Karen Loon – Don’t be scared to look in the mirror

Karen Loon
Karen Loon shares her lessons about how "Our future is shaped by our past", that "Imposter syndrome is normal", why you should not "be scared to look in the mirror" and more. Hosted by Jeffery Wang 

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About Karen Loon

Karen Loon is passionate about ensuring that both women and those from culturally diverse backgrounds are given the right opportunities to thrive within their organisations.

Combining her business and governance experience as Non-Executive Director (NED); her 29 years working with the world’s leading financial institutions as a senior relationship and assurance partner at PwC; her knowledge gained from leading change initiatives in diversity; and her academic research in system psychodynamics, Karen delivers research-based and yet practical advice to the organisations she works with.

Karen is a recognised thought leader and speaker on workplace diversity and inclusion. She was formerly PwC’s Singapore and Asia-Pacific Diversity Leader and a member of its Global Diversity Leadership Team and Global Financial Services Diversity Steering Committee. Under her leadership, PwC won the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore’s 2017 Embracing Diversity and Inclusion Award. She was also awarded a certificate at the 2017 Singapore Committee for UN Women HeForShe Awards to recognise her work to promote gender equality in Singapore.

Karen regularly shares her views on enhancing diversity with leading organisations and professional and industry bodies in Australia and Singapore. She is also a commentator on governance and culture matters.

 

Karen is a NED on several for-profit, professional, and educational organisation boards. She has an Executive Master in Change from INSEAD, a Master of Business Administration from Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney. In addition, Karen has several post-graduate qualifications in accounting, finance, corporate governance, and culture.

Karen’s current book Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations-Lessons from Those Who Smashed the Bamboo Ceiling, examines how successful culturally diverse leaders at work resolve the contradictions and tensions of their identities within organisations.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: Life is full of patterns that we continuously repeat 03:05
Lesson 2: Your family will always be your biggest cheers squad 06:32
Lesson 3: Our future is shaped by our past 10:47
Lesson 4: If you’re not networking, you’re not working 13:55
Lesson 5: Imposter syndrome is normal 17:52
Lesson 6: Don’t be scared to look in the mirror 20:59
Lesson 7: Embrace negative capability 23:49
Lesson 8: Invest in ‘me’ time 25:52
Lesson 9: Stay hungry, stay foolish 26:55
Lesson 10: The best way to bond is over food 29:17

Karen Loon – Don’t be scared to look in the mirror

[00:00:05] Jeffery Wang: Hello and welcome to the podcast “10 Lessons Learned”, where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not just facts, not just mere platitudes to an international audience of rising leaders. In other words, in this podcast you’ll hear valuable insights that you cannot learn from a textbook, because it took us years to learn this stuff.

[00:00:24] My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of Professional Development Forum and your host. This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum which helps diverse young professionals of any age find fulfillment in the modern workplace.

[00:00:37] Today we’re joined by Karen Loon. Karen Loon is a non-executive director, a former partner at PWC Singapore. She has worked with the world’s leading banks

[00:00:47] and led D.I.E diversity initiatives She has qualifications in system psychodynamics, that’s a big word and governance from INSEAD and research interest in identity work and organizational change which we’ll get to in a minute.

[00:01:03] She’s also the author of a recently released book

[00:01:06] “Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organizations”

[00:01:10] So I know also from reading about you in the news that you are fourth generation Asian Australian growing up in the

[00:01:18] country town of New South Wales called Tamworth. There there’s a theory that the reason why culturally diverse people aren’t getting into leadership is because you know they haven’t assimilated to the culture yet. But looking at you, you’re probably as Australian as one could possibly be Asian background. So, if even you can see that there is an issue then potentially that the issue is much much bigger.

[00:01:45] Karen Loon: Yeah No, no definitely thanks for the kind intro but no it’s interesting because uh

[00:01:53] as I actually looked at my own story because I think part of the whole research I did was around my own story and understanding I’ve realized how much has been shaped by the experiences of my grandparents, and their experiences were quite different to ours but you know some of those challenges that they faced actually becoming Australians and feeling like they’re Australians, I think are still things that I experience in a way today. So, it’s been a fascinating journey

[00:02:17] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. And you did start your journey in Australia in your professional journey do you think you would’ve gone as far as you did if you did not leave for Singapore?

[00:02:28] Karen Loon: Yeah unfortunately not I mean it was challenging at the time for women, I think And I recall I hadn’t seen you know a lot of female leaders, but definitely it was probably only Five years before I made it to partner So maybe in the late nineties when you actually really started to see Asian Australians make it into say partnership levels in in most of the firms. So, it’s unfortunate and you know to me that’s something that I want to try and see we can change for the next generation

[00:02:56] Jeffery Wang: If you want to find out more about her research you can certainly check it out in her latest book “Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations”.

[00:03:05] Lesson 1 – Life is full of patterns that we continuously repeat

[00:03:05] Jeffery Wang: So, without much ado let’s jump into your lessons then lesson number one “life is full of patterns that we continuously repeat”, what do you mean by that?

[00:03:15] Karen Loon: I used to have a client a big client I worked with in Singapore for a couple of years And I’d go along I was a an audit partner and He was quite serious also whenever you got something or you came up with a point of view that he didn’t agree with he’d actually sort of lash out at you a bit aggressively. no matter whether you were an internal staff member or external. and so, I remember I used to always want to over- prepare for the meetings we were going to because I just didn’t want to necessarily be put on the spot. and I hated to be put on the spot.

[00:03:47] Cuz I realized later on it was a bit like being with my dad I actually have a father who’s quite strong when my father would make a comment I never wanted to say anything Cause he always wanted to be right no matter whether you argued so I’d over prepare and over prepare and at the end of it because I was the most senior person I had to have the answer so it was an interesting thing I actually realized that some of the patterns that we have at work are really things that we’ve as children and we tend to repeat them So in my studies I learned about this thing called C C R T It’s actually called Core Conflictual Relationship Theory which is basic that often we repeat these sort of patterns that we learn as kids And in my case when I see someone that’s a bit scary to me who’s quite aggressive I behave like I would with my father which is I would tend not to react, I tend to not say anything

[00:04:40] which is probably not the best thing to do at work So in summary I think you know the lesson to me was to learn that life is full of these patterns and so it was good to be aware of them

[00:04:50] Jeffery Wang: okay So be being aware is important I mean once that you’ve observed such a pattern occurring I imagine there there’d be a time when you had this aha moment when you realized that you know the reason why you’re unable to deal with people of such sort of aggressive nature or sort of power figure is because of your of your dad But then how did you learn to overcome that what did you have to do to you know once you observed that pattern to break it?

[00:05:17] Karen Loon: I think being aware is obviously a start but I think sometimes to not default to that behavior just really just take a breath obviously make sure you prepare but actually if you have a point in view and you’re able to articulate it then most people will respect you And so I think part of it is to actually give things a go and remember that actually sometimes when they’re sort of reacting It may not necessarily be you it may be them reacting as well And so just really you know thinking about this reflecting on it and realizing this is okay if I have a point of view okay.

[00:05:54] Jeffery Wang: Is it a case of just getting older and wiser and tougher and you know getting used to Okay With conflict or is there an aha moment that that made you realize Hey I can deal with this now

[00:06:07] Karen Loon: I think you get over these things I think that’s all part of learning to be a leader So but I think I did definitely have a bit of an aha moment which was probably after all of this which is why I can actually articulate it now I don’t think I necessarily understood it at the time but it’s definitely been something I’ve learned about in in more recent years

[00:06:26] Jeffery Wang: Yeah, And certainly you wish you knew

[00:06:27] Karen Loon: I wish

[00:06:28] Jeffery Wang: aware

[00:06:29] Karen Loon: yes

[00:06:29] Jeffery Wang: earlier on Awesome

[00:06:32] Lesson 2:      Your family will always be your biggest cheers squad

[00:06:32] Jeffery Wang: Well lesson number two and very typically Asian one you said that your family will always be your biggest cheer squad Tell us about your family

[00:06:43] Karen Loon: Yeah so I’m an eldest child very interesting So back to my dad again So my dad was always the one that wanted me to be really resilient so he said I wanted to toughen you up because I think he felt that you know he had to be tough in the world to succeed And so I’ve always been pretty independent Went to uni at 17 lived away from home went overseas and that sort of thing and so yeah being independent’s just the way I’ve been brought up But you know I think I’ve realized that one of the reasons I do it is actually because I wanted to prove to my family that I was good enough as well which is something that you know sometimes you feel quite insecure about certain things And I do these things because actually I wanted the I guess praise by my parents even though they often tell me Oh you shouldn’t do these things Like my dad will always say Look why are you doing this cultural diversity things No one will respect you but on the other hand he comes back to me and says Well you know he cheers He’s and tells his friends that this is really good So I actually think we have to remember that your family’s always there They always are the ones who’ll assess you and they’ll often be very very negative to your face but they’re also the ones that’ll be there for you no matter what happens in your life And so I think you know we shouldn’t forget our families They’ll always be there to cheer us on

[00:08:02] Jeffery Wang: Yeah You To me it sounds like your family is just a very you know your dad’s a very typical Asian dad You know high expectation Nothing’s ever good enough You know they want you to not talk to any boys But then you know as soon as you graduate from university they want you to be married the day after Mm-hmm That’s the kind of life that you see you know a lot of Asian people have to contend with And it sounds like what you’re saying is that despite you know many protestations on you know potentially on criticisms that they have of you Ultimately they want the best of you and that you should continue with your endeavours You know because you do make your dad proud Yeah

[00:08:42] Karen Loon: yeah No it’s very funny when you always hear the friends coming back with the comments so Yeah You realize actually, you’re not so bad so it it’s been an interesting learning for me Mm-hmm

[00:08:52] Jeffery Wang: I wonder how much of it is just a cultural thing where Asian parents just find it difficult to be direct with their compliments or even expressions of love You know How often do you hear I love you from your parents and how much of that is overcoming that inability to openly communicate and I suppose you know as People who travel the world a bit You know you kind of be exposed to different cultures where you can choose to you know adopt a different way of expressing yourself

[00:09:25] Karen Loon: Yeah No and it’s interesting being you know fourth generation Asian Australian we’re not the most talkative about you know how we feel so that going back to the some of the other comments earlier about family shaping us I think it is something that we actually you know bring through from different generations from our family

[00:09:42] Jeffery Wang: Oh I find that absolutely intriguing actually that comment because I’d imagine being fourth generation Asian Australian you would have so many so much interactions with Australians that you know the cultural element would’ve rubbed off on your family And yet four generations on so much of what was a typical Asian culture was still maintained within your family How do you explain that

[00:10:10] Karen Loon: I don’t know It’s a tough one I think it’s just you know there are certain I actually think it’s possibly because my family lived through the White Australia policy and so they family was always there to support them And so those family values were passed on because they thought that was important and they sort of stuck together so I find it an interesting concept I have some very Australian aspects as well about food which we’ll talk about later And you know my family don’t have three generation families but you know certain values definitely I think are from Asia Yeah

[00:10:47] Lesson 3:      Our future is shaped by our past

[00:10:47] Jeffery Wang: Well, speaking of generations you’re lesson number three says Our future is shaped by our past Sounds like a bit of a story there

[00:10:57] Karen Loon: So it’s an interesting topic after these days getting asked a lot of questions like you know what did you do Were you know when you wanted to when you left uni and that sort of thing And honestly I had no idea what I wanted to do so I just drifted into roles I worked with teams I had some really great opportunities and but if there were things I didn’t like Decided no maybe I’ll just go off and do something else.

[00:11:20] So I’ve actually realized when I went back to study that actually a lot of what we do is shaped by our earlier roles in systems So what I do at work was often shaped by the roles and the things I Like doing in my family and then what I did at school And then if I like it then I try and find those things and the other thing is that we often when we go to work look for things that help us feel better because of the anxieties in our childhoods So we often look for certain things I think I I reflected on some of those things earlier. So, we want to join companies because of our self-esteem So I’ve actually realized that Everything we do and things we look for is shaped by what we did in the past which I think is a very very powerful thing to understand particularly when we’re trying to understand what things like we’d like to do in future jobs

[00:12:09] Jeffery Wang: Yeah This sounds like a bit of a psychological conversation isn’t it So you know people have a chip on their shoulders because of you know potentially things that they carry from their childhoods and that you mentioned before that you’re always trying to do something that you believe will impress your parents so knowing that insight what can you do with that information What do you do knowing that you know you’re so much of you is shaped by what happened to you in the past

[00:12:39] Karen Loon: Yeah, I think it’s useful to Reflect on because like in my case I actually realized that I like a lot of limelight in certain cases. And this there was a whole concept of stars actually you know I had a I was in a newspaper article when I was seven and it said Karen is a star And I did some exercises later and I realized that I actually wanted appreciation and being like a star but one of the things I’ve realized is from some of those exercises The lens I also use tends to focus on some of these things when I look at examples of observing things and that sort of thing So to me what I think I learned from a lot of this is that you are shaped by your roles but also the way you look at things also is shaped by that as well which is a slightly different angle. And being aware of that some of these you know perspectives can actually help you be a lot more wise when you’re looking at situations and trying to understand what’s going

[00:13:40] Jeffery Wang: Hmm indeed Now you are the second Asian Australian woman that I’ve interviewed, And I’ve noticed it’s a bit of a theme that you are very introspective in terms of you know understanding your psychology So potentially we’re onto something here.

[00:13:55] Lesson 4:      If you’re not networking, You’re not working

[00:13:55] Jeffery Wang: but no lesson number four It takes a little bit of a different bend, and it sounds like great career advice, and you said in lesson number four if you’re not networking, you’re not working What do you mean by that?

[00:14:09] Karen Loon: Yeah so Like a lot of kids who grow up and study hard you know had the pressure of the parents I did also experience some setbacks you know when I was a little bit more junior at pwc I you know did really well So I got early promotions but then eventually I hit a ceiling I was told that my soft skills weren’t so good. Then I was also having another incident when I was going for partnership in Singapore, and I had so much work was working working working and I was being put up for partnership and I didn’t get through. And so, the feedback I got was actually the people didn’t know you. They didn’t know you as a person They knew your work but didn’t know you as a person and so one of the things I’ve realized and I still have to remember this myself is that often you know we do perform in ways that are shaped by what we thought was working in the past which we’ve talked about but actually as we get older we actually need to build and continue to build our networks cuz that’s so important at work and so I’ve learned it’s not the technical things that you know it’s actually who you know as well and so that’s so important whether it’s your career sponsors whether it’s your mentors and that sort of thing

[00:15:21] Jeffery Wang: Well there are two aspects of that I like to dig into a little bit So number one is the idea that when you’re working you should be working you know networking sounds like you’re making friends you’re having fun you know when you’re having fun you can’t possibly be working Especially that’s kind I feel like that’s a bit of a mentality A lot of Asian Australians do have what do you say to that sort of thinking

[00:15:42] Karen Loon: Mm-hmm I guess when I’m saying networking we’re saying broad networks and I think there’s people need to understand there’s different types of networks whether it’s sponsors or mentors or others So I guess what I’m saying here is that you need a lot of different people to help you during your career because Actually we’re talking about leadership. Leadership is all about leading others and having followers But to learn how to be a leader you probably need others to help you so it’s actually recognizing that you just can’t be doing the job. If you want to be actually able to succeed and go into leadership, you need the help of others

[00:16:16] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely And it’s the second part of that And you said a keyword there that you lack the soft skills And then the second part you said that people didn’t know who you were as a person And I know there’s is very typical of a lot of especially people of Asian backgrounds that we tend to be very reserved We don’t let Personality out And a lot of that is just because that’s the way we’re taught You know we have this assumption that we it’s not professional for people to you know to act out their personalities So what have you learned in your in the process of you know making partner about how to let other people know who you are as a person and what is the ultimate point of knowing you as a person

[00:16:57] Karen Loon: So it’s interesting that that feedback was actually when I was in Singapore So I think it’s also a combination of who you are as well so that the people in Singapore didn’t know me But you know people want to you know they don’t just want to be transactional and do work with you They actually want to know whether they can trust you And a lot so much of work is actually around trust Can I trust that this person’s going to do the right thing if I actually engage them as a client or they come a colleague And so Only when you really let that guard down and you talk about you know whatever it’s your food or whatever and they get to know as a person then you they can really go Okay yeah I think I can get this person so I think it’s moving beyond transactions

[00:17:37] Jeffery Wang: indeed, And if a person is guarded around you to you know let you into their lives you know there may be something he’s holding back or she’s holding back and that’s not a not necessarily a good way to build trust Yeah so that that makes a very good point

[00:17:52] Lesson 5:      Imposter syndrome is normal

[00:17:52] Jeffery Wang: And speaking of that lesson number five and I’m sure this is a very common lesson imposter syndrome is normal

[00:18:00] Karen Loon: Mm

[00:18:02] Jeffery Wang: now start with what imposter syndrome is.

[00:18:04] Karen Loon: Yeah So imposter syndrome is situation a situations where you feel really uncomfortable Being like a fraud That’s somehow where some people describe it And so basically for my situation I think the biggest challenge I experienced becoming a leader was when I took on a big client role So it was about 10 years ago and I was the first female to take on this role all the people who’d taken on were male and probably 10 years older One was a quite an autocratic Chinese leader The other one was Caucasian So I didn’t fit the mold and I looked really young And so I remember going along to sit in the boardroom I had to make myself look a lot older because I also look really young and I actually really felt pretty intimidated And it was also the situation where I explained earlier where I also had the CEO who was also quite sometimes aggressive so it didn’t help But one of the things I realized so I was doing my research for my book I realized that being an imposter or feeling like an imposter is actually pretty normal Everyone goes through these periods of time particularly when you’re trying to learn to become a leader because in a way you’re acting and trying to behave in a certain way and it feels really really uncomfortable. But it’s actually one of those things that if you get over some of these feelings and you think Okay, I’ve learned this is okay I can do this then you’ll actually be a better person And so yeah, it’s a normal part of learning

[00:19:30] Jeffery Wang: So is the lesson you just got to accept that when you start you are going to feel like an imposter You know just knowing that is good enough or you know or is it a case of you know just take your time you will grow into the role that you’re trying to play

[00:19:49] Karen Loon: I think it’s probably a combination I think if I think about it maybe we probably feel like imposters as adults but I was thinking earlier on when I was writing my book when we’re kids we don’t we are not scared we try lots of things out and we make mistakes but it’s okay But I think sometimes when it’s adults we get scared and get worried And so actually one of the questions possibly is to try and think about well why do I feel worried What’s actually holding me back and maybe if you actually reflect on that a little bit more then you may be able to deal with these things a little better

[00:20:24] Affiliate Break

[00:20:24] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely Let’s take a quick break here We like to thank our affiliate partner Audible. Audible It’s an amazing way to consume 10 lessons learned books and other podcasts. Allowing you to build a library of knowledge in all-in-one place You can start your 30-day free trial by going to audible trial.com/10lessonslearned with Audible you can find your favourite lesson while at home or on the go. Once again that’s audible trial.com/10lessonslearned or lowercase for a 30-day free trial. The link will be in the show notes

[00:20:59] Lesson 6:      Don’t be scared to look in the mirror

[00:20:59] Jeffery Wang: And we’re back here with Karen Loon. Lesson number six Don’t be scared to look in the mirror Now why would you be scared looking in the mirror

[00:21:08] Karen Loon: you might think something horrible

[00:21:09] No I guess when I was thinking about this one of the things I never used to like at all was getting feedback at work or feedback at school or getting those reports because you always were scared that you were being criticized And you know sometimes particularly you get more senior if you didn’t trust the feedback you know you could be politically motivated or something like that But I learned more recently that feedback can be extremely positive So in my program at INSEAD we actually did a couple of things we did we got 720 degree feedback So most people know of 360 degree feedback where you get feedback from your bosses your staff and your peers in this case there was 720 degree feedback So you also Feedback from your family which was actually really invaluable and actually was probably the more interesting and the most more accurate feedback about who you are And then the other thing I did is something called role biographies So it’s something I spoke about a bit earlier it is a tool where you actually learn about yourself and your roles and I found out so much about myself If it can also be done in groups so not just one on one but actually when you all talk about it in a small group it actually can be more effective because people see things that you don’t see and I guess that’s the main thing. Often you don’t see your own faults but different lenses of you or how you behave or how people feel you are how you are and so From that feedback I guess I’m a lot more aware of how people think of me how they feel about me, and I think it makes me hopefully a better leader and a better person

[00:22:52] Jeffery Wang: Sure, But so it’s all easy to say just embrace that feedback How did you overcome that fear of negative feedback

[00:23:01] Karen Loon: I think I probably will always have it but I think you know if you get used to it and then you try to use that feedback yourself and then you maybe go back and see how you know you’ve gone I think you know it can be this positive sort of learning cycle as well. And so, you know I think often we avoid it but actually that may be something that leads to problems later on. So my suggestion is really to embrace it

[00:23:28] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely And it’s all just part of growing up right I think as when we’re younger we’re fearful of rejection

[00:23:34] Karen Loon: Mm-hmm

[00:23:35] Jeffery Wang: and negative feedback and as such But the more you have it the more you realize you grow stronger and the more you build that resistance and tolerance to it So yeah absolutely Great advice embracing feedback

[00:23:48] good or bad

[00:23:49] Lesson 7:      Embrace negative capability

[00:23:49] Jeffery Wang: Lesson number seven embrace negative capability I don’t know what negative care capability means Can you help

[00:23:56] Karen Loon: Yeah, no and I hadn’t heard about it until you know more recently but it’s a really interesting idea. So I was actually coined by the poet John Keets and he referred to the ability to live with and tolerate paradox and to contain So we’re seeing paradox We’re talking about being able to manage two different things like We talk about work life balance you know actually it’s like a bit of a seesaw and so negative capability is really about the ability to not do something and being patient and having poise So in my case I tend to be quite impulsive so you know when someone asks me to do something I’ll do it straight away which I think is really good at certain in certain types of jobs and was really important in Singapore cause clients are really demanding but actually I’ve realized that having those gut reactions and just doing things without necessarily reflect And analysing situations both the rational side so the facts but also you know what’s also happening may not actually lead to the right decisions And it’s really important for me now cause I’m a non-executive director So around the boardroom table we’re dealing with a lot of complex issues for which there’s often no right or wrong answer so really you know I’ve I’m getting more used to this importance of negative capability and just being comfortable being uncomfortable and not reacting straight away and just really trying to think and sleep over you know tricky tricky ideas some people I spoke to are really good at this so they write journals. They actually if they’ve got complex issues, they try to write a journal reflect on these things and go back on it And some other people I know use meditation so it’s definitely something I think for all people is particularly as they get more senior that they should think about

[00:25:44] Jeffery Wang: And certainly, in the tricky situations you know sometimes acting too quickly or impulsively tends to make things worse, so I agree with that

[00:25:52] Lesson 8:      Invest in ‘me’ time

[00:25:52] Jeffery Wang: lesson number eight Invest in me time

[00:25:55] Karen Loon: Mm-hmm So probably very typical of someone who graduated in the nineties All I wanted to do was start work earning money you know travel overseas and all those things But I realized one of the things is that once you start work it’s like this treadmill and you run and run and run and you can’t get off. And it was really probably only about 10 years ago I had an opportunity at work to have a bit of a break They You know you have some downtime get yourself ready met my husband you know got to do some fun things And so now in my older age I’ve actually realized you do need downtime because careers are really long And you know if you don’t have these breaks you know you’ll have health problems You’ll get too stressed you won’t learn how to become a better person and that sort of thing And so I’d such say you know invest in in me time

[00:26:44] Jeffery Wang: Hmm And I like the way you use the word invest

[00:26:47] Karen Loon: Mm

[00:26:47] Jeffery Wang: because there is a return to spending time with yourself or spending time on yourself

[00:26:53] so thanks for that

[00:26:55] Lesson 9: Stay hungry, stay foolish

[00:26:55] Jeffery Wang: lesson number nine and I’ve heard this one before by Steve Jobs you say stay hungry stay foolish

[00:27:03] Karen Loon: Yeah, So you know I think careers are really long So when I think about my career, I started it as in audit and we didn’t even have personal computers We basically had a pencil piece of paper and a calculator

[00:27:17] Jeffery Wang: Whoa whoa You’re giving away your age Yeah

[00:27:20] Karen Loon: You know so you can probably tell my age here So you know now the most of the things that you would do in that area now you can do on an iPad And so careers are so long and so I think one of the things is you just really have to continue to learn you know not just the technical stuff not just the soft skill stuff but just really try things out because what you’ve learned at schools not necessarily going to cut it these days Yeah

[00:27:43] Jeffery Wang: but is it just about careers though I mean you know clearly as the world change and the speed of change has picked up you know it’s not just about staying relevant in the workplace it’s about staying relevant in life, isn’t it?

[00:27:56] Karen Loon: Oh, definite definitely Yeah

[00:27:59] Jeffery Wang: All right well before I get to lesson number 10 I’m going to throw you a bit of a curve ball here Karen So what is something that you have unlearned And what I mean by that is something that you held to be ironclads truth when you’re starting out in your career in you know in your twenties that you learned letter learned in life through you know you know the hard way that it just wasn’t the case

[00:28:22] Karen Loon: Well, that’s a really tough question I always used to question Some of the things my parents did my parents actually worked really hard So we’re talking about these patterns of work my parents ran their own business my dad started his business at 21 and retired. Retired or stopped that in his forties And I used to wonder why I used to think Well you know surely you want to keep working keep yourself relevant But You know you can probably see that pattern coming through in a lot of what I’ve said is actually I’ve realized that you know my parents were probably right You don’t if you keep working too hard you know something will give And so you know I’ve actually learned my dad’s probably a lot wiser than I have gave him credit for when I was 20 So that’s probably the main thing

[00:29:11] Jeffery Wang: So, don’t you’re not a machine don’t just keep working You’ve got to take your breaks Yeah

[00:29:16] Karen Loon: Yeah definitely

[00:29:17] Lesson 10:    The best way to bond is over food

[00:29:17] Jeffery Wang: Excellent Well the last and my favourite lesson not because I love food Oh actually yes, it is because I love food The best way to bond is over food

[00:29:27] Karen Loon: Yeah, Yeah So, these days one of the things that my husband and I love is we’re foodies And it’s interesting because I grew up in Australia and unlike most Asian Australians, I grew up in a diet of white bread vegemite sandwiches and meat pies which is pretty disgusting But

[00:29:43] Jeffery Wang: but oh look 20 years ago or maybe even maybe 30 years ago I would’ve said Oh lucky you but it’s a different time now I think it would say Oh may you know Sorry to hear that that

[00:29:57] Karen Loon: No. Anyway but yeah no I went to Singapore and obviously the food’s very different there And then when you travel I used to travel a lot in the region so you realize that the you know especially when you’re in environments where you’re under pressure and you work hard the best way to get to know people And get to know their cultures over food So you know whether it’s you know Kaiseki meals in Japan or whether it’s you know who knows what in in other countries they’re just amazing things and so today my husband and I built we actually pick our holidays a Based on food destinations not the other way around And the first thing we do when we get to countries is we actually pick the restaurants we want to eat and then we decide what we want to do but it’s most amazing way to get to you know learn about new things learn about new cultures and you know meet people that you normally wouldn’t meet Because if you know start you know build up relationships strike conversations with foodies you know they’re often people you’d never deal with and so I’d say just bond over food because it’s just so much fun

[00:31:00] Jeffery Wang: because everyone eats

[00:31:01] Karen Loon: has to eat

[00:31:02] Jeffery Wang: Yeah, Well everyone I think almost everyone loves food and certainly you know I like the idea of meeting new people or trying out new things but is it necessarily does it necessarily have to be you know new kind of food Can it be just the same kind of food as what you always liked

[00:31:20] Karen Loon: it can be both I mean new food I think is great to find out about new ideas but you know there’s also a whole lot of comfort you get from familiar foods as well Yeah So you know to me family and friends is often comfortable food but trying new things out particularly if you ever go to Singapore where it has a which has a really great food scene I think is great too

[00:31:43] Jeffery Wang: And you just made me hungry well thank you so much for sharing your wisdom Karen and certainly you know I’ve learned a bit about your life and how you came to be the person that you are today and really appreciate the lessons that you’ve shared.

[00:32:00] And we’ll finish on that you’ve been listening to the podcast 10 Lessons Learned where we dispense wisdom for career business and life Our guest today has been Karen Loon sharing the 10 lessons It took her years to learn this episode is produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum Don’t forget to leave us a review or comment You can even email us at podcast 10 lessons learn.com That’s podcast number one zero lessons learn.com Go ahead and hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of the only podcast that make the world a little wiser Lesson by lesson Thanks for listening and stay safe.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 
Karen Loon

Karen Loon – Don’t be scared to look in the mirror

Karen Loon shares her lessons about how "Our future is shaped by our past", that "Imposter syndrome is normal", why you should not "be scared to look in the mirror" and more. Hosted by Jeffery Wang 

About Karen Loon

Karen Loon is passionate about ensuring that both women and those from culturally diverse backgrounds are given the right opportunities to thrive within their organisations.

Combining her business and governance experience as Non-Executive Director (NED); her 29 years working with the world’s leading financial institutions as a senior relationship and assurance partner at PwC; her knowledge gained from leading change initiatives in diversity; and her academic research in system psychodynamics, Karen delivers research-based and yet practical advice to the organisations she works with.

Karen is a recognised thought leader and speaker on workplace diversity and inclusion. She was formerly PwC’s Singapore and Asia-Pacific Diversity Leader and a member of its Global Diversity Leadership Team and Global Financial Services Diversity Steering Committee. Under her leadership, PwC won the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore’s 2017 Embracing Diversity and Inclusion Award. She was also awarded a certificate at the 2017 Singapore Committee for UN Women HeForShe Awards to recognise her work to promote gender equality in Singapore.

Karen regularly shares her views on enhancing diversity with leading organisations and professional and industry bodies in Australia and Singapore. She is also a commentator on governance and culture matters.

 

Karen is a NED on several for-profit, professional, and educational organisation boards. She has an Executive Master in Change from INSEAD, a Master of Business Administration from Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney. In addition, Karen has several post-graduate qualifications in accounting, finance, corporate governance, and culture.

Karen’s current book Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations-Lessons from Those Who Smashed the Bamboo Ceiling, examines how successful culturally diverse leaders at work resolve the contradictions and tensions of their identities within organisations.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: Life is full of patterns that we continuously repeat 03:05
Lesson 2: Your family will always be your biggest cheers squad 06:32
Lesson 3: Our future is shaped by our past 10:47
Lesson 4: If you’re not networking, you’re not working 13:55
Lesson 5: Imposter syndrome is normal 17:52
Lesson 6: Don’t be scared to look in the mirror 20:59
Lesson 7: Embrace negative capability 23:49
Lesson 8: Invest in ‘me’ time 25:52
Lesson 9: Stay hungry, stay foolish 26:55
Lesson 10: The best way to bond is over food 29:17

Karen Loon – Don’t be scared to look in the mirror

[00:00:05] Jeffery Wang: Hello and welcome to the podcast “10 Lessons Learned”, where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not just facts, not just mere platitudes to an international audience of rising leaders. In other words, in this podcast you’ll hear valuable insights that you cannot learn from a textbook, because it took us years to learn this stuff.

[00:00:24] My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of Professional Development Forum and your host. This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum which helps diverse young professionals of any age find fulfillment in the modern workplace.

[00:00:37] Today we’re joined by Karen Loon. Karen Loon is a non-executive director, a former partner at PWC Singapore. She has worked with the world’s leading banks

[00:00:47] and led D.I.E diversity initiatives She has qualifications in system psychodynamics, that’s a big word and governance from INSEAD and research interest in identity work and organizational change which we’ll get to in a minute.

[00:01:03] She’s also the author of a recently released book

[00:01:06] “Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organizations”

[00:01:10] So I know also from reading about you in the news that you are fourth generation Asian Australian growing up in the

[00:01:18] country town of New South Wales called Tamworth. There there’s a theory that the reason why culturally diverse people aren’t getting into leadership is because you know they haven’t assimilated to the culture yet. But looking at you, you’re probably as Australian as one could possibly be Asian background. So, if even you can see that there is an issue then potentially that the issue is much much bigger.

[00:01:45] Karen Loon: Yeah No, no definitely thanks for the kind intro but no it’s interesting because uh

[00:01:53] as I actually looked at my own story because I think part of the whole research I did was around my own story and understanding I’ve realized how much has been shaped by the experiences of my grandparents, and their experiences were quite different to ours but you know some of those challenges that they faced actually becoming Australians and feeling like they’re Australians, I think are still things that I experience in a way today. So, it’s been a fascinating journey

[00:02:17] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. And you did start your journey in Australia in your professional journey do you think you would’ve gone as far as you did if you did not leave for Singapore?

[00:02:28] Karen Loon: Yeah unfortunately not I mean it was challenging at the time for women, I think And I recall I hadn’t seen you know a lot of female leaders, but definitely it was probably only Five years before I made it to partner So maybe in the late nineties when you actually really started to see Asian Australians make it into say partnership levels in in most of the firms. So, it’s unfortunate and you know to me that’s something that I want to try and see we can change for the next generation

[00:02:56] Jeffery Wang: If you want to find out more about her research you can certainly check it out in her latest book “Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations”.

[00:03:05] Lesson 1 – Life is full of patterns that we continuously repeat

[00:03:05] Jeffery Wang: So, without much ado let’s jump into your lessons then lesson number one “life is full of patterns that we continuously repeat”, what do you mean by that?

[00:03:15] Karen Loon: I used to have a client a big client I worked with in Singapore for a couple of years And I’d go along I was a an audit partner and He was quite serious also whenever you got something or you came up with a point of view that he didn’t agree with he’d actually sort of lash out at you a bit aggressively. no matter whether you were an internal staff member or external. and so, I remember I used to always want to over- prepare for the meetings we were going to because I just didn’t want to necessarily be put on the spot. and I hated to be put on the spot.

[00:03:47] Cuz I realized later on it was a bit like being with my dad I actually have a father who’s quite strong when my father would make a comment I never wanted to say anything Cause he always wanted to be right no matter whether you argued so I’d over prepare and over prepare and at the end of it because I was the most senior person I had to have the answer so it was an interesting thing I actually realized that some of the patterns that we have at work are really things that we’ve as children and we tend to repeat them So in my studies I learned about this thing called C C R T It’s actually called Core Conflictual Relationship Theory which is basic that often we repeat these sort of patterns that we learn as kids And in my case when I see someone that’s a bit scary to me who’s quite aggressive I behave like I would with my father which is I would tend not to react, I tend to not say anything

[00:04:40] which is probably not the best thing to do at work So in summary I think you know the lesson to me was to learn that life is full of these patterns and so it was good to be aware of them

[00:04:50] Jeffery Wang: okay So be being aware is important I mean once that you’ve observed such a pattern occurring I imagine there there’d be a time when you had this aha moment when you realized that you know the reason why you’re unable to deal with people of such sort of aggressive nature or sort of power figure is because of your of your dad But then how did you learn to overcome that what did you have to do to you know once you observed that pattern to break it?

[00:05:17] Karen Loon: I think being aware is obviously a start but I think sometimes to not default to that behavior just really just take a breath obviously make sure you prepare but actually if you have a point in view and you’re able to articulate it then most people will respect you And so I think part of it is to actually give things a go and remember that actually sometimes when they’re sort of reacting It may not necessarily be you it may be them reacting as well And so just really you know thinking about this reflecting on it and realizing this is okay if I have a point of view okay.

[00:05:54] Jeffery Wang: Is it a case of just getting older and wiser and tougher and you know getting used to Okay With conflict or is there an aha moment that that made you realize Hey I can deal with this now

[00:06:07] Karen Loon: I think you get over these things I think that’s all part of learning to be a leader So but I think I did definitely have a bit of an aha moment which was probably after all of this which is why I can actually articulate it now I don’t think I necessarily understood it at the time but it’s definitely been something I’ve learned about in in more recent years

[00:06:26] Jeffery Wang: Yeah, And certainly you wish you knew

[00:06:27] Karen Loon: I wish

[00:06:28] Jeffery Wang: aware

[00:06:29] Karen Loon: yes

[00:06:29] Jeffery Wang: earlier on Awesome

[00:06:32] Lesson 2:      Your family will always be your biggest cheers squad

[00:06:32] Jeffery Wang: Well lesson number two and very typically Asian one you said that your family will always be your biggest cheer squad Tell us about your family

[00:06:43] Karen Loon: Yeah so I’m an eldest child very interesting So back to my dad again So my dad was always the one that wanted me to be really resilient so he said I wanted to toughen you up because I think he felt that you know he had to be tough in the world to succeed And so I’ve always been pretty independent Went to uni at 17 lived away from home went overseas and that sort of thing and so yeah being independent’s just the way I’ve been brought up But you know I think I’ve realized that one of the reasons I do it is actually because I wanted to prove to my family that I was good enough as well which is something that you know sometimes you feel quite insecure about certain things And I do these things because actually I wanted the I guess praise by my parents even though they often tell me Oh you shouldn’t do these things Like my dad will always say Look why are you doing this cultural diversity things No one will respect you but on the other hand he comes back to me and says Well you know he cheers He’s and tells his friends that this is really good So I actually think we have to remember that your family’s always there They always are the ones who’ll assess you and they’ll often be very very negative to your face but they’re also the ones that’ll be there for you no matter what happens in your life And so I think you know we shouldn’t forget our families They’ll always be there to cheer us on

[00:08:02] Jeffery Wang: Yeah You To me it sounds like your family is just a very you know your dad’s a very typical Asian dad You know high expectation Nothing’s ever good enough You know they want you to not talk to any boys But then you know as soon as you graduate from university they want you to be married the day after Mm-hmm That’s the kind of life that you see you know a lot of Asian people have to contend with And it sounds like what you’re saying is that despite you know many protestations on you know potentially on criticisms that they have of you Ultimately they want the best of you and that you should continue with your endeavours You know because you do make your dad proud Yeah

[00:08:42] Karen Loon: yeah No it’s very funny when you always hear the friends coming back with the comments so Yeah You realize actually, you’re not so bad so it it’s been an interesting learning for me Mm-hmm

[00:08:52] Jeffery Wang: I wonder how much of it is just a cultural thing where Asian parents just find it difficult to be direct with their compliments or even expressions of love You know How often do you hear I love you from your parents and how much of that is overcoming that inability to openly communicate and I suppose you know as People who travel the world a bit You know you kind of be exposed to different cultures where you can choose to you know adopt a different way of expressing yourself

[00:09:25] Karen Loon: Yeah No and it’s interesting being you know fourth generation Asian Australian we’re not the most talkative about you know how we feel so that going back to the some of the other comments earlier about family shaping us I think it is something that we actually you know bring through from different generations from our family

[00:09:42] Jeffery Wang: Oh I find that absolutely intriguing actually that comment because I’d imagine being fourth generation Asian Australian you would have so many so much interactions with Australians that you know the cultural element would’ve rubbed off on your family And yet four generations on so much of what was a typical Asian culture was still maintained within your family How do you explain that

[00:10:10] Karen Loon: I don’t know It’s a tough one I think it’s just you know there are certain I actually think it’s possibly because my family lived through the White Australia policy and so they family was always there to support them And so those family values were passed on because they thought that was important and they sort of stuck together so I find it an interesting concept I have some very Australian aspects as well about food which we’ll talk about later And you know my family don’t have three generation families but you know certain values definitely I think are from Asia Yeah

[00:10:47] Lesson 3:      Our future is shaped by our past

[00:10:47] Jeffery Wang: Well, speaking of generations you’re lesson number three says Our future is shaped by our past Sounds like a bit of a story there

[00:10:57] Karen Loon: So it’s an interesting topic after these days getting asked a lot of questions like you know what did you do Were you know when you wanted to when you left uni and that sort of thing And honestly I had no idea what I wanted to do so I just drifted into roles I worked with teams I had some really great opportunities and but if there were things I didn’t like Decided no maybe I’ll just go off and do something else.

[00:11:20] So I’ve actually realized when I went back to study that actually a lot of what we do is shaped by our earlier roles in systems So what I do at work was often shaped by the roles and the things I Like doing in my family and then what I did at school And then if I like it then I try and find those things and the other thing is that we often when we go to work look for things that help us feel better because of the anxieties in our childhoods So we often look for certain things I think I I reflected on some of those things earlier. So, we want to join companies because of our self-esteem So I’ve actually realized that Everything we do and things we look for is shaped by what we did in the past which I think is a very very powerful thing to understand particularly when we’re trying to understand what things like we’d like to do in future jobs

[00:12:09] Jeffery Wang: Yeah This sounds like a bit of a psychological conversation isn’t it So you know people have a chip on their shoulders because of you know potentially things that they carry from their childhoods and that you mentioned before that you’re always trying to do something that you believe will impress your parents so knowing that insight what can you do with that information What do you do knowing that you know you’re so much of you is shaped by what happened to you in the past

[00:12:39] Karen Loon: Yeah, I think it’s useful to Reflect on because like in my case I actually realized that I like a lot of limelight in certain cases. And this there was a whole concept of stars actually you know I had a I was in a newspaper article when I was seven and it said Karen is a star And I did some exercises later and I realized that I actually wanted appreciation and being like a star but one of the things I’ve realized is from some of those exercises The lens I also use tends to focus on some of these things when I look at examples of observing things and that sort of thing So to me what I think I learned from a lot of this is that you are shaped by your roles but also the way you look at things also is shaped by that as well which is a slightly different angle. And being aware of that some of these you know perspectives can actually help you be a lot more wise when you’re looking at situations and trying to understand what’s going

[00:13:40] Jeffery Wang: Hmm indeed Now you are the second Asian Australian woman that I’ve interviewed, And I’ve noticed it’s a bit of a theme that you are very introspective in terms of you know understanding your psychology So potentially we’re onto something here.

[00:13:55] Lesson 4:      If you’re not networking, You’re not working

[00:13:55] Jeffery Wang: but no lesson number four It takes a little bit of a different bend, and it sounds like great career advice, and you said in lesson number four if you’re not networking, you’re not working What do you mean by that?

[00:14:09] Karen Loon: Yeah so Like a lot of kids who grow up and study hard you know had the pressure of the parents I did also experience some setbacks you know when I was a little bit more junior at pwc I you know did really well So I got early promotions but then eventually I hit a ceiling I was told that my soft skills weren’t so good. Then I was also having another incident when I was going for partnership in Singapore, and I had so much work was working working working and I was being put up for partnership and I didn’t get through. And so, the feedback I got was actually the people didn’t know you. They didn’t know you as a person They knew your work but didn’t know you as a person and so one of the things I’ve realized and I still have to remember this myself is that often you know we do perform in ways that are shaped by what we thought was working in the past which we’ve talked about but actually as we get older we actually need to build and continue to build our networks cuz that’s so important at work and so I’ve learned it’s not the technical things that you know it’s actually who you know as well and so that’s so important whether it’s your career sponsors whether it’s your mentors and that sort of thing

[00:15:21] Jeffery Wang: Well there are two aspects of that I like to dig into a little bit So number one is the idea that when you’re working you should be working you know networking sounds like you’re making friends you’re having fun you know when you’re having fun you can’t possibly be working Especially that’s kind I feel like that’s a bit of a mentality A lot of Asian Australians do have what do you say to that sort of thinking

[00:15:42] Karen Loon: Mm-hmm I guess when I’m saying networking we’re saying broad networks and I think there’s people need to understand there’s different types of networks whether it’s sponsors or mentors or others So I guess what I’m saying here is that you need a lot of different people to help you during your career because Actually we’re talking about leadership. Leadership is all about leading others and having followers But to learn how to be a leader you probably need others to help you so it’s actually recognizing that you just can’t be doing the job. If you want to be actually able to succeed and go into leadership, you need the help of others

[00:16:16] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely And it’s the second part of that And you said a keyword there that you lack the soft skills And then the second part you said that people didn’t know who you were as a person And I know there’s is very typical of a lot of especially people of Asian backgrounds that we tend to be very reserved We don’t let Personality out And a lot of that is just because that’s the way we’re taught You know we have this assumption that we it’s not professional for people to you know to act out their personalities So what have you learned in your in the process of you know making partner about how to let other people know who you are as a person and what is the ultimate point of knowing you as a person

[00:16:57] Karen Loon: So it’s interesting that that feedback was actually when I was in Singapore So I think it’s also a combination of who you are as well so that the people in Singapore didn’t know me But you know people want to you know they don’t just want to be transactional and do work with you They actually want to know whether they can trust you And a lot so much of work is actually around trust Can I trust that this person’s going to do the right thing if I actually engage them as a client or they come a colleague And so Only when you really let that guard down and you talk about you know whatever it’s your food or whatever and they get to know as a person then you they can really go Okay yeah I think I can get this person so I think it’s moving beyond transactions

[00:17:37] Jeffery Wang: indeed, And if a person is guarded around you to you know let you into their lives you know there may be something he’s holding back or she’s holding back and that’s not a not necessarily a good way to build trust Yeah so that that makes a very good point

[00:17:52] Lesson 5:      Imposter syndrome is normal

[00:17:52] Jeffery Wang: And speaking of that lesson number five and I’m sure this is a very common lesson imposter syndrome is normal

[00:18:00] Karen Loon: Mm

[00:18:02] Jeffery Wang: now start with what imposter syndrome is.

[00:18:04] Karen Loon: Yeah So imposter syndrome is situation a situations where you feel really uncomfortable Being like a fraud That’s somehow where some people describe it And so basically for my situation I think the biggest challenge I experienced becoming a leader was when I took on a big client role So it was about 10 years ago and I was the first female to take on this role all the people who’d taken on were male and probably 10 years older One was a quite an autocratic Chinese leader The other one was Caucasian So I didn’t fit the mold and I looked really young And so I remember going along to sit in the boardroom I had to make myself look a lot older because I also look really young and I actually really felt pretty intimidated And it was also the situation where I explained earlier where I also had the CEO who was also quite sometimes aggressive so it didn’t help But one of the things I realized so I was doing my research for my book I realized that being an imposter or feeling like an imposter is actually pretty normal Everyone goes through these periods of time particularly when you’re trying to learn to become a leader because in a way you’re acting and trying to behave in a certain way and it feels really really uncomfortable. But it’s actually one of those things that if you get over some of these feelings and you think Okay, I’ve learned this is okay I can do this then you’ll actually be a better person And so yeah, it’s a normal part of learning

[00:19:30] Jeffery Wang: So is the lesson you just got to accept that when you start you are going to feel like an imposter You know just knowing that is good enough or you know or is it a case of you know just take your time you will grow into the role that you’re trying to play

[00:19:49] Karen Loon: I think it’s probably a combination I think if I think about it maybe we probably feel like imposters as adults but I was thinking earlier on when I was writing my book when we’re kids we don’t we are not scared we try lots of things out and we make mistakes but it’s okay But I think sometimes when it’s adults we get scared and get worried And so actually one of the questions possibly is to try and think about well why do I feel worried What’s actually holding me back and maybe if you actually reflect on that a little bit more then you may be able to deal with these things a little better

[00:20:24] Affiliate Break

[00:20:24] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely Let’s take a quick break here We like to thank our affiliate partner Audible. Audible It’s an amazing way to consume 10 lessons learned books and other podcasts. Allowing you to build a library of knowledge in all-in-one place You can start your 30-day free trial by going to audible trial.com/10lessonslearned with Audible you can find your favourite lesson while at home or on the go. Once again that’s audible trial.com/10lessonslearned or lowercase for a 30-day free trial. The link will be in the show notes

[00:20:59] Lesson 6:      Don’t be scared to look in the mirror

[00:20:59] Jeffery Wang: And we’re back here with Karen Loon. Lesson number six Don’t be scared to look in the mirror Now why would you be scared looking in the mirror

[00:21:08] Karen Loon: you might think something horrible

[00:21:09] No I guess when I was thinking about this one of the things I never used to like at all was getting feedback at work or feedback at school or getting those reports because you always were scared that you were being criticized And you know sometimes particularly you get more senior if you didn’t trust the feedback you know you could be politically motivated or something like that But I learned more recently that feedback can be extremely positive So in my program at INSEAD we actually did a couple of things we did we got 720 degree feedback So most people know of 360 degree feedback where you get feedback from your bosses your staff and your peers in this case there was 720 degree feedback So you also Feedback from your family which was actually really invaluable and actually was probably the more interesting and the most more accurate feedback about who you are And then the other thing I did is something called role biographies So it’s something I spoke about a bit earlier it is a tool where you actually learn about yourself and your roles and I found out so much about myself If it can also be done in groups so not just one on one but actually when you all talk about it in a small group it actually can be more effective because people see things that you don’t see and I guess that’s the main thing. Often you don’t see your own faults but different lenses of you or how you behave or how people feel you are how you are and so From that feedback I guess I’m a lot more aware of how people think of me how they feel about me, and I think it makes me hopefully a better leader and a better person

[00:22:52] Jeffery Wang: Sure, But so it’s all easy to say just embrace that feedback How did you overcome that fear of negative feedback

[00:23:01] Karen Loon: I think I probably will always have it but I think you know if you get used to it and then you try to use that feedback yourself and then you maybe go back and see how you know you’ve gone I think you know it can be this positive sort of learning cycle as well. And so, you know I think often we avoid it but actually that may be something that leads to problems later on. So my suggestion is really to embrace it

[00:23:28] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely And it’s all just part of growing up right I think as when we’re younger we’re fearful of rejection

[00:23:34] Karen Loon: Mm-hmm

[00:23:35] Jeffery Wang: and negative feedback and as such But the more you have it the more you realize you grow stronger and the more you build that resistance and tolerance to it So yeah absolutely Great advice embracing feedback

[00:23:48] good or bad

[00:23:49] Lesson 7:      Embrace negative capability

[00:23:49] Jeffery Wang: Lesson number seven embrace negative capability I don’t know what negative care capability means Can you help

[00:23:56] Karen Loon: Yeah, no and I hadn’t heard about it until you know more recently but it’s a really interesting idea. So I was actually coined by the poet John Keets and he referred to the ability to live with and tolerate paradox and to contain So we’re seeing paradox We’re talking about being able to manage two different things like We talk about work life balance you know actually it’s like a bit of a seesaw and so negative capability is really about the ability to not do something and being patient and having poise So in my case I tend to be quite impulsive so you know when someone asks me to do something I’ll do it straight away which I think is really good at certain in certain types of jobs and was really important in Singapore cause clients are really demanding but actually I’ve realized that having those gut reactions and just doing things without necessarily reflect And analysing situations both the rational side so the facts but also you know what’s also happening may not actually lead to the right decisions And it’s really important for me now cause I’m a non-executive director So around the boardroom table we’re dealing with a lot of complex issues for which there’s often no right or wrong answer so really you know I’ve I’m getting more used to this importance of negative capability and just being comfortable being uncomfortable and not reacting straight away and just really trying to think and sleep over you know tricky tricky ideas some people I spoke to are really good at this so they write journals. They actually if they’ve got complex issues, they try to write a journal reflect on these things and go back on it And some other people I know use meditation so it’s definitely something I think for all people is particularly as they get more senior that they should think about

[00:25:44] Jeffery Wang: And certainly, in the tricky situations you know sometimes acting too quickly or impulsively tends to make things worse, so I agree with that

[00:25:52] Lesson 8:      Invest in ‘me’ time

[00:25:52] Jeffery Wang: lesson number eight Invest in me time

[00:25:55] Karen Loon: Mm-hmm So probably very typical of someone who graduated in the nineties All I wanted to do was start work earning money you know travel overseas and all those things But I realized one of the things is that once you start work it’s like this treadmill and you run and run and run and you can’t get off. And it was really probably only about 10 years ago I had an opportunity at work to have a bit of a break They You know you have some downtime get yourself ready met my husband you know got to do some fun things And so now in my older age I’ve actually realized you do need downtime because careers are really long And you know if you don’t have these breaks you know you’ll have health problems You’ll get too stressed you won’t learn how to become a better person and that sort of thing And so I’d such say you know invest in in me time

[00:26:44] Jeffery Wang: Hmm And I like the way you use the word invest

[00:26:47] Karen Loon: Mm

[00:26:47] Jeffery Wang: because there is a return to spending time with yourself or spending time on yourself

[00:26:53] so thanks for that

[00:26:55] Lesson 9: Stay hungry, stay foolish

[00:26:55] Jeffery Wang: lesson number nine and I’ve heard this one before by Steve Jobs you say stay hungry stay foolish

[00:27:03] Karen Loon: Yeah, So you know I think careers are really long So when I think about my career, I started it as in audit and we didn’t even have personal computers We basically had a pencil piece of paper and a calculator

[00:27:17] Jeffery Wang: Whoa whoa You’re giving away your age Yeah

[00:27:20] Karen Loon: You know so you can probably tell my age here So you know now the most of the things that you would do in that area now you can do on an iPad And so careers are so long and so I think one of the things is you just really have to continue to learn you know not just the technical stuff not just the soft skill stuff but just really try things out because what you’ve learned at schools not necessarily going to cut it these days Yeah

[00:27:43] Jeffery Wang: but is it just about careers though I mean you know clearly as the world change and the speed of change has picked up you know it’s not just about staying relevant in the workplace it’s about staying relevant in life, isn’t it?

[00:27:56] Karen Loon: Oh, definite definitely Yeah

[00:27:59] Jeffery Wang: All right well before I get to lesson number 10 I’m going to throw you a bit of a curve ball here Karen So what is something that you have unlearned And what I mean by that is something that you held to be ironclads truth when you’re starting out in your career in you know in your twenties that you learned letter learned in life through you know you know the hard way that it just wasn’t the case

[00:28:22] Karen Loon: Well, that’s a really tough question I always used to question Some of the things my parents did my parents actually worked really hard So we’re talking about these patterns of work my parents ran their own business my dad started his business at 21 and retired. Retired or stopped that in his forties And I used to wonder why I used to think Well you know surely you want to keep working keep yourself relevant But You know you can probably see that pattern coming through in a lot of what I’ve said is actually I’ve realized that you know my parents were probably right You don’t if you keep working too hard you know something will give And so you know I’ve actually learned my dad’s probably a lot wiser than I have gave him credit for when I was 20 So that’s probably the main thing

[00:29:11] Jeffery Wang: So, don’t you’re not a machine don’t just keep working You’ve got to take your breaks Yeah

[00:29:16] Karen Loon: Yeah definitely

[00:29:17] Lesson 10:    The best way to bond is over food

[00:29:17] Jeffery Wang: Excellent Well the last and my favourite lesson not because I love food Oh actually yes, it is because I love food The best way to bond is over food

[00:29:27] Karen Loon: Yeah, Yeah So, these days one of the things that my husband and I love is we’re foodies And it’s interesting because I grew up in Australia and unlike most Asian Australians, I grew up in a diet of white bread vegemite sandwiches and meat pies which is pretty disgusting But

[00:29:43] Jeffery Wang: but oh look 20 years ago or maybe even maybe 30 years ago I would’ve said Oh lucky you but it’s a different time now I think it would say Oh may you know Sorry to hear that that

[00:29:57] Karen Loon: No. Anyway but yeah no I went to Singapore and obviously the food’s very different there And then when you travel I used to travel a lot in the region so you realize that the you know especially when you’re in environments where you’re under pressure and you work hard the best way to get to know people And get to know their cultures over food So you know whether it’s you know Kaiseki meals in Japan or whether it’s you know who knows what in in other countries they’re just amazing things and so today my husband and I built we actually pick our holidays a Based on food destinations not the other way around And the first thing we do when we get to countries is we actually pick the restaurants we want to eat and then we decide what we want to do but it’s most amazing way to get to you know learn about new things learn about new cultures and you know meet people that you normally wouldn’t meet Because if you know start you know build up relationships strike conversations with foodies you know they’re often people you’d never deal with and so I’d say just bond over food because it’s just so much fun

[00:31:00] Jeffery Wang: because everyone eats

[00:31:01] Karen Loon: has to eat

[00:31:02] Jeffery Wang: Yeah, Well everyone I think almost everyone loves food and certainly you know I like the idea of meeting new people or trying out new things but is it necessarily does it necessarily have to be you know new kind of food Can it be just the same kind of food as what you always liked

[00:31:20] Karen Loon: it can be both I mean new food I think is great to find out about new ideas but you know there’s also a whole lot of comfort you get from familiar foods as well Yeah So you know to me family and friends is often comfortable food but trying new things out particularly if you ever go to Singapore where it has a which has a really great food scene I think is great too

[00:31:43] Jeffery Wang: And you just made me hungry well thank you so much for sharing your wisdom Karen and certainly you know I’ve learned a bit about your life and how you came to be the person that you are today and really appreciate the lessons that you’ve shared.

[00:32:00] And we’ll finish on that you’ve been listening to the podcast 10 Lessons Learned where we dispense wisdom for career business and life Our guest today has been Karen Loon sharing the 10 lessons It took her years to learn this episode is produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum Don’t forget to leave us a review or comment You can even email us at podcast 10 lessons learn.com That’s podcast number one zero lessons learn.com Go ahead and hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of the only podcast that make the world a little wiser Lesson by lesson Thanks for listening and stay safe.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 

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