Ulysses Wong, Co-Founder & CEO
When I began my position as a first time CEO of a global high-tech manufacturing and engineering company, there was so much I did not know but prioritized to fix immediately: production processes, money losing sites, proper alignment of teams and leaders – to name a few. In fact, the global problems got worse before they got better. We were further faced with turnover at leadership positions, ineffective teamwork with key groups, and an unhappy set of employees being asked to move locations. With a daunting to-do list of severe problems, I had a desperate need for much more direct feedback and input to me, and for authentic feedback – unfiltered, honest, raw. To understand the real problems (process, people, situations) individuals and teams were facing, to listen to all ideas, and to amass all possible solutions. We had numerous subject matter experts we could tap into. I needed to hear the voices of the full breadth and depth of my global team. I felt I needed to eliminate blind spots, not just for me, but for the good of the company. When we receive this type of feedback, we solve more problems, we act with speed, we innovate, we continuously improve our business, and we build a safer and more inclusive culture. But guess what happened? I realized that because of the title of my position, it was uncomfortable if not impossible for employees to give me their full, honest feedback and opinions. Even with numerous roundtable meetings at every global location with all levels of employees, and one-on-one skip level meetings, I was unable to garner the authentic feedback, ideas, and input I craved. If we were able to easily gather suggestions and observations from all our knowledge experts of our complex business from 5 countries across the world, we would have saved invaluable time, money, and energy.
Just as critical as my company leader perspective, is my truth as a person of color – in the workplace, in the world. My world growing up was bi-cultural, a Chinese household in America. I was code-switching between languages and cultures on a daily basis. My immigrant parents tried to buy our first family home in the 1960s, only to be told by the real estate agent the sellers will not sell their home to a Chinese family. This occurred after the Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959, a piece of California legislation that specifically outlaws discrimination. (The real groundbreaking legislation, however, was the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which was established one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr). Fifteen years later, my parents were able to buy an apartment building, and rent to Section 8 (low income) folks. It wasn’t until my adult years that I realized I have been the subject of microaggressions. Frankly, I have been blind to it. Only now am I awakening, becoming more aware through dialogue and reading. But mostly with the help of my wife, who is bi-racial, I now hear and see acute instances of microaggressions, diminishment, inequity, and discrimination, and exclusion rather than inclusion that she, I, and others face. I am working on greater awareness and empathy so I can quickly spot these on my own. As I learn more about inequities, coupled with my experienced as an organization leader, I realize we have a critical humanity challenge to solve. Now is the time for us to address equity, diversity, and inclusion – with more than just words. We need to take action and not be complicit. When I am complicit, I am part of the problem.
My experiences as a first time CEO, and life events as a person of color have formed me to where I am. Given the acceleration of remote workers, and long overdue focus now on racial justice and equity, this is our turning point moment. Communication has never been more vital. Authentic communication – which often can be uncomfortable. Effective communication, striving for clarity and understanding. Employees’ voices need to be heard. So that we all continuously learn, improve, and nurture our community.
I want to make blind spots visible to leaders who make decisions for the well-being of people so that we can humanize the workplace and our community. This is why I jumped into AnonyMoose. To help create better leaders, and most importantly to provide voice for all.