Christina Ma discusses how Haas School of Business prepared her for leading a cross-cultural and cross-border team at Goldman Sachs Asia Pacific. The episode features an exciting conversation between her and Dr. Brandi Pearce together with host, Sean Li about how she managed a team with diverse cultures.
Her advice for building a high-performance team? Listen to everyone within the organization, from the CEO to the newest employees. A key insight that she offers is that leaders shouldn’t follow one-size-fits-all communication methods when dealing with employees.
She ends with an important message about the importance of genuine recognition, nurturing passion, and encouraging empathy as key ingredients to a truly successful global team.
On how Haas gave her a good foundation on diversity::
“It was an amazing two years. The people that I met in terms of the types of people, the variety, both international and domestic, the industries. It’s not something that I think I could have outlined, you read the glossy brochures and you say, ‘Oh, okay. That’s great. That’s great’ […] the program was slightly smaller and it was high on the diversity factor, whether it was ethnicity or from a gender perspective. I don’t think any of that, the brochures, the marketing material is wonderful, but I don’t think any of that did justice to that fact.
How do you build a culture of honesty and transparency between junior and senior members of a culturally diverse team?
“It’s the market and then stocks move as they are. So sometimes you have to listen to the junior member of the team because they noticed something that you don’t. And, you have to make sure that they’re fully confident enough that they can speak up, and say to someone like me that, “Hey, this is wrong. You’ve got to look at this”, and so on. Building that trust amongst the team that they can say stuff to you, that maybe might feel a little bit hard, or, telling a senior person that they’re wrong is important.”
Her advice on maintaining her drive for growth:
“So my view is always, you have to have passion for, and you have to be interested in, and be passionate about what it is that you do. Because otherwise it just seems like a job, then it becomes dreary. As opposed to a career and something that is upstep and forward.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Sean: [00:00:00] Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today I’m joined by Dr. Brandi Pearce for part four of our high-impact teaming series. I can’t believe we are this far in and today we’re joined by Christina Ma, full-time MBA class of 2001. Welcome to the podcast, everyone.
[00:00:50]Christina: I’m originally from Taiwan. I was born in Taiwan. But we left Taiwan when I was quite young. We went to Norway for a few years. I went to grammar school there. And then we ended up in the U.S. I was in the US for my formative years in terms of schooling. I graduated from college there and then decided that I wanted to come back to Asia. Because of opportunities then, wanderlust, and, just wanting to explore in general.
[00:01:18] So I came out to Hong Kong in ‘98 and was here during the Asian financial crisis. But now, these days, you have to identify which crisis you’re talking about. So it was the Asian financial crisis and. I ended up as a prop trader at one of the securities funds and security houses. Then I ended up at one of the first hedge funds in Hong Kong.
[00:01:44] But because of the crisis, the fund basically faces redemption and very quickly sort of loss, to say. So I very quickly then thought about “Okay, what should I do next?” I had studied international relations politics thinking I was going to be a diplomat, but then ended up in finance.
[00:02:03] I thought, “Okay an MBA would be good for me”. Getting some of the finance classes and accounting, etcetera. So I looked across a lot of different programs. The traditional East Coast programs and then as well as some of the West Coast. Partially because I was keen to go get back to California and that’s where my family was at the time.
[00:02:25] But part of it was also obviously, you know, Berkeley’s reputation as some of the strong schools in the Bay Area. And I think at the time, it was also, I think the start of the tech bubble, the first tech bubble again. So being on the West Coast was a real draw. So, I applied to Berkeley and another unnamed school in the Bay area.
[00:02:46] I was very happy I ended up at Berkeley. It’s funny because I was, I think at the time, you know, I’ve just been in finance for three years. And I wasn’t done with finance, unlike other people who I met in school who were looking for a career change. What I was looking for was really to further my skill set or to add to my skill set and know that go further in my career.
[00:03:12] I was looking for a career change at the time when I got to Berkeley in ‘99. I think I got there a little early and I had been accepted at two places. One on the west coast, again, in a traditional finance school. Then at Berkeley. But my job ended up in Hong Kong. Winded up a little earlier.
[00:03:29] So I was able to spend some time at home and I went up to Berkeley and again, it was during that first tech bubble. And the energy and the buzz around the Bay area, particularly on campus was just amazing. It was electrifying. It really sort of drew you in. So, I decided I wanted to stay in Berkeley and I’ve never regretted it.
[00:03:48]It was an amazing two years. The people that I met in terms of the types of people, the variety, both international and domestic, the industries. It’s not something that I think I could have outlined, you read the glossy brochures and you say, “Oh, okay. That’s great. That’s great ”.
[00:04:03] Certainly one of the big draws for me for choosing Haas was that the program was slightly smaller and it was high on the diversity factor, whether it was ethnicity or from a gender perspective. I don’t think any of that, the brochures, the marketing material is wonderful, but I don’t think any of that really did justice to that fact.
[00:04:23] So I got there and really was drawn in immediately by the professors as well as the students. And like I said, I got there, I think before school started. I was able to, just to kind of hang around. ‘Cause I was really trying to make my final decisions, and the students,just being around the campus, just got me to put aside the East Coast school. And committed to Haas. Like I said, it was a wonderful two years.
[00:04:56] Brandi: It’s really interesting to think about this idea that you were here between 2000, 2001 and 20013 before we had our…
[00:04:57] Christina: Actually, it was in 1999 to 2001
[00:04:58] Brandi: It was this time when we encapsulated our defining principles. I’m a little bit curious about your perspective about the defining principles that we now embody. Do you think it was in the same, the same orbit at the time you were there.
[00:05:00] Christina: Very much. So, in fact, it’s funny. I think the last board meeting that I was able to attend in person, which was at the beginning of this year and at the end of January and February. We were talking about the defining principles and I remember sitting there thinking, God why do we even need to define it?
[00:05:34] It’s so obvious. It just seems so ingrained to me. But you know, of course, as with all things you do, you have to put words, pen to paper, and outline a few highlights. The key ones that you believe in. I think all the principles that have been outlined and discussed were very much, I feel like part of the ethos and the fabric of the school. Even back in ‘99, the sort of commitment to diversity, entrepreneurship, etcetera. I mean, all of those were definitely there. And it’s funny because I was at Berkeley when they had the competition. I think I was part of the organizing committee for the second business plan competition. Just being just part of that organizational committee and just seeing all the different business plans, seeing the pitching process, all that stuff still goes on. Obviously to a much higher degree or even intense degree now, all of that stuff existed at Berkeley or at class then. And so all these defining principles feel very familiar to me. And I’m glad to see that the character and the things that the school identifies itself with has remained consistent and really been more clearly articulated, and sharpened over the years.
[00:06:55] I had such a wonderful time at Haas, honestly. That I really wanted to stay in touch with the school. I just thought, it did so much, with so little. In terms of being a public institution, versus some of the private schools that have the big endowments. I really wanted to give back to the school. So I started out small, honestly. You know, when we graduated, I started out just donating money. Very small amount because you know, you come out of MBA, you got debt and student loans, and that sort of stuff. But, I was fairly consistent throughout the years and also I think I stayed in touch with the school.
[00:07:54] It’s such a funny little sort of journey. Dean Lyons, former Dean Lyons was my finance professor at school. I had stayed in touch with him and then a few years later, he ended up at Goldman as our learning officer. He was based in New York, but he actually came out to Asia a couple of times. And we got a chance to chat. We stayed in touch and that’s throughout the time. And then, when he went back to Haas to be the Dean obviously, we continued to stay in touch. And then, I think at that time, he then formed The Advisory Committee or DAC, Dean’s Advisory Committee. He was kind enough to ask me to join which is really nice. I joined and again, stayed in touch with him.With the school, as well as him and the organization over the years.
[00:08:40] I think there was probably a period of sort of five or six years where I didn’t go to their area and I wasn’t near the campus at all. So it was all sort of virtually because at that time, I was already in Asia. So all of these were done via phone calls, emails, whatever. Then, I think, again, throughout the year, I’ve gotten more interested in education and serving on boards.
[00:09:00] And when the opportunity came up with the change in leadership, I think Anne wanted to just look at the board and add more international people. I think that was the part that was surprising to me because when I was at Berkeley at Haas, certainly even if I look at the demographic set throughout the years, it was always a big representation of international students or students with international backgrounds.
[00:09:25] So when I got asked to be on the board, this sort of explained the reason why. And part of what was to introduce more international representation. I mean, obviously I was very excited. But I was also quite a little surprised because I think that part of it was probably a bit lacking. In terms of a fresh international or perspective or diverse perspective at that.
[00:09:46] Haas, I think the board at the time, didn’t necessarily reflect that. So that’s when I joined and it’s been great. I mean, unfortunately we probably won’t be able to meet in the foreseeable future because of Covid and travel restrictions. But I think being connected with the other board members and again, seeing the wonderful range of alumni that Haas has produced, whether tech entrepreneurs, or people in finance, or investments, or just philanthropists, etcetera, has been really fun. And being able to spend some time with the other board members has been really great.
[00:10:21] Brandi: We really appreciate your service. I’m kind of curious, on a personal note. If you were passionate about something that we haven’t seen on your vitae or your LinkedIn, or other write-ups about you, what would that be? What’s something that you’re passionate about?
[00:10:42] Christina: I guess in terms of personal interests, you know, Hong Kong offers something fantastic in terms of outdoor activity. So it’s not a city that’s associated with trail hiking or outdoor activity in general, because I think every picture that you see of Hong Kong has always the skyline and their urban setting. But no, people haven’t been here for as long as we have. Hong Kong has a beautiful green lush city. So one thing that we do a lot of as a family and also, before having family, but now, especially with kids is we do a lot of hiking. We do a lot of exploring around Hong Kong. I spend a lot of time trying to surf. I say trying, because it’s not yet a skill that I feel like I’m mastered. But maybe it’s just as an anecdote to my desk job. When I have free time, a lot of it, a lot of times I would just prefer to spend it outdoors. So anyway, we’re there hiking, swimming, surfing, etcetera. That’s I suppose is where we try to put extra time in.
[00:11:36]Sean: Exciting. I just started learning how to surf again. The second time around. And I just love being out on the water. It’s just so serene out there.
[00:11:47]Christina: Yeah. I mean, it’s the only time when you’re not distracted. I mean, no matter how good you try to be, during your normal day, there’s always something buzzing. There’s always something happening. And when you’re out on the water, it’s truly one of the few times when you can just put everything aside and just sit there and enjoy the sound of the waves, the field of the water, etcetera.
[00:12:06] So it’s very simple, very zen. It’s my meditation. As opposed to actually meditating.
[00:12:09]Sean: Same here. For me, it’s meditation, plus a form of masochism. As an entrepreneur, I remember one of the lessons my instructor had. You know, it was a really rough day with the waves and I was just getting tossed around. And I think he was a little worried. He’s like, Are you okay?
[00:12:26] I was like, “I’m having a great time!”. I relish these moments where, you know, the ocean is just dominating me. Because I realized, “Well, you know, this, this is nothing compared to entrepreneurship”.
[00:12:40] Christina: Metaphor for real life. Right.
[00:12:41] Sean: Yeah, yeah.
[00:12:42] Brandi: Maybe a metaphor for 2021.
[00:12:46]Sean: You know what? After you get tossed enough times, you stop getting tossed. And you become one with the water and that’s the moment I really relish. To get to that skill level where I just feel one with the water. So I’m excited to hear that you’re surfing.
[00:13:04]Christina: Always a student, never a master so to say.
[00:13:07] Sean: Student always.
[00:13:08] Brandi: Okay you shared that you have children. Can you share a little bit more about that, your background?
[00:13:15]Sure, I have two girls. They’re 10 and 12. I’m very happy about having two girls, I think because I had a brother. But, I remember my mom is a part of a big family. She’s one out of five sisters. And when we were little, in Taiwan, Whenever we got together for holidays, in particular Chinese new year, you know they would, the sisters would run upstairs. Lock the doors and the kids would be outside banging on the door.
[00:14:02]Christina: But they would go in there. They shared secrets, latest purchases, just talking and catching up. And I just remember there she also had two brothers, they didn’t do that with the brothers. The brothers were left out. So it was just the sisters. So I was always very envious of having a sister, that sibling relationship. And again, funny enough, my husband is part of a big family. His dad is one out of the seven boys and all those seven boys had lots of kids.
[00:14:31] So I was sure I was going to have a little bald McFarland boy. ‘Cause they’re all bald and their family as well, very round, and very, well… I was very excited to find out that I was going to have a girl. And again, when I was going to have a second girl. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a lot of challenges. Obviously, I think, you know but the one thing is having support from the family and obviously being fortunate enough to have the infrastructure here in Asia has allowed me to work while being a mom.
[00:15:02]And I think that is one of the biggest things that women face, within the U.S., or Europe, or even here, I think in Asia. In certain parts of Asia. Again, we’re fortunate enough to have some easier access to childcare, home care where it allows us to continue to work.
[00:15:17] But even if you have help, it’s still difficult. Because it’s always the guilt involved. Am I spending enough time at school with them? Did they see enough of me? Such as such. But it’s been fun. I would never have it any other way. And only regret is not having more kids.
[00:15:31] I say that now. I did not say that 10 years ago. But you know, I say that now.
[00:15:37]Brandi: It’s funny. I have three girls, myself. For me it’s interesting. I think, in so many ways, so much of what I’ve learned over the years, particularly about teaming, has been informed from raising my children.
[00:16:05]Christina: I think sometimes it’s the other way around. So as I am managing my teams, right. And I think about how I can communicate with my girls. They squabble as most siblings do right away. They get upset or whatever it is. And then I think about, “Okay. Did I outline my expectations in the right way? Did I clearly communicate to them what it was that I wanted or what I was hoping for?”
[00:16:29] Then there’s just hormones and everything else that’s happened. But I think a lot of it is around communication. Have I communicated that to them in the right way? And, have I been transparent enough? I think that tension or that observation goes back and forth.
[00:16:43] And I think about that all the time. My team and projects, because the teams that I’ve managed over the years, there’s always been, cross-country cross border, across different time zones. So it takes a lot of coordination to make sure that the team is all focused on the right thing. And I think when we’ve had issues of when we had failures or, you know, setbacks? I should say it more often than not,it is really not because of a lack of communication or not for the lack of trying. But maybe the clarity of it, how it was communicated. And it was frequent enough, etcetera
[00:17:15] So I think communication has been key and just back to the kids. I think the frequency in which you have to communicate and not just with kids, but I think, you know, what to teams. I, myself, am not necessarily the most sort of gregarious verbose person.
[00:17:35]I am not someone who is particularly chatty. What I’ve learned as a manager or as a mom is I have to communicate more than probably what I’m inclined to do. Because again, a lot of this stuff, reinforcements saying things in different ways, making sure that, you know, they really can hear you. Just because I think I’m clear doesn’t mean that they actually understand what I’m saying. And then have them do what I really want them to do. So I’m trying to figure out different ways of conveying the same thing so that they actually understand what it is that you need or you want.
[00:18:07] I think partially because of how I grew up, I’ve always imagined myself working in an international setting or with teams that spanned across borders. I think that sort of surprises the differences, it wasn’t something that I shied away from. In fact it was something that really, you know, it is something that’s always drawn me.
[00:19:12] I like learning about new things, new perspectives, and things like that. But, I think in terms of What I’ve learned from managing different teams functionally, culturally nationality-wise, the difference is again, the clarity around communication. You have to make sure that you do clearly articulate what it is that you want.
[00:19:31] And sometimes that requires maybe multiple reiteration of what it is or the message that you’re trying to convey. But, I think, even more importantly is listening. And, you really have to listen and listen in different ways. Because I think North Americans or Americans in particular, even, say, some Europeans, I think they, culturally, because of the way they’ve grown up and what they’ve been taught in school you know. They’re generally not afraid to speak up. Or, have been encouraged to speak up and to voice their views and opinions. Even if it’s something different, versus what you find a lot in Asia. It’s the sort of notion of conformity and group, and not sticking out.
[00:20:11] So it is very different when you’re managing a group here. A lot of times you really have to draw out the answer, right? I’ll often be in a meeting where we’ll say stuff and I have to wait. I think it’s taken me a long time and I’m still not good at this but having the patience to wait for an answer. Or having the patience to wait for people. To define the right way for them to verbalize what it is that they feel. I think that’s been really important. And like I said, I’m still learning because, you know I’m not the most patient person. and the whole world. Especially part of that, is because I was in trading and everything.
[00:20:47] Everything is about speed and you have to react. So you don’t necessarily have a lot of time to wait for someone to give you an answer. Drawing that out in the right way and making sure that the team feels comfortable to verbalize something to you, especially in a high stress environment. So I suppose, you know, listening. And then also ultimately building the trust amongst the team. That when they are communicating to you, is that, it will be taken in a constructive manner, etcetera. And again, I take it back to the trading desks where at a certain point, the markets don’t care if you’re the managing director or if you’re a little analyst. It’s not like school. It’s the market. It’s the market and then stocks move as they are. So sometimes you have to listen to the junior member of the team because they noticed something that you don’t. And, you have to make sure that they’re fully confident enough that they can speak up, and say to someone like myself that, “Hey, this is wrong. You’ve got to look at this”, and so on, and so forth. Building that trust amongst the team that they can say stuff to you, that maybe might feel a little bit hard, or, telling a senior person that they’re wrong is important.
[00:21:46] So I suppose, listening and also having the trust amongst the team that they can highlight and say something to you. I think it’s just making sure that they feel the comfort, that no matter what they highlight, is that it will be taken in a constructive manner and it won’t be dismissed. I don’t know how to describe that in a better way. Again in Asia, because it tends to be a little bit more hierarchical in culture means, people are afraid to raise things to a senior person. So what I do, when I can, And I tried to do this consistently throughout the years. I spent individual time with people.
[00:22:49]I spend time with my leaders. The leaders’ side that I rely on managing teams. I don’t just spend time with them, but also spend time with the fresh grad that’s come in from college or the guy we’ve hired from the competitors, etcetera. Because I think it’s important for them to feel that I’m accessible. I mean, not so accessible that they’re in my office every day or talking to me every day. But, I’m accessible and that they can raise something to me. Again, if they see something that’s wrong, is that they feel empowered to talk about it and to raise it.
[00:23:24] So I suppose it comes down to the day-to-day. The time spent with people and the fact that no matter how many people I’m managing, I’m still directly talking to the troops so that you can get unfiltered information. So that they feel like they have access to you. So that in again, in the event, there’s something going wrong, they feel like they can call you up and raise it.
[00:23:48] I won’t lie. it is challenging. And I think our firm Goldman does a very good job of trying to make sure that it’s not so New York centric. You know, that feeling. But I think, you know, the fact of the matter is some of our largest businesses are based in New York. So are most of our leaders. At least the C-suite are U.S.based et cetera. So again, it comes back to communication. Making sure that I’m communicating consistently with New York. And I would say, it’s not just myself, or Asia to New York. But it also happens on a more micro level even here in the region because we have two hubs in Asia. Hong Kong and Japan. Japan is a little bit more of a Japan centric business. Versus Hong Kong which obviously covers the region. So, I find myself dealing with the reverse of that. I’m managing teams in Taiwan and China. And in previous years in Korea and Singapore, and how they feel like they’re distant from the Asia hub.
[00:25:09] And then, obviously once that was removed from the U.S. Hub. But again, it comes down to making sure that you communicate with your leaders and the communication is done on a frequent basis. And on a consistent basis, because I think one of the things that happens when you’re in a regional office is, when you have a manager that’s just two doors down from you, you can go in there every day. Twice a day, five times a day, whatever, and you just have things come up as you chat. Things that you didn’t think were a big deal. But you know, as you’re talking or conversing, you’ll find that, “Oh, maybe this is an issue for my team in China? Is it also an issue for the team down in India?”
[00:25:48] So you pick up on stuff because you have that, that regular dialogue. I think what happens with someone like us sitting here, and Asia and having the hub office, and the headquarters in the U.S. sometimes you feel like, “Okay, is this important enough for me to highlight to my manager?” If I only have time, once a week, or whatever else to speak to them, whatever that frequency might be. So I think, we sometimes are probably a bit shy in terms of highlighting stuff that’s important. Or that people can feel a little bit reticent to do that. But again, I think it just comes down to how you have managed that dialogue or where I suppose that relationship with your manager. Where there has to be that trust. It has to be there, the consistency. And there has to be that regularity of the communication. The transparency so that you can make sure that you keep in touch and you stay abreast of what’s happening in the U.S., wherever your headquarter is, so that you can also help your team here in the region.
[00:26:40] Brandi: I’m curious about what you think about working with these teams across these cultures? They’re regionally proximal with each other in Asia, but they’re quite distinct with how their cultures play out? The political environments where they’re embedded. Are there differences in the team that are related to these cultural distinctions?
[00:26:45] Sure. You know, I managed the team in China, the equities team for Greater China. There’s actually a lot of distinct regions within that, right? And you know, there are differences even within the teams in China. In terms of the teams in Beijing that I manage, versus the team in Shanghai, versus the team agenda.
[00:27:28] And so I think that’s probably one of the toughest parts about sitting in my seat, but also probably one of the most interesting. When one size does not fit all, I think you have to always tweak a little bit as to the population that you manage. But that’s also the sort of fun of it. I think as long as you’re aware of it, you’re conscious of it, and you adjust for that distinction. I think it works, but it does take a little extra work on a manager’s part of course.
[00:27:57] Sean: I’m really curious, having grown up in [00:28:00] Taiwan then moving to Norway, then coming to the U.S., how did you adjust? What were the challenges for adjusting back to Asia after Berkeley?
[00:28:09]Christina: When we moved as kids, there wasn’t any. Preparations that you could do. Right. I mean, it was a bit of, you know, as you say it, You’re thrown into the fire and, into the ocean, and you learn how to swim and that’s that. It’s funny when I go back and forth from the U.S. to Asia, and I guess Hong Kong is that, we still have family in the U.S. so we’ll go back.
[00:28:29] And it’s little things like the physical space in the U.S. where you’re used to a lot of personal space in between people. In Asia, if you don’t squeeze in there right in front of the person in front of you, you know, there’ll be people who’ll cut, not because they cut, but they think that you’re not in line.
[00:28:44] Right? So this, these little things like that. But I think in terms of interaction again, in the U.S. I think you can take what people tell you much more at face value, as in, if they tell you something 89% of the time, that is the message. And that is what they’re trying to convey. It’s just a little bit more direct way of communicating versus in Asia. I think again, there’s a lot of subtlety, depending on rank, depending on, how long have you known a person, how big of a setting is it. It just takes more patience and more time sometimes to get to what it is that my client is concerned about. Or what, my team is concerned about whatever that might be. So it really is to be more patient and really, you got to listen to what they’re saying. But also, what they’re not saying, and being able to read between that line. And I find that I have to be a little bit more sensitive and nuanced, and not only how I speak to people, but also in how I gather information. Because again, it’s not always that clearly delivered. It just, just takes more time. That’s all.
[00:29:53] Sean: I admire them because I similarly moved away from China when I was six. And I can’t imagine going back to Asia to go lead a team there. But, I think your advice is very on point and how I would reasonably go about doing that, if I had to. So thanks for sharing that.
[00:30:54]Brandi: Do you think that’s a skill that’s crucial to working with teams that ahs different cultures ?
[00:31:01]Christina: Oh, sure. I think, being able to lead and to work with people across different cultures and countries, I think that is something that is not easy. There’s some people who are just better at it, right? Better at drawing out the differences and better at drawing out the messages.
[00:31:16] I thinkI don’t have a magic wand or any secret methods aside from just really again, practicing the listening and communication skills that we’ve talked about. I said earlier, I’m not the most patient person, certainly in my old job, that was not something valuable. There was a value to the speed of reaction, a speed of transactions. So being able to then toggle between the needs of your jobs at that particular moment. Then also, what you need to do as a manager outside of the trading hours. That part of it, and being able to switch back and forth, I think that was quite necessary. And now again, in my new role where I spend a lot of time with clients thinking about a bigger picture, strategic stuff.
[00:32:03] My role went from being very much about every minute, every tick, every sort of movement and within the universe of stock. To now, talking to various C-suites about what their long-term plans are for build out in Asia, particularly in China, etcetera.
[00:32:21] Being able to switch back and forth between those timelines and also between the different clients. That you have to be mindful of that and thinking about it. So again, back to the listening and the communication part.
[00:32:33] Yeah, I think these were five things that I wish I’d known. A letter to my younger self. That’s what it was.
[00:32:52]Brandi: What are the things that you said in this letter to your younger self?
[00:33:10] Christina: I think, passion, it’s something that is important, right? I mean, it’s almost a buzzword these days, but I think it’s important. Certainly something that I believe in Especially in a job like or in an industry like ours, there’s a lot of pressure.
[00:33:25] There’s a lot of tension there, high stakes because there’s lots of people’s monies on the line. And it’s very rewarding. It’s really fun. It’s interesting, but it can also be stressful. So my view is always, you have to have passion for, and you have to be interested in, and be passionate about what it is that you do. Because otherwise it just seems like a job, then it becomes dreary. As opposed to a career and something that is upstep and forward. But passionate does not mean emotional. So emotional to me. It means just reacting to something. And I suppose to a certain extent take things personally. So, I mean, that’s, that was one of the things that I was told by one of my managers, early on in my career. When I was coming up for promotion, I was bitterly disappointed that it hadn’t come about that year. And we were having one of our catch-ups and I was so upset by it. David said to me, “Christina, you really have to be able to take the emotion out of it”.
[00:34:23] I mean, clearly, it’s great that you care so much and you’re so passionate about it. But if you can’t take your own emotion and your own sort of reaction, and you’re the emotional up and down, it’s hard to think about things in a clear manner. And so that’s what I always think about, when I’m in this situation is I can care deeply about something, but I can’t let little things affect me. And affect how, my mood or my emotion or whatever that day.
[00:34:49] And even if I do feel emotional, I need to take a step back because being emotional in a tense environment or as it relates to their project or whatever is actually not very [00:35:00] productive. Being passionate about something is productive because that’ll allow you, the passion allows you to push through the obstacles and the hurdles that you might face.
[00:35:09] But being emotional means that, you know , you, you let yourself get angry. You let yourself get frustrated. You let yourself get whatever sad, whatever it is. And I find that those things often get in the way of the end goal, which is, getting that project done or getting that, that the trade done or whatever that might be.
[00:36:00] Christina: Actually I think back on that conversation a lot. I think back at what his words were, because again as I’m trying to build out a team in a market, that’s very exciting, but very challenging. I mean, China will always challenge you. But It is to not let myself get frustrated, but to focus on the task at hand. To have the passion, perseverance, and tenacity to continue to get through it. And if things happen along the way is for me not to let those things get the best of me. Again, the frustration, the anger or whatever else.
[00:36:39] So I remember the conversation at the time and this must’ve been probably, Gosh, 10 years ago. And thought back to that conversation more and more in the last few years. So I think maybe it’s the sign of me getting slightly more mature, every slightly more aware, growing in my role as a leader. But I think those words ring more and more true to me. I try to draw on that because I also think back, and look at the times when I’ve allowed myself to get emotional. I’ve allowed myself to get angry. I’ve allowed myself to send snappy emails or allowed myself to have a few words. That makes me feel better. But in the end actually ends up with the worst result. Or ending up with me having to spend more time to recover that relationship or recover from that sort of outbursts of anger. So it’s the sort of short-term satisfaction of, “Okay, well I’ve just you know, let loose, I feel better”. But then a month down the line, those guys are maybe not as responsive as I like them to be, because maybe they didn’t like it that I yell over email.
[00:37:42] So I think it’s not any sort of Zen moment. It is really continually a work in progress of me learning to rein back my reaction and the immediate reaction, because that’s, often time, the emotional reaction. Versus the “Okay. What is a more measured and constructive response to that challenge or, that conversation, or issue that they brought up?”
[00:38:44] I encourage it. I think I can see some of the mistakes that I made. Again, being emotional, getting caught up in the moment are also some of the things, I mean it’s a common policy, right? It’s something that happens across the board. So I try to convey that and to encourage people, again don’t take things personally. This is not meant to be a personal attack at you. It’s just, people want the best for the product, for the team, whatever it is. So I try to encourage it. I’m not sure that I’m that explicit about things.
[00:39:18]And it was funny because I think when we did that little blurb of the letter to my younger self. I think that, you know, I had a lot of nice emails and comments, but the sort of my line about being passionate, but not emotional was probably the one comment that people came back to me on. Because unless you’re articulated in that way, I’m not sure that people really think about it in that way. And again, I can’t take credit because it was, you know, one of my mentors and managers who said that to me. But I think it’s very valuable because then, it allows you to take yourself a little bit out of the heat of the moment and allow yourself to cool down.
[00:39:58] So I try to convey that concept to people. I don’t know if there’s a good way of teaching that. It’s just more of “Okay, in this moment, or in that conversation, maybe you should have phrase it in a different way. Maybe you should have been a little less specific or whatever it might be.”
[00:40:14] Anyway, I find that I probablyI need to talk to myself about it more often than I need to talk to other people. At the end of it, I think it’d be quite an emotional and heated person. So I use that phrase on myself quite a bit. These days.
[00:40:28] Yeah, no, absolutely. I think people. Patience is thin, right? I mean they’re dealing with schooling, their children at home. They’re dealing with going back and forth. So, more work. Sometimes some weeks they’re at work. Some we start, we’re not at work. And, you know the spike in cases, the not spiking cases going on. Having to watch where you’re touching, going all the time, so that the constant heightened tension and stress that Covid has brought us for all of us, I think has definitely drawn on people’s reserves. So for sure, I’m seeing it play out and certainly, from the team and also with projects and delays and whatever else. But again, I give a lot of credit to the guys I manage, I think they weathered this crisis extraordinarily well. I think I have to…not remind myself. But I think, what I can try to do is to recognize that sort of stream that they’re living under and the additional stress , and acknowledge that because I do think that people do appreciate, I mean, everyone knows, again, we’re all living in this environment. But it is nice to know that your manager noticed. And it’s nice to know that your manager understands that you have gone the extra mile, in order to deliver a service that is consistent. We want you to deliver last year, but being able to deliver that level of service, I should taste 20, 30, 40, 50% more effort.
[00:42:27]So I try to acknowledge the ordinary that my team has done and of course the extraordinary. But I find myself spending more time. Certainly I try to be mindful of it by spending more time acknowledging people and sending my appreciation and my thanks. Because I do think that it’s important, especially in this environment, to tell people that they’re doing a great job. They’re doing a phenomenal job, juggling sort of three, three different things. Being a parent, being a teacher and applying all the facts one extra job that you didn’t have to have before. And thank God for teachers and God bless them. We really don’t pay them enough.
[00:43:07] I think that’s the one thing I try to do. It’s just to acknowledge the effort it’s. Once in a while encourage and have a little bit more patience. And, take a moment because again, this sort of crisis has definitely drained people’s reserves and understandably so.
[00:43:27] I think again, having sort of the tenacity and interest and reusing the word passion for what it is that you want to pursue.I think if I hadn’t had that, interests in the markets, or being at an age to have and pursue an international career. The easiest thing to do would have been to default. So a bit more of a traditional career trajectory. I got my college degree in the U.S., on the East Coast. Go back to the West coast, find a job and etcetera. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think again, because of the way I grew up, I think there was a strong desire for me to pursue a career that had an international element of it.
[00:44:39] So I think as I look at our younger people or the young people on my team, I find that everyone just does the job better when they’re actually interested in it. And they actually have a genuine interest or are passionate about it. So, you know, there’s some things that you have to do just because it’s a rite of passage. Or you know here may be times in your life when you just have to do a job because it puts food on the table, gives you money, and it just sort of gets you through life. But I think, you know, if possible, the key for people is to work or do something or pursue something that they have a genuine interest in. Because then, that just always brings out the best in people. They may sit in that scene with much less of an effort. And it’s your interests that it’s what you want to do. And you always end up putting in the extra mile. So at least the key is to find what it is that you’re passionate and interested in and pursue that.
[00:45:36] I actually quite admire compassion because of a leader. I mean, typical sort of alpha terms of leading the charge, running up the hill, or getting through sort of obstacles and stuff. But I think what makes a good leader is their ability to also connect with teams. It’s soft, right? I don’t think that it’s necessarily a skill or a trait that you associate with a leader. Because if you think again, the traditional form of or interpretation of leadership has always been more of the aggressive take charge side.
[00:46:19] The managers that I really enjoyed working with and the managers that I’ve enjoyed following actually have a very humane side to them. So they’re able to empathize, feel and engage with their team. That doesn’t mean that they always give into that emotion but they have the ability to see things from a different perspective.
[00:46:41] And I think that part of that ability really comes from their ability to have some sort of compassion. I think that’s something that I quite admire about a leader.
[00:46:50] Brandi: It’s interesting because we always thought that compassion helps me connect to that person. It helps me voice what I want to share.It allows me to hear them. And them, to hear me. Which links to a lot of the ideas you shared with us upfront. The importance of listening to your tea, of alignment, and helping to motivate them across all these different boundaries. Thank you. It’s wonderful to hear your thoughts.
[00:47:45]Christina: Great. Thank you. I enjoyed it.
[00:47:52] Sean: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas podcast. Enjoyed our show today. Please remember to hit that subscribe or follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review, really Looking for more content? Please check out our website at haas.fm. That’s spelled H-a-a-s-.-f-m. There you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time, go bears!