Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Oct 15, 2010

Two Types of Interpersonal Conflict

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:02 am

At workplace, people with different goals, ideas, and cultural and ethnic background provide the best breeding environment for conflicts of all sorts. There are two broad types of conflict–affective and cognitive.

Affective — focus on individual, is emotional, personal. It is based on feelings of anger, mistrust, dislike, fear, resentment, etc. Filled with sarcasm, personal criticism, trash-talk, puts-downs and even dirty words, it is usually destructive, particularly if it is allowed to escalate, easily precipitating into something out of control. We often see the eruption of this type of conflict in a family setting, typically between a parent and a headstrong teenager.

Cognitive — focus on issue, substantive, exclusively issue-related topic. Rational and not emotional. It occurs when people disagree over such things as procedures, opinions, and reasoning process. It can be constructive when it is dealt with correctly. e.g. “I think this would not be feasible since we only have one week before deadline.”

Sometimes, a conflict starts as cognitive, but slips into affective when people start focus on person instead of issues.

P.S. my daughter does not have school today, so I take today off.

1, Oct 14, 2010

Interpersonal Conflict, a Healthy Part of Daily Life II

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:01 am

Continued from yesterday’s topic.
There are some myths about conflicts. 1) conflict is undesirable, hence we should avoid creating it or avoid dealing with it. 2) Conflict is something you can avoid.

As a matter of fact, conflict is both unavoidable and a healthy part of our daily interactions, no matter where you are. What we need is a positive attitude toward conflict, seeing conflict as a source of information and an opportunity for growth and a chance of turning things for the better, not a problem to avoid or put off.

Check out this situation — when the child stays on the internet for hours without getting his homework done or he is watching TV shows way past his bedtime or he is a picky eater, no veggie whatsoever. Imagine the conflict when his parents try to intervene. For the benefit of the minor, in situation like this, parents must step in. Imagine what would happen to the child if the parents leave the child alone for fear for causing conflict! I know some parents give green lights to whatever the kids please, resulting in stinky spoiled ones.

In fact, these are conflicts of very rudimentary nature. The challenge is to learn how to handle that of more complicated kind of conflict, typically among adults or between parents and their teenage children.

1, Oct 13, 2010

Interpersonal Conflict, a Healthy Part of Daily Life 1

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:28 am

We had a course as part of leadership workshop on 9/21/2010. It was on conflict resolution. Prior to that we needed to take an online course, titled “Resolving Conflict with Communication Skills.”

As I got deeper into the course, I found it both interesting and instructive. Not because it works wonder for any workplace conflict, but it seems more fitting for any conflict in a more intimate environment like in a family.

The culture at our company is characterized by non-confrontation, strengthened by wide-spread passive aggressiveness and behind-the-back gossiping, with total absence of open conflict. Hence, though this course might make sense elsewhere, it seems out of touch with the reality of our company.

To me, the course throws some light on the conflict in a family. I am going to share my gains from it in a few postings.


1, Jul 25, 2010

Notes on Leaders and Leadership Workshop

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:51 am

Two postitive moves at work.
(1) On 7/15/2010, one of my colleagues left for another company. I think she has lots of guts in taking this step. Changes often involve risks, uncertainty and the unknown. Most people, even if they are not happy with their status quo, would not venture into a new territory and meet the challenge by leaving the old familiar workplace. To me, she is more courageous than most of the colleagues that I see around me.

(2) On 7/20, during one of the leadership workshops, I had a nice chat with the organizer of these workshops. It is amazing to see how she has grown and developed all
these years from an unhappy receptionist to the current management position. Quietly she went to college after work to earn both bachelor and master degrees and moving up and up. Two features I find that distinguishes her from the rest of the herd are: 1) no small talk even if she is among the ordinary folks 2) tenaciously goal-oriented.

People at leadership workshop talk about company’s annual survey with disbelief. When I mentioned that these surveys were annonymous, a colleague said, “Really!” with a rather cynical tone. Some of them don’t come out with what they truly believe for fear of negative percussion. Imagine what it says about the culture of the company.

1, Jul 21, 2010

Leaderships — Four Different Styles

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 1:17 am

I am pretty sure I have written about leadership styles before, still I found it helpful to re-visit these styles for parents and for those who want to excel at work. I am not sure which style works best for parents, but I know children resent greatly against authoritative parenting style. By the way, parents are leaders, too. Here are four leadership styles.

(1) Authoritative style
An authoritative leader is one who exerts his authority and expects obedience. He is the parental figure. If you do what he says when he says it, you will be rewarded. If you oppose his authority, you will be punished. This type of leadership is becoming archaic, though still in existence. Most people won’t tolerate being treated like children.
–An authoritative leader never consult others before making the decision
–He does not listen to other people’s ideas when he presents his decision
–He expected immediate compliance and becomes irritated when someone questions his authority.

(2) Receptive style
A leader who has a receptive style has authority but chooses to discuss ideas and plans with his team before making final call. She practices active listening, and proactive leadership

(3) Independent style
An independent leader promotes independence among his employees. He allows them a large amount of autonomy and reduces his own role to that of an assistant. That is, he helps group members by making information more accessible, and he acts as the go-between for the rest of the organization. In essence, he is the point man. This style allows group members to focus on delivering a quality product in a timely manner. The independent leader has authority but prefers to exercise it as little as possible.

(4) Flexible style
When you have to change your style depending on the project circumstances or each group member’s ability to do the job, you should use the flexible style. That is, go with the flow.

Flexible leaders use a variety of techniques to get the best results for the customers and for each team member. You might need to coach one person, train someone else, let go of another, or give explicit instructions to a different person.

Personally, I prefer flexible style, but then this seems the most challenging one of all. On the other end, authoritative style is the easiest of all, both for leaders and parents.

1, Jun 26, 2010

A General With a Loose Tongue: Bad Habit Hit Hard

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:17 am

Below are some excerpts from General Stanley McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

He was quoted saying he felt “betrayed” by the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, who last year argued against troop increases in a telegram to the White House that was leaked to the media. “I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before. Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so’.”

US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat with whom the general would be expected to work closely. But the general was dismissive when he received a message from Mr Holbrooke on his BlackBerry. “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don’t even want to open it.”

The general reluctantly attended a dinner in Paris as part of a mission to persuade the French government to maintain its efforts in Afghanistan. He was quoted saying “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner… Unfortunately, no one in this room could do it.”

When he was asked about Vice-President Joe Biden, and the general laughing as he says: “Are you asking about Vice-President Biden? Who’s that?”

One unnamed adviser says Gen McChrystal was disappointed after his first meeting with President Barack Obama.

Another unnamed aide dismisses Gen James Jones, the Obama administration’s national security adviser, as a “clown” who is “stuck in 1985”.

As the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, a striking high-profiled public figure, you would expect General McChrystal to behave with some political acumen and canniness and would think more than twice before popping out those flippant and dismissive remarks about top Obama administration officials. You would think he did this by accident. No.

First, he talked with an attitude. It is okay to hold a different view but the general should know better than airing his view through this channel. Second, what I see is an undisciplined habit of tossing out of his mouth improper words and comments without going through any mental filtering. He might blurt out inadvertently, but his listeners are never inadvertent.

If you are an ordinary citizen, you can get away with this casual blurting. But this casual habit will cost your position and even career if you are in a leadership position. To be a worthy leader in any field, your behavior must be exemplary in the eye of public. So it is true with good parenting. I wish my children can learn a lesson from the fall of general McChrystal.

1, Jun 25, 2010

Leaders — Six Fundamental Qualities

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:25 am

We are going to have another round of leadership workshop. Before that, I reviewed some of the handouts that I had last year. I found it especially relevant today for both of my children. In fact, these are pretty good qualities for anyone with the desire for constant self-improvement and self-evolution. Hence, my notes on the six qualities are out with readers today.

(1) Ethics
You need to have a clear sense of right and wrong. Define clearly your values and beliefs. Know what you will and won’t do to obtain your goals. You must be consistently ethical if you want to earn the trust and respect of your peers and thus be a successful leader.

(2) Empathy
Show that you care about thoughts and ideas of the employees and your co-workers. Listen to them. Learn about the strengths and ask how to use them to help them meet a goal that will benefit all. Finally, understand the concerns of the employees and take them into consideration.

(3) Curiosity
Keep learning. Life moves pretty fast; you need to keep up with it if you want to be effective. Use your knowledge to refine and reach your goals. Informed decisions are the only kind of decisions you should make.

(4) Vision
Look at the world a little differently from how everyone else does. Reach into the chaos and pull out order. Offer solutions. You should know where you want to go, and you should have the ability to make plans for getting there.

(5) Courage
As Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.” It takes courage to follow your dreams. Face your fears. Learn about them. Then master them.

(6) Communication
You must be able to express your interest in others and your total belief in your vision. Communication is the glue that ties it all together. Without that connection, everything else is nothing more than good intentions.

In summary, to be a leader, you must be ethical, curious, empathetic, and courageous, as well as a visionary and a strong communicator.

Alas, life is so great and beautiful when we imagine working with leaders with these wonderful qualities! Even better, we ourselves possess all these excellent qualities and make difference whenever we are!

1, Aug 29, 2009

SMART Action Plan from Workshop 4

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:17 am

Continue with the leadership workshop from 8/10/09 post — Results Orientation & Achievement, SMART plan. To be sure, SMART plan is nothing new to me, but it was amazing to observe how it was tried out here in class.

Two major problems came up during the experiment:
(1) The SMART plan was not well laid out in the first place. Nearly all present, except me, did not know how to write a SMART plan — Specific, Measurable, Agreeable-upon, Realistic and Time-bound.

(2) It is so easy to get disengaged from the original plan. It takes some discipline to religiously follow one’s plan. Yes, discipline is very much missing among people here. Otherwise, they would not be here at all.

The root of problem with most of people is their just-do-it attitude without a well-designed plan to follow, to verify and test the result to see if, in the end, we reach our goal and get what we specifically want. It is like driving out for a vacation without any planning. It runs against a Chinese saying — “Never engage in an unprepared war.” (bu da wu zhun bei zhi zhang) Imagine my frustration working with them. Alas, so much to learn just by observing these lovely people!

Workshop #6: Planning & Organizing Work, and time management tools. Sometimes we complain about lack of time, I think it very beneficial to use action-priority matrix to exam how we use our time –identifying Major Projects, Hard Slogs, Quick Wins, and Fill-Ins.

What often happens is we tend to spend more time on “Fill Ins” when we should be on “Major projects.” Once again, it takes some self-discipline to focus on “Critical activities” and to stay away from “Distractions.”

I have shared these time management tools with my son who runs out of time all the time. I sincerely believe these tools are essential to manage time well.

1, Aug 10, 2009

Communication Style, Teamwork from Workshop 3

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:37 am

We went through self-assessment test to find out our own communication styles during this workshop. We learned four major types of communication styles- Open, Close, Direct, Indirect. Thinkers/Analyzers tend to be close-indirect. Yes, that is me.

Miscommunication is likely to occur between people of different styles. The emphasis is on understanding the difference. Once you know a person’s communication style, communication is likely to go smoothly. As a Chinese saying goes, “Know yourself, know your enemy, every battle can be won.”

The fourth workshop focused on Critical Thinking & Problem Solving. We talked about three problem-solving techniques. Personally, I believe 5-Whys Analysis is the worst of all. We are unable to provide a clear answer to any of the questions when we allow ourselves to be led one question after another, like chasing the tail of all without catching any. Fishbone diagram lays out all aspects of concerns, allowing us to better visualize the problem. This is my favorite one.

1, Aug 7, 2009

Traits of Outstanding Leaders from Workshop 1

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 12:18 am

Yesterday was our last leadership workshop. To be honest, I am glad to see the end of it because I am getting more and more impatient sitting with the rest of the class. Though I have learned a lot, I also become a bit frustrated with the prejudice, ignorance and general lack of enlightenment that I encountered.

Workshop #1:
We learn traits of outstanding leaders.
1) Nurturing ongoing and interactive relationships
2) Being in touch with innermost thoughts, feelings, and values.
3) Walking the talk — act in a manner that is consistent with your words.
4) Leading by influence — use influence instead of power or authority.

What I learned from this workshop are:
(1) Leaders are human first, leaders second.
(2) Leaders are not necessarily managers, though it is very easy to confuse the two.
(3) You don’t have to be in leadership position to lead. You play the role of a lead any time you play a positive role or reach out to energize and influence people around.
(4) I challenge myself with this question: is it really a big challenge to be such a lead?
(5) I just realized that I have not been fortunate enough to meet a leader with any of these traits. A sad realization, even sadder sitting with a group so much void of these traits.

To be continued…on this favorite topic of mine.
Do you know the datetime lined up perfectly once in your lifetime? Enjoy the Friday, thanks to a friend of mine.
12:34:56 07/08/09
12 34 56 7 8 9

1, Jul 27, 2009

Ability to Listen and Understand — Key to Grow and Development

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 7:55 am

Last Thursday’s leadership workshop was not consummated with a happy smile on the face of all the attendants. Thus, the next day, the organizor emailed everybody to see if anyone had any more to say on the topic. The email ended asking for more feedback, but then, the person wanted the follow up to be “on a positive note.”

I was toying with these thoughts and was very much attempted to reply-all with the following, but then I only sent it to the organizor because I am sure it is too far above most of people if I do.

(1) Why people express negative views when they know it is going to be anonymous? Is this the only way for people to tell what they truly think?

(2) All we have to do is to listen and understand. What happened during the meeting reveals nothing but our mental inability even to listen to anything negative without getting hot-headedly defensive. Does this attitude help to lead and transform all forces into productive and positive ones? What does it say about the accomplishment of this leadership workshop? If we cannot bear the different views, does it constitute the essence of intolerance?

I believe the company, like a person, can benefit tremendously from listening. On the note of self-checking, if the purpose of the workshop is to lead and influence, regardless of what, what do we learn if all we can say to those who express views different from that of ours is “You can leave the company if you don’t like it?” Is it so hopelessly difficult to change people who came in to workshop with prejudice and went away unchanged?

So much for a wonderful sunny Monday.

1, Apr 29, 2009

Traits of Outstanding Leaders and Parents

Filed under: Leadership,work — admin @ 11:32 pm

We are having a workshop on leadership lately. Not sure if it is ever useful to me. Still, as I am exposed to some ideas on leadership, I have discovered that these are actually nice ideas, so wonderful that I am going to share with the readers here. It might be of some help to us as parents. You might be surprised to learn that leaders are humans first, leaders second.

Traits of Outstanding Leaders and Parents.
To be sure, the workshop was never on parents, but I keep thinking it for parents. Call it professional bias. Here are the four major traits.
1) Nurturing ongoing and interactive relationships
~~~~Allow for an equal exchange of ideas (so that they feel comfortable speaking up what they have in mind)
~~~~Consider the needs of employees (show you care about them)
~~~~Meet the needs of employees (so that they are willing to go extra miles for you)
~~~~Validate employees’ concerns (you actually listen to them)

2) Being in touch with innermost thoughts, feelings, and values.
~~~~Cultivating alone time
~~~~Connecting with nature
~~~~Assuming distance from the mission
~~~~Mediating and thinking deeply
~~~~Enjoying silence and solitude
~~~~Reflecting and writing
~~~~Visualizing and relaxing
~~~~Exercise regularly
~~~~Reading continually
~~~~Engaging in creative activities
~~~~Knowing yourself
Have some time at the end of the day for yourself, stick to your exercise schedule, take time to relax. Some people say exercise is an outlet, letting out the steam built up inside.

3) Walking the talk— act in a manner that is consistent with your words, practice what you preach. It is the epitome of leading when talk and actions fuse. Good leaders must truly believe in what they are doing. Sounds so familiar to me. Of course, the leaders learn it from Parents magazine.

4) Leading by influence — use influence instead of force. No spanking, that is.

It gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling to imagine having leaders fully equipped with these traits. Well, don’t be silly.

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