Leadership, Career Paths, Advice

Write your own job description - Gan Siok Hoon

Published 31 May 2019 by Lynn Loi


“We all like to be in the comfort zone, but comfort also limits growth.  I always look for opportunities to get out of the comfort zone to change things for the better," Gan Siok Hoon, Vice President, Mobile Marketing and Sales, Consumer Singapore.

When she started her career at Singtel as a Finance Manager, Siok Hoon realized that that this was a place where the leaders were willing to invest in her by giving her opportunities to explore roles in the business. 

She took on a Product Development role to build our mobile payments app, Dash, from scratch with a team of 30 people before she took on her present role as the Vice President of our Sales and Mobile Marketing teams for our Consumer business, where she leads over 500 people.

"Creating Dash, our mobile payments app from scratch, was the most challenging time of my career. In order to develop it, it was certainly an 'all hands on deck' situation, and that was what made me realise the importance of building high performing and successful teams.”

Crystalising her leadership philosophy

“When I took on the leadership role of the Consumer Sales team, I came across the findings of what makes a successful team in this project by Google, which was code-named Project Aristotle - a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. 

I realised I needed to build leaders who can lead not just their own teams and also others across this relatively large organisation.”

In order to do that, I had to build a team with a strong level of trust by creating psychological safety so that team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of one another.”

The challenge she had to overcome was to figure out how she could get these teams which were very specialised based on the different sales channels, such as retail, e-shop, and Singtel Exclusive Retailers, et cetera, to work together as a team.

Her plan was to find platforms and opportunities where everyone could become an equal and contribute their ideas and perspectives at forums such as town halls, and team building events. 

She started the ball rolling by sharing her own story and encouraged other leaders to do the same so that everyone gets to know the leaders as a person, including their success and failures.

Transforming our retail shop by redesigning our customer experience

When it came to the time to transform our Singtel Shop, she had the perfect opportunity to bring all these different teams together to redesign the customer experience. 

The goal was to not only create buzz and excitement for the retail industry in Singapore but also light the way for our associates by pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with the use of new technologies and our imagination.

To achieve this, she made the conscious decision to involve our sales managers and sales consultants who were familiar with operations and customer interactions at our retail shops as members of the steering committee.

 “I would encourage them to open-up by interjecting regularly and consciously to say, ‘let’s hear from so-and-so’ to get the whole team into the habit of listening to everyone’s opinions, regardless of rank or title. 

I'll also let the group take a vote, so everyone’s voice can be heard by asking those who voted a specific option to share their reasons for doing so. 

Certainly, if I have strong reasons to believe that the majority may not be right to go with option A because of other perspectives or information that I may have, I'll still try to convince them and encourage them to take the risk to go with option B.

For example, when we started to select the new technologies that we wished to adopt in this new store, I was all for experimenting with robots. 

However, the insight from our sales consultants was our customers didn’t want to come in to interact with robots, even though that may seem cool to us at the time.

However, we realised that we could help augment their digital experience in the store by offering live bots, which are controlled remotely by customer care agents stationed at our call centres in Singapore and Malaysia. 

Through the bots, customers speak with customer care agents on the other end via video calls in the store.”

Building trust through positive reinforcement

To bring about the change she wanted to see for different teams to come together, Siok Hoon used both a hard and soft approach. 

She made it a requirement for everyone to take on at least 1 strategic project in the year, where they will have the opportunity to work with people from different teams.

She also made a concerted effort to build trust by providing positive reinforcement of behaviours that she wished to encourage in her organisation. 

Some of the best forms of encouragement came through compliments from customers, visitors and management which were shared at morning briefing sessions for the retail team and at townhall events across the entire mobile marketing and sales organisation so that achievements could be celebrated as a team.

"People need positive reinforcement, and they need to be recognised when they are doing a good job. So when the next big project comes along, you'll see that people want to volunteer and be involved in it.”

Apart from recognition from customers on their positive experience at our new Singtel Shop, Singtel also won the Best Retail Concept of the Year Award at the 2018 Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) Retail Awards in recognition of its revamped flagship store at Comcentre and its innovative use of advanced retail technologies.

"When we win awards, I'll ask everyone to go up on stage together because it is truly a team effort, and we would involve not just the directors but also all managers who had contributed across various teams.

We were proud that we were not just recognised as the best telco retail shop, but we had won the best retail concept across all industries in Singapore, and we achieved our objective of being a beacon of what's possible, which could also serve as a source of inspiration for our associates in the region.”

A believer of writing your own job description

“I’ve always been eager to learn, and never shied away from it because I’m always hungry to learn and do more. 

For me, I’ve always tried to put myself in situations where I will experience discomfort because I like to change the status quo.

What I've learnt a lot more of these past couple of years is how to engage people through storytelling. 

During shop visits, I would sit down and listen to my team's feedback, and take the opportunity to share my stories with the intent of knowledge sharing and creating a connection. 

These activities have helped me to engage people better, and I learnt that as a leader, you need to listen as much as you talk to develop people and the team to their full potential.”

As for her career advice for those who are planning their next move, she puts it across succinctly in a straightforward manner, “You’re in charge of your own career, and I tell people there is no such thing as a job description or a fixed path to follow.  The job description is really just the bare minimum. You should do more than that, write your own job description, and the sky becomes the limit.”

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