Emily Chang on Social Legacy

by Mar 30, 2021Infinite Pie Podcast

Emily Chang on Social Legacy and her book the Spare Room on the Infinite Pie Thinking podcast with Al Fawcett

Emily Chang on Social Legacy on the Infinite Pie Thinking Podcast with Al Fawcett

Today I am speaking with Emily Chang on social legacy and what that means. So I highly recommend that you get a pen and paper ready as Emily has an amazing outlook on both business and life in general.

Emily has more than 20 years‘ experience, holding senior executive positions focused on Customer Experience, Business Strategy, Cross-Cultural Team Leadership, Change Management as well as Brand Building.

After spending 11 years at P&G, Emily moved Apple to establish the face of the brand in China, and was promoted to Head of Retail Marketing, Asia.

Emily then joined the Intercontinental Hotels Group –  IHG Greater China – as Chief Commercial Officer to lead Organisational Renewal, create a High Performing Organisation, and shape the Sales & Marketing Strategy.  With a core focus invested in people & culture development, there was an  increase Employee Satisfaction of nearly 40%, and a material improvement in Guest Satisfaction.

Emily moved to Starbucks in 2017 to look after the  branded customer experience, first as Chief Marketing Officer of China, then as Senior Vice President Marketing based in Seattle.

Now Emily is back in Shanghai as CEO China for the McCann Worldgroup, and we discuss her current focus and approach to leading the business.

Now, If that wasn’t enough, Emily has also gone on to write a book sharing her own experience and those of others based on her concept of The Spare Room.  Emily believes that we all must lead with authenticity and purpose, understanding that it’s tough to lead a socially responsible business if we aren’t socially purposeful leaders.

The title of the book comes from the fact that her family’s spare bedroom has become a way to serve the community in which she lives, where over the last two decades, she and her family have cared for sixteen hurt or vulnerable children and young people. A fact that they have come to see as their Social Legacy.

I truly appreciate Emily’s openness and authenticity as she highlighted the importance of feedback, working as a team, listening to the people around you, and finding that intersection of what offends you and what you have to offer. It really hit me, as we discussed this concept, how often I see and experience conversations in which people, including myself, can be happy to point out what we see or feel is wrong, but not explore what we can bring to the party to work on being the change we are hoping for. Of course, as we discuss, this is not about being perfect. Far from it. It’s about observing what’s going on around you. It is about working out how you can be part of a solution, about taking action, and about creating change. It’s about making a difference.

I’m sure that you agree that I could have taken this conversation in so many directions and explored each of different elements further, as whole episodes in themselves, which I believe is a great testament to who Emily is. So, if you want to hear more from Emily Chang on social legacy, and how she is making a difference, then you can follow her on LinkedIn and you can also head to social-legacy.com where there are some cool videos of her talks, great blog posts and of course information about her new book The Spare Room.

I took a lot from this conversation and it’s made me think about what I do, how I help and where I can make a difference. I’d love to hear what you took from it, and what you see as your social legacy.

And don’t forget, If you want to hear more great stories from remarkable people then why not check out the rest of our guests on our podcast page. Or to find out more about our coaching, consultancy or new audio services and how they can help you to improve your performance and make a difference both individually and organisationally, then check out what we do and get in touch.

Emily Chang on Social Legacy on the Infinite Pie Thinking podcast with Al Fawcett

Full Transcript of Emily Chang on Social Legacy on the Infinite Pie Thinking Podcast with Al Fawcett

Emily Chang  00:01

You know what I thought? Well, we’re all humans. And it doesn’t matter what our title is or what we’ve done or accomplished, because at the end of the day, what we’re leaving behind is who we are and the impact we have on the people around us, right? So if we don’t worry who we are to shape the job and to shape the people that we get the privilege of touching every day, then like we’re not living.

Al Fawcett  00:27

Hi, I’m Al Fawcett and this is infinite pie thinking. Okay, so I want to start this episode by saying thank you. I want to say thanks to you for taking the time to check out this conversation. And I really hope that you enjoy and take as much from it as I did. If you’ve listened to previous episodes, you’ll know that I’ve been privileged to speak with remarkable people and ask them to share their stories, their experiences, challenges, opportunities, perspectives and insights, from World Champions, elite athletes, award winning entrepreneurs, successful business leaders, coaches, psychologists, authors, artists, and creatives. We’ve discussed their mindset, their approach, the decisions they’ve made, the actions they’ve taken and the lessons they’ve learned. Today, I’m speaking with Emily Chang, and I highly recommend that you get a pen and paper ready as Emily has an amazing outlook on both business and life in general. So Emily has more than 20 years experience holding senior executive positions focused on customer experience, business strategy, cross cultural team leadership, change management, as well as brand building. So after spending 11 years at P&G, Emily moved to Apple to establish the face of the brand in China and was promoted to the head of retail marketing Asia. Emily then joined the Intercontinental hotels group IHG Greater China as Chief Commercial Officer to lead organisational renewal, create a high performing organisation and shape the sales and marketing strategy. With a core focus invested in people and culture development, there was an increase employee satisfaction of nearly 40%, and a material improvement in guest satisfaction. Emily then moved to Starbucks in 2017, to look after the branded customer experience, first as Chief Marketing Officer of China, then a senior vice president marketing based in Seattle. Now Emily is back in Shanghai as CEO China for the McCann Worldgroup. And in this conversation, we discuss a current focus and the approach to leading that business. Now, if that wasn’t enough, Emily has gone on to write a book sharing her own experience and those of others based on her concept of the spare room. Emily believes that we all must lead with authenticity and purpose, understanding that it’s tough to lead a socially responsible business, if we aren’t socially purposeful leaders. The title of the book comes from the fact that her family’s spare bedroom has become a way to serve the community in which she lives, where for over the last two decades, she and her family have cared for 16 hurt or vulnerable children and young people, the fact that they have come to see as their social legacy. I took a lot from this conversation and it certainly has made me think about what I do, how I help and where I can make a difference. I would genuinely love to hear from you about what you take from this conversation and the impact it has on you. So take a listen and let me know what you think. 

Al Fawcett  03:21

Emily, welcome to infinite pie thinking.

Emily Chang  03:24

I’m so excited to be here. As you know, I love this concept of infinite pie.

Al Fawcett  03:29

Well maybe we’ll tap into that throughout our conversation, and we’ll explore what it means to you and what you take from it, but also how I intertwine this into the sort of things that I do. But Emily, I’ve just given a bit of an intro to yourself and obviously within that, lots of different roles and experience. And I’m sure we’re going to explore what you do and even to a degree, how you do it. But where I’d like to start our discussion is, how important who you are is in your role. And I don’t mean that in a status or hierarchical way. I sort of mean in how you show up each day. So are you conscious in the way that you show up each day, both at work and at home or wherever it may be? 

Emily Chang  04:11

Totally. I think it’s something you don’t think enough about when you’re in your more junior years, because you’re just doing your best and you show up and you’re less aware of how others may perceive you, particularly where there’s a gap to how you believe that you’re projecting yourself, right? But as you get more senior and experienced, you start realising, not because of vanity, but because you want to make sure you’re projecting the right image that demonstrates approachability, engagement, and breaks down those walls of awe or fear. It is very important to be really intentional about how we present ourselves.

Al Fawcett  04:48

So you mentioned a moment ago about about gaps. And funnily enough, youth gaps is a bit of a model in my approach when I’m working with some people. So it’s about identifying the gap, because if we don’t identify a gap, if we don’t see a gap, then we won’t make progress because there’s nothing to change, we feel that we’re okay. But sometimes it’s actually being able to define that gap, that’s the key. Funnily enough, I have gaps and maps. So there’s create the gap, then create the map that helps you to move towards. So you just mentioned in your junior years, sometimes we either feel that we don’t have one, we don’t know…you know, I think I’m doing okay. But on the flip side of that, sometimes we know that there is one, but we can’t define it. So what what did you do as you progress through your career to help define the areas that you wanted to focus on and improve?

Emily Chang  05:38

I think the first thing is feedback, because people don’t always give you feedback. Or when you do a formal feedback process, you don’t always get 100% of the accurate feedback, right? What people really want to say. That’s only the beginning, it’s important to get real feedback. And that comes through human dialogue, not through 360 reviews, online surveys and templates to be populated, right? It comes from being a human being and finding an opportunity to have a drink or sit down over a coffee. And then without saying, could you please give me feedback, which is very off putting and immediately puts up these walls, whatever they are. I’m just gonna be like, so I mean, what do you think I could do better? Like, there are different ways we can ask the questions to be disarming. I think that’s really important, then I think, equally important, it’s finding other routes in which we can secure feedback, like people we trust, you know, I’m always looking in the organisation, it doesn’t matter the level, the function, is there somebody who is kind of willing to put it out there for me? And if they are, how do I start creating that trusting relationship that says, yeah, tell me. And they have to lean forward and trust and faith the first time that I’m not going to lose my mind. But if they do tell me something, and I do respond positively, and engage, and then even better, if they see a change of behaviour based on that conversation, then they’re going to be so much more willing to share in the future, and so are other people because word spreads. 

Al Fawcett  06:58

Love that, love that. It’s interesting, because even the word feedback creates different perceptions in people, doesn’t it? And the example I use for this, the amount of times I’m working with groups, and I will say, so we’ve all got a different perception of feedback. So for example, if I was to say, Emily, I need you to stay back after this meeting, because I’d like to give some feedback on your contribution throughout the meeting. The individual might be turning around and going well, I’m not going to listen to the next 15 minutes of this meeting, because I’m going to be worrying about what I’m going to be told after the meeting, half the other people in the meeting might be turning around and thinking, Emily’s in trouble. And the other half might turn around saying, what why is she getting special treatment? Why does she get feedback? I’ve contributed to quite well, why don’t I get feedback? It’s quite interesting on how we do that. So the word itself can create perceptions, how we deliver that is going to be interesting, but it’s like you say, it’s also about how we receive it. So when you ask that question of, so how could we be doing better? If somebody tells you, and then you go into defence mode, well, the reason we do that is because…so that you don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes, then what am I ever going to get feedback again?

Emily Chang  08:05

Right? I think there are a couple of things you can do when you get feedback. The first thing is pause for a minute, pausing is always good, especially for people probably like you and me, I’m putting us together, we have a lot to say, we think quickly, we like to talk quickly. But sometimes when you actually pause for a minute, you’re showing, I think it shows respect. It says, I want to digest what you just said to me. And it actually allows us to think an extra minute. And then what I think is really helpful is to play back, like, so what I just heard you say is or am I hearing you correctly, because sometimes there isn’t that and then you already go off on a tangent that isn’t helpful. And then it takes a while to bring yourself back, right? So the first is pausing. The second one is taking that moment and saying, so let me just repeat what I heard. And I think the third thing is you’re right, not coming across defensive, and really approaching it like in a shoulder to shoulder way. Ideally, so this is my office, there is no desk. And there’s just this sort of little loveseat situation, I’m still working on wall art. But anyway, the point is, we sit side by side, because then it’s not a piece of furniture between you and me. It’s not, I’m in a higher seat than you are. It’s nothing about hierarchy in the physical presentation. So if I’m sitting next to you, and you tell me something, then it’s me turning to you and saying, okay, so here’s what I heard. Either I knew it or I didn’t, right? And then what do I want to do about it? That is so helpful, either I’ve heard it before or haven’t. And then it’s, so my initial reaction is, I think I want to approach it this way, because that is not how I would like to be perceived or that is not how I think about it, or it is, actually that is how I want to be perceived.

Al Fawcett  09:38

Absolutely. 

Emily Chang  09:39

But it’s a side by side conversation, which I think is very different than a formal feedback session, which tends to be more face to face.

Al Fawcett  09:45

And the interesting thing about the side to side is even physiologically, you’re pointing in the same direction. So it’s almost like, we both have the same intention. We both you know, it’s starting with that end in mind type principle, the lovely Steven Covey stuff of, begin with the end in mind of, by the end of this conversation, we want us both to feel better, we’re both moving in the same direction. We want something to be better to get better, we might have different perspectives on it. But let’s start with that intention, rather than right, I’ve got to tell you because again, the perception of feedback is, I’ve got to tell you what you’re doing wrong. And rather than actually, it’s not about what you’re doing wrong, it’s about what you’re doing right, and how we get more of that, how we share that. And you said it a moment ago with regards to when you get that feedback and if they start to see that there is a change in either behaviour, or the way that we do things around here, and we’re starting to implement some of that feedback, then it becomes culturally aligned, around that, this is a place that listens, this is a place that implements, this is a place that applies. When they say we’ve got an open door policy, or we’re open to people to contribute, if they haven’t done something, there must be a reason. So they start…like you said, that trust builds. And I think that it comes down to that, culture is about the behaviours that we see and expect around the place, not the words that we put on a wall that says we’re trustworthy, we we’re this, we’re that, you know, demonstrate it to me, show me in all the way that we behave with each other. So, how much do you think your roles have influenced your thinking? Or your thinking has influenced your roles?

Emily Chang  11:32

I think they’re congruent, right? That’s part of what I loved when I saw infinite pie. Everything’s additive, when you see them as congruent and integrated. You know, we can talk about work and life, we can talk about who we are in the work that we do, right? And I think in that respect, work has absolutely shaped me, because I went in to undergrad in science, I thought I was going to be a paediatric oncologist, you know, and then my finance degree in MBA led me down one route, and here I am looking after the McCann Worldgroup agency, so the jobs have definitely opened doors in a way that I felt very much…I think, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I saw this quote, “Dance to life’s rhythms instead of making life march to yours”. I love that and I think the jobs have not only influenced a lot of who I am, how I think, what I’ve learned, but they’ve really opened completely new doors to what my career path might be. You know, somebody asked me not long ago, hey, so how did you define your career path, you’ve worked at all these great places. And I said, I’ve never had one, I thought I was gonna be a paediatric oncologist, you know? I mean, a different way of looking at infinite pie as well…I had so many thoughts as soon as I saw that phrase, I love it, was sliding doors, there are an infinite number of possibilities in this world. And I love my husband of 20 years, I don’t think he’s my absolute only soulmate ever in the world. Could I have married someone else? Probably, right? I’ve loved my jobs. Could I have had other equally you know, fulfilling roles? Probably. It’s not to diminish anything you have, it’s simply to say, so many other things could have been equally good. And when you come to life with that open minded approach, you find you are dancing to life’s rhythms. And so each of these jobs has taught me and shaped me tremendously. And then I’d say concurrent to that, I hope that I have somehow brought my identity to work as well, you know, in like I said, how I design my office, what’s important to me, when I came to McCann, there was this huge CEO office dude, he was straight out of Mad Men. And I went in, and you know, there’s a little part of you that’s like, this is kind of hot, but most of you says, this isn’t me. And again, to your very first question, this isn’t the me that I want to project, you know, so I…one of the things we did is we gave back half of a floor, because I am blessed enough to have a CFO who thinks in the same way. So he’s actually right next door. We’re both in two small white boxes. We don’t even have windows, because what we wanted to do was give the window seats to the younger people, we wanted…that’s another optic, isn’t it? It’s demonstrating, we are servant leaders, we want to be here to support you guys. You’re at your desk all day, I’m probably running around 90% of the time anyway. So you guys take the good seats. I think all of that is important in terms of how we bring ourselves to work, how we bring who we are to work and show that we’re human beings, show what we care about, you know, I just wrote a book and today…I have a CEO lunch every Friday, so today’s Friday that we’re recording this, and one of the kids said, hey, I saw on LinkedIn you’re writing a book, are you really? I said, yeah, well, let me tell you about it. And then afterward, the reaction wasn’t, wow, that’s so great. The reaction was interesting. It was actually, I’m surprised you talk about yourself so much, you know, and I thought, well, we’re all humans. And it doesn’t matter what our title is or what we’ve done or accomplished, because at the end of the day, what we’re leaving behind is who we are and the impact we have on the people around us, right? So if we don’t worry who we are to shape the job and to shape the people that we get the privilege of touching every day, then like, we’re not living. 

Al Fawcett  14:48

Again, love that, I loved so many things, I can unpick on some of those bits and pieces. So, you’re absolutely right, but it’s interesting how it’s changing, but I still think there’s a way to go that there is, we have a work persona, you know, there’s a perception of how we have to present ourselves at work. When I first started many, many years ago, it was very buttoned up and squared away and you presented yourself in a certain thing and you had to be seen as ambitious. And one of my frustrations as a youngster was the word potential. I don’t know why, but I had this baggage about potential because my attitude is, but I want it now. So everybody would say, you’ve got great potential, I’m sure you’re going to do great things and whatever. But I, it goes back to your gap thing, I didn’t see that as a gap to fill, I saw that as something that was just off in the distance. But this thing of not having a defined career path, I think it gives you that flexibility. And what it also feels with what you were saying is that, when you came into that office, and you went, this isn’t me, you’ve got these roles, but you didn’t let the roles define you. They are part of you, but they don’t define who you are. Oh, I am one of these, therefore I have to act in this certain way. Oh, I moved into this role, so now I have to act in this certain way. You stay true and authentic to yourself by the sound of things. And that’s really, really important.

Emily Chang  16:05

I will admit though, it takes vulnerability, right? And there are days you wonder, how is this…you do wonder, there are moments you’re like, how is this being perceived? Is it okay? Because on LinkedIn, for instance, which is where we met each other, I’m very authentic. I’m exactly who I am. I admit my struggles, because I think that’s a place I can encourage people. And most of my fault…this is like zero for networking, that most of my followers who engage with me are very young. And they’re asking like, oh my gosh, you know, you you do struggle, or you do have a problem, or you don’t always know what to do. I remember one time, I actually wrote something about having a Jekyll and Hyde moment, right? And I posted it because these are for me moments of creative expression. And sort of like, catharsis too, like, you know what, I’m going to go ahead and confess my shortcomings in a way and let the world know, because in that way, I can let it go. I don’t ruminate and like stay up at night thinking I screwed it up and I should have done better. In fact, I’ve just let it go publicly. But it takes a lot of vulnerability. The reason I dropped my phone before is, I was going to show you, one of the things, one of the gaps I perceived is, it comes just from the title, not from who I am, you can tell I’m quite short. It’s not from my stature, it’s not from any of that. It’s just from the title. So how do you create a sense of, I am a human. You’re not going out and saying, hey, I’m a human, hey, who wants to have drinks? You’re just going to frighten people, but something I started doing was I started recording these videos every morning that just says, hey, here’s what’s important today, or, hey, I’m going to meet so and so client today, or, hey, I’m super excited, we’re having this lunch day, you know, CEO lunch day. Just a super simple, thirty second, max one minute, video every morning. And it was like not every morning and the beginning…so yesterday, I had my leadership team together, we were off site for a couple hours and they said, we were talking about all the things we can do to encourage our people and I’m like, you know, there’s so many advertising agencies, how do you recruit? How do you let people know that this is the one you want to come work at? And it has to be because we create a work environment and we stand for something, we have a culture that is tangibly unique and something positive that people are drawn to. So I had started doing these videos and I was like, you know what about like, we’re opening this thing over here, we’re doing this thing over here. And at the end of it, you know, almost everybody said, you know what people like more than anything? You’re stupid little videos. Because they said, we feel like you’re human and we feel like we can see you. And somebody else specifically said, we noticed that you don’t ever put a filter on, you know, because most people do, just default. And so I was gonna show you this, yesterday, I made this big move. I realised we all work our butts off and we’re overworked. And sometimes there’s this culture of taking pride in overworking. Oh, I did OT, nobody slept, I’m exhausted. And I found myself…I started early and then I decided not to get to the office till noon because I had an hour free. I was like, well let me work out at 10:30. And then I decided to let everyone else know that’s what I did so they should take permission to fit like wellness in whenever they can. And then I’m like, well, I’m sweaty in the gym and then I decided I’m going to show myself anyway. So I’m like, literally, this is my video. I’m in a bandana. Oh, and I’m speaking in Chinese. But it was just to encourage them. And that is an intentional thing. Like, I looked back at the video once I posted I was like, god, I look a little fat and god, I’m in a bandana and I have no makeup on. But then I thought no, you have to almost fight your own vulnerability because you have an intention, but then after you see the output, you’re like, shit, do I really want to be that? And then I think, no, no, I do. I have to have conviction and stick to what I said I was going to do.

Al Fawcett  19:32

I love that, I love that for so many reasons. And again, initially what you might find is that people can be resistant to change sometimes, so there might be an element of, oh, well it’s okay for her, she’s able to go and do that whenever she wants and she can come in when she wants. I’ve got a job to do and I’m not sure my boss would be particularly happy if I just decided that I wasn’t coming in, but it’s understanding the nuances that as the, like you say, the culture grows where you are starting to say to your direct reports, who then say to their direct reports, who then say to their direct reports, no, it is okay. You know, as long as we get the work done and the things are achieved and whatever, we want that degree of flexibility. This construct of a nine to five or this narrative or the story that we tell ourselves that if I send an email at 11 o’clock at night it shows that I’m still working hard and that I’m dedicated to the cause and all the rest of it. There’s other ways to show that you’re dedicated and that’s by showing up every day and being part of the team and working with those around you and supporting and helping those to find their voice and to find your voice, so I love that. The other bit that I love is the idea and the focus of, how do we recruit? How do we attract people? And this could be in lots of different ways, this can be from clients to people to come to work for you. Why us? What is it that we stand for? What is it that we’re about? And I genuinely believe that people want to do meaningful work, they want to turn up and nobody turns up and says, today I choose to do a crap job, you know, I’m gonna screw up today, I just decided. People want to do meaningful work so they want to feel that they’re contributing in some sort of way and if you create an environment where that gets recognised, that gets rewarded, and again, I’m not necessarily talking in just pay, you’ll have people queuing up at the door because they go, I want to go and work for that team, I want to be part of that, I want to contribute to that because I feel like there’s a meaning and a purpose behind it. So how did you go about that? How did you…when you sit down with your senior leadership team or those involved and say, so what is it about us? That makes you proud to tell others, that makes you want others to come and work with us as well. How do you go about doing that and rippling that out across the business? 

Emily Chang  21:48

I think it’s slow. It’s funny you asked this because yesterday I had the leadership team off site and I’ve now been in this job six, seven months and I said I gave up part of my office which is why it really does…you can even hear an echo, it’s just empty. But coming in new we did first sit down and say, who do we want to be in the market? How do we establish? Are we an advertising agency? There’s all this stuff in the media about forays being dead…you know why would I choose to join this company? People were really curious. I said look I come from the client side for 22 years, the reason I’m super interested in McCann is not because I decided to join the agency side, it’s because I’m interested in McCann as a company, I think they do a lot of great things well, I think the DNA matches my ethos. Like the fact that their corporate values are B.I.G: be Brave, demonstrate Integrity and be Generous, like whose corporate values are that? That’s awesome, that’s exactly the kind of company I want to be a part of, you know? And then I think about the intellectual challenge of being a partner to the kind of client I used to be. I always looked for that and I couldn’t find it; somebody who could not only come alongside with me on a strategy but also deliver outstanding mind bogglingly cool creative, but then understand digital channels and how to bring it to life across each of the platforms and then go end to end in the online and the offline space, like that’s who we want to be and so we kind of established that early on, and then yesterday we were talking about, okay, nobody comes to work for you because they’re so compelled by your intellectual vision that they join, it has to be a combination of the head, it has to be the soul that we talked about, which is the DNA or the ethos of the company, and I think it has to be the heart, and so yesterday with my leadership team I said we’re the heart, right? Every company I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for amazing companies, we always say, we’re a people business, but nobody’s a people business like an agency because actually that’s all we are, we have no product, we have no say like…we are just people, so how do we become the heart? So who do we want to be? What do we want to be known for? So the dialogue really started there and I said, well if we don’t exactly have an articulation, let’s start with who is known for something and so somebody mentioned Ogilvy. Well I don’t come from the agency world but they said, you know, David Ogilvy wrote all these books so historically if you want to be in advertising, you would choose Ogilvy, they come to mind, they’re top of mind. So we kind of wrote that down. Okay, what else? And they mentioned another agency where they said, you know, it’s a very stable leadership team, they’ve all been there together for like a decade, which is very unusual for advertising, so if you want stability and sort of consistency, you might consider that. I said, okay, well those are pretty different, so what other space is there? Where do we play? And then it kind of opened up dialogue and one said, we’re caring. She didn’t use the B.I.G, the BIG, right? But we don’t always have to use a slogan, she just said, we’re caring, we care about our people and I’m like, well that’s freaking great, I want to be a company that cares about our people and then somebody else said something, you know, we often talk about, and you’ll see on our website, like we want to help brands play meaningful roles in consumers’ lives and this person said, in Chinese, we do meaningful work. She didn’t say like the slogan, she just said, when I’m interviewing, because she’s interviewing a number of people right now, she said, I want them to know this is going to be meaningful, what that means is, you’re going to come across challenges, it’s going to be hard work, but then it’s very fulfilling and you have a sense of accomplishment when you deliver it, are you up for that? And she said, I really like that question because it really helps people self select. So we want to be caring and meaningful. It’s really kind of distilled to everyday layman language, the things that we fundamentally say we stand for as a company, well, that is just such an awesome next step in our journey of defining who we are and how we want to care for the people who choose to invest their careers in us. 

Al Fawcett  25:27

That’s brilliant and I love the next level behind what could be seen as throwaway statements of, you know, we’re in the people business. Well, what does that mean? And then how do we do that? The meaningful work, the identifying that that means that it’s going to be challenging, there are going to be problems, I’m going to need you…you know, if you take on this role, don’t think it’s just a nice, smooth, easy ride, all creative, all innovative…there are going….you’re going to have client expectations, you’re going to have deadlines, you’re going to have pressures, and it’s about how you cope with that. But just imagine the feeling and experience that you’re going to have once you look back and go, I did that, you know, I was part of that. And hat’s a whole different thing, but then also, it’s managing expectations, it’s that reality check that we don’t expect you to sell your soul to this stuff, but we do want you to be engaged in it, we want you to bring…it goes back to the first question, we want you to bring yourself to work every day. And who is that person? And if you’re aligned to this, it’s going to work beautifully. If you’re not, there’s going to be an element of friction. And I think that that sense of reality and that sense of…that’s where that trust starts right from the beginning, but it’s putting it on the table and saying, this is what it is, how do you see and perceive that? And what do you want to take from that? And what can you bring to it as well? It’s a little bit like, and you’ve mentioned a number of times getting the senior leadership together, or team meetings or various bits and pieces, and I want to tap into that a little bit, because it’s a little bit like team meetings where, and I have conversations with people about this in relation to the fact that the purpose of meetings, and a lot of people go, oh, another meeting. And again, it’s that old phrase of, I can change the whole perception of a sentence by changing one letter in it. And that is that a lot of people say, I’ve got to go to a meeting. And I go, no, you get to go to a meeting. You should be going to every meeting with the perspective and the perception of, what can I get from it? And what can I give to it? Rather than, I’ve got to just sit in the back and see if I can do my emails for an hour while half listening. And it’s these type of things. And I give this one scenario where I was working with an organisation, I saw a whole team get up and walk towards a team meeting room and I said, what’s going on? They said, oh, well, it’s two o’clock we go for a meeting, and I said, but why? And they went, because we have a meeting every Tuesday at two o’clock. And I went, okay, and they go in and I was working with and coaching some of the senior leaders there and I’m working with a manager, and they’re all sitting there mulling around and the manager strolls in a couple of minutes later and he’s setting up his computer, the slide deck, and so on and so forth. And I just looked around and I said, just before you start, can I stop you for a second? Everybody here in the room, I’ve just noticed, not one of you has got a piece of paper and a pen or anything to write anything down and I went, well that tells me one of two things. Either you think you’ve got a fantastic memory, or you don’t think you’re going to hear anything worth writing down. So can you do me a favour? Can you all go back to your desk, grab a pen, grab a piece of paper and be back here in two minutes. And as the last one walked out the door and I shut the door behind them, I turned around to the manager and said, now you need to say something worth writing down. And it was that thing of, oh? Because they just went through the motions each week of replaying the same things. So how do you engage in your meetings? The ones that you hold, they’re your meetings, you chair them, or ones that you attend? What do you bring to the party? 

Emily Chang  28:53

I’m very anal. So first of all, my meetings, I structure…like I live very much with intention as much as I can, because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. And I don’t want to waste my own time, frankly. So meetings are structured in 50 minute intervals. Therefore, we have 10 minutes to take a break to go to the bathroom to get to the next meeting, because nobody can teleport yet, as far as I know. So all my meetings are 50 minutes. The second thing is, when I set up a meeting, I always have this in the meeting invite, capital letters, subject, attendees timing, and location. So everyone’s incredibly clear on what is the subject of this meeting? Who are the attendees? And I never have more than three to four, right? Because once you have like…you look at meetings where there’s no subject line, there’s no objective, and then there are 25 people invited and you’re like, well, how likely is that going to be productive, right? And then location, and it’s just want people to know all the details, you want to know why you’re coming and you want to know what the desired outcome is. So then when we get into the meeting room, if I’m going to call it, my responsibility is to say, I’m so glad you’re here, here’s what we’re here to talk about, remember, and what I would like to align within the next 45 minutes is this. And if I’m not the meeting owner and somebody just jumps in and they just start talking or multiple people start talking, I will raise my hand and I’ll say, so what are we trying to do here? And that’s not because of my title in this role, I’ve always done this, like, what are we trying to accomplish in this meeting? And if we can’t clearly articulate that, we should maybe reassess and come back another time. Or if we articulate it, and then we look around at the people who are here, do we have the right people in this meeting? And if we don’t, we might also want to reconvene at another time. So those questions are important, it’s so easy to just send out an invite, and not really be thoughtful about it, but it’s just not worth wasting people’s time. So those are two really important questions I think we should ask before every single meeting.

Al Fawcett  30:36

Yeah, I love that. One of my finishing questions at the end of a session or a meeting is, what have we got now that we didn’t have before we started? And if we can’t answer that question, then that was a cosy chat, not a conversation with a purpose. And we almost need to start the conversation with, what do we want by the end of this? And it also means that everybody can walk away knowing what’s expected of them, if anything, rather than going well, I think we’re waiting until the next meeting until we decide who’s doing what. And then we have meetings because of meetings. And that’s where people get into that trap of, I don’t like meetings, because we never seem to get anywhere and I never seem to have chance to do my job. That is your job. A lot of the time the meetings, the discussions, the agreements, the clarifications, that’s a big part of what we do. But it’s how well we do it that’s important. I love the 50 minute thing, because you’re right, that ability to decompress and the amount of people that come into meeting rooms, three minutes late going, I’m really sorry, my last one just finished. And they probably take another 10 minutes to decompress from that one, in order to be ready for this one, so all of a sudden, we’ve now lost even more. So I love the 50 minute thing. The danger is in the zoom world and the team’s world and whatever is that it’s so easy to back to back them because you don’t have to go anywhere, but I still think you need that ability to stop the meeting, take a moment, take a breath, recalibrate, and be ready for the, right, so what’s this next one about? What am I bringing? What am I getting from? 

Emily Chang  32:06

Right. But I do think that’s important. I have a marketing intern who is helping me with my book launch because I’m in China, and the book is launching in the US. And she’s at UMass and she’s still living at home in California. And she just said the most interesting thing to me. She said, we don’t have a spring break this year, because I said, hey, when you get a break? I said, you don’t? Why not? She said, well, because we’re online, the school doesn’t feel like we really need a break. And I thought, no offence to UMass but I think that’s pretty faulty thinking because it’s, you know, you can hear the noise out here, China has been back to normal for almost a year now in terms of meeting and offices, we have zero cases of COVID, we’re just out and about, so we don’t take that for granted, but I think about how hard it must be to be taking schooling and working full time for about a year, staring at a screen. I think you need a spring break more than we do probably. 

Al Fawcett  32:52

Yeah, I agree, I think that we all need breaks. I think that again, it goes back to that badge of honour of, look how hard I’m working type principle of, look at me, I work until two o’clock in the morning, and I’m up at six and I do these things. And and again, there is also a danger of this emulation mode of I’m a great believer, and the purpose of these conversations is to learn from other people’s experiences, but not trying to copy those experiences because my life is different to somebody else’s. But what can I take from it? So we fall into the trap…I love…I’m an avid book reader and listener, so I like biographies and business biographies, sports biographies, whatever it might be, artists and creatives. And I find it really fascinating, but I like to look for trends and patterns and things that I can pull from and experiences rather than, oh, Steve Jobs got up at this o’clock in the morning and then he did this pattern and then he did that, so, in order to be successful, I need to get up at four o’clock in the morning. Well, no, I need to know what’s right for me. But this constantly being ‘on’ mentality is, we need a break, we need to decompress, we need to get away from it at different points in our life. So I think that that’s really key. Right, you’ve mentioned the book a number of times, I just want to tap into that really quickly as we get towards the end of the conversation. So tell me about this book that you’ve written.

Emily Chang  34:13

I will, but I just remembered what I was going to say before, the cutest little story. Okay, so the person who I was just talking about on my leadership team, she was an intern there number of interns across our company, there are about 400 some people here. And this intern went to her and said, hey, boss, can I just ask you a question? Just a really young girl, right? And she said, yeah, sure and she goes, can I join more meetings? I love meetings. How funny is that? So she said, you love meetings, huh? Say more. And she said, well, you guys have so much fun in meetings, everyone’s laughing and I think every time I leave a meeting, I’ve learned something, so I’d like to attend more meetings. And I just thought you just brought that up to me earlier because she mentioned it yesterday and I’m like, I love this intern. I see a full time job in her future right? Because yeah, there’s so many things. 

Al Fawcett  34:59

That’s brilliant, but I even like the question of her manager in the sense of you like them? Tell me more. So it wasn’t just, oh no, you can’t or, oh yes, you can, or whatever, it’s, I want to know why? For what purpose? What do you want to get from it? And, and it wasn’t just, oh, it gets me away from my desk or…there was there was a reason behind it. But how cool is that? That’s feedback. That’s…we started this conversation with feedback. So we now we sit and we go, huh, our meetings are energetic, our meetings are fun, we do actually get some stuff done. How do I make sure that more of my meetings are like that? Because if people on the outside looking in are saying that, then we need to sort of acknowledge that on the inside as well.

Emily Chang  35:39

Exactly, exactly, best story. 

Al Fawcett  35:41

Oh, that’s fantastic. Okay, so, your book.

Emily Chang  35:46

So yes, it was…you know, it’s actually a big part of bringing yourself to the workplace, which was your question, because it started off as a memoir, I wanted to write some stories of some extraordinary young people that we’ve had the honour of hosting in our spare room, and they’ve all come to us through different ways, they’ve all needed something, some sort of help, or at a minimum, a safe place to stay. And then over time, this book idea kind of grew into something else, it was very infinite pie in that way as well, because it was sort of…I had no objective, I didn’t say I want to be published, I didn’t say I want to make money or be be an author, I just kind of said, I want to write these stories down, you know. And then it came to a point where I have a very good friend, Paul, and he’s a best selling author. So I called him and I said, I’m writing this book, like, is there something else I should be doing? And of course, he gave me all this really helpful input. And then I ended up finding an agent and then we found a publisher. And then they said, look, we like your stories, we think the idea of the spare room is really good, it’s a euphemism for what it is that everybody feels like they’ve been created specially to do, right? But it’s not just your story. So how do you find others? So it’s a compilation of like, 15 stories now. And then I didn’t want it to just be something you read and you think, okay, oh, that’s cool. Or the worst is, somebody’s like, oh, you’re really good person. Those are the worst things, because I’m not, right? So the book is also pretty vulnerable in the like, you know, the times that I fall short as a human being. But the point is, everybody can do something more. And I truly think people want to, people will say, how do I find my spirit, or I feel like I have something to give, I don’t know what it is, or I know what I want to give, but I don’t know where to direct that energy, you know? So the construct became…it made itself when people were talking to me about the spirit, and one half his offer, which is like what it is you uniquely bring to the table. And it’s very reflective, so I talked about my own experience when I was like, oh, this is what I have to offer, it’s this combination of hospitality, I love serving people, and then I have the opportunity to bring people in my home because there’s always a spare room in my house. That’s just something for me, is not a hard thing to give, you know, and I think that’s part of this infinite mindset too, which is when you’re giving, it’s not sacrificial, or painful, it’s a joyful thing that comes in abundance and brings more abundance. And then the other side of things that offend them, you know, but there’s this one thing that offends you more than all others, it’s the thing that really touches your heart and makes you stop in your tracks when you see it. So then we kind of go through a chapter and define you know, how I identified what my offence is because we you might have a general idea, but how powerful is it? How intentional is it if you can write it down in a line? And then you get into, okay, well, then how do I marry those two things? What is my offer? What is my offence? The intersection of that thing is your social legacy. That’s the thing you’re gonna leave behind wherever you are, that makes things better than before you were there.

Al Fawcett  38:34

Wow. Okay, so, fantastic, so Spare Room is the book based on the fact that you were giving this spare room out to people of need, who you felt would need and benefit from it. So that was your offer. The offence was the fact that these people were in a position where they needed a home, a roof over their head, safety, whatever it might be, and you wanted to help to change that. I love the concept of social legacy as well. But you talked there about the fact that you talk in the book about, you’re not perfect, you’re not this…because it is very easy to hear those type of stories and go, well, I could never do that and we put the barriers up, we put the excuses up. So I love the fact that you’re saying, it wasn’t always smooth running. So it almost sort of ties us back in. What did you learn through the experiences? So if you’re offering your spare room to these people of need, and there are challenges there, all the sort of the core conflicts are our quality of communication, setting and managing expectations, all things that you probably do on a daily basis within your corporate conflict management, collaboration, building trust, all those things that we can do in a corporate environment, were you finding that they were being really tested on a real level, if you like, in the home environment because of that?

Emily Chang  39:43

Totally. And I think, you know, we talk about work life integration a lot. The reality is, to some degree, when you leave the office and you go home, when you’re able to do that, you do leave a piece of it behind, but when you invite somebody into your home or when your spare room involves your house and you know that precious sanctuary, and it’s messy and dirty and challenging, those are the moments where you find yourself not responding in the best possible way. And I think the reason I want to be honest, is I do think everybody has a spare room to offer. I think everybody has something and as I started to interview people and tell their stories, I’m like, for sure everyone does, everybody is extraordinary. And some just haven’t become that extraordinary version of themselves yet, some absolutely are and they’re just living like humble, quiet lives. Karen just is a physical therapist who heard the story that a lot of orphans in Russia are deemed unadoptable because of some very simple issues. And she’s like, I could just do some physical therapy with them, and then they would all be adoptable. So she decided to go to the Ukraine, and she helped hundreds of kids become adoptable. She literally changed orphanages and children’s lives, because one very young physical therapist said, I think I want to do something about it. Nobody even knows her story, what a privilege to tell it for her. And again, like she’s not perfect. I think she’s close to it. I love her dearly. But you know, we’re not perfect. And I do think in many ways, if we can show our full selves…like I kind of really like Glennon Doyle, because I find her to be one of the most authentic authors I’ve ever read. She is so vulnerable, and so willing to put all of her messy stuff out there to benefit other people. It makes me think of that Japanese art form where they take pottery, and they breed it. And then they put it back together with precious metals. And the idea is, it’s more beautiful for having been broken. And I think revealing our weaknesses, and our less beautiful moments, you know, I think they do make us more beautiful because they make us more textured, and real, and engageable. And maybe we don’t look perfect, but who wants to look perfect? Because it’s also a massive stress to have people think you’re perfect, or that you’re at some high level, because eventually you will fall, right? And then you live in fear holding your breath of like, oh, god, when’s it gonna happen? But it’s so much better to just be like, I’m broken. But I think I’m more beautiful because of it and then just come get to know me and touch all the broken parts.

Al Fawcett  42:11

I love that. It’s the imperfections that make us who we are and you’re absolutely right. I love that. And again, I found that I’ve had times in my life when it’s like, the anxiety of being found out, when am I going to get found out? The imposter syndrome that goes through your head of, I probably don’t deserve to be here. There’s the old phrase of, fake it till you make it. I prefer ‘live as if’, because the word fake doesn’t resonate with me. Whereas ‘live as if’, so I’m going to live as if I know what I’m doing. And then funnily enough, that starts to become part of who I am. But again, that ability to demonstrate, hey, I don’t know everything, hey, I haven’t got this nailed. Hey, I have my good days and bad days as well. And I don’t always get it right. But it’s the ability to hold your hand up and do that, and it’s okay to feel something, we’re not robots. So slight imperfections…we don’t want the one that’s exactly the same as the one before which is exact same as the one before it. So, you mentioned that it’s just coming out in the US, is it coming out worldwide? Is it available?

Emily Chang  43:07

I would love to print worldwide at some point. It’s going to be digital and there’s also an audio book, so both of them will be downloadable. I have to get the final date and now that it strikes me, April 6th is two weeks away that the book is launching, I probably need to know what that date is. But I think it’ll be sometime in April that the digital book will be out, yeah.

Al Fawcett  43:27

Fantastic. I could talk to you for hours and hours and hours about a lot of this stuff. And we could deep dive into all these bits and pieces. And there’s so much more to explore. But I’m going to point people in the right direction to find out a lot more about you, sociallegacy.com. I think there’s some videos that tell us a little bit more about the book, tell us more about your story, and obviously finding you on LinkedIn. But all that’s left for me to say today is thank you ever so much for your time, and I’ve really appreciated this conversation.

Emily Chang  43:53

Al, I loved it too. Thanks for having me.

Al Fawcett  43:56

So once again, I want to say a big thanks to Emily Chang for taking the time to share her story and perspective on things. Now I truly appreciate her openness and her authenticity as she highlighted the importance of feedback, working as a team, listening to the people around you, finding that intersection of what offends you, and what you have to offer. It really hit me as we discussed this concept, how often I see and experience conversations in which people, including myself, can be happy to point out what we see or feel is wrong, but not necessarily explore what we can bring to the party to work on being the change we’re hoping for. Of course, as we discussed, this is not about being perfect, far from it. It’s about observing what’s going on around you, it’s about working out how you can be part of a solution, about taking action, about creating change. It’s about making a difference. Now I’m sure that you would agree that I could have taken this conversation in so many directions and explored each of the different elements further as whole episodes in themselves, which I believe is a great testament to who Emily is. So if you want to know more about Emily Chang and how she is making a difference, then you can follow her on LinkedIn. And you can also head to sociallegacy.com, where there are some cool videos of her talks, there’s great blog posts, and of course, there’s information about her new book, The Spare Room. And don’t forget if you want to hear more great stories from remarkable people or find out more about our coaching, consultancy or new audio services, and how they may be able to help you to improve your performance and make a difference, both individually and organizationally, then head over to infinitepie.co.uk and get in touch or arrange a quick discovery call to discuss and explore these things further. It’s always great to hear from you.

1 Comment

  1. Emily

    Thanks so much for chatting, Al! I really enjoyed our time together.

    Reply

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