We are thrilled to have an impressive line-up of prominent leaders, influencers and change-makers speaking at our 2021 Virtual Annual Conference on November 3. We will be introducing these dynamic and engaging speakers during the next couple of months here on our blog. We asked our speakers to answer a few questions about themselves, their approach to their career, and their lives.
This week’s “Getting To Know Our Conference Speakers” post highlights Sang Lee, Co-Founder & CEO of Thine. With more than two decades of experience in law practice, legal recruitment, leadership coaching, and organizational and talent development, Sang helps strengthen companies and firms by providing ways to celebrate candidate and employer diversity, invigorate interviews, and deepen professional development possibilities. We can’t wait to hear more from Sang!
DFA: What is the most meaningful advice you have received? Who has had the most influence on your career?
Sang Lee: Loosely translated from Korean, which is the language through which the insight was dispensed, the most meaningful advice I’ve received – and try to incorporate into every aspect of my life – is, “If you’re going to grab at life, grab it with big hands.” My father, mother, two older sisters and I moved to the United States from Korea in 1976. Soon after our arrival, my father opened a wholesale jewelry business and operated it for 20 years out of a small and uncomfortable 350-square foot storefront. Despite the micro nature of his commercial footprint in NYC, my father never kept his belief system, his business strategies, or his dreams small. His influence on my career remains profound. Today, when I work through a nuanced decision, I still assess how my father might approach a challenging situation or undeveloped opportunity. I remind myself often to live a big-handed life.
DFA: What have you learned in the last year that has changed your perspective? Have there been silver linings to the pandemic?
SL: I’ve learned the extraordinary and unrivaled value of vulnerability. The pandemic – and all that it unleashed – forced a context where I’ve learned that sharing moments of fear, sadness, fatigue, and helplessness does not encumber my relationships or make me appear weak. Today, I am more forthcoming and vulnerable with my family, friends and colleagues, and my connections are stronger, more authentic and more dimensional. I am grateful for the learning.
DFA: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
SL: Everything is a choice. Everything.
DFA: What can we be doing to create more inclusive organizations?
SL: We can notice who’s not included. We can notice when resources are allocated inequitably. We can actively, consistently and zealously pursue opportunities to create more diverse cultures. We can embrace diverse perspectives which creates greater inclusivity. Yes, yes, and yes, we CAN.
But when that seems too big for one person, we can observe ourselves and decide to disrupt our own life’s algorithms. Technology algorithms illustrate (thank you, Instagram ads and TikTok videos) that human behaviors are predictable. and self-perpetuating. We find comfort in what we’ve already experienced and hence, over-rely on these experiences to predict what we want for our futures. We watch the same type of movies (comedy), we order the same kind of takeout (spicy tofu banh-mi), purchase the same kind of gadgets (luxury kitchen appliances), and we let ourselves unconsciously befriend or work with the same types of people who deploy the same workstyles.
Becoming aware of the algorithms we’ve created in our personal lives and introducing diversity into the algorithm, creates a corresponding disruption in our worldviews, and introduces more inclusive thinking in our day-to-day, which will impact our organizations.
DFA: What’s your personal mantra?
SL: For decades, I have listened to my inner voice when it tells me to “Own the Awkward,” which is a reminder to honor my instincts when I am in an uncomfortable situation or conversation. I invite vulnerability – a powerful force – into those situations by identifying the awkwardness of the moment, and do my best to work through it then and there, whether I am alone or with others. This phrase has been a driver for constant improvement in my communication skills and helped me to develop deeper and more authentic relationships with family, friends, colleagues and clients.
Don’t miss Sang Lee and our other 2021 Speakers on Wednesday, November 3.