Mercedez-Benz’ Reuben Rethinalingam on being a life coach: “I personally felt coaching is the right direction.”

Just a few weeks left til the 11th HR Leaders Asia 2022 and we are thrilled to unveil to you the excellent thought leaders who will jazz up the event with their impressive perspectives in the industry of human resources. This week, we will give you some glimpse of the program by discussing with Mercedez-Benz’ Head of HR, Reuben Rethinalingam some of his remarkable insights regarding his passion as an HR practitioner, as well as a father. 

Reuben currently practices being a life coach – equipping people and communities to capitalize on their strengths. It was something he has been passionate about. It’s not just about the hard facts about being an HR practitioner but the soft side as well. He has a heart in being able to connect and engage with people and most importantly, to really bring out the best out of them. What drove him to do it is he personally felt that coaching is the right direction because he believes that it’s more of bringing excellence out of people and getting them to reflect and understand their full capability. “A lot of us are good solution drivers but we always prefer someone else to tell us how to do it. I believe being a good HR leader is also showing people to discover their full potential on their own and that’s where I’m using coaching as one of the tools. Let’s put it that way.” People are the ones who inspire and keep Reuben motivated as an HR. Based on his experience, everyone in their industry is very business driven and it has always been about the demands of the organization and how to get the essence of their business performance and meeting the requirements, driving everything else. However, the core of every company is the people. The HR field has to play a lot more importance in their roles in terms of balancing, business requirements and the needs of their people, as well. The HR director spends most of his time actually doing informal coaching and discussing with people, be it in the office corridor, pantry or the elevators. That is how they keep the pulse of the organization. 

Having over 15 years of experience in various organizations, Reuben revealed one attribute every HR leader should possess. Reuben related it to one of the challenges most organizations face. According to him, the HR function is the enabler of the business. They are the ones who empower the business – creating frameworks and setups that would help qualify the business to operate. “Invoking the human part of the human resources should be more important these days because not everything can be fixed by a digital system, an AI, or a chatbot. We need to balance that equally – we usually introduce a lot of digital tools, we also have to balance it up with also a lot more human interactions within the company.” 

The Mercedez-Benz HR is also a father of three. Linking his career and personal life, Reuben shared what it feels like to be a father and an HR leader at the same time.  “I think at the end of the day, whether I’m an HR leader or a father, one thing that binds these two roles is leadership.” It’s something he reflects upon and revolves around his personal values. As a father and HR leader, he always does the right thing and walks the talk which is a preeminent characteristic. It’s essential to show the employees what the leader’s values are and how it reflects to the organization. “If I really look now as a father, as a responsible parent, you need to be the example for your kids on a day to day basis. You need to walk the talk to them. And they need to be able to trust you.” For him, those are the things where he feels that it doesn’t matter whether it’s at work or at home as a father. Reuben also revealed he actually got a lot of his leadership skills through parenting. 

Ending the discussion is a delightful message from Reuben for all the aspiring HR leaders. “Think out of the box. That’s very important. There’s this question I usually ask myself – ‘How can we do HR differently from yesterday?’ The people we’re dealing with last time are not the same people we’re dealing with today.  That also goes for the talents and leaders then and now. I would say to people who report to me ‘Why do we have to do it this way? Why can’t we do it differently?’ That’s a question I would ask for HR people out there. It’s the only way that you continue to change and evolve with the current needs of the business, of your talents and future workforce as well.” 

For more of Reuben’s views in the HR industry, catch him with the other prominent speakers as they converse in Closing Panel – HR as a leader of transformation: Leading the journey beyond the traditional ways of working at the 11th Asia Leaders 2022 on August 24th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 


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