Thursday, December 26, 2013

Beauty In Confidence

In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, just when the two we're starting to fall in love the Beast said "I'm just fooling myself, she'll never see me as anything... But a monster."

How easy it is to put ourself down and lose sight of our self-confidence!? We miss a deadline at work. We gain a couple of pounds after the holidays and no longer fit in the skinny jeans. We don't get the job we interviewed for. 

The sad part is how it's not as easy to regain that confidence as quickly. Below are three "simple" ways that helped me get I back on the days I lost it on the freeway:

Write Down One Positive Thing 

People (therapists, coaches) often say to write down one thing positive about your day. It can be anything from an interaction you had, something you did at work that made you smile or the sole fact that you could wear jeans to the office. This helps you end the day on a positive note and gets you to look forward to the coming day. Try to give yourself a compliment as well. 

Say Thank You 

Recently in an emotional intelligence workshop, the instructors spoke about how gratifying it is for someone to say 'thank you.' Not only does it help with building interpersonal skills, but it can make someone's day and lift them up to constantly demonstrate that behavior. We have a tendency to say 'no one cares or appreciates what I do' and our motivation sinks. By expressing your gratitude, it'll remind someone that you're watching and then in turn they may go off thanking others. 

Stop Dwelling on What You Can't Control 

This isn't as easy as it sounds but we have to start somewhere to be in a different location in the end. Recently, I found myself dwelling on things that didn't be or wouldn't be. One day, I wrote down a list of all the things that bothered me. On a second sheet of paper, I wrote actions for some of those things. For example, one thing that bothered me were how I felt after receiving feedback. My action was to take the feedback and see how I'd be able to improve myself if it were valid or how I can eliminate the perception without making drastic changes. For items I didn't have actions for, I set out a goal of just not think about it. This helped in keeping my spirits high. 

Being a pessimist for most of life, it's far too easy to get stuck in a negative circle. We look at everything we don't have or all the flaws we've developed. Granted it's good to admit you have a problem to go work on it but everything in moderation. 

Since EQ** is such a hot topic these days I'll reference the definition of two pieces from the element of Self-Perception: 

"Self-Regard is respecting oneself while understanding and accepting one's strengths and weaknesses. Self-regard is often associated with feelings or inner strength and self-confidence.

Self-Actualization is the willingness to persistently try to improve oneself and engage in the pursuit of personally relevant and meaningful objectives that lead to a rich and enjoyable life."

The key is being aware of your self in order to drive true happiness in what you do.

Sometimes people closest to us need a reminder of that so the main purpose of this post is to tell my friend "Belle" how awesome she is. I met Belle about 11 years ago in high school Geometry class. Her smile brighten up the entire class. But that wasn't all. Her kindness, positive attitude and sense of wonder, developed from her Disney passion; made identifies and isosceles triangles all that better. Although we may not be at a point in our lives that we used to ponder about in fourth period Geometry, just remember Belle- the time is now to look at all the great things you've accomplished and write down all the things you want to accomplish.  

There will be roadblocks. There will be people who will try ( I repeat try) to bring you down. There will be setbacks and derailers. You'll lose friends but probably gain better ones. You'll fall but get back up. You'll shed some tears but will be able to smile again. 

But more importantly you'll love yourself. Confidence drives us and we can't possibly be confident without a little TLC for that gal in the mirror. 

Keep your head up high: how else will you reach the stars? 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Youthful Leadership

"That's it?!" The response I get when I tell people my age: 26. I was fortunate to become a technical manufacturing supervisor at 23. Fresh out of college, I was enthusiastic and ready to take on the world. Looking back, I know less today than I did three years ago (well to some degree.) 

As I mentioned in some of my other writings (, humility was a common theme for me in 2013. And it all came down to being able to learn and keep my mind open. Day-in and day-out, I'm asked to take on different responsibilities given my technical background. And the common question I get asked is- "don't you want to be an engineer?" I smile. 
In my role, my key objective is to develop my team members through the creation of different systems or solutions to achieve our organizations goals. Through that I learn and grow just a little bit each day. 

Peter Drucker developed the term "knowledge worker" in the late 20th century. It was meant to recognize that the team knew more than what we give them credit for and to help give them the empowerment they deserve. 

It wasn't until recently that I truly understood what it meant to respect the knowledge worker. To break it down, there are three key aspects to it. 

Listen to what they're not saying 

Most team members aren't empowered to say the 'truth.' It's not that they lie but they abstain from certain information either because they may get chastised or because we don't do anything with the information. Recently, I've found to observe what key words or phrases they effectively listen to and follow up on it over time. This gets them more comfortable with being able to talk to me about key issues. To give credit to Sir Drucker once more, he said "the most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."

Hand them your problem 

The last quarter our organization released two new products for clinical trial studies. Given the miniaturization of these devices, we were faced with incredibly new challenges on the manufacturing line. Rather than sitting in a conference room brainstorming on solutions, I took the problems straight to the floor with a humble attitude of "I need help. What's the best way to process this device at this step?" At first it brought fear that we were introducing new products with new challenges, but within a month we had multiple solutions in place to support our high quality objectives. Solutions that seemed so simple, meant the world in how they manufacture the device. 

Learn with them 

Leadership is about looking out. Developing your team and leading them towards the next big initiative, are common goals. But most leaders are self-fish and we don't always admit it. Honestly, the main reason I get up every morning is in anticipation of learning something new from my team. I get up with the mindset that they rely on me; they need me. In actuality, it is I who need them. Although we must be strong and confident when we take the helm, humility helps us recognize how we can grow more quickly if we grow together. I thrive off the conversations in my stand up meeting and most of time the time, I'm asking coaching questions to stimulate their mind. 

Being a young leader isn't easy. Some days I want to throw in the towel and take some engineering position building systems in my cube. However, reflecting over my leadership skills and how I've grown, it's all due to the time I've spent developing my team. 

Humility is a tough characteristic to practice, especially for a conceited gal like myself. What humility has taught me is that it's okay not to know the answer but rather how we can get the answer. It takes a leader to stop and ask questions either to stimulate the minds or in humbleness, to seek support. And it takes a strong leader to reach out to the team for both. 

To end with a quote Peter T. McIntyre, "confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong." 

Image from:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fuel of Gratification

"It's not happiness that brings us gratitude, but gratitude that brings us happiness." 

As we approach the end of the year and reflect what we did right and what we could've done better, we link each moment to an individual or individuals. Where we are today is a reflection on our self aspirations and the people that played an integral part in us meeting our aspiration. So why not take the time to say thank you? 

Today, I had the privilege of attending an Emptional Intelligence training with Michelle Sterling (@Leadgood) and Phoebe Swan (@Phoebesparkles). How can we balance the five key aspects of emotional intelligence below in order to be successful at our role.

Decision Making 
Stress Management 

By being aware of these elements and taking the right actions to demonstrate each one, we are able to be more consistent and effective in any trait and behavior we bring to the table. 

Quality will flourish. Productivity will increase. Engagement scores will rise. 

Sometimes it starts with simple communication activities. One activity that was brought up today was to "infuse gratitude." 

So as you finish reading this post, reflect on who you appreciate and what actions they took that made a difference. 

On a final note I'll share a story of how my work day ended on a happy note. One of the directors of our organization has decided to retire the Friday before we go on our holiday break. He was always very brief and stern in his communications. He asked questions that challenged your suggestions in a positive way to ensure that the quality and reliability of our products will never be jeopardized. 

I didn't want him to leave without knowing how much I respected him so I wrote him a text. 

He wasn't in his office and I may not have caught him before five, from what he wrote back.  Given our work relationship to date, I decided to thank him in a short response and wish him a happy holiday. Not only did he make his way back from his meeting on-time to catch me, but asked me into his office for a minute. 

"I want to say you have great energy and enthusiasm and I appreciate that. Although I didn't know how to channel that all the time, you will be successful. Don't lose it. Thank you for that behavior." 

I smiled in awe. In the last three years, our conversations have been "what's the risk and what system will you put in place to eliminate or minimize that risk." Not only did I realize today that he was watching but that he cared. I applaud him day in and day out for his problem solving, assertiveness, independence, and reality testing skills (attributes of the Emotional Intelligence model) but his interpersonal skills never really shined. 

The recgonition and positive feedback was fuel for me to come back tomorrow with the same amount of adrenaline for success as today. 

For all my team members, mentors, managers, champions, brothers and above all mother- thank you for believing in me and challenging me when I need it. 

My leadership success relies on it. 

Happy holidays and may we strive to recognize and give thanks effectively and timely in the new year. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Give Credit To Silence

As a leader, a common objective is to be fair and consistent. Fairness and consistency are demonstrated in various settings. For example, in training sessions, we want to ensure the message and intent of the material is the same even if it's delivered in different styles. 
Today was just another Sunday afternoon where I had scheduled to train a new time tracking system to the manufacturing team. I had two sessions to make it easier and minimize the impact. 
When I was coordinating the sessions, one of the area leads reminded me of a gentleman that I'll call Bee. 
"What about Bee?" He said. And I paused for a moment. Then asked: "what about him?"

Bee is deaf. Normally, for hour long training sessions or meetings either in a classroom environment or hands on manufacturing, we hire an interpreter. Instead of taking that option today, I decided to have a one on one session with him at my desk so that he wouldn't be left out in learning the new system with his peers (especially with the holiday break coming up). 
Given that Bee was able to fill out his time on the new system only 10 minutes into our discussion, I can safely say it went really well. And reflecting back, it came down to my preparation.

Often times, we learn about the importance of preparing for a presentation. What message do I want to send? What were some things said in the previous sessions that weren't in the slides? What do I want him/her to walk away with? These are common questions that everyone should answer prior to completing a presentation and I for one, took them for granted. 
Prior to my one on one with Bee, I wrote down four main bullet points that I commented on in the other two sessions that weren't in the slides. Not only did I have the two slide decks open on my desktop but also had a blank one for walking him through the presentation, where he could ask questions or make comments as well. The structure of how I wanted the 30 minutes to go was perfectly laid out. 
Preparing for a presentation is important. I am reminded of it day in and day out, regardless of what the presentation setting will be. It all comes down to the message. Getting ready for my one on one with  Bee helped me reflect on how I've been doing on my presentation skills. Honestly, I think my session with him was one of my best, since the only thing communicated was what he needed to know. And pleasantries were still exchanged so the personal element was never lost. 

In my last blog post, I spoke about trying to find the introvert in me and only saying what's critical. Keeping this in mind, I'm confident I can succeed at this if I prep presentations ad-hoc or formal as if it were with Bee. It was very humbling to say the least but I can only grow from this interaction. And today was yet another lesson crediting the old proverb- "silence is golden." 

[[found a blog post on a similar topic of 7 lessons we can learn from communicating with the deaf : ]]

Friday, December 13, 2013

Finding the Introvert in Me

For the last couple of years, I was confident that my outgoing personality is what got me where I am today. As much as that may be true, it was brought to my attention this week that it may hinder where I want to be. My extrovert characteristics including being assertive (with respect) has driven results in many pressing situations. However, it takes sustaining self-awareness to truly seek understanding. And thus I've taken a vow to seek out the introvert in me. 

Leadership takes many forms. But ultimately, the strength in a strong leader is when the people are willing to follow. If you don't want to emulate or look up to someone, you might as well kick him or her away from the podium. 
In a world where leaders are getting younger and younger, "mature" leaders are becoming scarce. Fresh out of college, the enthusiasm is good for being hardworking change agents. We're great for working late hours and being upbeat at 8 in the morning after pulling an all-nighter (with the help of a large ice coffee and two extra shots of espresso of course). 
So in order to build my credibility as a true 'mature' leader, there are specific, simple actions I am willing to take. 

Nod and Smile with Silence 

Often times, people can be very rude in the workplace, especially under stress. They blame others for missed deliverables even when there's no major impact. Being passionate about my work, I had a tendency of responding eagerly to anyone who knew how to push my buttons. But the technique that makes me stronger is just listening. I have a great smile so even though I may look crazy smiling during a crisis, it helps in keeping any unnecessary words from coming out of my mouth. This prevents conflict and demonstrates strong communication. 

Keeping it short, like me 

Communication is key; especially as a leader. However, if you're just throwing random words out there, people stop listening. Next time you're standing in front of your team or peers, just say what's important. What message are you trying to say? What key terms will you say to keep them engaged? What questions will you ask to ensure effective communication was met? Time is everything and if you can't keep it brief you might as well not say anything at all. 

Ask: what's the point? 

To sum up it all up, we strive to succeed in our life- inside or outside of work. We do so by building relationships through conversing about key strategies or who's making it to the Rose Bowl. Being an extrovert in nature, I live off the energy of others but I start to ask myself what's the point.
 In the last three years, I went from being a little intern to a technical leader and manufacturing engineer. Almost every senior leader in my organization is watching my every move. And to blow it all away from a measly comment or phrase would be just plain pathetic. My key message is to stop and think before speaking. Is what I'm going to say next even worth my breath? My career?
Most times... It's not. 
Introverts have a way of internalizing their environment mainly by just listening. So why don't you take a stance to find the introvert in you?