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  • SEHR AHMED

Taking HR from Stone Age to Space Age

Updated: Oct 28, 2018

Senior #leadership roles can be demanding from the "get go" at a personal and professional level. When this new role involves a cross border and cross industry move, the risk quotient goes up exponentially. #SehrAhmed, Founder and CEO, #ExecutiveEdge Limited narrates her own experience and explains how the right planning, #strategy and mindset can help you hit the ground running and come out ahead.


The company is looking for an #HR #Head Asia Pacific to take "HR from Stone Age to Space Age!”, this was the role mandate I just received a call for from a search consultant. The headline and challenge associated with it caught my attention as I am drawn to roles with a change and transformation mandate.


I went through the #interview rounds and eight weeks later I accepted the offer. The decision was not an easy one for me, as a single parent with two teenage kids. I remember going home to break the news to my kids, “Hey guys! I've just got a great offer, it's the next step up in my #career and we are moving to #Singapore.”


My son, who was 15 at the time and finishing off Year 10 at the Island School, looked at me and said, “I'm not leaving #HongKong! You can move to #Singapore and come to visit us.” He was a contender for the position of Head Boy at Island School and as far as he saw it, I was about to ruin his life!


My daughter, who was in year eight also at same school, stepped forward to say, “I'll move! if you get me a house, a hammock and a dog!” She didn't get the house, the hammock or the dog as we lived in an apartment with a no pet policy! But what the kids did get, is the ability to deal with change and come out ahead. A life skill they will always have going forward.


I accepted the offer and started my new job in #Singapore towards the start of the year. The kids stayed on in #HongKong with some cover from my parents who came to stay for a couple of months and my helper who stepped up. I negotiated a six-month window to do my job alternating weeks between #HongKong and #Singapore.


Stepping into a new role, working away from the family, and doing a killer commute between two countries can take its toll.


The first week on the job, I walked right into the bonus cycle with a skeletal team. The need of the hour was to roll up my sleeves, reconcile the numbers manually on excel spreadsheets, liaise with the businesses and the head office to drive the process and execute flawlessly. That was my first win!


However, during the year on steroids I was able to create a people #strategy to enable the business strategy positioned for change and growth; built a multifunctional/ multi-skilled #HR team; implemented the #Target #Operating #Model with #Business #Partners, #COE's & #SharedServices; created an #HR scorecard to measure #impact, #effectiveness and #productivity; Implement the global job grading process; sharpen the #high #performance #culture; create #localization #strategies; build a local talent pipeline; work on an execution plan for #priority #markets to "#hothouse" skills for rapid deployment. I also managed to do this while travelling to other markets, building a relationship with the businesses, the team and my global #HR colleagues.


Here are some key take away's from my experience on how to tackle the challenges of a new role and find the personal balance to avoid burnout.


(i) Understand the business better: Stepping into a new industry it is critical to have a clear understanding of the business It can be done through business planning, going through the financial statements, and meetings with the country teams and the front-line staff. And take the time to learn the language of the new business. There were a number of acronym's in the business and getting the good understanding of this was imperative. This takes time and effort but well worth it and must be done at the front end.


(ii) #Build #relationships

It always works in your favour to know your key #stakeholders, your boss, your peers and your direct reports. Set up meetings to get to know each individual, their career journey, their mandate, their challenges and areas where you could help them. Regular meetings with key stakeholders will help solve bigger problems and position you as the trusted advisor.


(iii) Manage expectations and have a realistic target

It is inevitable that you will be handed a long list of things to do and fix when you step into a role leading #change and #transformation. What is absolutely critical is to pare this down to a realistic list, with a stretch component in consultation with your manager. When more is added to the list by your constituents, make sure you re-negotiate what goes off the list, or gets de-prioritized in terms of timing. A tough conversation, but one that needs to happen.


(iv) Enable and support your team

With newly formed teams it is imperative to have team #alignment #sessions to set the vision of where we need to go as a team, how that aligns to the business plan, get to know each other and walk away with a #blueprint for action. However, this can just be the starting point and a lot more needs to happen to build a #cohesive, #collaborative and #highperforming team. This take time, focus and attention in a sustained manner.


(v) Get support and buy-in

You can't set out on a #transformation mandate without the support of key #stakeholders, most importantly your #boss who hired you in the first place. Having his or her support and buy-in will be critical to driving the change through the #organization. Keep him or her in the loop on issues you are facing and areas you need their support and buy in.


(vi) Find the Balance

While you take the weight of the world on your shoulders, remember to take the time for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. And when your #family needs you, be there for them! The right employer would understand!


(vi) Stay true to your #values

#Value-#based #leadership is authentic and sets you apart. Your values will show in your actions and that at the end of the day is what you will be remembered by


(vi) Get a #Coach

The first year in a new job is high-risk and the loneliest place on earth! Add to this equation a new industry and a new country, the risk intensifies. You need a #coach to be your sparring partner, the #catalyst for #change to help you shape your goals on what success looks like, #challenge you and hold you accountable. This can't be your manager; nor can it be a mentor or an internal HR resource. This needs to be an external coach and one who can help you make the shift and perform at a higher level on all fronts. This is part chemistry and part skill but the heavy lifting is done by the incumbent.


Taking #HR from #Stone Age to #Space Age is not a quick fix and nor is it something that happens overnight. It is a long and arduous journey and one where you need support, trusted advice and a great coach! Along the way, you will get some things right, get some things wrong and come away learning more about yourself, your family and the world around you.



#SehrAhmed now works with businesses and leaders helping them work through growth, change and transformation through #ExecutiveEdge her #consulting and #coachingventure

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