This is among the toughest questions a corporate chief can be asked. But SMRT Chief Executive Officer Desmond Kuek did very well in responding to it, and so I am nominating him for the inaugural Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018.
We launched the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards to recognise senior local leaders for their communications skills, and to showcase authentic and credible home-grown communicators. Here are our other nominees so far:
These are shining examples for other local business leaders to follow, and to build a culture of excellence in communication, to maximise the potential of Asian companies in the Asian Century.
Each week until April 30, 2018, we are shortlisting a local corporate figure who has demonstrated excellence in a media appearance for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018.
Click on the link below to enter yourself or another Senior Business Leader.
So, how would you answer that toughest of questions, "will you resign?"
And what, precisely, makes it so tough?
- It's a closed question – it requires a 'yes' or 'no' answer. Assuming you are going to demur, you need to be certain of your position before you answer with a straight 'no'. If you do quit later on, it will appear as though you were forced out.
- It lays bare the pressure you are under – if you weren't under pressure, it would be easy to answer with an innocent and guilt-free, "why should I?!"
- It's short – there's no time to think of a clever response.
So, why am I shortlisting Desmond Kuek in the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018?
- Kuek wasn't baited. He replied during the door stop TV interview on Channel NewsAsia with "that's purely speculative". Besides, it's not like he is in a position to determine whether or not he was being asked to resign.
- Kuek kept his cool. He saw the question coming. In fact, I would be surprised if he didn't practise for it, having had a few days between the publication of the Straits Times article, and his interview.
- Kuek kept his answer short, too. This left little room for follow-up questions. We didn't see the rest of the interview in the CNA clip, but it can't have been newsworthy, otherwise it would have been included in the sound bite.
Kuek also provided a candid response in an email to staff on January 19:
"I would like to assure you that when I do (step down), one day as we all must for leadership renewal, you will hear about it from me first. It will not be through some speculative piece in the newspapers."
Assuming he wrote it himself (and it wasn't written for him), he first used the word "speculative" and repeated it on camera, and he neutralised the sensationalist sting of the resignation question with a shoulder-shrugging, 'we all gotta go some time'. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Kuek is an admittedly controversial choice, because of the criticism SMRT has received for the many train outages over the years.
But the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018 are focused solely on local Business Leaders and how they perform in the media.
Kuek is worthy of being shortlisted in the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018, because he demonstrated there is nothing to be scared of, even when asked the toughest question.