We’re All a Work in Progress with Suhail Al Kharsah


June 13, 2022



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Show Notes

In this episode of Culture by Design, Timothy R. Clark is joined by Suhail Al Kharsah, Enterprise Agile Coach with the Central Transformation Office for Pharma International at Roche. Suhail shares the gems that he has learned from his many diverse professional and cultural experiences. Together they discuss the fluidity of connection, the need to overcome perfectionism mindsets, and how to set expectations that allow for experimentation. 

Here are some gems from their conversation:

Listen to Suhail’s travel timeline (2:36). Originally from Syria, after thirteen years Suhail moved to Yemen for sixteen years. He gained an appreciation for other cultures while living away from home, and has also lived in Oman (five years) and Qatar (twelve years). He also experienced some fundamental professional transitions during this time. Each of these different roles and interactions have shaped his views on connection, contribution and collaboration. 

The pandemic forced the fluidity of connection (5:09). When the pandemic hit Suhail’s organization, they had already begun their transformation journey a couple of years prior. However, the shift to virtual life left Suhail wondering: my work is to connect with people and facilitate reflection in teams, how am I supposed to do that from my living room? He explains that situations like these encourage us to challenge our assumptions. 

Approach changes with optimism (9:40). Growth happens when we choose to be mobile. We will shift our learning when we remove ourselves from one atmosphere and enter another. If you want to change the way you react to different changes and stay ahead of the learning curve you shouldn’t stay in a role for more than three years. Avoid becoming stale and take on a new challenge. 

It’s safe to be human (14:57). We have an innate need embedded in us to belong to family, community and country. But belonging in and of itself isn’t safe, we have identities that need to be protected and included. What is your personal narrative for psychological safety? For being human? 

We’re a work in progress (17:50). We’re human, we will never be a final or a finished product. Allow mistakes to become part of your narrative, they aren’t the exception, they’re the expectation. There is no such thing as permanent competence and mastery. 

Turn judgment into curiosity (20:45). Curiosity can be compassionate, patient, and empathetic while judgment can be harsh, critical, and vindictive. 

Holding masks is tiring (23:00). People come to their workplace with their roles in mind: the first is their on-paper job description, and the second is managing perceptions regarding that role. You don’t need to worry about bringing your “correct” self to work because perfect presentation isn’t achievable.  

Embrace an experimentation mindset (26:00). Experimentation mindsets help us use good assumptions to have more accurate anticipation. This will allow us to overcome the grip of perfectionism. Ask yourself: what’s your definition of done? Expectations need to be appropriate in the context of experimentation. 

It’s a journey, not an event (34:15). Psychological safety will not come from one meeting, one training, or one book. Leaders, ask yourself: what capabilities do I need to build in my team? Embrace the concept of polarities: it’s not either empowering employees or maintaining control, it’s both. Empowerment must always include accountability. 

Confirmation and desirability bias (41:00). Having self-reflection regarding our unconscious bias is key for any leader. You harvest what you plant. What are you saying yes to? What are you saying no to?

About our guest:

Over a career spanning for more than 21 years with Roche, Suhail held a number of leadership positions with increasing responsibility at a global and local level. Currently Suhail is working as Enterprise Agile Coach with the Central Transformation Office for Pharma International. Throughout his career, Suhail has developed a diversified experience varying from Sales and Marketing, Human Resource management and agile coaching.

He is passionate about unleashing people’s power to be the best version of themselves and has a strong belief that Psychological Safety is the main gate for a thriving and fulfilled life.

Suhail is a pharmacist in the background and has an MBA from Strathclyde Business School.

Episode Transcript

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