Civil Service College, an educational institution for Singapore government employees, invited me to share my thoughts on effective HR practices with HR leaders in the public sector. I also had the opportunity to share my thoughts in a video interview on the biggest obstacle that we, as HR leaders, ought to overcome to be relevant to our businesses, and on how we should lead our HR colleagues towards an enriching HR journey. Following transcript of this video interview.
Interviewer: What advice do you have for HR leaders to encourage them in their difficult journey managing the HR function, keeping it relevant?
Chek Wee: We are all learning in our own journey. The biggest learning that I learnt as a HR practitioner was from a former leader: We have to be fearless in what we do. For the past seven years of my HR career, due to my personal situation, I was fearful that I lose my job. Due to this fear, I am always doing all kinds of things to make sure I develop myself as an HR practitioner.
Fear is a good motivation. But over time, as you climb up the ladder, you are required to be fearless because when your business asks you to make a stand, a person who is in fear will give you a wonderful answer that is always sitting on the fence. Yes, you can do this. Yes, you can do that too. When you sit on the fence, as you climb up the ladder, you are becoming irrelevant. My advice for HR leaders: It is fine to operate out of fear. You still can operate. But as you move up the ladder, where you are required to make a valued stand, you need a different source of motivation. That different source of motivation is being fearless. Get to know your fear. What exactly are you worried about? For those of us who are base here in Singapore, we are in a very fortunate place. This is a place where unemployment is low. How worst can you do to your career? In fact, the worst thing you can do in your career is not experimenting, not thinking out the box. That’s where we will slowly become irrelevant.
Interviewer: As an HR leader, how do you empower your HR team members in to deliver results, to meet organisational goals?
Chek Wee: How do I open up the canons and having every canon firing at every second? I would like to talk about fear again. If you were to flip the earlier notion around, how do you enable a safe environment where your people are able to speak up, are able to think differently, are able to do things without fear?
My advice would be to be naked, to be vulnerable in front of your people. Let them know your fears. Let them know your weaknesses. Let them know your strength. Be naked and have a candid conversation and to the point of letting and demonstrating to them it’s OK to make mistakes. Create a safe environment. Ensure that they have a clear sight to how do they value add to the business. Make calculated risks. For example, let your people try it out at a smaller setting such as campus engagement. Instead of you speaking to the audience, let your team members speak in front of a young cohort of students who are learning. Let your team members run the show.
In sum, let your managers learn in a safe environment. Let your people know that you are vulnerable and you need them. Let them succeed you. Let them be stronger than you. Don’t have that fear.