WLI Interview with Margaret Lee of Young Woo & Associates

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The ULI Women’s Leadership Initiative recently spoke to Margaret Lee of Young Woo & Associates about leadership lessons, collaboration and the company dog.

What is your first rule of business?
Most of the projects in our company is geared toward being “one step ahead of the norm.” We usually like to go to an area that has the potential to grow but is not there yet. And we try to incorporate design ideas and/or “use” ideas that are innovative – like the “sky garage” condo. We try to create the highest value by not doing just one thing really well but being creative with each project. Therefore, we try to encourage our employees to think creatively – to think outside the box. What is the first thing you want when you enter the office in the morning? When people walk into an office, usually they can feel the vibe of that office. It’s important that people get along well and the chemistry is there – you work hard but you have to also have fun.

What are leadership lessons you would like to pass along?
I once heard of a very famous baseball player who said in an interview that when he goes to bat, he will remove himself from his body and sit with the audience to see himself batting. I often think about what he said because people get so involved with what they are doing that they often lose the overall goal – the bigger perspective. I often say “take a few steps back and look at the entire picture – then think about the details of how to solve them.”

How do you encourage people to work together towards a common goal?
For several years we had a Tai Chi master come into our office every Friday morning to teach us Tai Chi. It was a good activity that everyone could participate and brought people together in a calming atmosphere. It helped us to see one another in a different setting which brought us closer together. First they have to believe in the goal. Then everything will falls in place.

When were you the most happy in your career and why?
When we jointly decided to get a company dog. We even named the dog “Hudson” after the Street where our office is located. But then no-one helped take care of it so I had to bring it home.

What do you feel is most over-rated in the workplace? What is lacking?
More people should like (or learn to like) what they do. It will show in the work product.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
My father who is the most diligent and honest man that I know.

What is the best book you’ve read?
The Tao of Pooh. It taught me about the complexity of life in a most simple and refreshing way.

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