The highest insult at workplace


I wrote and posted this one today while at work.

1. Unappreciative of Efforts
2. Lack Recognition and Respect
3. Constant Criticism
4. Expect Employees to Be Like Them
5. Hypocrisy
6. Delegate Too Much – or Not Enough
7. Micromanagement
8. Manipulative
9. Don’t Value Employees

What an awful list! Two years ago when I read Glenn Lopis’ article “9 Ways Leaders Insult Their Employees,” I thought who, in his/her right mind, would do these to his/er employees, like hypocrisy, manipulative? Get real! Not in my wildest dreams!

I have seen micromanagement. It is called super responsibility in my vocabulary. I have no complaint about it as long as the manager takes responsibility for whatever under his micro.

Many of the items in the list look like the same thing to me, like appreciation, recognition, respect and value. Of course, appreciation and recognition encourage people to keep doing what they have done. But what difference does it make if you are paid adequately? We are old enough not to crave for recognition, and we won’t do a shoddy job even if we are not duly appreciated. Respect? It would be nice if you are truly respected. But how do you know it’s genuine or not? I can live without it. What matters most is you are treated legally, that is, without any form of discrimination.

To me, the highest workplace insult for someone, who is the key player in a team and who should play the leading role in a project, is assigned a subordinate position and is told to play second fiddle to an outsider who doesn’t know what he is talking about and who interferes in whatever the key player does.

Readers, what is the highest insult that you have experienced at your workplace? Go to LinkedIn to post your comments.



Employees as Customers: Loyalty, Trust, Empathy and Happiness


This is what I wrote today at office,

People might not see employees this way, but when an employee is considering changing jobs, it bears some similarities to a Sprint customer thinking of switching to AT&T or Verizon. Here are four places that show their similarities.

Number 1: accessibility. Because customer service cost money, some companies discourage customers to talk to the real person by making it difficult for customers to reach them. So, making customer service accessible is the first step to a good service. Similarly, a good employer will provide its employees with an avenue through which an employee can unreservedly share his work-related ideas and thoughts. I remember vividly when, back in 2013, my workplace hired an outside listening ear to hear what people had in mind. During the meeting with these outsiders without the presence of our manager, people were like horses being unbridled, vying with one another to have their voices heard. Because they don’t have such an opportunity as often as they wish. Such listening ears should be always available.

Number 2: same expectation. When customers called customer service, they expect customer service agents to treat them with due respect and make them happy and satisfied. When people go to work, they have the same expectation of their employer as the customers.

Number 3, same win-win situation. That is, if the company respects and treats customers decently, making efforts to make them happy and meet their need, customers will more likely to remain loyal to the company and to stick at it for as long as they can. This benefit both the company and the customers. It’s the same win-win situation between an employer and his employees.

Number 4, same empathy. That is, we listen to both employees and customers with the same empathy and same eagerness to help them out. Because we are dealing with human beings, be they customers or employers, we need the same kindness, sincerity and the capacity to understand and meet their need.

The thought for the leaders: if you think customer service is all about making customers happy, we can say the same thing about managing people.



People are different. It is unprofessional to Compare one Employee to Another


Today I wrote this one at the office. Enjoy!

There was one incident at my workplace where a manager told one person, “Look at what L is doing at her role. And what you’ve done?” The word made that employee instinctively on the defense. I was watching and at the time speechless at this unprofessional behavior from the management team.

It is unprofessional because we have our professional standards, in that one employee is not the standard for the others to follow. All the employees are expected to live up to their job descriptions, good clinical practice, FDA guideline, etc.

It is unprofessional because people are vastly different in their personal aspiration and their social, educational, economic, cultural, ethnic background. Each of us come to the office not empty-handed but heavily loaded with values, dreams, hopes, and everything up to that point that has made what we are. Our past defines our present. Some employees dream big while others are happy without any dreams.

It is unprofessional for a manager to say this because it is potentially pitting one against another instead of encouraging teamwork.

The thought for the management: as long as the employees live up to what is expected professionally, accept them as what they are.



Take Nothing for Granted –The Need for Recognizing Good Work


I wrote this article today, while at office.

The company that I was associated with was bought by another entity in June 2011. After that, especially after a new senior executive director came aboard in mid-2013, a new meeting item crept in monthly, that is, massive accolades showered upon the deserved employees within that new entity, almost nothing upon old place folks. This is something entirely new to me.

Some people in my old company might think it nothing but you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours. People just do what they are supposed to do. There is no need to make a fuss about it. This is so not true.

First of all, there is a difference between following your job description and going above and beyond, and between a good job and a shoddy one. There is definitely a need for encouraging excellent job over the not-excellent one by the endorsement from someone, so that the bar will be raised for everybody.

Secondly, recognition will make it more likely for the outstanding people to continue their great performance. It’s like I open the door and let you in first and you say thank-you to me. This way I will do the same next time. This is called the rule of reciprocity that we all embrace. A recognition from the management will most likely make someone a happy employee. We know the relationship between being happy and being productive. People don’t like to be taken for granted for too long.

Third, there is a need for the manager/supervisor to engage every employees by confirming his expectations. Sometimes, a manager can make it known to the employees his expectations by recognizing some people and leaving out some others, sending a clear message to those being left out that they need to catch it up.

A thought for the leaders: keep your eyes open for great performers. Be profuse in your praise for the great ones.



Locker Room Culture and Conformity in Office


Finally I finished this piece on locker room culture last weekend, which I planned to get done the weekend before last.

Donald Trump’s widely publicized ‘Locker-Room Talk’ is at best a sign of adolescence immaturity; at worst, you can say whatever you want. Your imagination is the limit. No comment. The term itself pushes to the front what I experienced when I first started my current position back in 2007.

Urban dictionary has this definition — “The crude, vulgar, offensive and often sexual trade of comments guys pass to each other, usually in high school locker rooms. Exists solely for the purpose of male comedy and is not meant to be taken seriously.” Don’t take me wrong here. Urban dictionary’s definition is too narrow. My office is not like this. Because it is both different and much more than that.

People called that office room a big closet because it doesn’t have a window. Once the door is closed, people who are kindred spirits would say whatever they had in mind without any moral scruples, nor any qualms of conscience. One lady almost never spews out one sentence without her favorite ingredient, the f word. See the similarity here? Except they are not people of high school age and not boys. These are people who are old enough to be grandmas.

Trump’s locker room talk makes me wonder why people are succumbed to this kind of behavior. I refuse to believe that people are as mean spirited as their words betray them. I would attribute this to two factors: the locker room culture of that office and the desire to belong.

Each company, each office has developed and cultivated its own subculture, some energizing, some energy-draining, some with can-do spirit, some filled with whining and complaints. The one I was first exposed to in 2007 was certainly not a healthy one. You could even see negativity flowing in the air.

Because nobody wants to be marginalized in a subculture, not even me who already stands out in a crowd as a foreign-minority, people make great efforts to conform to the subculture by trying not to appear different from others. Plus, consider this key fact that I have come to appreciate: America is not the land of independent thinkers. Instead, the pressure to conform is the rule of the land.

Thought for the leaders: make every effort to cultivate positive culture. The herd will follow.



I’m a leader though I have never been a supervisor or a manager or a boss of any kind


This sounds like a classic oxymoron, same difference, right? Right. How can you be a leader and command a group of followers when you are not in a leadership position to command and lead?

Still, I call myself a leader when I treat everybody with due respect like what a real leader should do, greeting everyone with a smile and bellowing out good morning to colleague walking from afar.

I call myself a leader when a group of colleagues complain and I chip in, “What’s the solution? We won’t get anywhere without that.” In other words, what’s the use of complaining? Let’s focus on the real thing. I did steer the herd away from their favorite indulgence.

I call myself a leader when I recognize the positive forces around me and try to encourage that force by letting people realize their own positivity. Like telling people, “You are so positive! I like working with you.”

I call myself a leader when the manager joined the pack in steamy gossips and I, instead of succumbing to this group pettiness, cracked open the door and said a doctor was passing by, which put them back to work.

I lead by example, by simply being the role model that I have aspired to be. Everyone can be a leader in his/her group. Everyone can inspire and influence, command respect and authority, by exemplifying our values and principles.

Everyone has an ideal self. Be that self. And you are the leader.



How to avoid micromanagement


Last weekend, when I was driving to the bookstore, the weather was so nice that it felt like spring. I thought of a Chinese children’s song, “Where is spring? Spring is in the eyes of the children…” The song reminds me of my daughter and of the time when I was singing this song and driving her around. The memory of past threw me into a sad mood. I need to keep myself busy so that I won’t have time for sadness. This much I know and will follow.

This is the notes that I took when I was at Barnes & Nobles on weekend. From Inc.com magazine, p. 18 the four tips on “The Micromanager’s guide to delegation.” I thought of my son when I read this part.

(1) Keep a work log to keep track of tasks in an organized way.
(2) Have more people report to you.
(3) Know your people (assessing the skills of each of the team members)
(4) Be a good coach.
Last thing, think of delegation as an investment.



A Caring Leader and person


On 3/11, I read this article “ACHE Chairman Diana Smalley: 3 Ways to Become a Caring Leader” by Molly Gamble. Indeed, a leader can be a caring and effective one at the same time. Here are the three ways listed in the article.

1. Be the role model you always wanted or the best role model you ever had.

2. Recognize and build upon your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of those around you.

3. Protect healthcare for communities you serve by communicating your perspectives, and be willing to collaborate with competitors when it benefits the community.

A leader is a good role model, leading by example instead of preaching. Of course, people like to be around this type of person.

A leader is able to mobilize all positive forces around her. And a leader can see the large picture and choose win-win option so that all parties will benefit.

We can all be leaders if we can assume these characteristics.



A manager that I could have deposed but I let her go …


I must admit that of so many managers that I have experienced in my life, there are not many whom I truly respect. In fact, most of them are not up to the task at all. True leaders are rare.

Here’s one who is the most unprofessional and unethical. This manager used to gossip about me with other employees, behind my back of course. Can you believe that? Even worse, she included some of gossips in my annual evaluation!

I guess I must impress people as a harmless idiot, so they dare to do this kind of bizarre thing on me. I was so upset that I was contemplating of suing her for slandering, for ruining my reputation, for the psychological damage that her action has brought on me, and for the medical bills since I needed to pretend to be ill because of her. I am sure I have the ability to wreak havoc in her life.

But as a kind-hearted, peace-loving person, I decided to drop the issue and bury the hatchet. Every time I think of this incident, I cannot help wondering aloud: why am I so nice? I could have easily deposed her if not ruined her. I don’t understand why I let her out of this legal mess. Either I was not mad enough or I am really an idiot. I don’t have the answer.



Avoid Topic Proliferation When Talking with Children


On 3/19/2011, while I was waiting for my daughter at a nearby HyVee store, I took up April 2011 issue of Psychology Today magazine, a fascinating subject. I read a piece of writing on conflict resolution and the tendency toward topic proliferation. Though it deals with problems among couples, I think it applicable to conversations between parents and children or between any two parties. Here’s the note.

“The funny thing about conversation is that they can escape into fights, while at the same time they can also spread outward, proliferating into lots of distinct conversations all happening at once as one topic leads to another…. issue proliferating like mosquitoes in a summer swamp.”

Next the author gives an example of one couple’s conversation evolving from one topic “Why are you late again?” to “You are always finding faults with me” “You never admit you are right” “You start the fight again.. I should have ignored you in the first place”… The couple ended up changing topic over 20 times in less than 5 minutes.

The author thinks topic proliferation happens a lot when couples argue. It makes a conversation not only unmanageable but difficult to resolve. I see similar problem in conversations between parents and their children. I think it is very crucial to focus on the topic, one thing at a time, if parents want to have a constructive conversation with their children.



Myth and Fact about Leader, Part II


Leaders and managers are separate roles, both being important but neither is necessary to the other.

Leadership focuses on basing actions on an envisioned future; motivating and influencing others; and deciding on, and then committing to, a direction. Management focuses on basing actions on past experience, matching resources to tasks, and following established methods and procedures.

Two examples of leaders:
“My dad’s company once refused to pay its workers a higher wage. My dad was one of the few who confronted management. He asked for what was fair, and he stood his ground. He became a leader, even though that was not his intention.”

“Rosa Parks was a black woman in a time and place where being black was often considered a crime. But when push came to shove, she did not let that stop her from doing what needed to be done. I think that is the essence of true leadership.”

Leaders fight for what is right. It is the desire to lead that makes the difference. You have to believe in something with every fiber of your being if you want to go from following to leading. The building blocks of a good leader: ethics, empathy, curiosity, vision, courage, and communication.



Myth and Fact about Leader, Part I


This is notes from leadership workshop. Unless your ideas about leadership are challenged, you might not even be aware that they are not factual. Some of the myths about leaders are:
(1) Only people in management can become leaders.
(2) Leaders must be charismatic.
(3) Leaders are born, not made.

The fact is, you don’t need to be in management to be a leader. What you do need is an idea, a vision for change, and the willingness and stamina to turn your idea into something real. What makes one a leader is not how she looks but the way she wholeheartedly commits herself to a vision and refuse to surrender to mediocrity, no matter where she finds herself.

You can lead if you answer YES to these questions.
(1) Do you think you might want to become a leader?
(2) Do people often ask you for solutions?
(3) Do your friends at work elect you as their spokesperson?
(4) Are you already a leader in other aspects of your life?
(5) When problems arise, do you come up with ideas for ways to solve those problems but hesitate to mention
your thoughts because you are not in charge?
To be continued…



How to Give or Not to Give Criticism


Once again, as part of my cleaning drive, I took off the wall some parenting tips that I had for a long time, giving criticism being one of them. I post them here as I see tactful criticism very important in all situations, at work or at home.

(1) Begin by asking questions rather than attacking.
(2) Criticism should be timely.
(3) Be very brief and concise–the longer you talk, the less goes in.
(4) Be selective–choose your target of attack rather than a sweeping attack.
(5) Focus on the issue, not the person.
(6) Let the wrong-doer do the dirty work, that is, it is better for the children to tell you what is wrong instead of the other way around.
(7) Show them the proper way of doing things instead of leaving them puzzled and lost.



The Fall of Rep. Anthony Weiner, Not Stupidity But Character


The married Weiner acknowledged he had engaged in inappropriate contact with six women over three years through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and occasionally over the phone.

We all know Rep. Anthony Weiner is not smart enough to be this stupid. No, it is not his stupidity that has brought him down, though calling him stupid is too gentle on him.

It is the lack of that unshakable quality in his character that finally defeats him. Call it morality or the basic ability to distinguish right from wrong. That’s why I keep telling my children this — the higher you want to rise, the more solid your moral foundation must be. This must be solidly built in your character and become an integral part of your whole being, so that you won’t go awry no matter where you are. Otherwise, you will fall eventually, no matter how high you have achieved.



What Do Distinguished Institutions Look for


On 4/4/2011, I went to Stanford MBA admission site, trying to learn something about their program. Their view pretty much summarizes and represents those of other topnotch institutions like Harvard and MIT.

First, Intellectual Vitality,
…your attitude toward learning is as important as your aptitude
…your passion, dedication, and genuine interest in expanding your intellectual horizons throughout your application
…evidence of the kind of curiosity and passion that will allow you to spark
…the initiative with which you seek out opportunities that enhance your knowledge.
…your willingness to “suspend disbelief”—by mastering concepts that may not be immediately relevant to your intended career, to carve your path in ambiguous environments, and to support the School’s goal of developing knowledge that deepens and advances the practice of management.

Second, Demonstrated Leadership Potential
…your character and your professional competence.
…evidence of behaviors consistent with your ideals, even under difficult circumstances—a sort of directed idealism.
…your personal motivation and convictions, and your ability to confront complex, unfamiliar issues with good judgment.
…how you defend your position with vigor and respect to a peer advocating a different view.
…the ways in which challenges to your beliefs may have changed some of your perspectives and reinforced others.
…we look for both leadership experience and potential.
…We look at your background for evidence of your impact on the people and organizations around you, and the impact of those experiences on you.
…your activities, experiences, interests, and aspirations
…your awareness of what you do well and the areas in which you can improve;
…your group and interpersonal skills;
…your commitment to utilizing fully your opportunities and available resources.
…evidence of your desire to leave a legacy in the organizations you serve throughout your career, inspiring and motivating your colleagues.

Third, Personal Qualities and Contributions
…your experiences, beliefs, your passions, your dreams, your goals
…Take time to reflect on who you are, and have confidence in yourself.

It is what you make of an experience that matters to us, not simply the experience itself. That is, how you interpret what you experience matters.



Summer Volunteer, Leadership and High School Students Part II


I commend children for giving volunteer service, yet I fully expect high school students to do better than library volunteer. Because this type of volunteer is not challenging enough for them. Thus, they are cheap substitute for real hard work.

Why do we have to ask others for volunteer opportunity instead of creating our own opportunities? High school students should rack their brains to be innovative and create their own work which is beneficial to both parties, if they do hope to excel. They deserve credit only if they can invent new ways to volunteer or use their grade level skills to serve. This reminds me of a young man who spent one summer organizing a rocket club among elementary school kids, an unusual experience, showing great leadership skills, and a success in the end. This young man was admitted by MIT.

The key is you don’t always do something that everybody does. You have to be unique. Even in volunteering, a leader is different from the crowd.



Summer Volunteer, Leadership and High School Students Part I


On 4/1/2011, after sending my daughter to her school at 4 PM, I went to a local library, where I met a friend of mine who was with her daughter. They were signing up for volunteer work in summer. This reminded me of another friend of mine whose daughter also volunteers at this library. Another friend of mine told me of her son’s volunteer work.

The next day, 4/2, I was at that library again. There I saw an Asian girl, about my daughter’s age, doing volunteer work.

I observed her a little bit and got the impression that she was like serving her time, looking tired and listless. Perhaps she was there for the whole afternoon and couldn’t wait for her parents to pick her up.

While I applaud for the noble spirit and unselfishness associated with volunteering, I realize many of them see this as a necessary step to a good college. In that case, they are not necessarily motivated by any of the high-sounding noble spirit.
Continued…



Still Water Runs Deep


On 11/18/2010, I went to work at our west clinic, over 22 miles from my house. Luckily I don’t have to go there every week. I had an interesting and unforgetable observation while I was there.

During lunch break, I went to the break room and noticed many girls sitting around a table, eating and gossiping. They talked about one of our research girls. To be sure, they were not of mean spirited gossip. I noticed the practice manager was among the diner there. I knew her before and knew she was a type of no nonsense person.

This time I was very much convinced of my previous thought of her and much more. Even better, she is a no-small-talk person, too. I observed her while other girls were chatting. For the entire course, she did not utter a word, totally out of the conversation while sitting with the rest of the crowd.

Either her mind was occupied with some issues or she found the small talk too trivial to jump in. Her silence among the chatting group left me a deep impression. For some reason her silent presence commands some degree of respect, at least from me. This might be one of a leader’s quality, so distinctive in a group.

A saying came to my mind that I learned long ago back in China, “Still water runs deep.” It seems a perfect description of her.



A Thought on the Life of a Poet in Tang Dynasty



On 11/21, Sunday afternoon, on the way to the Whole Food store, I shared this following with my daughter. I asked her if it was a good topic for an entry here. “Yes, of course,” said she.

That morning I read a writing on a famous poet in Tang Dynasty, Bai Juyi (772–846) in his senior years, which was, to put it mildly, characterized by a lack of constraint in his dealings with women. I am sure this is not something he could brag about. And I am surprised that people still remember it.

My daughter knows Bai Juyi from the above poem and pipaxing. She was a bit shocked at learning this part of the poet’s life. Indeed, people might have this or that harsh words on the loose behavior in his life, yet his talent and his unsurpassed accomplishments, peerless in Chinese literature, earn him a unique place in history of Chinese poetry. All this enables him to shine through the thick dust of history and continue to glow for the thousands of years to come. History has always been rather generous to individuals of extraordinary achievements.

In one sense, you can apply the same to our daily engagement either at work or at school. You may be doing the same thing as everybody else, but it is your talent, special skills, outstanding character, if you so possess, that distinguish you from the crowd and that make you last longer than your mere transient presence. Otherwise, you are out of mind even before you are out of sight. Think of it when you go about your daily life.



Peace on Earth, Hard to Obtain 2


A nation can demonstrate this catastrophic stupidity, so can be a person when he is entangled in this kind of militant situation and shamefully feeling the urge to prove his masculinity by raising his madness to the dangerous level.

If anything, this once again emphasizes the paramount importance of three qualities in a leader.
(1) Calmness in time of large-scaled crisis.
(2) Ability to resolve conflict through healthy dialogues in any situation that conflict can occurr.
(3) The last and most rare yet also most important of all is the guts and integrity to stand by what one believes is best for his nation and his people. This quality is the touchstone distinguishing a true leader from a follower. This is best exemplified by the late US senator Robert Byrd.

Very often, it seems a political suicide not to cave in to the popular battle cry. In case like this, most politicians are totally without principles. To win popular votes or for their political gain, they readily succumb to the lowest mean spirit of the herd, the majority of people, like the mob lynching of Sherburn in Mark Twain’s Adventure of Huck Finn. In essense, these politicians, never rising above mob mentality, are just followers of the mob instead of leaders.

This is exactly what happened when the majority of democratic party granted George W. Bush broad power to wage a “preemptive” war against Iraq. The only exception is Robert Byrd.

I wish my children will read about this and learn something from these events.



Peace on Earth, Hard to Obtain 1


As people celebrate Christmas day, they also watch in horror the acceleration of tension between North and South Korea, with the South conducting live-fire drill on an unprecedentedly large scale from ground to the air, targeting at North Korea. The North in turn accepts the challenge with its arm-to-the-teeth determination for “sacred war of justice” with the South, with the threat of using a nuclear deterrent.

The higher the war rhetorics grow, the more insane and dangerous people become. Eventually the nations would be thrown into the sea of fire when both sides are overcome by their urge to act upon their threat, as if people have not learned anything from the recent Iraqi war.

Imagine the bloodshed, the loss of lives, the waste of resources and the draining of a nation’s wealth if that happened. All would suffer with the exception of one party, that is, the merchants of death who supply endless streams of mass-destructive gun-power. Nothing is more stupid than this madness of war cry in this supposedly peace-loving season.

To be continued tomorrow…



Public Speech: A Chance to Demonstrate Your Ability


On 11/20, early Saturday, I drove my daughter to University Academy for regional AcaDec competition. She was practising public speech all the way there. This reminded me of the time when my son was doing the same thing to prepare for one of the events at the AcaDec — public speech.

I remember having written something on public speech in leadership category. Still, I have to emphasize once again its importance. You don’t have the chance to make yourself known to many people. Hence, your speech at a large gathering provides you an opportunity to broadcast the best of you and to demonstrate the inner value that you normally have no chance to reveal. You can gain instant recognition simply by making an outstanding speech at such a gathering.

Of course, the speech has to be of high quality, revealing a clear thinking and a well-thought insight, with consistency, coherence and good organization. It takes some practice to reach this level.



What Does Leadership Mean for High School Students


Last Friday after school, 11/12, I took my daughter to her skating lesson, first time after she got well. She felt a bit shaky at first but gradually gained strength and back in shape. While waiting for her, I was chatting with another parent about leadership for high schoolers. Though I have learned a lot about leadership during our company’s leadership workshop, I don’t want to elaborate too much on this simple concept. I shared with her the following key components.

Leadership means taking initiative, taking the lead among your peers, even if you are not the leader;
Leaders can influence others with their ideas so that people will follow the lead;
Leaders do not need to be told when an action is needed;
Leaders are self-motivated and self-directed;
Leaders are locomotives of the train while followers are the carriages.

An example of leadership in action — you find the need to raise awareness for environment protection in your school and there is no organization fulfilling this function. Hence, you start an environmental protection club…



Martin Luther, a Leader Possessing Knowledge and Courage


While my daughter was working on European History course, I also picked up a book on the subject in fall this year. I have been very much impressed by many remarkable individuals in European history. One of my favorites is Martin Luther, the man of great learning and courage.

He initiated the religious reformation movement in western world, thus ending the papal dominance and permanently dividing Christianity into two large camps: Catholics and Protestants.

He was first of all an intellectual. I love intellectuals because they are intelligent, learned and must have worked hard to achieve that level of knowledge.

Knowledge is power, citing the famous word of Francis Bacon. Luther belonged to the rank of great individuals because of his knowledge and courage to stand by what he believed.

Knowledge empowers and encourages one to rise above the crowd and consequently be the leader moving the history forward. So was it at the time of Martin Luther, so it is at the present.

P.S. Yesterday I tried to view this site, but was blocked. I had a feeling that some big change was going to happen. This feeling was confirmed when I read this shocking news, “McKesson to buy US Oncology for $2.2 billion.”



Take Initiative, Take the Lead


Last Saturday morning, on the way to the City Market, I talked to my daughter about one of the qualities of a leader — take initiative.

Most people need someone to tell them what to do either at school or at work. If they are not at either place, they are clueless as what they can do. They might spend a long time looking for a job, but they do not know how to put value into their prolonged job-hunting time.

A leader never needs to be told. She can always find some meaningful activities to put value into her time, in addition to job-hunting. While looking for a job, she will take initiative by seeking out any place that can make use of her talent to render services, free of any compensations.

By injecting value into her time, she will have a meaningful life story to add to her resume. The prospective employer will see in her the leadership quality, the one that no money can buy.

If anything, she distinguishes herself from the majority with her self-initiated experience. Therefore, I wish my children will develop leadership skill by taking initiative and taking the lead. Never ever in your lifetime should you waste time waiting for a boss to control your time. Even after you find an employer, still, be your own boss even when you work for others.



The Qualities of a Leader: An Example


On 9/23/2010, during our monthly meeting, we invited the pharmacy manager of the company to give us a talk on chemo drugs. I knew who she was before but I had been wondering, young as she looks, at most early 30s, how she became pharmacy manager of our company. I am sure there are other pharmacy PhD holders with more experience than she is. What distinguishes her from the other pharmacy folks?

That day my question was answered. She is not just knowledgeable in her field. Much more than this, she impresses me as someone whose mind is far above daily pharmacy activities. She overviews the drug development history, sees the big picture, pattern of research, and the trend of future development.

What I see is the quality of a leader in her that goes above and beyond her knowledge of chemo drugs. This proves once more that it doesn’t matter which field a person is engaged and no matter how young she is, she can be a leader as long as she possesses the right qualities.

I shared my thought with my daughter after that.



How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflict VI: Aggression vs Assertive Confrontation


During the workshop, we talked about the difference between aggression and assertive confrontation. People tend to associate confrontation with aggression, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is much easier to be assertive if you confront a situation the first time you realize there is a problem and deal with it tactically.

If you fail to be assertive and avoid conflict by putting it off, the problem will never go away by itself. On the contrary, you run the risk of making it worse. The longer the situation continues, the more anger and frustration builds up inside you. Finally, you let it go, and direct that anger towards the other person.

To make sure that your communication remains assertive, be certain that you present facts as facts, feelings as feelings, and opinions as opinions. Don’t mix them up. Confronting a situation right away also reduces the temptation to refer back to previous incidents, which tends to shift the focus from prevention of a future occurrence to finding out exactly what happened in the past.

In one word, be assertive and timely so when you have to be this way and never let anger and frustration build up and eat you up. This applies to all sorts of conflicts.

P.S. I started working on two locations since this Monday, SW and SMMC. When I went back to SW, old friends greeted me with so much enthusiasm, which made me embarrassed as I could hardly remember their names.



How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflict V


We learned from the workshop that sometime it is better to confront the person than to avoid her. We can stop some type of conflict from escalating through constructive confrontation.

Constructive confrontation can be a real challenge, but when it is done correctly, it prevents tension and minimizes defensiveness. There are three key elements to a successful constructive confrontation.

(1) Assertive: support your confrontation with clear, direct communication that isn’t blaming or condemning. Assertive communication describes your reaction to the behavior, and doesn’t make judgments about the person or the motives behind the confrontation.

(2) Current: confront unacceptable behavior when it happens. If that’s not possible, you can still confront the person shortly afterwards, but it is unacceptable to bring up incidents long after they’ve occurred. Referring to misdemeanors that happened a long time ago increases the possibility of conflict because both parties are more concerned about proving what really happened.

(3) Specific: when you confront unacceptable behavior, you need to be specific about what needs to change, or what you want to happen in the future. The other person should know exactly what is expected of him, and your words should not be ambiguous or open to individual interpretation.

Keep in mind these these elements when you have to confront someone with some unpleasant issues.



How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflict IV



One of the ways of dealing with conflict that we learned is avoidance. This is part of the workshop that I had on 9/21/2010. I had not planned to write on this topic before, but something happened on that evening that made up my mind. Because I want my children to be free from this mode of behavior.

Life is full of conflicts and unpleasant encounters of diverse forms. You have to pick your fight, the one that is worth putting effort or running the risk of creating ill feelings. It would be an extreme waste of time and energy to split hairs over insignificant issues.

A typical example of splitting hairs.
“You did it. I remember it.” A said, over a very trifle matter.
“No, I have never done it. You remember it wrong,” B insisted and came up with some explanation.
“Yes, I remember clearly you did it the other day.” A raised the voice.
“OK, it’s so trivial. I don’t want to argue about it any more,” B gave up in disgust.
“I am not arguing with you. I just want to find out the truth. And the truth is you are wrong. You have done it.” A returned.
“Does it matter that much that I am wrong and you are right over this trivial? OK, you are right and I am wrong. I don’t care whatever and I don’t want to say anything anymore.” B’s last word on this.
“Yes, it does matter and you are wrong, whether or not you care. You have to admit you have done it…” A continued endlessly because A desperately wants two things (1) B is wrong (2) A must have the last word, as if that were the most important thing in A’s life.

This is the type of conflict that we should avoid at any cost.



How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflict


Now we know the two types of conflict and that we should avoid affective conflict by keeping emotion out of it. Here are four methods in creating an environment conducive to cognitive conflict and keeping conflict constructive.

(1) Empathy
Show empathy for the other people’s idea before you oppose it. Try to remain positive when others question your ideas, but don’t reciprocate the empathy. Remember that such questioning is a necessary part of the critical thinking process. e.g. I understand why you …. but

(2) Focus on the issue, not the person.
Be careful to avoid personal criticism, sarcasm, and blame, even if the other person does not do the same. Instead, communicate a willingness to understand, and stick to the problem being discussed.

(3) Focus on interests, and not your position.
It is easy to react aggressively when you are being challenged. But if you are more concerned about whether you are winning or losing, you forget what you initially wanted to achieve.

(4) Focus on the future, not the past.
Resist the temptation to use past behaviors, incidents, or problems to prove your point, unless there is something positive to be learned from them, or an aspect that can be applied in this new situation. e.g. I think there should be some kind of contingency plan in the future for cases like this.

These four methods are so wonderfully useful for parents, too.

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