The deputy director of a Singapore healthcare system’s risk management office, tells us about fragile relationships, Chinese proverbs, managing a pandemic, delivering hampers and drawing superheroes.

Roland Teo headspace

What are you thinking about right now?

I am thinking about the season of thanksgiving and a beautiful Chinese proverb – “饮水思源 (yǐnshuǐsīyuán) – “When drinking water, think of its source; remember past kindness; never forget one’s origins”. We have what we have today because of what was established by our predecessors and what we have received. It’s time we as risk managers pay it forward and help the next generation.

What’s your greatest fear?

My greatest fear used to be the fear of uncertainty. It was an occupational hazard that affected me outside of work (risk is defined as “the effect of uncertainty on objectives”). I thank God I have overcome it through “reframing” (altering negative or self-defeating thought patterns by replacing them with positive, constructive self-talk).

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

A very long time ago, I broke down in front of my former boss after being told to leave the organisation (having worked there for many years) to join the new entity.

What makes you happy?

Spending quality and quantity time with my family. It’s the conversations over a simple meal, doing fun things together during outings or on holidays and cherishing those moments.

What makes you unhappy?

Strained relationships because of miscommunication and or misunderstanding with family members, friends, and co-workers. Relationship are so fragile nowadays. You can take 100 correct steps, but all it takes is one wrong step and the relationship you have built over the years can go south overnight.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Going into business with friends in my late 20s. It was mainly an event management company which was a spin-off from helping church friends with their weddings. Business was good but overhead and cashflow were constant challenges and I needed to give it up after a while. In hindsight, I gained first-hand business experience and invaluable insight.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Delivering gift hampers as a part-time job when I was 16. I delivered hampers with wrappings broken (as they were being transported in the rear of a pick-up truck).

What is your greatest achievement?

Personally, “The best is yet to be” (Robert Browning). Work-wise, leading the launch of the Singapore government’s National Business Continuity Management Programme in 2008, with S$30m funding for companies to manage their risk and the flu pandemic during 2008-09. Within the first year, 50 outreach events to more than 7,000 participants and 5,000 organisations were organised.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Leadership and relationship go together. Leadership is not about programmes; it’s about earning trust, which takes time but losing trust is easy.

Who do you look up to and why?

Many of my former bosses who have foresight in business and people management.

Tell us a secret

In school, I drew superhero comic books, which my classmates enjoyed reading.