Chief Operating Officer, Sharon Hardcastle has a formidable track record. Her portfolio of work includes Barclays, First Direct and the HSBC Group. She has also led an impressive number of start-ups and SMEs to success. Sharon has left a legacy of commercial innovation behind her in the UK. Now she is ready for new challenges, taking Potential Squared International into a transformational phase in Asia Pacific.
How did you come to be involved in this area of the business?
I’ve always had a keen interest in learning and development (L&D). This passion is backed by a certificate in Training Practice from Manchester University. My professional L&D career started at First Direct. From there, all of my professional roles have involved building teams, coaching and leading people to success.
What part of your work do you enjoy the most?
I am in a privileged position to add value and make a real difference to others. Watching people develop and witnessing that ‘light-bulb moment’ when they acquire a new skill or improve on an existing one is priceless to me. It’s really important for me to be able to help people identify areas of growth, both personally and professionally.
How do business and leadership practices in Asian markets compare with the UK?
There is a global approach to business in Singapore, which makes leadership consistent in organisations. There’s also a strong focus on the Asia Pacific Region. Ranked as the top country in which to do business, it’s no surprise that the regional headquarters of many global businesses tend to be in either Singapore or Hong Kong. As a result, some of the business challenges can come from cultural differences across the Globe and Asia Pacific Region; education is key to ensure that communication barriers and misunderstandings do not negatively impact the day-to-day or business growth.
How is the importance of leadership instilled in individuals who have always been based in Singapore?
The local education system is perceived as world class. English has been the designated first language for schools since 1987, and 20% of the national budget is ring-fenced for educational programmes. Confidence and leadership starts early with children attending nursery schools and language classes from a very young age.
How do companies in Singapore respond to, and incorporate foreign talent?
Global players often bring in foreign talent from other parts of their organisation to work seamlessly alongside highly educated and highly skilled local talent. Unemployment is at just two per cent in Singapore, virtually zero. This is a country that supports the employment of its local people, and manages the number of foreign appointments under the Singapore Employment Act. That said, they recognise that foreign talent plays a big role in the Singaporean economy.
How does innovation work in Singapore?
Businesses use innovation to stay ahead of the curve, reinventing themselves to stay current. The foreign talent population moves constantly and the ex-pat culture can be very transitional. This is why the Asia Pacific Region is interested in thinking differently – business and life is forever changing. The programmes we deliver for ExperienceInnovation (formerly Design Thinker) and ExperienceChange have received a great response for this reason.
What does change look like in Singapore?
Singapore business is going through constant change. Local and International companies with offices and headquarters in Asia are frequently reorganised and restructured to maximise resources and minimise costs. Throughout all this change, companies continue to think about the innovation of products and services to grow the business and increase revenue. This demands innovation and change on a massive scale.
What do you value most from living and working in Singapore?
I love living in Singapore, the lifestyle works for me. I’ve had to think about a different approach to leadership with our team and I use technology to maintain regular contact. Leading the business across time zones also has its advantages - it means that Potential Squared is available internationally and we can get things done around the clock.
For more information about the people who make up Potential Squared, visit our team online.