All entries for February 2011
February 20, 2011
Apparently, it is easy to observe something but difficult to put it into practical. However, is it easy to make an appropriate judgment of a leader's behavior? Followers may usually become puzzled and angry about their boss. Possible they would say if I were a boss, I would do¡, I would do in this way¡and they believe so. Once they turned out to be leaders, will they act as what they promised before? Probably, no. This situation is popular even though in schools. For example, it is common to see students scolding their monitors and making assumptions about what is going on if they were monitors. When they become monitors, they start doing what they complained before. Leaders should consider much more things than followers do so they have different perspectives from followers. For instance, a leader is to blame for his unfair treating towards a follower or a group of followers, is the leader really unfair or he wants to create a wider scope of fairness. It is possible that he knows he is doing something wrong to those followers, but maybe a more serious problems would come up if he insist on fairness Also, it is impossible for the leader to do so even if followers deem it as easy as lifting a finger. So, no one can give a proper assessment of a leader unless judgers can totally understand the leader.
In ¡°leadership challenge¡± exercise, the leader was the only one who had the opportunity to obtain all the information. It was a challenge for us to manage our tasks because if a leader failed in understanding and clarifying the problems or requirements clearly, it would turn out to be a very difficult work for the whole team. In this case, it is essential for leaders to have qualified makings in leadership. However, what I want to say is that in real life, things and conditions always appear much complex than the exercise was. For example, leaders could translate all the information they got in the materials whereas sometimes it is impossible to do so in actual work. Some information about a companies or the way it obtains required data are secret so that only leaders can have the access to read these information. Also, leaders are not allowed to transmit all they know to their followers. In our exercise, if leaders could learn the material properly and express themselves clearly, it was likely all of the followers could understand the issue well. Suppose that if leaders were only able to tell us part of the information, what situation might happen? Perhaps we would keep on asking our leader a question he knew the answer but couldn¡¯t explain it to us. Then what we will think about our leader? Ineffective or incompetent? I believe this should be another challenge in leadership, more difficult to handle. But it is leaders responsible to make sure everyone have the idea about their jobs. In contrast, it is better if followers could understand their leader and have the ability to contribute without understanding the whole issue.
February 19, 2011
During CSR presentation, Paul asked us whether compliant with governments' laws was enough. I agree that it is better to go ahead of the requirements of governments. However, from the company's point of view, perhaps most of the time, just compliant with laws is the best choice. Obviously, CSR always conflicts to profits in companies, or else we don't need that much appeals and laws to force companies pay attention to CSR. Generally speaking, profit is the most important thing to consider in companies, they need to maximum the satisfaction of their shareholders and customers. Donation and volunteer workers could help to win some reputation of a company but these may not usually bring profits. So I doubt in real life, how many companies wish to do much more than governments' demanding.
Besides, I have to say I really appreciate the coach exercise. It was the shortest one as the coach-time only lasted for 10 minutes and it wasn't so interesting compared to other exercises. But I never thought I could learn so much in 10 minutes before the exercise. I gained a lot of experiences about coach even though these weren't theoretical knowledge, and possibly some of them were wrong feelings and thoughts. However, maybe it will take me at least one hour to obtain some basic ideas about coach with much confusion on it. The 10 minutes impressed me.
February 18, 2011
Vagelis asked me to suppose Deming was an employee and he presented his opinions to his boss, what was the possible consequence? It is really an interesting question which can generate lots of discussion and ideas. Will he be fired? Could be, who knows? Paul asked us whether it was useful to study something that was incompatible to our culture. I think Vagelis' question is helpful in answering Pual's doubt. Deming is kind of the God in management in many western countries, but does his opinions totally compatible to western companies? Take "drive out fear" for example, is there any leader in western companies who leads his followers without fear? Maybe, but only a few of them. I can see in many western companies, employees are still paid for performance and leaders usually scold their followers. Western leaders and companies are not doing what Deming suggested but trying to do or trying to achieve Deming's theory. Come back China, I agree many leaders behave different as Deming asked, they scold their people, set numeric targets and slogans all the time. But does it indicate they oppose Deming? I don't think so. I believe most of leaders in China tend to support him. It is because of the environment, the situation that don't allow leaders in China to put the ideal theory into practice and most western companies have the same problems, I'm sure. In my point of view, Deming's theory is kind of communism, it is wonderful, grateful but how difficult it is to totally achieve it! Most of the time, it is just the guideline, the ultimate focus that leads all companies.
What an amazing game we had in the morning! Everyone enjoyed it so much and even though we didn't have any relax during the game, all of us were asking for more time to finish it when Paul stopped us. I really had a strong feeling about controlling our emotion in leadership. For me, I think it was the most stressful and challenging exercise we had so far. Time was so limited and we had to totally concentrate on the game and do everything as quickly as possible. So you can image the pressure we got. I was just a follower so that most of the time I didn't feel stressful at all and only wanted to focus on it without disturbing. However, I became irritable sometime and seemed to have offended my group mates because I had already used all of my attention and energy in doing the game and didn't have any space for extra efforts such as keeping calm. If a leader is responsible for a high pressure task and probably he needs to completely throw himself into his job. How can he always remain such a space for keeping a clear head?
Besides, I don't think it is necessary and possible for every follower to understand each step in a task. For example, it is impossible for a fresh employee to know everything that he takes part in and it is likely that he nearly have no idea what he does. Obviously, he couldn't know what others talk during meeting. Can he always interrupt the boss and require explain? Will his boss and his colleagues explain everything he questions? Of course, no. What he should do is trying to find out answers by himself and catch up with others in future work instead of always asking for answers.
February 16, 2011
On Monday, each of our teams built a tower by leading with our leaders. Some of the leaders turned out to be autocratic and some of them were more democratic. I agree that it was partly because of the characteristics and habits of the leaders, however, what I am thinking is that the behaviors of leaders may change when they face different tasks. For example, Ian was the leader in our team and he did engineering in his previous degree. So he was confident in managing the task and made his decision quickly before he came back. Obviously, he was very good at handling our team though he appeared autocratic and didn't ask our opinions. We worked together quite well as his instruction was clear and his strategy was really effective. However, the leaders who were lack of knowledge in construction may feel diffident and weren't capable at making decision by themselves. In this situation, they had to ask their follower's idea and listened carefully even if they were definitely not such kind of person. But, once these democratic leaders got the chances to lead in an area that they are really familiar with and good at, will they still prefer democracy as well?
Besides, during the exercise, I felt that initiative of employees was important and necessary at work. For example, at the beginning of the exercise, I just sat in my chair and cut the tapes lackadaisical. Later, I thought things couldn't be like that as every one worked so fast and I should be more active, or else I would out of our pace. Because I enjoyed the game so much as I wished to make our tower better, it was not difficult for me to walk around the table and cut tapes. But if I thought the game was boring and I really didn't want to build a tower, probably I would stay in my chair through the exercise unless I was forced to stand.
What I am also thinking is that though initiative seems good most of the time, leaders still need to manage it sometimes. Initiative appeared as a positive factor in our team and Ian didn't need to concern about it, however, I remembered when we finished building our tower, some groups were still discussing their ideas. I mean, there are full of initiative in each team and because of the democratic leaders, every followers tended to show their opinions. If only ten minutes were allowed in making the towers, we couldn't have so much time to argue and discuss. Therefore, initiative might cause negative results in the above situation and leaders need to control the initiative to a certain degree.
February 15, 2011
As far as I see, motivating people is part of influencing people. You can influence your people without motivating them. For example, you can use you authority and power to influence and manage them, however, these actions usually fail in motivating them. It is not difficult to motivate one people or several people but it is really difficult to encourage all employees in a company because there is no one-way to motivate them. For instance, they are belonged to different departments, groups and they are different individuals, so that it is certainly they have lots of particular character tics. Whereas, there are some common approaches that may suitable to the majority of people such as creating the ability to develop real relationships, training, rewards and good work environment, etc. But most importantly, understanding and commutation are indispensable in motivating them.
February 14, 2011
Obviously, it is always difficult to change the mindset of leaders. Gardner presented seven methods in changing the idea of people: reason, research, resonance, representational redescriptions, resources & rewards, real world events and resistances. And these approaches should be effective in changing leader's mindset. For example, it is important to indicate a good reason in order to get the support from leaders. Of course, research can seldom be overlooked in justifying your ideas as words alone are no proof and it is hard to let leaders to believe you just according to what you say. Also, resonance is really helpful in mindset change. Without generating resonance with your leaders, it is not necessary and not willing for them to change their mind. It is not hard to understand the contribution of the rest elements to the mindset change of leaders. However, they are our leaders so that we cannot suppose to change them as what we did to our friends and families. Through the seven elements, we can see that communication is quite important in change decision making. Besides, action that shows the benefit we may gain from the decision is another effective way in affecting leaders.
February 12, 2011
How about if what I learned in UK is not compatible to my future job in my country? Paul raised the question on Friday because concepts in leadership and management appear different between eastern countries and western countries. However, I remembered he said in the first lesson in leadership, you would never learn leadership in the class. So does it really matter what I'm learning now and do I need to concern about it if things become conflicted in some day. Sometimes things just turn out to be ridiculous. For example, most people agree that there's no relationship between a good student and a good employee. Meanwhile, most students work hard on their lessons in order to learn more and get good marks. But no one can guarantee they will be successful employees let alone effective leaders. Brush once said in Yale, those who did well in their grades were excellent and those who did poor in their courses would have the chance to become the president. Churchill got really terrible results in his marks and Gates even dropped out school. But finally, they all proved to be great leaders. Does it make any sense?
My mom came across some undergraduate colleagues and master colleagues. Generally speaking, she believed people who did master degree had better ability at work. Was it because the masters had more knowledge in his job? I don't think so because most of them did their degrees in totally distinct areas compare to their jobs. The masters turned out to be more excellent just because they were more capable at learning, especially at learning new things. We learned a lot about chemistry, biology and physics, etc. However, a large number of people will never face any problem that relates to the above fields. Why do we still need to learn these things? Yes, you can say we learn them as we need to get our degrees and do well in the college entrance examination. Forget these, are these lessons useless and do they waste our time? I think the most significant benefit we got from what we learned was not the knowledge itself but was the learning ability we obtained. For example, this year I'm doing the MBE course. But the most important thing I'm learning isn't leadership, CBE and six sigma, etc. I'm learning how to learn. Come back to the question, it doesn't matter whether it's compatible or not because we are learning how to learn to be a leader instead of how to be a leader.
It is widely acknowledged that leaders in eastern countries and western countries usually lead their people in different ways. I agree with what Shi-wen said that it was because of the differences in education. Someone had made a comparison between the education in both America and China and claimed America nurtured its children to become "wolves" which had the ability to strive for their ideas while China trained its students to be "sheep" which lack of the capability of initiative and creation. This could be one reason to explain the differences. However, I want to add more points. The differences may generate because of distinct systems of organizations. I'm not familiar with western companies whether leaders should obtain the support or vote of their followers. But in China, leaders just need to be responsible to their leaders, for example, top leaders. It is because only your leaders can decide whether you can get promotion or whether you are suitable to your currently position. In this case, it is not necessary for Chinese leaders to consider or be care about their employees' conditions because the followers can change nothing even though they really don't like their leader. Beside, the concepts and philosophies between China and UK are different as UK tends to support Deming while Drucker gets more votes in China. But it is difficult to say which one is better and to conclude whether leadership in western countries in more effective than in eastern countries. Management in some developed countries seems more scientific and cares more about human nature, however, according to napoleon: an army of sheep, led by a lion, is better than an army of lions, led by a sheep. But how about if a lion leads an army of lions?