Groupon in China

In case you’re considering jumping in on Groupons IPO, this may help make up your mind!

What do you think of Groupon in China?


The ad pictured is for a Chinese company,, which is #7 in visitors among coupon companies in China.

The American company Groupon is in the Chinese market as part of a joint venture named GaoPeng, which is #8 in visitor traffic.


Learning to Say No

I arrived in China with a pair of cellphones I bought in Switzerland last summer. A friend brought SIM cards for them to the airport, I plugged them in and thought I’d be connected in China. As it turned out the phones were locked to the Swiss carrier I purchased them from.

The next morning, I went with my Chinese friends to a mobile phone store to have the phones unlocked and I purchased an inexpensive phone to use immediately. When we returned the next morning at the appointed time, the phones weren’t unlocked. The store owner told us he hadn’t done it because it was more complicated than initially expected and would cost more.

I agreed to the increased price and when we returned the following they still weren’t unlocked. This time the owner told us that it would take two days instead of the one he promised so he hadn’t started.

We thanked him and left with the phones. He made sheepish eye contact as I looked back over my shoulder. He was obviously embarrassed by his inability to do the work. I was disappointed by his reluctance to tell us that up front.

Much is made of the importance of ‘saving face’ in China, but this reluctance to deliver bad news shows up in every culture. I’m always surprised when business people choose to comprimise their relationships over the discomfort of simply admitting that they can’t accomplish what they had expected. The result on the deliverable is the same, but the damage to a trusting working relationship is simply unnecessary.


Chinese Student Generosity

While walking from our hotel to the metro station, the kids, my dad and I ran across this scene.

A produce vendor’s motorbike had been knocked down by a car in an intersection. About ten students were helping the man stand his bike up while deflecting traffic and picking up his inventory of cherries and lychees that was strewn on the street.

The students understood that the bike and the fruit represented the vendor’s financial world and engaged with immediacy and compassion.

I’ve been a student in two countries and this level of generosity and leadership from these Chinese students struck me as noteworthy.

Does this strike you as exceptional student generosity?


Michelle Speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce

How to Integrate Strategy and People for High-Stakes Business Growth
12:00 – 2:00 PM, Friday, July 8 – AmCham-China Conference Center

Do you have the vision and the people to drive your organization to the next stage of growth?

Join the AmCham-China Small Business Forum for a lunch session with management consultant, speaker, and author Michelle Randall who will discuss effective strategies to break down silos and foster high-performance teamwork across the organization. Michelle Randall will discuss methods that will help turn strategy into reality and use real-life examples of companies she has worked with.

Click here to learn more about the speaker.

12:00 – 12:45 PM: Registration and Sandwich Lunch
12:45 – 1:30 PM: Presentation
1:30 – 2:00 PM: Q&A

AmCham-China Conference Center
The Office Park, Tower AB, 6th Floor
No. 10 Jintongxi Road
Chaoyang District
中国美国商会办公室 会议室
朝阳区金桐西路10号 (汉威大厦北)
Tel: 8519-0800

Cardholding members advanced discounted online price: RMB 50
Cardholding members at the door: RMB 100
Non-cardholding employees of member companies: RMB 150
Non-members: RMB 200

*Sandwich lunch with soft drinks will be provided

Click here to register online.

AmCham-China Events:
Events have limited seating so to ensure your attendance we encourage advance online registration and payment for ALL events. We cannot guarantee entry to anyone not registered in advance. All events are off the record and are held in English unless otherwise stated. If there are any questions please email:

Cancellation Policy:
If you cannot attend an event for which you have registered, please cancel your registration no later than one business day prior to the event. If you fail to notify AmCham-China of your cancellation in a timely fashion, you will be charged for event costs. To cancel you can either call 8519-0828 and leave a voicemail message including your name, and event title and date, or email, or cancel online if you registered for the event through the website. Thank you for your cooperation and helping AmCham-China maintain the quality of its events.


What is the Internet, really?

As much as my Internet consultant hates it, I have to admit that I use gmail for my business. The spam filter is fantastic and having my various email accounts in a single location makes my life simpler. Not so much in China.

Google is terribly unstable here. I’ve been told that the corporation is in a cat and mouse game with the government wherein Google changes its IP address every 5 minutes, all the time everyday, while the government chases after attempting to shut it down.

Those Chinese wanting to have access to Facebook and Youtube have been dialing into virtual private networks outside of China. The government has been cracking down and disabling access more aggressively starting last month.

The impact for some professors is an inablity to access scientific journals. Recruiters are losing Facebook as an avenue to attract candidates.

Westerners react to this with a mixture of knowing smirks to calls for their Chinese counterparts to take to the streets to protest. They act like the Internet is a right. Is it?

What is the Internet really? A conduit for communication and collaboration. A forum for opinion making and dissidence. The driver of all future commerce.

Is it possible to limit the impact of one of these without hampering the other two?

It reminds me of the first Chinese navy. While I’ve heard a couple of variations, the history is something like this: centuries before the Europeans created sailing ships, the Chinese had their own navy. They sailed away and discovered other peoples in other lands. Upon their return the sailors reported this and either the ships were destroyed in a fit of xenophobia or left to rot from disinterest and ambivalence. In any case, the Chinese weren’t consumed with dreams of exploration or conquer.

I’m not ready to make any pronouncements about what this means for the Internet and the future of China, but I think it’s worth considering. In the meantime, I’ll share a sentiment I’ve heard from many Chinese on the issue of the Internet: “I absolutely believe that the future will be better. For now this is just the way it is.”


Innovative Customer Service


Last night we arrived in Shanghai and went to dinner at a shabu-shabu restaurant. The customer service was extraordinarily innovative and personal.

For patrons waiting to be seated, the restaurant provided a ping pong table, a mini-play area for kids, and complementary manicures–which should tell you how long the wait and how popular the restaurant is!

Our kids were tired after the long-day’s travel, so the wait staff brought over extra chairs and lined them up into little beds. When our kids curled up and dozed off, the staff came back and covered them gently with little blankets.

The pièce de résistance of customer delight was the Kung Fu noodles. In shabu shabu, richly flavored broths are placed in the center of the table and you cook meats and vegetables in the broth. At the end of the meal, noodles are added to absorb all the amazing flavors.

Instead of just adding the noodles, as in every other shabu shabu restaurant I’ve been to around the world, this place offered what is called Kung Fu noodles. Watch the video to see how the noodle dough is stretched into long lengths in a part dance, part martial arts performance. Kung Fu Noodles video

In digesting the entire experience it made me think about more innovative customer service for my own company. It’s food for thought for all of us who endeavor to delight our customers instead of simply satisfy them.


The China Chronicles

Summer is finally here and we’ve headed to China for a month. It’s already exciting for us to experience this dynamic country, and we’re getting to experience even more dimensions because we will be joined by my parents and our children.

My dad worked in China in 1985 and hasn’t been back since. I’m looking forward to his insights on the changes and his wonder at the pace of change. I’m continually entertained and amazed by the way the kids interpret the world around them. I can barely imagine what this will be like in the multitude of sensory input that is China. I’ve appreciated the questions about China that you have sent me. Keep them coming!

During the time that I’m here, I’ll be interviewing several people about the role and importance of culture agility in China. I’ll also be giving some talks about integrating strategy and people for relentless results, as well as how independent consultants can provide exceptional value to their clients.

I will be blogging my observations of Chinese business and culture through the coming month. I invite you to subscribe to the RSS feed and please check in and comment regularly!


Professional Reinvention

Enriching Leadership International has a completely new look to more accurately represent my strategy and people development work with clients. I’ve collaborated with leading designers and consultants around the world to develop this innovative new website. The spark for this came in October when I started carving out Cultural Profit as my area of thought leadership.

The process of business reinvention and personal rediscovery is exciting and just plain hard work. It’s easy to get postponed and move forward with an old identity that just doesn’t represent you fully anymore. Believe me, I know!

As we venture into Summer, I hope you’ll engage in some renewal. Look at your personal brand by asking a few trusted friends and colleagues to describe what they see as your greatest strengths. Consider if you’re satisfied with how they describe you. If yes, that’s fantastic. If not, there’s plenty of opportunity to sharpen your image. If you’re curious about how just contact me.

If you sow the seeds in the Summer, you can reap a tremendous bounty in the Fall.


The Six Steps to Delegation, part 2

Last time, we discussed these steps to delegation: prepare, assign and confirm understanding. Do you find yourself making a conscious effort to conduct all three on a regular basis?

The following steps are just as critical in the delegation process.

4. Commitment
This is another area that most managers tend to skip in the delegation process. Managers assume an employee’s acceptance of the task. In a relay race, the most critical stage is handing the baton to the next runner. A huge amount of training is invested in learning the handoff. It’s no different in organizations. Commitment is making sure you’ve successfully handed over the baton.
Verify (or confirm) commitment on:
• the employee’s deliverable with time and budget
• the tools and resources you will provide
• the when, how and what of communications

5. Avoiding “Delegating Back”
Many of the managers who begin working with me are extremely overworked, and one of the first determinations is that their employees are better at delegating than the manager. We know this because delegated tasks return to the manger’s workload. I call this “delegating back.” There are very few, if any, cases when a manager taking back a delegated task is necessary. When an employee reaches an impasse, managers need to coach them through it, but let employees do their job. Don’t take tasks back.

6. Accountability
Communication in delegation is key. Finding out that a deliverable wasn’t completed or wasn’t done satisfactorily after the completion date is the nightmare scenario of delegating. Accountability is often a punitive term in organizations – “holding someone accountable.” Accountability is actually the act of giving a report on progress.
• Regular communication about the status of the deliverable and the timing of delivery.
If this is an important project or a group effort, it’s very effective to make the progress visible to everyone involved. Think about how effective the visual of a thermometer is for fundraising!
• Repercussions
What are the repercussions for:
• not completing the deliverable.
• running over budget
• being late

It can be difficult to overcome the myths of delegating and getting into the process of conducting all six steps when delegating tasks. By implementing this process, a manager creates a work environment that is more productive, fosters creativity and opportunities for growth and focuses on the importance of communication.


The Six Steps to Delegation, part 1

Every client I have ever had in nearly a decade is fighting a war with time. The battles in this war are called “work-life balance” or “effectiveness,” and at its heart it’s the need to stuff too much activity into too little time. One of the best ways to “make” more time is through delegation to others – if the delegation works. Too often it fails and that’s because it’s not done right.

There are six steps to delegation. Most managers are only doing two, and their losing their battles. Do all six and you’ll be making enormous advancements in no time.

Here are the first three steps:

1. Prepare

Employees can’t deliver results successfully if the task delegated to them isn’t fully thought out or results are a moving target. Take the time and create the discipline to know what you’re asking for since an ounce of prevention is worth the pound of cure repairing a situation where delegating falls apart.

• Know the result / outcome / deliverable you are requesting.

• Make certain you are delegating a desired result, not a process. This allows you to make your request crystal clear, and your employee has the freedom to bring his/her best to making it happen. Naturally, it’s also your role to coach your employee and provide tips for effectiveness or avoid pitfalls. As part of the coaching process, be sure to ask your employees how they would apply what you’ve told them. This allows them to take ownership of the process and the results they will be creating instead of blaming the process if the results aren’t stellar.

• Include timing and budget in your thinking.

• Prepare yourself to manage for results, not process.

• Equip for success.
The key to genuine delegation is giving the employee the freedom to fail. It’s a scary notion, and the key to creating your own freedom at the same time. The way to mitigate risk is to equip your employee and the process for success.

Consider resources the employee may need to successfully create desired results.
• Identify the contingency plan if the employee doesn’t look like they’ll be able to deliver.
• Who is the backstop?
• How and when does the contingency plan kick into action?

Think your contingency plan through carefully and in advance of the situation arising. By doing so, you won’t react impulsively. You must implement your contingency plan in a way that does not communicate or demonstrate distrust to your entire staff; you also do not want the work turned over to you again. If you respond well, you can develop the employee and staff at the same time.

2. Assign

• Hand over the deliverable with timing, budget and context to enhance understanding.
• Provide tips and coaching while making it clear to the employee that she owns the process.
• Set expectations for communication and updates: frequency, content, in person or via email, etc.
• Have an open door policy for the employee to ask questions.

3. Confirm Understanding

One of the most critical areas where delegating tends to fall apart is when an assumption is made that the other person understands what we mean. Confirming understanding is a process that takes about 60 seconds and can determine the success or failure of delegation more than any other step in the process.

• Have the employee paraphrase the deliverable you’ve assigned in his own words.
This is the step where I get the most push back from managers. They feel it’s a bit like a kindergarten teacher talking with a student. However, if the only acknowledgement you’ve received is the employee nodding his head, how do both of you know that the request is understood and details are clear?

If you’re facing this resistance in yourself, consider these solutions:
• Be up front about the process of delegating. This is simply a step that helps you both be certain there is clear understanding.
• Be creative about how you elicit the paraphrasing from your employee. Replace the phrase, “Now what did I just tell you?” with “How would you explain this task to a fellow employee?”
• Ask employees if they feel they have the tools and resources to be successful.
• Ask questions to make sure employees understand what the task will require.

Stay tuned for steps 4-6 in the Six Steps to Delegation…