Date: 29 May 2020, Friday
The Council for Board Diversity organised a Digital Leadership-in-Action Conversation with Lim Hwee Hua, board director of United Overseas Bank, Jardine Cycle & Carriage, and Trustee of the International Valuation Standards Council. She was previously Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Transport.
The discussion was led by Janet Ang, Independent Director of Singapore Press Holdings Limited and Chairman of NUS Institute of Systems Science.
Mrs Lim generously shared her personal experience and gave advice on navigating difficult situations. Her views were very well received by the senior women executives who attended the session.
Some of the participants of the Digital Fireside Chat with Mrs Lim Hwee Hua. Photo by Council for Board Diversity.
Our key takeaways:
Board directors play a critical role in providing strategic governance and direction to ensure sustainable growth of their business. The current Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses and economies in ways that are unprecendented. Board directors may consider applying ‘P-H-D’ in board discussions and deliberations:
- People: People are a business’ most critical asset. Questions relating to People, when framed strategically, helps to address issues of how the organization is managing employees’ fear of the changes that have crash landed on them. E.g. working from home, social distancing, teamwork over digital platforms, uncertainty of their future; and assuring the employees that their health and safety and well-being is not overlooked.
- Hard decisions: While board directors have to be sensitive to the emotions of people, they also need to be pragmatic and take hard decisions. In board discussions, it is important to recognize that trade-offs may be necessary, and hard decisions need to be debated and taken for the sustainability of the business.
- Dynamism: Be prepared for rapid changes, you may have to adjust your assumptions several times; it is important to be agile. During these Covid-19 days, this is certainly a key lesson learnt by many. In addition to Dynamism, there is also Digitalisation, which, in many cases, needs to be introduced almost overnight. It has also come to the forefront that Diversity of ideas, supply chains, skills, financing and talent are part of the Dynamism that businesses have to address.
Some advice for women:
- Step up when opportunities are available and do not underrate your abilities and potential.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help – you will be surprised at the help you receive.
- Leave your gender at the door – be confident and self-assured that you can contribute when called upon. Try not to process everything through a gender lens. Rather, be your perceptive, empathetic self, peppered with humour, which can go a long way.