FEATURE

The Strongman Of Narcotics

Text by KELLY NG

Mr Richard Soh, winner of the inaugural PS21 Star Manager Award, leads by uplifting others.

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On Richard: Styling Sheh | Grooming Rina Sim | Outfit and shoes: Banana Republic

As head of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB)’s Investigation Support Cluster, Mr Richard Soh leads not one but five teams. Despite a heavy workload of overseeing some 40 staff, his energy remains boundless.

He is the power boost to a team’s morale whenever it flags. A project to automate an image processing system to help officers compile photo albums of evidence was presented to the management at least thrice but failed to take off as the bosses had their reservations about the project’s high funding and complexity. The team felt like giving up. But Mr Soh was not one to accept defeat.

He spent time reminding his staff to persevere to achieve their goal of pushing out the innovation to help their colleagues. “I asked them whether they wanted to see their colleagues toiling to print and paste the photo albums for several hours. If not, then we should continue,” he said.

The resourceful manager also shared about that team’s work and ideas with Dr Lee Fook Kay, the Chief Science and Technology Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs, and secured funding for a sixmonth trial.

I’ve learnt to pick up signs when someone is behaving in a different way. It’s not just because personal woes can affect a colleague’s productivity, but because I care for them as family.

Today, CNB officers no longer need to spend hours manually compiling photo albums. A onestop workstation does everything from backing up images to printing and binding the book, saving 2,450 man-hours (worth $171,500) a year.

Mr Soh also lifts staff morale in more personal ways. The “family man”, as he is known, set up a pantry corner filled with snacks as well as staff’s personal photos. Taking the lead, he put up pictures of his sons (now aged 12 and 14), and one of himself as a baby, encouraging others to follow suit with holiday snaps or reminders of loved ones.

In a way, the 43-year-old is also a fatherly figure to any colleague who needs help or a listening ear.

“Over the years, I’ve learnt to pick up signs when someone is behaving in a different way. It’s not just because personal woes can affect a colleague’s productivity, but because I care for them as family,” said Mr Soh.

Once, a staff member, Mr Fathli Md Yusof, had a family crisis. Mr Soh “not only offered a listening ear but useful advice and constant encouragement”, said Mr Fathli, a specialist investigator.

“He counselled me to be there for my family and not be too worried about work. He truly shows the character of a leader.”

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