13Dec/120

Unwilling Bedfellows

Posted by WABC

Learning to Be ONE: The 7 Challenges of Working in a Public-Private Setting
(Part 1 of 2)

What happens when the private sector meets the public? Is it all about private sector efficiency versus public sector values or are other factors involved? Drawing on our experience of coaching in both sectors and coaching people who suddenly found themselves working in an organization taken over by the government, this article raises awareness of commonly occurring themes/challenges. By making the themes clear we hope that executive coaches and their clients can be better prepared for the challenges ahead and thus contribute to raising performance standards in these settings.

Banking is the latest sector to become involved in public-private partnerships; previous sectors include infrastructure and health. The current/recent global financial crisis created many new and unexpected partnerships. For example, in the UK we saw the nationalization of Northern Rock. Almost overnight, bank executives were thrown into cooperation and collaboration with civil servants. They were charged with achieving the best possible solution for the general public through the most appropriate allocation of resources, risk, and rewards.

However, what may sound fine and straightforward in theory is full of challenges for the executives working in these settings. To be successful, they need to understand the new culture in which they will be working and have a healthy appreciation of the themes that will be part of their daily working lives.

Over the last 18 months, during the economic slowdown and subsequent crisis, we conducted coaching assignments across industries and countries. We began to notice patterns and themes emerging. In all, we looked at 30 executive coaching cases. What struck us was the high degree of "convergent validity," meaning great similarity, of the themes irrespective of country or specific organizational environment.

We have grouped the most commonly recurring themes into seven categories. These are:

  1. Different cultures—behaviors and expectations;
  2. Greater complexity of stakeholder groups;
  3. Leadership and management style;
  4. Process versus purpose;
  5. Depth and breadth of subject matter know-how;
  6. Murkier measures of success;
  7. Language and vocabulary.

In this article, we look at the first three of these themes from the perspective of executives coming from the private sector into these new partnerships. In next week's blog we will explore the remaining four themes.

1. Different Cultures—Behaviors and Expectations

One theme that was common to all of our clients, regardless of country or sector, was that they had really underestimated the difference in working cultures and hence the differences in behaviors and expectations. Of course, they were aware of perceived differences between private and public sector organizations, but what they had not anticipated was that public ownership of a hitherto private organization could make such a dramatic and immediate difference. It was an experience that was not only organizational, but personal, and, as with any personal change, potentially a source of anxiety.

For our clients, there were two main elements to the meeting of private and public sector cultures. One is the nature of relationships, and how relationships work differently in the public sector. Relationships up, down, and across the organization can hinder management. For example, the established hierarchy and deference to those in more senior positions can make it difficult for executives to manage their teams if members of the team are used to acting on directives from the top. In addition, different functions appear to have different levels of power and influence.

The second element concerns the ability to act and make decisions. For the former private sector executives, there was much ill-disguised frustration with their lack of autonomy. As one of our clients said, "I'm used to getting the go-ahead from my boss or maybe one other. Now I have to submit a proposal which has to go through several layers and be referred to the project board. What used to take hours now takes days." Intense public scrutiny either via the media or through answering questions to parliamentary committees means that every decision is analyzed and agonized over before action is taken. Particularly in the UK, another new challenge is the responsibility to Ministers, which means that government policy and political imperatives will influence the direction in which the organization is travelling and may impact on priorities so that commercial considerations are no longer the only driving force.

Ministerial relationships provide a particularly interesting challenge as access to Ministers is closely guarded and very much regarded as the "turf" of senior civil servants. This severely impacted the decision-making process as the former private sector executives found that they had less time with the Ministers and therefore found it more difficult to incorporate their views into thinking. This lengthened the process and also meant that contact was brief and limited to crisis situations.

The significance of this is especially highlighted in an election year. In Germany, 2009 was a major election year with voting in local, state, and national elections. This means that issues which were at the heart of public attention, e.g., the state of banks and their stability and what was happening to state guarantees, emerged as key topics for politicians. The elections promised to bring a fundamental shift in Germany's political landscape, causing civil servants to slow or put off decisions until after the election in anticipation of changes in their political masters, and hence priorities. This in turn led to further frustrations for the former private sector executives. The situation in the UK is similar with a general election approaching in 2010. The government, and hence civil servants, have gone into a period of "purdah" where no new initiatives or schemes can be announced to prevent the current government from gaining advantage by announcing attractive policy changes. Again this will slow decision making.

The degree to which the new arrangements affected our clients depended on a number of factors, including how the civil servants responded to them personally. For us, it was initially difficult to find a way to discuss with our clients the cultural differences in these new organizations. We eventually used Geert Hofstede's cultural framework1 to discuss it in a more systematic manner. In this way we were able to help them gain an understanding of their own and the other culture and the impact this had on behavior and expectations. This enabled them to target their messages much better and proved to be an excellent preparation for negotiations.

2. Greater Complexity of Stakeholder Groups

The different culture of a public sector organization also involves a much wider stakeholder group. One executive from a private organization said he used to think it was "complex" when a private equity company entered the matrix structured organization he used to work for. Now that he is on the board of a bank where the state has given a guarantee and invested millions of taxpayers' money, he truly understands, "for the first time in my life what ‘complex' really means."

He described that his "mind was blown away about the arguments that were floating around in a meeting when different people described what they will have to consider before coming to a decision." In fact, at times the factors were so diverse that it really was impossible to satisfy the needs of all stakeholders and situational alliances had to be created to ensure that certain objectives were achieved. Whilst this is "normal" in a board setting, it was particularly delicate here and scorings about who does what for whom and when were carefully monitored and guarded.

A key stakeholder is the general public that is both customer and, indirectly, investor. Private sector executives are used to working within organizations that are very customer focused, but come from a background where the chief interest of the investor is usually the bottom line. Clearly there is still a major imperative to deliver value, but it is value derived in both monetary and social terms.

We found that what helped our clients most was a visual display and a very sound stakeholder mapping. Based on this, we developed strategies for specific people and/or target groups. From feedback we understood that clients felt that this provided them with a more solid foundation that led in turn to feelings of greater security and self-confidence.

3. Leadership and Management Style

Talking to our clients, it has become apparent that there is a move toward more collaborative leadership in their new environments. It would be simplistic to blame individualism and command-and-control approaches for the current economic situation. However, it is clear that working in partnership requires a much more cooperative approach where shared responsibility and accountability are embedded in the culture. Collaborative leadership is a process used in situations where there is a diverse group of stakeholders to find solutions to complex problems that affect them all. Inevitably, this also involves systemic change.

In both public and private settings, it has become increasingly common to use this more team-based approach to problem solving. Collaborative leadership requires people with differing backgrounds and perspectives to come together, discuss issues openly, and put aside their self-interests.

To achieve this type of leadership in their organizations, our clients found that they needed to use negotiation, persuasion, and patience to even greater degrees to see their ideas put into action.

It can take time to create alignment. Getting all parties on board requires time and patience. Our clients commented on the length of time required for decision making in the new environment. Of course, this is one of the fundamentals of the democratic process—making decisions collectively. However, for those new to the process, it can seem to be overly complicated and very, very slow.

From the analysis of our coaching cases and the feedback we received, we understand that the key strategies that helped our clients were to step back and "walk in the moccasins" of the other person, i.e., to take on the perspective of the other party. Once this was done, they then thought about how to incorporate this into their own arguments. The second strategy we identified was the skill to create and use alliances.

In the next issue, we will discuss the remaining four themes/challenges we discovered that people face when private meets public.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

1 For a brief synopsis of this framework, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geert_Hofstede.

Dr. Sabine Dembkowski is founder and director of The Coaching & Communication Centre in London, Cologne, & Frankfurt. Together with her colleagues, she supports members of boards, executives, and high-potentials in Fortune 500, DAX 30, and leading professional service firms across Europe. Before she established The Coaching Centre, she was a strategic management consultant with A.T. Kearney and Monitor Company in London. Contact Dr. Dembkowski. More about Dr. Dembkowski in the WABC Member Directory.

Fiona Eldridge is director of The Coaching & Communication Centre. Much of her work centers on supporting leaders across the public sector. Previously she was Head of Leadership and Coaching at Veredus. In addition to her work for The Coaching & Communication Centre, she is non-executive Chairman of Teaching Personnel and a non-executive Director of NHS Professionals, a special health authority set up to manage the supply, cost, and quality of the temporary workforce within the UK's National Health Service. Contact Fiona.

Sabine and Fiona (along with Ian Hunter) are the co-authors of The Seven Steps of Effective Executive Coaching published by Thorogood in 2006.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
6Dec/120

What Helps Leaders to Be Effective on a Global Level…and What Doesn’t – Part I

Posted by WABC

By Jeremy Solomons

As business becomes more and more global, many organizations are asking themselves if an effective leader in one country or region can duplicate her or his success on a worldwide level?

For example, Lucia Mannone may have a proven track record in the southern European region, but is she still able to develop new client relationships, manage projects, and run teams in the very different markets of Latin America and East Asia? And if she can't, what is the best way to prepare her and other budding global leaders like her to be fully productive and effective in the future?

This is the first of three articles that will explore and explode some common myths around global leadership development and then come up with some alternative approaches that coaches can use to help all leaders be successful across international boundaries.

In order to do this, let's go back to Lucia. She is a 38-year-old Italian senior marketing officer for a German medical instrument company. The company headquarters are in Stuttgart and she is based in Milan. She has worked on Italian national accounts and then the southern European region for the last 12 years and her performance and that of her teams have been consistently high.

As her company is expanding in the key markets of Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea, she is now being asked to take on a more global role. Her technical knowledge is beyond compare and her ability to motivate her colleagues has been demonstrated again and again, even during economic downturns and company restructurings. But she has not traveled much beyond the Mediterranean, except for a professional conference in Baltimore and family holidays in Phuket and Cancun.

For someone like Lucia, the first step is usually to help her become more "culturally competent," but this can be interpreted and realized in many different ways.

Myth 1: The Behavioral Approach

A typical way to launch "cultural competence" coaching might be for Lucia to read one or two of the many books or websites that outline all the things to do—and more importantly, not to do—in a particular country.

If Lucia is like most businesspeople and she does not want to give offense or look stupid, it might be very helpful for her to learn how to give someone a business card in Osaka or what not to discuss at an initial business lunch in Monterrey. All of these hints and tips can certainly help with those important first impressions, but what happens after you kiss, bow, or shake hands?

Lucia might have done her homework and diligently learned the top 50 or 100 or even 500 etiquette tips for working and communicating with Brazilians or Koreans, but what would she do in situation 501? Unfortunately, she would have no idea what to do or say, because the behavioral approach on its own only gives the "whats" and the "hows" but not the "whys." There is no context for the content. No framework for the structure.

Myth 2: The National Values Approach

In order to get at the "whys," Lucia might then be directed to some well-grounded research on the differences between national values. The innovative works of Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars are frequently studied during this stage of global leadership development.

Through her reading, Lucia will probably be delighted to discover that the traditional importance that Italians place on such values as family, relationships, creativity, aesthetics, love, passion, and even calcio (football/soccer) are also shared by Brazilians. She might be surprised to find out that the Chinese value "face"—social harmony and personal honor-just as the Italians do. In China, it is called mianzi and in Italy, bella figura. And she might appreciate the warning that "respect" does not mean the same thing in Mexico as it does in Italy or that the Japanese are much more concerned with centralized authority than the autonomy-loving Italians.

Similarly, explanations of the different concepts of "quality" and "seriousness" in Germany and Italy might shed  light on some long-running tensions with certain people in the Stuttgart headquarters. But this approach can only help so far, because it is based on a rather dangerous assumption: that everyone—or even most people—within a national culture will conform to the norms of that culture.

This is a particularly dubious claim in the vibrant cultures of international business and among young people, where change is a constant and deviation from the norm is much more prevalent.

On an individual level, Engineer Lee may not be very Korean in his value system, because he studied for his undergraduate degree at Delft University in the Netherlands and his master's degree at MIT in Boston. And Señor Trujillo may not be very Mexican as he grew up in seven different countries on three continents as his mother was a diplomat.

And what about Lucia herself?

At first glance, it would seem that she is typically Italian, having lived and worked there her whole life apart from her frequent business trips around Europe and a few work and pleasure jaunts beyond the continent.

But what if you knew that she was an orphan from North Africa, who was brought up by her nonna (adoptive grandmother) in a clean, safe, but very modest home in a small town outside Naples. As a math genius and natural athlete, she excelled in school and was the youngest MBA ever to graduate from the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan. She is now married to a struggling artist and has three young children, one of whom has cerebral palsy.

How might these unique environmental and genetic factors affect her personal value system and how she behaves and communicates with other people?

We will explore this and related issues in the next Global Leader Development article to be published in the June issue of BCW.

In the meantime, if you want to respond to any of the points raised in this column, please email the article author.

 

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

References

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Hofstede, G. (2005). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (Revised and expanded 2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hampden-Turner, C. and F. Trompenaars. Riding The Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  Jeremy Solomons, is the UK-born and USA-naturalized founder and president of Jeremy Solomons & Associates, which helps current and future leaders to connect and communicate effectively across all cultures-national, organizational, professional, and individual. From his base in Austin, Texas, he coaches, consults, designs curriculum, facilitates, and trains in many areas of leadership. Contact Jeremy.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
11Oct/120

Shanghai Motors: A Case Study in GeoleadershipTM

Posted by WABC

By Dr. E. S. Wibbeke and Dr. Cynthia Loubier-Ricca

Can leaders be successful leading business ventures in cultures outside of their own without understanding those novel cultures? If recent research and news accounts are correct, the answer is no. A conservative estimate suggests that 70% of global business ventures fail because of mismanagement of cultural differences.1 In this article, we address the question of intercultural leadership competence and how to build it. Based on original research conducted with 30 intercultural experts, we developed and tested a leadership preparation model we call GeoleadershipTM. This model does not suggest a blanket approach to leadership preparation approaches. Rather, it addresses missing aspects of culturally biased approaches. The remainder of the article describes the typical problems inherent in intercultural business contexts, presents the GeoleadershipTM Model components, and then applies the model to a specific case study in a global business.

The Problem of Culture

Whether or not we desire to, most adults act from a cultural bias. Culture influences, if not controls, our lives. Culture informs our religious/spiritual beliefs, our ways of eating, our manner of dress, and how we view the world. Our own cultures become so ingrained and second nature that they feel quite natural. When we put ourselves in another culture, we can quickly encounter customs, beliefs, and laws that feel quite unnatural. Therein lies the dilemma for business leaders who desire to conduct business in a culture outside their own. Leading a business venture in another country across national and international boundaries can be daunting. As recently as 2004, the world consisted of at least 200 nations and over 5000 ethnic groups. In many countries, the population is segmented into a dominant majority with one or more ethnic minorities amounting to more than 10% of the population.2

Theorists define culture variously and, as Pedersen and Connerley suggest, culture is often a misunderstood construct in organizations.3 Hall4 viewed culture as a mental exercise for sending, sorting, and processing of information. Kroeber and Kluckhohn5suggested that culture was an abstraction, rather than something tangible. Triandis6 perceived culture as a set of norms, roles, and values that produce meaning. Samovar and Porter7 suggested that culture is the cumulative deposit of knowledge and experience acquired by groups of people and then passed on to subsequent generations. House, Wright, and Aditya8 defined culture as the patterns of shared psychological properties among collective members resulting in attitudes and behaviors transmitted across generations. Such psychological properties include assumptions, beliefs, and values. When shared collectively, such properties become cultural norms or accepted behaviors. Although culture appears to be related to ethnicity, nationality, demography, or status, the typical definition is similar to Hofstede's "the collective programming of the mind that distinguished the members of one human group from another."9

Adding complexity to the picture is the fact that business organizations, too, have or are cultures. Shafritz and Ott10 described organizational culture as "a polemical concept which does not lend itself to a single definition." Van Maanen11 posited that it was "observed behavioral regularities when people interact, such as the language used and the rituals around deference and demeanor." Deal and Kennedy12 argued that culture is "the dominant values espoused by an organization, such as product quality, or price leadership and affects practically everything from who gets promoted and what decisions are made, to how employees dress."

Leadership Is a Cultural Concept

The problem with even the best-intentioned recommendations for leadership competence in intercultural contexts is that there still remains a cultural bias. In other words, the very concept of leadership is culturally bound. For example, in French, leadership (conduit) means "to guide one's own behavior, to guide others, or command action." Although the French are famous for protesting, authority commands deference and respect. In German, leadership (führung) means "guidance," and in organizations, it is construed to consist of uncertainty reduction. The leader guides action by the rules in such a way as to motivate. In Arabic, there is a word sheikh that has different meanings according to the regional culture. Literally, sheikh means a man over 40. However, in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, sheikh means a person from the Royal Family. In Egypt, sheikhmeans a scholar of religion. In Lebanon, sheikh means a religious leader, even among Christians. The socioeconomic and political culture of the Middle East plays a role in influencing the definition of leadership, though it is generally agreed that leadership is tied to seniority before any other qualification. In most of the Middle East, the term" leadership" is a political term, with the exception that in Iran, it is more a religious term. In Chinese, the characters for leadership, mean "the leader and the led." The implication is that leadership can only be a relational activity. For this article, we focus on a US leader who faced the intersection of American and Chinese business culture.

The GeoleadershipTM Model

We conducted a study with leading intercultural experts from around the world to determine the critical competencies for intercultural leadership and how leaders can acquire them. While the study's questions focused on US business leaders, panelists concluded that their recommendations held for all leaders engaged in global enterprise.

From the analysis, we identified seven critical factors considered necessary for intercultural leadership competence. These seven critical factors were integrated and form the foundation for Geoleadership,TM a new intercultural leadership model. The seven factors are as follows:

Care: Global business leaders should hold and maintain equal concern for the bottom line and for stakeholder groups. One of the starkest criticisms of US business leaders is that their focus is on profit above all other considerations. While we can agree that one objective of business is profit creation, we also believe that a longer term and broader social system ultimately serves business.

Communication: In order for business leaders to lead effectively in intercultural situations, they must engage the people of the cultures in whose countries they work. Closely related to context is that leaders must reach out to people in other cultures with a desire to understand and appreciate that culture and its people. Leaders must learn communication skills that promote listening and open, respectful dialogue.

Consciousness: A person filling the role of leader (or manager) needs to develop self-awareness. A leader's awareness must be expandable as contexts shift such that the leader becomes aware of his/her own personal cultural background and bias relative to that of other people. Building consciousness means being able to expand self-awareness.

Contrasts: Leaders must be able to work comfortably and effectively with ambiguity. Developing a tolerance for working with contrasting perspectives, methods, and differing value systems is critical. Working in ambiguous contexts requires patience and consciousness. Working at such a high level of consciousness means that leaders must be able to perceive multiple levels of contrasting meaning simultaneously.

Context: Global business leaders must develop the ability to A) perceive, discern, and adapt to the situations within which they work, and B) suspend judgment. As trite as it may seem, the old expression "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" seems to apply. This is not to suggest that leaders patronize the people with whom they interact in intercultural contexts. Rather, global business leaders must attend to the situation in which they find themselves. Leaders need to be able to recognize their own culturally learned behavior and adapt it according to their new context.

Change: Postmodern organizations require leaders who demonstrate flexibility in adapting to dynamic cultural environments. Intercultural leaders must shift from the old mechanistic mindsets of the industrial era to the flexible adaptive perspective of organizational life as a complex sociocultural system.

Capability: In order for a leader to be effective in intercultural situations, sufficient personal and organization capabilities must be developed. Intercultural competence requires that leaders are able to assess their own and others' capability and build it where there is deficit. Most important is the leader's influence in facilitating the creation of an organizational culture capable of intercultural learning agility.

In the following section we present a case study and illustrate how each of the seven model principles potentially contributed to the success of a leader who transferred from the US to China, and who, as president, led his company's expansion into that country.

The Case of Shanghai Motors Parts

Tom Fontaine is the president of Shanghai Motor Parts, the second largest auto interior parts manufacturing company now operating in China. He is from Wisconsin, graduated from Princeton and Harvard universities, and is fluent in Mandarin. He has lived and worked in Shanghai with his wife and children for 15 years and become thoroughly immersed in the culture. The company's strategy for entering China was rather simple. China had a large workforce that was willing to work for much lower wages than laborers in Europe and North America. Moreover, there was a thriving economy and the Chinese people had acquired an appetite for driving automobiles. Before the current economic crisis, China was the third largest producer of automobiles in the world, although a large number were foreign carmakers. China's own auto manufacturers are not well known outside of that country. Shanghai Motor Parts found a niche selling interior parts and components to the largest of the homegrown Chinese auto manufacturers.

When Tom Fontaine took the assignment to explore the possibility of going into China, he had several concerns about navigating the Chinese culture. Tom's first consideration was related to the corporation's goals of expansion. Chief among those was his intention that whatever agreement was forged had to benefit all stakeholders. His worry was how to do that given that he was a novice, even though he was well traveled and had taken three years of Mandarin in college. Tom's first step before traveling to China was to contact someone who had experience with both business and Chinese culture. He knew from his Mandarin studies that there were many pitfalls that could befuddle someone who did not understand the subtleties of Chinese society. Tom cared about not only the impression he made, but also about the company's effect on the Chinese.

Tom's coach had advised that the Chinese, especially in the north, still live by the teachings of Confucius. For this reason, Tom began reading to reacquaint himself with Confucian ideals. What occurred to Tom was he had better do a lot of listening. Communication would be essential in building trust, and trust was a cornerstone of building relationships upon which business agreements could be forged.

Tom had an edge on some people who take on foreign assignments because he was a leader who had developed a high level of self-awareness. Consciousness,or being mindful, is important when shifting between situations and in maintaining integrity. What Tom learned was that the more he focused on the present and less on a goal in the future, the better his relationship building went. He learned he could be charming and humorous and that these qualities served him well. He learned the importance of attending to details and following through on everything he promised. Most importantly, Tom learned to cultivate every interaction by attending to the person and their needs.

The differences between how American and Chinese businesses operate is striking, and the ability to manage ambiguity and appreciate the contrastsbetween cultures is an essential skill for leaders working across cultural contexts. The key to understanding these differences struck Tom as requiring patience and perseverance. He determined that one important building block in forging relationships with the local people in Shanghai would be solving interpersonal problems rather than problems of process and legality. To the Chinese, building a relationship is about building trust; it is not about money.

In China, every interaction between people is based on a relationship. The concept of guanxi, which literally means "relationship," is held as a primary value. In business relationships, guanxi takes on additional meaning, referring to the network of relationships forged over time, relationships built on reciprocity. The Chinese society is much more complex than most Westerners imagine, differing vastly across many regions. Customs, language, and norms of each region must be recognized and honored. The Westerner who assumes that she/he has mastered China by coming to a base level of understanding of one city could blunder seriously.

Negotiating a business expansion into a new country, especially for those leaders who physically move to that country, entails monumental change.Through Tom's work in learning about Chinese culture, building greater self-awareness, and living in the moment, he increased his ability to adapt and be flexible.

By the time Tom had finished assessing the expansion to China, he knew whatcapabilities he and the company needed to grow. While he was confident, he was always tuned into the context and open to growth. As the relationship grew, Tom determined that if the company was going to move forward with expansion, it could not be on an American timetable. Tom had once heard an expression in the American business lingo that said to "slow down to move fast," and he began to understand the wisdom of the saying related to his company's endeavors in China. The most important capabilities that Tom acquired were cultivating self-awareness, developing appreciation for and knowledge of another culture, forging deep interpersonal relationships, creating a vision for the long-term, and learning to assume nothing.

We developed the GeoleadershipTM Model based on our research into the competencies required for business leaders to be successful in intercultural business contexts. The seven dimensions of the model foster comprehensive preparation for global business ventures through cultivating similar, but heightened, skills to what has been taught in traditional leadership models. While most leadership models advise attention to communication, intercultural contexts require heightened listening skills. While most models advise leaders to acquire an ability to live with ambiguity, a much greater emphasis is needed when entering different cultures. Cultivating skill in all seven dimensions is how one leader, Tom Fontaine, brought his company to China with success.

 

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


1 International Labor Organization. 2004. World Employment Report. Geneva.
2 United Nations Human Development Report Office, 2004
3 Pedersen, P., & M. Connerley. 2005. Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment: Developing Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
4 Hall, E. T. 1976. Beyond Culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor.
5 Kroeber, A., & C. Kluckholn. 1985. Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. New York: Random House.
6 Triandis, H. C. 1993. The Contingency Model in Cross-Cultural Perspective. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
7 Samovar, L. A., & R. E. Porter, eds. 2001. Communication between Cultures,4th ed. (1991). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
8 House, R. J., N. S. Wright, & R. N. Aditya, 1997. "Cross-Cultural Research on Organizational Leadership: A Critical Analysis and a Proposed Theory." In New Perspectives on International Industrial/Organizational Psychology, edited by P. C. Earley & M. Erez. San Francisco: New Lexington.
9 Hofstede, G., & G. J. Hofstede, 2004. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 2nd ed. (1996). New York: McGraw-Hill.
10 Shafritz, J. M., & J. S. Ott. 2000. Classics of Organization Theory, 5th ed. (1977). San Antonio, TX: Harcourt College.
11 Van Maanen, John. 1979. "Reclaiming Qualitative Methods for Organizational Research: A Preface." Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, December: 520-524.
1 Deal, Terrence E., & Allan A. Kennedy. 1982. Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life.  Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Dr. E.S. Wibbeke is the recognized management expert in how culture affects the bottom line. Dr. Wibbeke teaches Business Leadership courses at the University of Liverpool (UK) and Thunderbird School of Global Management (US), and holds a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership and an MBA in International Management. Dr. Wibbeke spent 20 years leading international projects at Fortune 500 firms, including 10 years in Silicon Valley. Dr. Wibbeke is author of Global Business Leadership (Elsevier, 2008), winner of the 2008 Best Business Book-San Diego Book Awards Association. Contact Dr. Wibbeke.

Dr. Cynthia Loubier-Ricca has been working as a consultant to individuals and organizations for the past 15 years. She regularly teaches courses in sociology, psychology, leadership, and research at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. She serves as a research mentor, dissertation chairperson, and dissertation committee member quite often. She has served as principal investigator or chairperson for various research or evaluative projects employing qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-design methodologies. Cynthia has conducted her own research using such methods as case study, ethnography, grounded theory, and quasi-experimentation. She holds doctoral, masters, and bachelor degrees in social science and business fields. Cynthia holds certification in conducting ethical research with human subjects (University of Miami), including international research and Internet-based research.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
26Apr/120

Hybrid World: Coaching and the Complexities of Age, Values and Asian Business

Posted by Maya Hu-Chan

Hybrid World: Coaching and the Complexities of Age, Values and Asian Business
by Maya Hu-Chan

"I want a raise." With the ink barely dry on her contract and less than a year of tenure at Morgan Stanley, the young Asian woman plopped a thick stack of paper on her supervisor's desk. "What's that?" he asked. With the confidence typified by the post-80s generation in China, she proceeded to lay forth an explanation of how she had researched the salaries of her peers, conducted a comparative analysis, and concluded that she was underpaid and undervalued. After all, she was a graduate of one of the finest universities, an extraordinarily talented and aggressive professional, well deserving of a fast-track promotion. Taking a risk, her supervisor looked at her with a wry smile and stated firmly, "I'm not going to give you a raise based on this; you have to prove yourself." Surprisingly, the risk paid off.

This moment became a splash of cold water in her face, sparking a realization which led to reflection on the value of work, which led to her staying with the job, which led to a more rewarding professional experience. Two years later she got her raise. In the meantime, she had been in touch with her peers, most of whom had already burned out in their careers, pushing themselves forward without regard for merit or commitment, making demands and having those demands met by supervisors fearful of losing new talent. While their careers had crashed and burned, she took a learning moment and modified her approach. Her supervisor had become an effective coach whose push-back framed a learning point that would give her the balance she needed. This scenario, or something like it, is being played out in executive offices around the world in 2007.

A New Generation, Culture or Both?

Some would argue that in 21st century international business, age trumps nationality, and any understanding of how to coach Asian leaders must begin with an awareness of the generational changes sweeping the globe. Fortune magazine's May 2007 article, "Attracting the Twenty-something Worker" presents the new work demands laid forth by Generation Y. A wave of media attention has portrayed baby boomer children as being exigent and flexible. The case in Asia is similar, though not so simple.Fast Company's June 2007 cover story, "China's New Creative Class" notes the emerging blend of youthful innovation and more traditional Chinese culture.

The business coach entering today's global marketplace is challenged to address new dualities in business and culture. In Asia in particular, a radical shift toward business is blending with, but not eliminating, traditional values. The coach must meet clients in a new virtual space, which, as they say at the opening of the original Star Trek, takes us "where no man (or woman, or coach) has gone before." The traditional Asian veneration of age as wisdom is being counter-balanced by a wave of upstart entrepreneurs. The ancient value of working for the public good is being challenged by freewheeling competition. In the midst of this revolution, what are the implications for leadership and for the field of coaching? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Four Points for Coaching Asian Leaders

1. Get to know the 'Emperor or Empress'; look before you leap.

In terms of age and generational differences in Asia, highly educated professionals in their 20s and 30s working in a multi-national organization tend to be more outspoken, outgoing, and open to change than their predecessors. They admire the Western management style, whereas their parents' generation, now in their 50s and 60s, followed a more traditional Chinese work ethic.

In previous generations, it was typical to work very hard, be loyal to the organization, and not challenge authority. Among other influences, Confucianism was central to the belief system of the Asian psyche. These days, because of China's 'one-child policy,' sometimes the child of the family has become the 'Little Emperor.' He has often been told by his parents that he is a genius. Sought by the best companies and headhunters, the Emperor or Empress may challenge authority constantly, dismiss organizational loyalty, and work only in the areas that foster personal advancement.

2. Understand emerging Asian business and adapt your approach.

The emergence of Asia as a dominant force in the world economy, with China at the helm, is rapidly transforming the culture of business. In turn, tools for coaching global leaders must be brought up to speed. Despite the Morgan Stanley tale, it's not all about tempering the ambitions of young Asian business upstarts. In a recent report by Development Dimensions International (a firm leading in leadership talent and selection) entitled "Leadership in China: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy,"1 a principal finding was that "more than one-half" of leaders are "inadequately prepared for their roles in the new economy." Critical skills found lacking were the ability to motivate others, build trust, retain talent, and lead high-performance teams. Generic as these terms may sound, they point to a gap in Asian leadership.

Whether confronting the implications of age or culture, a balanced coaching approach is important. With little emperors or empresses who have grown up to become your clients, for example, it is important to:

• Think through things from their perspective and follow a process attuned to their belief system.

• Take a logical approach, convincing them that a change will get them further if they look at their behaviors and test out a new approach.

3. Develop a hybrid model for Asia meets the West; flip the model for the West meets Asia.

In the West, the land of WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) and 'tell it like it is,' a coach's direct criticism might be welcomed by the client as being just the right medicine. In the East, 'face' is highly valued. It is more important not to say point blank that someone is wrong, but rather to offer options to the benefit of the individual. In the hybrid approach, you:

• Listen, observe, and refrain from rigid labeling. Asian leaders may take feedback very personally, so don't fall into black-and-white judgments or make abrupt assertions.

• Go to their strengths first, exploring how they might be leveraged.

• Factor in your own age as the coach. With a more senior Asian client, a coach who is the same age or older may be perceived to have significant wisdom in the area under discussion.

• If you find yourself on a pedestal, find a subtle way to get off. You want to establish your credibility, but at the same time make it clear that you are not there to preach, but to empower the client.

• Don't give the impression that you don't know the answer.

A 2006 survey entitled "The Dream Team: Delivering Leadership in Asia" by Korn/Ferry International,2 one of the world's leading providers of executive human capital solutions, polled more than 300 senior executives as to what makes a business leader successful in Asia. In response to the question "Should a Western business leadership model be replaced in Asia by an Asian business leadership model?" 35.5% affirmed that "No, globalization warrants a model that is neither Western nor Asian, but includes elements of all best practices."

In the final run, the most successful global coach must both become a hybrid catalyst for the coaching process, and encourage the client to adopt a hybrid East-West approach for leadership. In Chinese culture, there is a fine balance that must be carefully dealt with to ensure that the right connection is made. When the coachee asks for advice, the coach should be careful about providing suggestions. The idea should not be 'this is my advice/these are my answers for you' but rather 'these are different options' and offer resources or point to best practices.

4. Keep your focus on the client.

Even more important than being culturally aware in the new Asian business world is to work with openness to the reality that every person on the planet has a unique background and personality. Don't make any assumptions; try to understand the leader. Don't assume that just because the leader is Asian he or she will have an indirect communication style. Don't assume that young Asian leaders are all petulant children; the continuum of personality is broad and varied in every age bracket. Leaders come in all sizes and shapes. Asians aren't always of the same ethnic background. For example, in the Greater China region, there are 56 cultures and ethnicities in Hong Kong, the mainland, and Taiwan.

Finally, the hybrid cultural and generation approach must always make the coachee the center of the conversation. It is about how the coach can help the coachee to reach his or her goal. Once the core data is in about the coachee, including 360-degree feedback, body language, perspectives, values, culture, and background, the coach's role involves mirroring and serving as a guide for moving forward. The coach is a neutral presence who stays positive and helps the client to keep looking into the future. With the foundation of a 'hybrid,' the coach serves as an important bridge for action and success in the challenging new realm of global business.

 

References:

1 Leadership in China: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy, 2005 page 10, finding 4; Development Dimensions International Inc. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2 "The Dream Team: Delivering Leadership in Asia" 2007 Economist Intelligence Unit and Korn/Ferry International, page 4; Korn/Ferry: Los Angeles, Singapore, Shanghai.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (2007, Volume 3, Issue 3). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Maya Hu-Chan is an international management consultant, executive coach, author, public speaker and leadership development educator. She is the co-author of Global Leadership: The Next Generation. Read more about Maya in the WABC Coach Directory. Maya can be reached by email at mayahuchan@earthlink.net.

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