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The Singapore Law Gazette

CEO’s Message

Dear Member,

Some mornings, I wake up feeling like I’m really God-sent. I’m a fantastic employee, a wonderful daughter, mum and wife (a great person basically) and I’ve got everything figured out. I exercise regularly, watch what I eat and achieved my targeted weight loss goal. I am probably above-average in terms of environmental consciousness. You’re not going to get anything better than that.

That is until some gory and blunt feedback sends me right back to the ground. (Such as MailChimp statistics showing that no one is actually reading this message … or any of my previous messages!)

This is a season of thanksgiving, resolution-making … and performance appraisal. Whatever feedback received may lead one to giving thanks or to making resolutions for self-improvement or both. Yet frank and well-meaning feedback often triggers the opposite reaction. Is it fair and accurate to conclude that some personalities just have a stronger sense of pride and are unable to accept negative feedback while those who do just simply have fewer issues with their ego? My experience and observation is that most, if not all, have a strong sense of pride – yet there are two very different ways in how we often deal with our pride. On one end of the spectrum are those who ensure that they deliver and perform without waiting to be prompted or reminded precisely because they take so much pride in their work and are acutely sensitive to even the subtlest of hints regarding feedback on how to improve their performance. The other end of the spectrum consists of those who have either genuinely low levels of self-awareness or have turned a Nelsonian eye to feedback. Anyone who dares deliver any hints of negative feedback should be prepared to face the full extent of their wrath and their life mission appears to be to beat anyone into accepting their performance as they deem fit on their own terms to deliver.

So this season, I resolve to edge towards the former end of the spectrum, no matter how uncomfortable that makes me. Keeping myself on a constant path of growth in maturity so that I am not the same person at 40 as I was at 14. Ensuring that my pride listens to me and I am not controlled by it. Learning to discern well-meaning feedback from toxic and self-serving comments. Practising active listening. Not paying lip service to genuine concerns and faking that smile. Not uttering empty words without real empathy. Not letting myself stay discouraged when my well-meaning feedback is spurned, twisted and used against me. Not building my self-worth and getting drunk on praises and words of affirmations that mask genuine feedback.

Even innovation doesn’t come from nowhere. Successful businesses which are forerunners of innovation rely on customer centric strategies to birth innovative ideas – and that means constantly (and I mean constantly) seeking customers’ feedback on their needs and wants. Successful law firms do not just have to deliver sound and accurate legal advice; they have to build processes around clients’ businesses and adopt pricing strategies that meet clients’ requirements.

In the new year, Council and Secretariat will be coming together to set out the roadmap, identifying and prioritising initiatives for the Law Society for 2020. As we serve our members and fulfill our statutory duties mandated by the Legal Profession Act, we strive to ensure that our operations are run in a sustainable manner. In the process of cracking the code to identify the most pressing issues facing members, you can be sure that we will be listening hard for feedback (direct and specific, preferably). While we can’t promise to be all things to all men given our limited resources, we will without doubt be the poorer for it if we turn a deaf ear to members’ feedback.

In the same vein, while it is easier to stand by and lament or to be merely reactive to changes that come our way, it will be folly to expect the other stakeholders in the legal ecosystem to discern our concerns if we are muted on feedback. Recognising the importance of our role in representing the interests of the legal profession, Council, Committees and Secretariat have devoted much time and resources to responding to both public and private consultation on legislative proposals as well as other proposals affecting the profession. We have responded in a credible, substantive and proactive fashion, contributing to the discourse both intellectually as well as practically. To continue to do so will mean that realistic timelines have to be offered to prevent any feedback exercise from becoming a farce.

Needless to say, for us at the Law Society, feedback is welcomed in any shape or form – drop me an e-mail at [email protected].

Chief Executive Officer
The Law Society of Singapore