RSOG Leadership in Action
Head of Transformation Office, PETRONAS
When: 14 October 2019
Where: Razak School of Government
Guest Speaker: Puan Jazlinawati Osman
The framework of the Session
If one browses through various social media platforms, pictures of leaders portraying that they care about people’s wellbeing, the environment, and animals are in abundance. Such consideration of care is also prominent in their speeches, press conferences, and interviews. Words are carefully chosen to connect with people, both logically and emotionally. At the working level, leaders now appear to be more accessible and engaged with their subordinates. The workplace is now designed and organised to enhance accessibility and interaction. Nevertheless, there is a growing call for compassion by the leaders. What could have led the call for compassion at a leadership level, lately? What should leaders know about compassion? How do leaders acquire skills relating to compassion? These are some of the potential focus areas that Puan Jazlinawati Osman, Head of Transformation Office in PETRONAS will discuss in this session.
Key Takeaways from the Session
Inside Out is an award-winning animated film in 2015 that attempts to bring to the fore of how emotions affect interpersonal relationships. Signified by characters that represent emotions such as fear, anger, joy, and sadness, the film illustrates how emotions organise our social life and are responsible for the structuring of our interpersonal interactions. The Guest Speaker shared a memory of kindness and compassion showed by her superior 22 years ago as she began her career in the oil and gas industry. Tasked to deliver an important assignment, she remembered little of the content of the document but vividly recalls the guidance and feedback given. This reflection led her to believe that compassion in the workplace has always existed. Before an audience comprising public and private sector, the Guest Speaker shared her experience, from the perspective of being in PETRONAS’ Transformation Office, a mother of four, and from her experience as a fresh graduate in PETRONAS, among Fortune Global 500’s largest corporations in the World.
While firmly believing compassion remains, the Guest Speaker acknowledges the challenges faced in various industries, sectors and markets. The internal and external environment becomes more challenging as results are required fast. Evidently in 2016, when oil prices hit the oil and gas industry badly, PETRONAS took a step back and realised that changing the mindset of leaders is needed to weather through the storm and beyond. They focused on culture transformation to ensure that leaders can thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. It required the creation of a new belief system. For instance, if previously working was known to be silo and segmented, the new belief system is for working to be known as very collaborative. However, the most difficult aspect of culture transformation was ensuring people experience it daily, therefore creating the opportunity to internalise the external stimuli.
The Guest Speaker reiterated a compassionate leader will ultimately contribute to the bottom-line of any organisation. One of the crucial components of compassionate leadership is having clarity of mind, and knowing the purpose and meaning of any tactical move of deliverables. Without clarity, a leader would not be able to move its organisation towards the intended direction. Therefore, in instances where a change of direction or way of doing things is proposed, the case towards change must be compelling to the mind and the heart. The true test is when these case for change must be communicated to every layer of the organisation. Transformation is not an easy path – it is a painful journey as it requires constant questioning, continuous engagement with various partners, aligning all stakeholders and being very clear as to why the change is needed. Therefore, a compassionate leader would be able to ascertain these pain points and how to lead the team in overcoming it.
Another important factor in compassionate leadership is the connection. A compassionate leader would have the courage to guide in clearing any roadblocks, which is often derived through meaningful connection created between leaders and subordinates and team members. The connection is created through conversations and getting to know one another. This requires understanding and having a sense of empathy. Thirdly, the Guest Speaker believes that a compassionate leader would take the time to coach. This requires one to be an active listener, having an open mind, and the patience to see the coaching process through. Ultimately, the environment in which one operates is crucial for compassionate leaders – creating and having space, along with the allowance of time. While leaders have the responsibility and accountability towards their teams and subordinates, they are also accountable and need to be compassionate to their own selves. It is important to reset and recharge through self-care because if it is kept to fester inside, it would eventually become visible to others and create unnecessary tension and toxicity.
In essence, leadership is about amanah – the responsibility that one shoulders. In any organisation, there are results to achieve and action must be taken towards the said goal. In achieving the results, the belief towards attainment varies from one another. While the results are often pre-determined and bounded by certain actions or rules, the idea of being compassionate is one can make a difference through the experience provided. This can be done by providing clarity to what needs to be achieved, connecting with the stakeholders and team members, and giving a sense of purpose and meaning to all parties involved. A sense of collective responsibility and shared goal imparted through a compassionate leader can make a difference in weathering any storm or the journey to the pinnacle.
Key issues raised
- Trust and acceptance are crucial in creating and maintaining any connection. In addition to the oft-used acronym of VUCA, an added U refers to Untrusting – further complicating the challenges that exist.
- There is a challenge in training one to become an active listener as one is often tempted to provide feedback and participate – making it a conversation instead of retaining it as an outlet for the communicator to share.
- Key Performance Indices (KPI) is often the end goal of any organisations’ achievement. It may pose a challenge in fostering compassion but leaders must balance task-orientation with human elements.
- In giving feedback, it has to be focused and objective. General feedback creates grey areas. In receiving negative feedback, a simple “Thank you for your feedback” is sufficient.
- Having a team with multiple generations is good as the diversity sharpens ones’ mind. It allows leaders to see from various perspectives, learn how to communicate in a customised approach with a coherent message and opportunity to reflect on one’s role as a leader.
About the Speaker
Puan Jazlinawati Osman is presently Head of Transformation Office in PETRONAS. She graduated with a master’s degree in Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under MIT Sloan Fellows Programme in Innovation and Global Leadership.