullah spoke, he shed tears as he saw joy in the many lives being touched.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. This is a value that my team at Leaderonomics hold dear to. Witnessing foundations like ECM Libra truly embrace the call to help everyone regardless of differences is uplifting.
It reminds me of my calling to keep giving regardless of circumstances. I have been taught by my parents to always give. Doing so has yielded many blessings throughout my life. Likewise, organisations that give, will receive blessings in “word-of-mouth” marketing and in a deep sense of community goodwill.
Lesson for 2013: keep giving of your time, energy and funds to make this world a better world. You will be blessed.
5. DKSH Finish what you start
A few months ago, during a launch of a talent programme at DKSH Malaysia, a senior HR leader stated that we were judged by what we finished and not by what we started.
I remember writing down this profound thought and seeing flashes of the many ideas and “starts” that I have seen and witnessed this past year. About 95% of all start-ups will fail within the first three years. Almost 70% of all change initiatives will fail. Millions of great ideas will never see the light of day because there was no execution.
To succeed, you need to finish what you start. No matter how many projects or initiatives you start, it will yield nothing until you get a proto-type out or reach the finish line. Having finished 85% of something means nothing.
This new year, we should ask ourselves what projects we had started but have yet to finish. We should work on finishing those open items before we embark on new ones.
6. RHB Bank Look inside yourself
During one of my discussions with an RHB group of employees, one of them shared the story of an egg with me. He claims that if an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. He went on to explain that if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. Great things always tend to begin from within.
And he is absolutely right. Great action begins from the inside. Orison Marden explains beautifully that “deep within humans dwell those slumbering powers; powers that would astonish them, that they never dreamed of possessing; forces that would revolutionise their lives if aroused and put into action.” Key lesson: Do you spend time with yourself in reflection and solitude? The answers to greatness are all within you.
7. PSI Incontrol The Say-Do' ratio
Early last year, I was introduced to Harvinder Singh, chairman and MD of PSI Incontrol, a Malaysian engineering company beating many other “big boys” in its industry. It has grown by leaps and bounds through Harvinder's leadership. Two weeks ago, I visited PSI Incontrol's offices in Sungai Buloh to meet its top talent and listen to Harvinder.
Harvinder made a statement that was a “learning moment” for me. He explained the concept of the Say-Do ratio.
It's a simple formula he uses to measure himself and his people. How much of what you say is done? Are you always just talking and not doing? Or are you always doing and not communicating? He believes you need to be doing much more than you are saying. I think so too.
It's easy to say you will achieve many things. The proof comes when you execute with actions. So, lesson learnt for 2013 is to make sure my Say-Do ratio is much more DO than SAY
8. Astro Go beyond
Last year, I was given a book published by Astro titled Go Beyond. It encapsulates Astro's strategy and vision to “go beyond” traditional ways of doing, thinking and achieving. As I read the book and interacted with various Astro leaders who were excited about “going beyond”, I realised the importance of breaking boundaries and exiling our traditional beliefs to the annals of history.
To succeed in life, we need to constantly “go beyond” and step outside our comfort zones. Great leaders constantly look for new ways of doing things. All great leaders are heretics of some form causing disruption to industries and their businesses in the hope of “going beyond”.
The call from Astro is that all of us should strive to do things differently. We all need to “think different” if we want to change the world. Are you going beyond?
9. Alliance Bank Talent is everyone's business
Over the past year, I have interacted frequently with the Alliance Bank leadership team. While in many organisations, talent development is usually a job function reserved for human resource (HR), at Alliance, the senior leaders have embraced the call that talent is their issue.
HR drives processes but the leadership team make talent management its priority. I have seen how executive vice-president and group COO Raymond Leung finds space to personally spend time with his top talent. Steve Miller, head of its business banking group, likewise invests a substantial part of his time working, developing, coaching and spearheading talent initiatives in the bank.
People development cannot be relegated to HR solely. It needs to be a shared function between line and HR. Leaders like Leung and Miller are role models of the new talent world we live in. Everyone needs to play one's part to ensure talent grow and fulfil one's potential.
Top CEOs in the world make it a point to spend at least 30% of their time on talent and people. All leaders need to devote time to their people. Do you?
10. Sime Darby Impossible is nothing
While teaching a class at Sime Darby, an employee told me a story of how she accomplished something she thought was impossible to do. Her story taught me an important lesson every great achievement was once considered impossible.
Many of us believe that so many things are beyond us. I was reminded by this lady that impossible is nothing. So, as we start 2013, let's have unrealistic goals of doing the impossible. We may just achieve it!
There are many more lessons I learnt last year. But the most important thing about lessons is to internalise them and leverage these lessons in 2013. Make 2013 a great year by learning from everyone and everything. There are lessons to be learnt from everyone. So, as you start 2013, keep learning and keep internalising the lessons you learn.
Roshan Thiran is CEO of Leaderonomics, a social enterprise passionate about transforming the nation through leadership development. Roshan and his team at Leaderonomics wish everyone a blessed New Year ahead. Check out Leaderonomics' new beta TV site at www.leaderonomics.tv for more great tid-bits of wisdom for 2013.