Skilled workers ‘harder to manage’ than graduates

Keo Lundi chief executive of Sromoch Trading Solution Co Ltd (Photo courtersy supplied by Keo Lundi)

Thmey Thmey Senior Journalist Ky Soklim asks Keo Lundi, chief executive of Sromoch Trading Solution Co Ltd, about the challenges of managing staff. The former education team manager who also serves as business development chief of infant supplies retailer Baby Outlet says different people need to be managed differently.

You are now managing a distribution company, which is very different from your previous job as an education team manager. What are the differences in leadership in terms of human resources?

KEO LUNDI: Same but different. The same because as a leader or manager, you can’t avoid working with people and people’s basic needs are not very different. I lead with love, care and attention. I give value to everyone. Creating a good team comes before developing a good business. My rule of thumb is that I first do it myself, then let capable staff follow. I ultimately give them enough authority to lead, decide, hire and fire. I think this method has worked well since I started using it.

However, it's different from my past position. Trading is more challenging and I needed to learn a lot of new things before and while managing the business. I believe in education, so I took time to learn about trading. At a more practical level, I've learnt from all stakeholders such as shareholders, business partners, competitors and staff.

KY SOKLIM: Who are harder to manage — graduates or skilled workers?

KEO LUNDI: It depends. Graduates and skilled workers work differently in terms of hard skills. But the key to success is not only hard skills but also soft skills. In my job as a leader, I can’t expect many soft skills which is why I train and teach by example. To choose one, skilled workers are harder to find and harder to manage.

KY SOKLIM: What are the differences between leaders and managers?

KEO LUNDI: These two roles can be found within the same person even if they are not the same and sound different. A leader is someone with a longer and better vision to direct teams to follow an intended vision. A manager follows directions with strategies and techniques as well as hard and soft skills. In other words, we can say a leader does the right things, a manager does things right. Many managers can be transformed into leaders the moment they initiate new ways of doing the old things they managed. A leader who's involved in managing is great because he or she can feel the difference between reality and expectations and can easily adapt and accept new strategies to make improvements.

KY SOKLIM: Are you a leader or a manager? 

KEO LUNDI: I’m both. I love seeing things in the long term and I like being involved with management. In the near future, I hope to be able to turn my regular staff with potential into managers and turn current managers into leaders. Then I can focus more on the vision and growth strategy for the company. 

KY SOKLIM: You're in your mid-thirties. Do you prefer working with younger or older employees?

KEO LUNDI: Honestly, I love working with younger employees because I used to be their age. I'm more or less aware of their feelings and way of thinking. Older people are usually more experienced, yet not all experience is good. For me, working with younger or older people is not really an issue as long as we respect each other. Without respect, work won’t be smooth and time will be wasted.

KY SOKLIM: You were manager for a well-known school and now the owner of Baby Outlet. What is the difference between these roles?

KEO LUNDI: I honestly find no difference between my former job and my current businesses. I had 100 percent ownership in my previous job so I never thought that I was an employee. I looked after every aspect of the business. As owner, I played more of a role as a visionary rather than someone involved with daily operations. I believed in my dedicated team and growth strategies. 

KY SOKLIM: What’s the hardest thing in managing human resources?

KEO LUNDI: In business, we need to manage many things. People are the most difficult. And because people are different, they need to be managed differently. But how can we have 100 ways of managing 100 staff? The most challenging part of human resource management is to make sure everyone shares common interests and goals and — most importantly — fights for those goals together. So our job is to make it happen. If you can’t make it happen, you’re not alone. But if you want to stand out as an effective leader, you have to make it happen at any cost by using hard and soft skills. 

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