Friday, May 23, 2008

My Perspective on my Trip to China

I'm back after 12 days in Hong Kong, Xian and Beijing. When I left diesel fuel cost us $3.87 per gallon. Yesterday it would cost $4.57!! There is no doubt that many of our customers are feeling the double whammy of higher costs and lower head counts. We need to keep plugging away (and I know I sound like a broken record) but we need to continue to prove our value to our customers in helping them with battle the effects of the economy.

Traveling to another country truly gives you perspective on what we have here. My travels to China were a confusing mix of contrasts. Great wealth in Hong Kong, a booming economy in Beijing, the innate poverty of the masses, the overabundance of labor, the human tragedy of an earthquake, the sense of tradition politically and religiously, the desire to learn, the desire to prosper, the unique culture, the Westernization of a Communist country. I left China barely able to comprehend the future of this huge country.
What I do understand is that unlike in the US, when a dictatorship wants to flex its muscles it does so in an instant. The immediate prohibition of all foreign entertainment channels taken off the air during the period of mourning, the candor of the guides that they "could not talk about that" when a sensitive issue was questioned, reminded me of the totalitarianism. Yet, the anarchy on the roads, the aggressive capitalism, the construction cranes everywhere, made me wonder how even a dictatorship was going to control this crazy growth without losing their grip on a population with raised expectations.
All I know is we are so lucky to live here in this country at this time in history. In China, I heard again and again, the admiration and curiosity of what it’s like to live in America. Our appreciation of what we have, and the way we work to preserve our democratic society will determine our destiny.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why do we avoid conflict? It's easier in the short run. We like to be liked. We feel bad when we hurt people's feelings. We hate having our feelings hurt. We need to protect our feelings. We don't want to stir the nest. We can still get around the issue and have a more pleasant environment.
Are long term relationships at work and/or home successful because we let things go? Is it easier to accept things as they are rather than changing them?
Even as leaders we struggle with these questions. We say we pick our battles, keep perspective, prioritize the issues we want to confront and solve.
I look at our President and question our foreign policy, yet keep coming back to the above questions and understand why conflicts need to be confronted.
What do they say- "let sleeping dogs lay". Well, that is only true if that dog doesn't prove to be a threat to our life and liberty once awakened. Do we let terrorists bent on our destruction, assemble, train, buy arms, bomb our cities, our ships and our embassies? Of course not, action needs to be taken and our country certainly has.
In our own lives we are constantly met with potential conflicts. Most we avoid since the consequences of confrontation are greater than the cost of avoidance. But, many of the conflicts need to be confronted, since the long term costs of avoidance are resentment, distrust and unhappiness. The question then becomes how do we handle conflict. How do we confront conflict and assure a resolution that will enhance rather than destroy a relationship?
In my next blog, I will discuss conflict management and the lessons I have learned the hard way and the lessons I am still learning to this very day.