"Are You Convinced Yet?”

Six months into her first job, Management Executive of CapitaLand Limited, Magdalene Phua shares her interpretation of CapitaLand’s credo “Building People”

Issue: Apr 2013

Colleagues, including Ms Angeline Oh, Senior Vice President of Human Resource, CapitaLand Limited (far right), with whom I (far left) enjoy having both deep as well as trivial conversations over lunch
Colleagues, including Ms Angeline Oh, Senior Vice President of Human Resource, CapitaLand Limited (far right), with whom I (far left) enjoy having both deep as well as trivial conversations over lunch

“Are you convinced yet?” a colleague asked jokingly after I came back from the CapitaLand Immersion Programme. The three-and-a-half-day programme was aimed at getting new hires like myself acquainted with CapitaLand’s businesses and core values. Yes, convinced I was—and proudly so!

Core values define the enduring character of a thriving organisation. However, the top management’s enthusiasm to inculcate and communicate these values may not match that of employees. Begs the question—can employees ever be aligned with organisation core values (or DNA)?

Beyond Superficiality

CapitaLand’s credo “Building People” suitably represents its six core values. Yet, values are not just words on a banner (or our desktops!) for business leaders to preach and employees to heed, hoping that this somehow translates to better bottom-line, higher salaries, and happier staff. (Besides, our performance appraisals do not explicitly measure “conformance to the credo”!)

Harvard Business School Professor Moss Kanter once lamented that the words found in some mission statements and core values don’t really tell us what to do specifically; they end up as decoration for walls and websites.

So then, are company missions and core values doomed to remain superficial and subject to cynical interpretation? With her core values and corporate principles carefully crafted into “CapitaDNA”, what does this threat of superficiality mean for CapitaLand?

There is much hope for us, though. “Building People” is meaningful and resonates with many people’s innate desire to impact the world. That’s a good starting point. As a new hire, I was personally drawn by CapitaLand’s “Building People” credo—an essential value that I seek to uphold. I especially love to see young people blossom and maximise their fullest potential. In this light, my “immersion” into CapitaLand served as affirmation that my values are aligned with the organisation’s.

Alignment is important. I would also add that core values such as those defined in CapitaDNA are intrinsic and applicable first to the individual before it can be applied to the business.

Not too long ago, a senior colleague had asked me to reflect on our credo—what does “Building People” really mean? Beyond words, what does it stand for? I was thrilled. How often do we discuss issues unrelated to our “real” work?

The questions posed led me to interesting conversations with other colleagues, and I have come to conclude that Building People entails a three-part “inside-out” process.  The process begins with building ourselves followed by building others up. The third element of this process is building an environment which helps facilitate the two.

Allow me to elaborate.

The lovely bunch of youths I have the utter privilege of mentoring and “building up”; through the years, they have also encouraged and built me up in the most unexpected ways
The lovely bunch of youths I have the utter privilege of mentoring and “building up”; through the years, they have also encouraged and built me up in the most unexpected ways

Building People—From the Inside Out

Building ourselves is the crucial first step in Building People. It entails personal leadership. “You must lead yourself before you can lead others,” says John C Maxwell. Simply put, personal leadership is the ability and discipline to lead and manage ourselves, our emotions, growth, motivations and responses.

Building others up, I reckon, is the outward-looking, relational process of Building People. Here, relationships—personal and corporate, internal and external—take centre stage. Respect and service toward others is important, as is being nurturing (i.e. having the commitment to grow people towards actualising their aspirations and potential). Mutuality, too, is a posture we must adopt to build others up; seeking mutual benefit in all our personal and business interactions.

Finally as people builders, we have a responsibility to build an environment to facilitate the two processes. Conversations with peers and colleagues suggest that there are at least four principles of creating an environment which would be conducive:

  • Accountability—a self-perpetuating and transparent system where positive behaviours are reinforced and negative behaviours are inhibited;
  • Safety—an atmosphere where people feel safe and empowered to contribute, speak up and take risks;
  • Proactive relationship-building—a culture that prioritises and focuses on building positive, long-term relationships with internal and external stakeholders; and
  • Work-life harmony—an environment that enables people to manage work responsibilities alongside personal and family needs.

Convinced and Satisfied

Magdalene Phua, Management Executive, CapitaLand Limited
Magdalene Phua, Management Executive, CapitaLand Limited

Building People is, to me, an inside-out process—sowing into my own wellbeing and then sowing into others’ wellbeing. CapitaLand’s credo certainly encapsulates that which I stand for. In life, I am honoured to have family, friends, mentors and colleagues who sow into my wellbeing and development. These are people who, through their sowing, empower me to sow into others in little ways.

I am convinced that core values are more than just words on our desktops, and more than decorative business taglines. They must first and foremost carry deep personal value. Ralph S. Larsen, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, says it this way: “The core values embodied in our credo might be a competitive advantage, but that is not why we have them. We have them because they define for us what we stand for.”

Dear friends and colleagues, let us make “Building People” something you and I stand for. Let it be a way of life.

This new column entitled CapitaDNA is a platform for everyone at CapitaLand to share their experiences and thoughts on the company’s core values and corporate principles by contributing articles to CapitaLand INSIDE Different Geographies.

CapitaDNA entails our 6 Core Values. These values and guiding principles represent how CapitaLand does business, how it treats its stakeholders and how the staff interacts in the workplace. As the Group continues to grow, this DNA is crucial in differentiating itself from the rest.

Click here to submit a CapitaDNA article

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