“Know when to let things go”, With Lulu Liang and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

I would love to inspire people to gain a deep curiosity and passion for learning. The education system is broken. We can’t just be students in our youth through formal education but must be students of life day to day. The world is changing so fast that you learn in school now will soon be […]

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I would love to inspire people to gain a deep curiosity and passion for learning. The education system is broken. We can’t just be students in our youth through formal education but must be students of life day to day. The world is changing so fast that you learn in school now will soon be irrelevant. Instead, you must learn the curiosity and hunger for continuous learning. I started reading a book a week 4 years ago and that has been now one of my most life-changing and profound habits.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lulu Liang.

As a business executive who believes in taking full ownership of one’s career, and embraces the power of committing to infinite learning and personal and professional growth, Lulu Liang has built a stellar track record well before the age of 30.

Currently, the CEO of Luxy Hair, a brand she helped build to 300K+ customers in 165+ countries, with four million+ engaged followers on social media, Liang is proud of her “humble” roots at the company. Starting out at age 23 as an assistant, Liang was determined to excel at every task that was handed to her, and quickly rose through the ranks. From the very beginning, she dug in and established the habit of bringing her bosses solutions to the business challenges they faced and embraced the company as her own from day one.

Obsessed with “people and processes,” Liang developed and streamlined many of the operations that moved Luxy to the forefront of the hair extensions market. Growing her team from two to 20, Liang also established a major presence for Luxy among leading fashion and beauty publications as well as an A-list celebrity clientele that includes Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian West, Hailey Bieber and many others.

On Liang’s watch, Luxy has been named one of the Top 50 Best Places to work in Canada, and is also a certified Great Place to Work for Millennials, Inclusion, Retail and Managed by Women. Business has more than quadrupled under her leadership, and Liang recently led the successful sale of the company to Beauty Industry Group (BIG), a U.S. beauty conglomerate. Staying on as CEO, she works closely with BIG to ensure Luxy continues to serve its customer base and maintains its high-profile.

Prior to Luxy Hair, Liang was a Management Consultant at Accenture, tasked with strategy for numerous Fortune 100 Tech Companies and retailers.

A native of Beijing who moved to Toronto at age seven, Liang holds a degree in Commerce and Mathematics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, graduating in the top 10% of her class. An avid traveler, she resides in Toronto.

Lulu is also the co-founder of ​Evergreen Journals Inc​, a ​ Toronto-based lifestyle company that creates tools to help you live mindfully. Its first product, the Habit Journal, is a daily journal that helps you tune in, unplug, and recharge by providing tangible tips and strategies to make your best habits the ones you do daily. The Habit Journal was conceptualized from Lulu’s personal experience of stress and anxiety during what was supposed to be the happiest time in her life. It was through daily rituals and journaling that Lulu was able to live life more intentionally while understanding the importance of habits. The Habit Journal helps you make intentional habits so that you get the most of your habits, and puts pen to paper on how to visualize your goals.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I grew up in China in a stereotypical Asian household where education and hard work were core values. My dream was to work in the corporate world as a Management Consultant and get an Ivy League MBA. After years of hard work, I was crushed when I realized that I was absolutely miserable when I finally got there. I discovered Luxy in my quarter life crisis and quit my fancy corporate consulting job and took a paycut to take a bet on a start up.

I treated the company like it was my own from day one and worked hard so I could prove myself and grow the business fast. That was a little over four years ago. Fast forward to now, I have grown the team from 2 to 20, quadrupled the revenue of an already significant multi-million dollar business, made Luxy Hair one of the best places to work in Canada, led the successful sale of the business, and currently remain as CEO leading the growth of the brand.

Despite all these accomplishments, I still found myself more anxious than ever. What was the point of setting and achieving all these goals if I wasn’t feeling good moment to moment? That’s when I realized that your life is not defined by your highlights. These moments may make up a couple of days combined of the 365 days that make up your year. Your life is defined by everything in between; it’s truly about the journey and not the destination. Your ideal life is driven by your ideal day and that is made up of your habits.

This realization gave birth to the Habit Journal and Evergreen Journals which I am the Co-Founder of. The Habit Journal is a proven system to help you make your best habits the ones you do daily. It has truly helped me build lasting habits, live intentionally, and overall be happier and more at peace than ever before.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Luxy Hair is built by a great team and culture first and foremost. What we have as a team is truly special. Besides that, we have a huge media presence as the largest CPG brand on YouTube and a great blog that gets over 500K visitors per month. Also we are the highest rated hair extensions brand worldwide with our amazing curated products and amazing customer experience.

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

We should avoid giving our team last minute requests and “fires” as much as possible. Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable but if it can be avoided, it should be avoided. Not only does it cause burnout and bad morale, you also get mediocre work. Be proactive and not reactive. Think ahead and make work back plans. Everytime when a fire happens, create a process to improve this proactively next time.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is taking initiative, ownership and doing the emotional labour to set the path forward. You do not have to manage people to be a leader but you do have to have vision and inspire. A linchpin (a concept from Seth Godin’s book which describes someone who is indispensable in an organization) is also a leader.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

I take a bubble bath almost every night with epsom salt and it melts away all the stress and relaxes my body. I also swear by Saje’s Peppermint Halo and roll it on wherever I feel my body tense throughout the day. I’ve bought dozens of refills and am probably one of their best customers!

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

I lead a team of 20 and have 7 direct reports. “Transparency and Feedback” is one of our core values as a company and we are a very values driven company. I can guarantee that we are in the uppermost percentile of company cultures in terms of how much feedback we give and receive. We believe in having hard conversations right away before it bubbles up to be a big problem.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Feedback is a very crucial part of leadership. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are providing clear expectations. If your team is not meeting your expectations in any way and you are not telling them this/making your expectations here, then it’s not their fault but yours. If you don’t give feedback, you aren’t even giving your team a chance to improve and prove themselves.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

This is one of the toughest parts of my job and I’m sure other leaders can relate. I’m still learning and getting better at this every day. Here are my top 5 tips at the moment:

  1. Always give constructive feedback in person/video vs. a Slack/email. Tone is really hard to pick up via writing and this can lead to a lot of miscommunication and people taking things the wrong way.
  2. Ask first for your team to tell you their expectations for you. Every relationship is a two way street and takes both parties to work on it. Commit realistically to what you can and can’t do and then share your expectations with the team. This levels out the playing field and makes the feedback more palatable.
  3. Balance out the constructive with the positive and start and end with the positive. Always give constructive feedback privately and positive feedback publicly.
  4. To be a good leader of people you have to genuinely care about people. You can not fake this which is why not everybody is meant to be managers. When you genuinely care about people development, your team will sense this which makes giving the feedback easier. Stress that you are giving this feedback because you care about their development and them and be kind.
  5. Know when to let things go. Feedback is important but it’s also important to not nitpick on every single thing. When someone makes a clear mistake, they are usually already feeling terrible about it and will work hard to improve immediately. There is no good in making them feel worse in these cases.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

I would try to avoid this altogether. Written constructive feedback should be used for technical and specific feedback related to the actual work itself. Whenever it’s an attitude, behaviour, communication style or anything more broad/reoccurring, it should be done live in person, via a video call or at the very least via a phone call.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals?

Timing definitely matters. You can tell when someone is already going through a lot and having a bad day. Don’t give feedback then. Otherwise,It’s best to give feedback right away whenever possible. You will have a tangible example to tie it back to which really helps conceptualize otherwise what may sometimes be vague feedback.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

Being a great boss to me means having high standards for your team and yourself but being empathetic, approachable and human at the same time. You help your team to develop and empower them to achieve more than they ever thought they could achieve. You keep your team accountable and the team running but yet deeply care and want the best for them both personally and professionally.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire people to gain a deep curiosity and passion for learning. The education system is broken. We can’t just be students in our youth through formal education but must be students of life day to day. The world is changing so fast that you learn in school now will soon be irrelevant. Instead, you must learn the curiosity and hunger for continuous learning. I started reading a book a week 4 years ago and that has been now one of my most life-changing and profound habits.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The concept of “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life” is one that has changed my life the most. I used to complain a lot, play victim and make a lot of excuses for why things didn’t go the way I wanted in my life. People tend to always complain about other people, events and what they can’t control. Let those go and instead focus on what you can control. Every outcome is the result of an event and a reaction. You can always control your reaction and that’s your superpower. Focus on that; that’s where the magic lies.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best way to follow would be through my Instagram @lululiang and my website www.lululiang.com.

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