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AHR Expo Leadership Discussions

AHR Expo Council Member Karine Leblanc Chats with Jun Yang of Building Networks Group

Karine Leblanc
Karine Leblanc

AHR Expo Expert Council Member Karine Leblanc is connecting with members of the HVACR Industry to dive into the dynamics of leadership and better understand personal approaches to finding success. In a series of discussions, Karine talks leadership amidst a global pandemic, the realization of defining moments, qualities and habits and much more.

In this edition, Karine connects with Jun Yang, PE, LEED AP, and Founder and Managing Principal at Building Networks Group in Long Beach, California.

Let’s start by learning a bit about you. Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Where is your business located? Tell us something that not a lot of people know about you.

I was born in South Korea. The business [Building Networks Group] is headquartered in Long Beach, California. Folks in my generation were called the 1.5 generation, meaning we weren’t quite 1st generation but we were also not quite 2nd generation. It also meant we had a tremendous role bridging two different cultures, one from our country of origin and the American culture we grew up in.

Jun Yang
Jun Yang

Let’s talk about your career for a bit. Are there any defining moments in your career that you can recall? How about specific instances that urged you to make pivotal decisions? How did it transform the way you think in business?

As a young project manager, I was involved in a large capital decision by a client. The client made a decision that went against my recommendation. When the project took a turn for the worse, I remember the following discussion:

Him: Whose decision was this? (insinuating my decision was a mistake)
Me: Yours.
Him: Prove it!
Me: OK.

I recall sending him the email with my original recommendation. I proved him wrong! But… I was not right. It was the last time that client hired me. I learned two important lessons: 1 – Sometimes when you’re not wrong, you’re not right. 2 – Our clients are not experts in our field. That is our job. So we need to shepherd our clients to make sure they don’t make the wrong decisions, sometimes despite their own efforts and opinions. Remembering those two lessons has helped me grow with my clients tremendously.

Talent alone is not enough to enable us to reach our full potential. To be a successful leader such as yourself, you have to bring more than just talent. Can you share what it was that motivated you to meet your potential?

To be in a position of leadership is to be constantly criticized and it is easy to lose motivation. As difficult as it is, I celebrate criticism (whether given constructively or not)! You read that right… I CELEBRATE criticism. It doesn’t mean I like it. It means I welcome it as an opportunity to improve myself beyond what I sometimes think is my own limit. When you look at criticism that way, it is impossible not to exceed your own expectations of your potential.

There is a lot of talk in leadership about time management. With the understanding that we all get the same amount of hours per day, how do you manage this yourself?

I was born with a gift of being horrible with time management (not really a gift). To be good with time management, in my opinion, it requires discipline and the ability to multitask (very related if not the same thing). There are too many things in a day that can cause distraction. So, the only way to overcome distraction is discipline. Multitasking is having the discipline to look at what you have on your plate, prioritize, execute, and repeat. Sometimes you focus on the low hanging fruit (easy things to finish) so you can focus on the more difficult tasks after. Too many people think multitasking is doing lots of things at once. This usually just leads to lots of things not getting done in a timely fashion and results in a waste of time. Prioritize, execute, repeat.

Successful people don’t reach their potential by accident. What is your secret to success? Is it something you do daily? What do you think the biggest driver in your success is?

So… (true story)… I googled “secret to your success”. The resultant link said, “the secret to your success is who you marry.” So… I’d have to say, that’s what Google says, so it has to be true. All kidding aside, this is true. My wife is one of my biggest drivers to success. I get tired. I try to give up. Having strong support helps you get up when you’re down, to try harder when you’ve tried your hardest and that goes a long way towards reaching success.

Leaders distinguish their success during tough times. What advice do you have to offer during a crisis, such as the current situation with COVID-19, where tough calls have to be made? What are some practices that you use?

Rely on luck. There’s a saying I learned once that I try to live by. “Luck favors the prepared.” So really, I’m saying be prepared. Have optimistic outcomes, but prepare for the worst. When you survive, your “luck” will have pulled you through.

What are the obstacles and challenges that you face as a leader? Are there areas that you feel
you are still working on?

The biggest challenge [for me] is understanding the incoming culture of those entering the workforce. Each generation of workforce entrants comes with different ways of communicating, operating, and being. This is what you (Karine) would call EQ [Emotional Intelligence]. I think it’s a challenge for most leaders, but it is especially true of engineers.

What is the best leadership advice you have received from someone?

It has been said many different ways many times: It is the small things that matter.

In your opinion, what is the “secret sauce” that younger engineers or managers miss in leadership?

This answer may be controversial, but I think we have to understand that while we all start out equal in our professions, as we move through the ranks we should be recognized according to what is earned and deserved.

Crystal ball: What does YOUR personal next level of success look like in your position as a leader?

My leadership capabilities will 100% be tested to the limits as I navigate fatherhood! Currently, I’m failing as my baby, Harper, has me completely wrapped around her finger. 🙂

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