Leaders and conflict

By Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

Conflict is inevitable and it is a byproduct of people’s differing perspectives, needs, interests, desires and goals.  Everyone at all levels of the organization deals with conflicts.

The key to dealing with conflict is recognizing that a conflict has occurred and coming up with a way of addressing it.  Conflict if unattended will snowball into a larger problem, affect morale, performance, waste time and money.   The key is timely recognition, because the longer the conflict lasts the harder it is to resolve it.

Leaders who failed to address conflict effectively will be viewed by their people as less of a leader.  It is will affect their ability to be promoted.  Their inability to handle the situation will cause people to undermine their authority.   Effective leaders have a keen sense of awareness of what is going on and are able act on the issue in a timely manner.

What are the causes of conflict?

Personality clashes – people who have different personalities or similar personalities.  Take for example type “A” people.  They always want to dominate and be in control.  Having two type “A” people on your team could possibly create conflict.

Miscommunication – this is the most common cause of conflict.  One person thinks it should be done one way while the other person thinks the other person will take care of the work.   In the end, the work does not get done and both are left wondering what happened—then conflict starts.

Competition – when people are competitive and always try to out do one another.  As such, they fail to work together instead of focusing on the situation and working together to achieve the goal.

Lack of clarity of responsibility – when people don’t have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, they will be frustrated and it will result in conflict.

Leaders are like public figures, they are always in the spotlight.   People who admire them will look to them for guidance.  A key leadership competency is the ability to handle adverse situations.    People rely on their leader to step up and address the issue.   Therefore, it is essential for everyone aspiring to be a leader, or a current leader, to learn to spot when a conflict occurs and address it in a timely manner.  Because they will be judged based on how they handle and resolve the conflict.

Your Loyal Employees

By Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

In the age of instant gratification and competitive marketplace, loyalty seems to be a dying breed.   Back in the days when our parents were working, they would work for the same company their entire careers and then look forward to retiring and enjoying their pensions.  At the same time, they would encourage their children to also work for the same company in the future.

These days people have a lot of options and companies are willing to pay a premium to snatch top talents from their competitors.   People are drawn to getting instantaneous reward, be that pay increases, more perks or promotions.   But there is more to it than people just wanting more.  The corporate culture has changed.   Companies used to value people as their most important assets.  As such, they would take the time to invest in them; that included providing pensions for their retired employees.  That has since changed.  The focus has shifted to watching the bottom line.   As a result, employees feel as if the company does not value long-term relationships.  While generating revenue is important, it is equally important to have the right people doing the work.  

So, do we just let those employees who have been with our companies for a long time go work for our competitors?  I would think the answer is a resounding no.  Then, companies should make a conscious effort to keep them. 

Why are loyal employees important to us?

Business knowledge – in most cases our loyal employees are our subject-matter experts.  Although we now live in a technology-driven society, people are still our most important assets. Technology is a tool. Without the right people working with the tool, the tool is no more useful than what it is intended for.  Without the right people who are loyal and dedicated, we cannot sustain the level of service that would, in effect, yield a sustainable level of performance.

Understanding the challenges – experience is the best teacher.  The loyal employees have experience dealing with work challenges and can provide insights on how to resolve the issue.  That is not to say that you would not benefit from a fresh pair of eyes, but experience dealing with the process cannot be discounted.

Talent pool – keeping loyal employees could provide the company with a rich talent pool that could increase its competitive advantage.   Also, promoting from within could increase the employees’ morale. 

In the end, the company would benefit from keeping the loyal employees happy,   because it could help benefit lower turnover and help the companies sustain their competitive advantage.  The main advantage of keeping loyal employees is retention of the proprietary knowledge that would be hard to replace.   As a leader, you must harness the capabilities of your loyal employees and value their opinions.   Because if you don’t they will leave your firm and your loss will be someone’s gain.

Leadership Lessons from My Father

By Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

Leadership is caring and serving others.  Life is about experiences.  It is also evolving, as each chapter comes to a close and the next chapter begins.  As we go through this journey, we either affect other people or someone touches our life because they cared or loved us.   I had a few people that made a difference in my life.  My teacher in junior high, she believed in me and encouraged me to try my best and taught me not to let anybody tell me what I can and cannot do.  The other person is my father.  His action speaks louder than words.  I learned by observing him live his life and listening to stories about his past. 

Lead by example—My father owns a convenience store.  Everyday, he is the first one to arrive at the store at 2:30 a.m. and the last one to leave at 9:00 p.m. He is always there for the people working at our store and he worked alongside them like everyone else. 

Treat people with respect—I grew up helping in our store and saw how he treated his employees.  He listens to them and values their opinions.  He would not ask them to do something that he would not do himself.   It does not matter who you are or what you do, he would give you the time and listen to what you have to say.   An example is, he would talk to the garbage collector and ask him how he and his family were doing.    He spent time to get to know him.  As such, he is well liked by everyone.

Working hard and continuously improving your skills—When my father was growing up, his parents did not have the means to send him to school.  But he managed to complete six grades.  In spite of his background, all three of us sibling went to college.  His proudest moment was when we earned our bachelor degrees.    He often reminded us of the importance of education and working hard.  He once said, “When you work for somebody, no matter how great a job you did, when you leave, they can say you did not do a good job.  But no one can take away your education and knowledge.”    He stress the importance of continuously improving our skills.  Since graduating from college, I have not stopped learning new things.  I took what he said to heart and continue my graduate education.  

Be a good listener—He always leads with his heart and did what is best for the common good.    He is also a good listener.  He gives people the benefit of the doubt and is always available when people seek his help.   He listens and gives people his undivided attention.

In some respects, as someone makes a difference in our life, we tend to reciprocate and do the same to others.   It is interesting to know that what I learned from my father are the characteristics of a leader.  When I was growing up, I had no concept of leadership.  My father showed me the way and instilled a lot of the lessons that became the fiber of my being.    I believed in continuous learning and “sharpening the saw” (Covey, 1991).   My hope is that I will be as good a leader as my father was during his time. In the end, I have my father to thank and I hope I will make him proud.