Christina Lee

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

2017 Portland Discovery Class

Respect authority, don’t take risks, avoid conflict, keep your head down and work hard, and DO NOT FAIL. These are some of the early messages I received that I’ve continued to carry with me throughout my life. It wasn’t until participating in the EDI Leadership Discovery program this year that I started questioning the impact these messages and values continue to have on my behavior and how that behavior is perceived by others who make judgements based on those perceptions.

For me, this was one of the biggest takeaways from EDI. What it ultimately boils down to is that intent does not equal impact. We might have positive intent and exhibit behaviors that stem from our values and personality, but those behaviors could potentially have a negative impact on others or even ourselves. For example, not speaking up in meetings because it’s been ingrained in you to sit back and listen or because you are afraid of saying something wrong, can be perceived by others as not being interested or even knowledgeable about the subject being discussed. Or, failing to make a decision in a timely manner because you get caught in the details, don’t want to make mistake, or don’t want to upset people, can result in decreased productivity and loss in trust from others. Thinking about things in this light conflicted with my lifelong thought that as long as I’m true to myself and have positive intent, that’s all that matters.

What we learned throughout this program is that leaders at their authentic best, intentionally align intent and impact (authenticity and effectiveness). They balance being true to themselves AND flexing to meet the needs of others. In other words, they adapt to different situations while remaining authentic. This is something I know I will continue to work on throughout my career.

Another key takeaway for me from this program is the importance of giving back to the community. Giving back is one of the most important things we can do, but is often one of the most overlooked things. I’ve overlooked it for much of my life, but this program has inspired me to be more consistently involved and makes me want to instill in my children a desire to get involved as well. There are always other individuals, groups, and organizations in our community and beyond who are in need of support. As Ebony Frelix from salesforce.com described, “Volunteering in all shapes and forms strengthens our communities, brings people together and provides us with valuable experience and insight. And selfishly, when I give my time and energy to others, I just feel better — about myself and my community.” One of the projects my group, Team Moon, participated in, involved teaching cooking classes to middle schoolers, who primarily came from refugee families. Some of the kids said it was the highlight of their summer and even rated it 1000 on a scale of 1 to 10. We taught them how to cook a few dishes, had great conversations with them, and told them about our careers. What they didn’t know is that it was also one of the highlights of my summer. Plus there was the added benefit of me actually learning how to cook a few dishes too.

A third major takeaway for me is the importance of risk taking. Taking risks helps us get out of our comfort zones and grow, personally and professionally. Embracing risk also helps us overcome the fear of failure.  Even if taking a risk results in a form of failure, it usually results in a valuable learning experience as well. Speaking of risk taking, it only took me six years from first hearing about the EDI Leadership Discovery program to gather the courage to actually apply for it. Only six years. Clearly I don’t like to reach outside of my comfort zone or take risks. However, I can’t adequately describe how thankful I am that I finally decided to take that leap. While in some ways I wish I would have done it sooner so I could have applied what I learned here much earlier in my career, I am incredibly grateful that the timing worked out how it did. I cannot imagine having gone through this program with anyone else other than my incredible classmates who I truly learned so much from, in addition to our amazing instructors and program coordinators. So thank you to all of you, and also thank you to my supervisor who supported me in doing this. And a special thanks to my Team Moon for attempting to teach non-cooking Christina how to cook. I look forward to continuing to develop my authentic leadership style, including balancing my intent and impact, taking more calculated risks, and giving back to the community. I hope to keep in touch with all of my classmates and hear about how everyone’s leadership journey is going as well. 

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

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I do not like taking risks. My aversion to risk is evident in many aspects of my life.  I have worked at the same company, in the same group for almost 14 years. I like it and feel it’s a good fit, so when the thought crosses my mind of considering anything new or different, I immediately dismiss it thinking it’s not worth the risk. The risk of being wrong or offending someone often holds me back from speaking up in meetings. The risk involved with making large purchases, such as a car, stresses me out to the point where my husband “jokingly” told me he would go house shopping by himself when the time came (although we DID successfully buy a house together after this). Even though I love excitement and adventure, over the years I’ve started shifting toward avoiding activities where there’s a likelihood of me injuring myself.  In my defense, I am very accident prone. Just a few days ago, I walked into a parked car which resulted in bruises, scratches, and losing a chunk of my pants on the license plate of said parked car.

I’ve also developed a fear of heights over the years. So naturally when I found out we would be rock climbing as part of our "Nothing Risked, Nothing Gained" session last month, I had a lot of anxiety. Even though deep down I knew it was safe and that we would all be trained how to properly belay and that it would actually be really hard to fall and injure myself, I focused on the minuscule chance of something going wrong and pictured myself falling to the ground head first from way up high. Then I imagined being paralyzed and having a much more challenging time keeping up with and taking care of my children. That’s how far I take it sometimes. I become paralyzed by fear and focus on the worst possible outcome in my head at the time rather than what can be gained from the situation. When I talk about it afterwards, I usually laugh at how ridiculous my thoughts were, but in the moment they often seem very real.

At our rock climbing session, I somehow gathered the courage to give it a try and probably only made it about five feet up on my first attempt before looking down, panicking and deciding to quit. I figured I was done for the day but a few minutes later, a classmate asked if I wanted to try again and I said yes for some reason. I can’t really explain what went through my head besides some shred of determination to make it to the top. What I do remember clearly feeling is freedom and excitement (still mixed in with some fear) the first time I made it to the top, and almost an immediate addiction to those feelings the next few times I did it. Additionally, while I was initially extremely fearful of incorrectly belaying for others and causing horrendous injury to them, the more I did it, the more I started feeling more confident and proud of myself for successfully taking on that responsibility.

The experience was really eye-opening for me and a great reminder that going out of your comfort zone and taking calculated risks can be incredibly rewarding. It made me want to apply this concept to more aspects of my life where I often let fear of what can go wrong guide my decisions, rather than what can go right and what can be gained. I realize that taking risks won’t always result in the best outcome, but even when it doesn’t, it usually results in a valuable learning experience that might have not otherwise presented itself. That in itself is extremely freeing to me. I’m thankful I had this experience and that I went through it with my amazing classmates.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

Christina and her classmates take a tour of Daimler Trucks North America post-session.

Christina and her classmates take a tour of Daimler Trucks North America post-session.

During last month’s session on "The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback" with Steve Hanamura, I was surprised with how many of my peers said they struggle with effectively providing constructive feedback when it involves negative news. I honestly did not realize it was that common and have always figured it was something I tend to struggle with primarily due to my extreme aversion to conflict. Ironically, I appreciate and prefer getting honest feedback from others, even if it’s hard to hear, because I know where I stand and what I’m doing well and what I can improve on.  It’s not as helpful if someone tells me I’m doing a great job all of the time, even when I’m not, because I don’t know how they honestly feel. Despite this, I still struggle with providing truthful feedback to other people if it’s not positive. I worry about offending others and want to avoid the uncomfortable-ness of potential conflict or retaliation.

On the other end of the spectrum, although I prefer receiving honest feedback, I sometimes take too much of it to heart, thinking I need to change everything that was just mentioned to me, so I don’t disappoint the person who just provided feedback to me. I also sometimes jump to conclusions without really making sure I understand what the person is saying.

In order to help address both giving and receiving feedback, Steve provided us with five skills for communicating with others. The fifth skill on the list was giving and receiving feedback.  However, in order to effectively do that we need to use the other four skills which include paraphrasing, behavior description, feeling description/expression, and perception check. When broken down in this way, providing and receiving feedback seems less daunting and more manageable. In the weeks since our training, I’ve practiced using these skills in various situations and found them to be useful and effective. To be completely honest I’ve had the most practice using this at home with my children, where it seems more comfortable and “safe” to try it, but as it becomes more natural, I know it will be easier to apply more consistently at work as well. I’ve practiced paraphrasing (after listening to both content and feeling) to try and make sure I understand what the other person is saying. Behavior description where I purely describe the behavior I saw has been extremely useful with my children, especially when following it with the description of the feelings it caused in me.  I can see how this will be effective at work too.  Perception check has also been helpful when trying to check if my perception of the situation is accurate since the other person can answer that with a yes or no.

As far as addressing my fear of conflict when providing feedback, Steve provided a quote from Robert Frost that really resonated with me: “The only way out of conflict is through it”.  He also suggested asking yourself what the worst thing is that could happen from providing someone with that feedback. Reminding myself of both of those things will continue to be a tremendous help in dealing with potential conflict that might result from giving truthful feedback.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

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So many things spoke to me during our Speak to Persuade session with Vanna Novak that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I was nervous about presenting to my peers, even though it was on a subject of my choice and for a duration of only about 30 seconds. On top of that, I certainly did not want watch and analyze the recording of myself afterwards. I cringed when I watched it and felt like I looked spastic, unnatural, and ineffective. Then we started talking about first impressions and I started forming even more negative thoughts in my head about how it can be so easy to blow first impressions. The statistic of over 90% of your total impact as a communicator comes from what you convey non-verbally, also added to the pressure. 

However, one thing that Vanna repeatedly pointed out is that you need to be conscious and aware of what you are saying to yourself in your head and that when you start behaving and sounding like you are sure of yourself, you start feeling more confident. I’ve noticed on the other end of the spectrum that the more negative self-talk I do, the more I start believing I’m an ineffective communicator at work which probably leads to me being somewhat ineffective.  I realized I need to focus on the positive aspect of that progression and really work toward eliminating negative self-talk and instead, start behaving and acting more confident in a professional setting. I know what confident behavior looks and sounds like so if I can present and project myself in that way more consistently, I have a better chance of getting the results I am looking for. Easier said than done, but I know with practice it will become easier. One tip that I found really useful is identifying three adjectives that capture how I need and want to be perceived before presenting or even before going to a meeting where I need to contribute. This has been extremely beneficial because it gives me a target to shoot for and helps me focus on the results I want.

Another really helpful part of the session was about thinking on your feet. I tend to perform best when I have time to think something through rather than responding immediately without being given much time to develop and organize my thoughts. The five different structures that were provided (Past/Present/Future, Point/Reason/Example/Point, Problem/Cause/Alternatives/Recommendation, the Pendulum, and the Psychological Approach) truly have helped me when responding to questions on the spot. It forces me to think about things logically and quickly rather than talking in circles as I’m trying to figure out how to organize my thoughts and get my point across. I wish I had started intentionally using this approach with these structures years ago!

Overall, even though I had some negative thoughts and self-doubt regarding the Speaking to Persuade session, it turned out to be a positive and inspiring experience and I took away numerous skills to develop and apply on that job that have already helped me become a more effective communicator and will continue to do so with more practice.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

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I have to admit that until recently I’ve never really given branding and networking much thought. In fact, I didn’t really even know what branding was, and the little thought I gave to networking was primarily in a negative context. I didn’t like the idea of talking to someone with what I thought was the sole purpose of having a person to contact in the future, if and when, I needed something from them. It did not feel authentic to me.  Likewise, I didn’t love the idea of not knowing if someone was talking to me purely because they might eventually need something from me.  For that reason, I was never too interested in going to networking events.

However, last month’s session on networking provided a different spin on what networking is and helped change some of my thoughts about it with a focus in a positive way. At the session, networking was described as building relationships, and life is all about relationships. I can relate to that. I value relationships. What ended up speaking to me the most was the idea of thinking about how I can help others and not how they can help me or what they can provide for me. The idea of approaching someone and establishing a relationship with them because I might be able to help that person appeals to me. It seems different to me than approaching someone because I might need something from them and it also somehow seems different than having someone else approach me because they might need something from me in the future. I previously didn’t think of networking in terms of having meaningful relationships and friendships with people, but now I realize that it can, and often does, include the added benefit of being able to help one another. 

I also found the branding part of the session beneficial and could see how it connected to what we learned in previous sessions, as far as core values, competencies, personality, and image are concerned. The most memorable thing for me was when we were told if we don’t speak out, speak up, and define ourselves, then others will define us for us. This reinforced how I constantly need to consider how my values and personality influence my behavior and how it is perceived by others, regardless of my intent. I’m currently working on how I’m branding myself and trying to align my brand between my peers and managers so there aren’t major gaps between the two.

Overall, I did not know what to expect at the start of the branding and networking session, but took away numerous things I need to work on. I have a much stronger appreciation for how both branding and networking can play an integral role in becoming an effective leader and advancing one’s career.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

Christina uses her behavioral style and tension-reaction learnings during her class' team-building competition with Geoteaming. 

Assume good intent.  That statement has been a game changer for me lately.  Tension-reaction behavior is not uncommon in our workplace due to the nature of our team work, deadlines, and competing priorities.  While I now am more aware of and appreciate the fact that the teams I work on have a mix of Controllers, Persuaders, Analyzers, and Stabilizers, I have definitely let the behavior of others get to me in the past and taken things personally during stressful situations.

Last month’s Behavior Styles (Part 2) session emphasized how people with different Styles have different tension-reaction behavior and how someone’s preferred Style can change during tense situations. I had never really given this much thought before and instead tended to jump to the conclusion that sometimes people were being difficult purely just to be difficult and that we were all possibly letting our egos get in the way. Sadly, I often assumed that others did not have good intentions. I did not take the time to think about preferred Behavior Styles and how those presented themselves during tense situations. I most certainly did not think about how my preferred Style was affecting others in those situations or how I could flex my preferred Style to meet the needs of the Styles I was working with. 

As a Stabilizer-Analyzer, the first thing I tend to do in tense situations is I withdraw and check out. Conflict stresses me out and I prefer to avoid it if at all possible.  Eventually, in order to keep avoiding conflict, I acquiesce and give in, even if I don’t agree with the decision that was made.  While this gives the appearance that I am okay with everything on the outside, I actually often internalize what happened and stew over it for quite awhile. This sometimes leads me in remembering the situation worse than it actually was which then leads to more resentment.  I’m sure it also leads to frustration from Controllers or Persuaders that I work with who want action rather than withdrawal and who want me to be willing to disagree and share my actual thoughts more often.

Over the last month I’ve really focused on pausing during tense situations and reminding myself that in general, most people are doing their best and do not have ill intent.  The things they say aren’t necessarily personal jabs that are meant to be offensive.  They aren’t being lazy by acting or not acting a certain way. It’s just that we all handle stress differently.  As we learned in the class, our differences in Styles become even more apparent during tense situations. Rather than take things personally (internally) and withdrawing, I have focused on being more flexible and working on Bridge Styles based on the situation. Reminding myself to assume positive intent in others has really helped me give more people the benefit of the doubt which in turn has helped me focus on being more flexible to meet the Style needs of others, helping to reduce tension-reaction behaviors rather than contribute to them.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

Christina flexes to different styles in her EDI team.

Over the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to continue developing skills in areas outside of my comfort zone with the goal of becoming more effective working with and leading others. One of the primary areas of focus for me revolves around decision making - specifically, making decisions in a timely manner without having all of the information available to me. This is VERY challenging for me.

At our Behavior Styles workshop, the self-assessment indicated that my primary Behavior Style is Analyzer-Stabilizer. It was eerie how spot on the style pattern description was for me! One of the statements that really spoke to me was, “Making the ‘right’ decision is important, even to the point of not being able to make any decision.” At work, I want to continue analyzing things until I have uncovered every possible detail that could affect the outcome of a decision. In teams, I often want to do all of the work so I know what exactly was done every step of the way. I know this is not realistic or productive because there is not enough time to do this. It is not a good use of resources. Even knowing this, it is still my natural tendency to gravitate toward wanting to work this way. At the same time, the Stabilizer in me has a strong distaste for confrontation and always wants all parties involved to be happy, which can also lead to indecisiveness.

My intent at work is to provide the most value to my group and company by performing studies that are detailed and accurate and make sound decisions based on the results of those studies. My intent is to do the RIGHT thing. It is also my intent to do this in a non-confrontational environment. However, the Behavior Styles workshop reinforced that although my intent might be positive, the impact of getting caught in the details could potentially be negative to others, especially when working with people with different Behavior Style preferences. I need to choose to be more flexible to meet the Behavior Style needs of others (especially Controllers and Persuaders) and this means making decisions in a timely manner (that are still sound and based on engineering judgement) without feeling the need to uncover every last detail to confirm that I’m right and without the need to make everyone happy.

At a recent training I attended at work, we discussed what makes us trust a leader, and a lot of emphasis was placed on decisiveness. Like so many other things, this is unnatural for me, but I’m hoping that with intentional practice it will become easier. I need to remind myself that even when making decisions without all of the details, by using sound engineering judgement, I usually come to the same conclusions that I would have from digging into the details further. More importantly, I realize that I need to be more comfortable with the fact that I might not always make the right decisions. I need to work on toning down my strong fear of failure.

Meeting the Behavior Style needs of others and being more decisive will have a positive impact on others and myself, and increase my credibility. It will result in increased trust, which is an integral part of being an effective leader and team member. So, here’s to being more decisive and becoming more comfortable being uncomfortable!

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

At the EDI Portland Kick-Off last month, the portion of JD Hokoyama’s presentation that really stuck with me was about how our values influence our behaviors and how those behaviors result in perceptions and ultimately how others judge us.  Some of my values include respecting authority and having group harmony.  These values result in behaviors such as staying quiet in meetings and rarely challenging authority or disagreeing with peers, especially in large group settings.  I used to be satisfied with this, thinking it’s okay, because I’m just being true to myself.  However, I now realize that this type of behavior impacts others’ perceptions of me, which can lead them to making judgements about me that could potentially be career limiting, such as appearing like I’m not interested, not engaged, not knowledgeable, etc.  I can still be true to myself while also changing people’s perceptions of me. Although it is out of my comfort zone, I have been making more efforts to speak up in meetings, contribute more ideas, and also let peers know if I don’t necessarily agree with what they are proposing. I realize things are not going to change overnight and that it is going to take a lot of practice.  It is painstakingly uncomfortable (for me) at times and I still struggle with sounding confident. However, I have noticed that I’m getting slightly more comfortable doing this and am hoping to continue to make progress in this area.

At the same time, I am also trying to be more aware of the judgements I make about other people, especially if I am having trouble seeing where they are coming from or why they are approaching things a certain way.  I noticed that I am more understanding when I take time to step back and consider the person's values and how that might be contributing to their behaviors which I’m perceiving a certain way. 

I’m thankful that the kick-off last month opened my eyes to this subject more and helped motivate me to practice working on my behaviors as well as how I perceive and make judgements about the behavior of others.