Article: Leaders of quality don’t dwell on negativity: Zahira Sughra Zainuddin


Leaders of quality don’t dwell on negativity: Zahira Sughra Zainuddin

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Zahira Sughra Zainuddin, Programme Director, Corporate Initiative, PETRONAS talks about the global trends shaping the economy and discusses how businesses and workforce can prepare for the upcoming challenges.
Leaders of quality don’t dwell on negativity: Zahira Sughra Zainuddin

As a leader who has driven several transformation projects, Zahira Sughra Zainuddin, Programme Director, Corporate Initiative, PETRONAS reflects on how organizations can manage adversities like the global economic slowdown and the complex business ecosystem we are operating in currently.  

In her exclusive interaction with us, she highlights how leaders are at the forefront of driving culture in any company and shares how they can create a sustainable culture to ensure the talents are set up for success.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

The global economy seems to be slowing down, from the US-China trade war to the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, there are many challenges impacting the world of business currently. Are the tremors of a slowing economy being felt in Malaysia as well?

Despite the slowing down of the global economy, strong GDP growth continues to highlight Malaysia's resilience whereby the Malaysian economy grew at a stronger pace of 4.9 percent in the second quarter of 2019 and is expected to grow sustainably for the rest of 2019.

While Malaysia's growth is encouraging, we can not ignore the high risks associated with the challenges (e.g. US-China trade war) impacting the world of business.

Despite the positive sentiment, we (industry players) continue to tread cautiously and are quick to respond to market conditions – we have taken lessons from the 2014 oil crisis that sent oil prices crashing in just under a six-month period and led to the cancellation of several large-scale projects globally to ensure we have a robust and sustainable plan in place in view of these disruptive conditions.

Given the recent global socio-economic trends, how is the oil and gas industry shaping? How will the industry’s talent priorities change?

For the oil and gas industry, after the prolonged downturn, the upswing in oil prices has enabled the industry and PETRONAS specifically to refocus and invest in new talent, competencies, capabilities and technology.

Industry players have changed gears from survival to growth mode – and this is evident in the way new investments and operations in large-scale projects have been unlocked.

For PETRONAS, in addition to our three-pronged growth strategy of maximizing cash generators, expanding core business, and stepping out which will ensure we continue to be a frontrunner in the industry, talent continues to be our top priority. 

For us investing in talent and human capital management is vital to sustainable business growth and success. We have our global talent strategy of developing the right talent, right environment, and right leaders, which will support our three-pronged growth strategy.

We take a holistic view of talent development and therefore, we continue to still focus on human capital investment through our efforts on supporting education and collaboration between academia and the industry.

As a leader who has driven several transformation projects, how do you think organizations can manage adversities like the fear of approaching global economic recession? What role can leaders play?

Adversity is not necessarily a bad thing, instead we can view it as an opportunity for the company to truly evolve and even in the most challenging circumstances, there is room for improvement and build efficiencies within, through a new way of working.

Leaders of quality don’t dwell on negativity; rather, we should see things from a positive perspective, develop insights from tough situations and move forward. 

Resilience is key, rather than worry and anticipate the worst, we should always look for the best ways in which the organization can move forward. The leaders should recognize there’s no value in trying to change the inevitable; whilst the focus should be on making the best of the situation.

Purposeful leaders take ownership during adversity. I believe anticipating and connecting the dots is key and it involves both a state of mind to be in and a set of actions to be taken.

How can leaders create a culture that evolves in tune with time? What are some key pillars that determine the organization’s success in the moments of adversity? How can such a culture be created?

Leaders are the forefront of driving culture in any company. Therefore, by consciously taking responsibility for the situation, leaders should retain full control thus are able to respond and adapt, rather than react, to adversity.

For PETRONAS, this is the ecosystem we want to build, whereby we want to ensure we provide the means, authority and also the space for leaders to both act and rally the organization forward in a disruptive and VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) world we see today.

Having the right ecosystem in place will allow our talent to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity to overcome adversities. As talent continue to be a key priority, we are determined to focus on the talent experience for which our vision is to be an empowered, agile, and enabled organization.

While on the one hand we talk about these challenges, what are some opportunities that business and talent leaders must tap into to stay ahead of the curve?

Changes in technology, values and culture, and new ways of working, require the organization to adopt and adapt to remain competitive.

What this means is that everyone needs to have a mind-set of continuous learning – learn, unlearn and relearn as what works for leaders previously may not be applicable today. Therefore, to remain relevant in times of unprecedented change and disruption, only those who are capable of adapting in the face of change, and willing to change will be able to stay ahead.

Hence why the right ecosystem is so critical to ensure the talents are set up for success and leaders will play an important role to humanize the workplace and redefine the experience.

Zahira Sughra Zainuddin, Programme Director, Corporate Initiative, PETRONAS will also be present at Asia’s largest HR and work tech conference, People Matters TechHR 2020 Singapore. Attend her exclusive masterclass on the topic 3 Steps to Humanize Your Organization on 20th February. Click here to register for the conference. 

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Topics: Leadership, #TechHRSG

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