What I Learnt From Corporate Malaysia

Jan 09, 2015 1 Min Read

The year 2014 flew by with many touch points with people and companies new to me. Several have left their indelible mark.

My own company has undergone changes and immense growth, and I have observed keenly how some people have thrived under the pressure.

1. TalentCorp – Move as one

In my first week at Leaderonomics, I was introduced to the team at TalentCorp Malaysia.

It was to be the start of many a late night working jointly on projects, and to be honest when our first project came to a close, I had more people I had worked with in the TalentCorp office than in my own.

There are three lessons I learnt from working with (and among!) the TalentCorp team.

  1. Know what is important (and know what your stakeholders need even before they know it themselves!)In my trying to understand their needs, the TalentCorp team lead was always very clear what the project objectives were, and how it sat in the overall organisational objectives.

    Once everyone involved understood it well, things fell into place more readily and even if it didn’t, things were resolved with minimal fuss.

  2. The ends vs the meansSalika Suksuwan, head of industry partnerships and her team have a deep (and enviable) understanding of the needs of their stakeholders.

    In everything the project team did, we were always grounded by what was important, not just for TalentCorp, but also their stakeholders.

  3. In the backgroundRemarkably, the team never wanted to be front and centre, but remained unseen, supporting their projects and all parties.

    And this, I believe stems from focusing on the end goal – knowing where they were heading, and not letting things derail the process.

Lesson for 2015: Are you focused – individually and collectively in your organisation? Stay the course and be mindful of consequences of all actions, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Having taken a peek at Leaderonomics CEO Roshan Thiran’s own lessons learnt from Corporate Malaysia in 2014, the following lesson from Johor Port Bhd was interestingly along the same lines – or rather, velocity (physics!) where both trajectory and speed are part of the equation.

2. Johor Port Bhd – Speed+

During a leadership programme at Johor Port Bhd last year, a participant raised a question on speed, sparking a lively discussion on the importance and downside of speed in business.

Then a wise participant brought up this point:

“What is the use of speeding fast in the wrong direction? You may actually end up worst off than the person who is focused on the right direction yet makes slower, steady progress.”

“I could not agree more. Speed is critical in this day and age. Yet, we should only speed once we are clear where we want to go and how we want to go there,” says Roshan.

Lesson for 2015: Speed only when you are clear where you are going. If not, slow down and figure out your bearings.

3. Nestlé Malaysia – People first

In June 2014, I met chief financial officer of Nestlé Malaysia, Marc Seiler over a conversation on many topics that somehow kept circling back to people power at Nestlé.

I could end right there! Because it was striking to me that the culture of people development was so evident and entrenched that the chief financial officer (not human resources) spoke about people and people development at Nestlé with such great passion.

He recalled how he journeyed with his team, who were tentative at first, but are today fully engaged and united in their shared vision.

Seiler said with pride:

“Many who joined Nestlé as management trainees have stayed loyal for 20 years; some have stayed 30 to 35 years. Loyalty to the company and loyalty to the brand have been astonishing.”

Of course, we talked about the famous Milo trucks too!

Lesson for 2015: Commitment. Do you know what your priorities are? Is your organisation committed to making it happen – up and down (left and right)?

4. GTI Media – No mountain high enough

The people at GTI Media Asia. You meet them and can’t help but be inspired by their energy!

And after meeting more of their people and understanding the vision of their founder, I can see why they stay charged up like the Energizer bunny.

CEO Hee Kim Fah and his team demonstrate how purpose + perseverance yield results.

Through various efforts, they have extended their reach right across our country to help students and graduates make better career choices.

Over time and on an aggregate level, you begin to see how this investment can have a significant impact on our nation.

The vibe at GTI Media Asia is definitely ‘can do!’ and a lot of ‘nothing’s gonna stop us’ thrown in for good measure. Certainly worth remembering whenever things take a downturn.

Lesson for 2015: Is your team able to survive and thrive in crises? Are they equipped with the right skills, mindset and motivation to reinvent themselves?

5. PwC Malaysia – Beyond diagnosis

In Sept 2014, I met managing partner of PwC Malaysia, Sridharan Nair who had just been given the honour of CEO Champion at the Life at Work Award 2014.

Several people who knew him well pre-empted our conversation with “Sri’s very modest. You really need to draw out all the good he has done for us and our organisation.”

True enough, he talked about changes in PwC Malaysia 7-8 years prior which were ahead of its time – innovations in human resource management that took into account the changing needs of individuals and families.

Changes that were well thought out, well executed and in the end very well received. And Sri constantly attributed all the good that has come about to team effort.

Florence Tan, corporate responsibility manager, shared:

“Sri has been a great champion. He looks out for people in the firm – he challenges you to do something you may not believe you can.”

Lesson for 2015: Are you helping to create an environment for excellence? It’s not just the role of leaders; everyone in the organisation has a part to play.

Concluding thoughts

Perhaps Jan 1 is just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand. I remember quite well, the many different ‘new years’ we celebrated while I lived in Cambodia.

Time does have a peculiar way of speeding up and slowing down though – rather disconcertingly, it speeds up when times are great, and slows when times are not.

So before the third quarter rolls round and my career and life goals are still waiting to be prioritised, I am going to take the lessons of 2014 and apply them to 2015.

Most definitely before we usher in the Year of the Goat!

For lessons from Corporate Malaysia 2014 by Roshan Thiran, click here.

Karen has great hopes for an excellent year for all. For more articles on leadership and charting your own course, do visit www.leaderonomics.com


Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 10 January 2015

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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