Chinese market basics

“What are some basics that I need to know when entering Chinese markets?”

While in Shanghai and Beijing I interviewed professionals there on this very topic. Here’s what I found out:

1.  China is even more of a relationship-driven society than we are in the US. As a result, contracts are viewed as general guidelines for working together where in the US they are the law.

2. The other implication of China’s relationship-oriented business culture is that when a company goes there it should be ready to make a long-term commitment.  You can certainly get rich in China, but it won’t be quick.

3. Paid consultants can help companies entry into China because the consultant has the relationships that can smooth the path through the system. Equally important is that they can help companies begin to figure out how to really do business in China.


Tips for leading a distributed workforce

1.  Become easy to work with.

Mastering the cultural agility skills needed to manage a distributed workforce aren’t about making it easier for you to work with other people, but making it easier for others to work with you.

2.  Imbed cultural agility skills into the organization.
The performance of a distributed team can be severely impeded due to cultural misunderstandings. The team as a whole needs training in key skills in order to work with each other effectively.

3. Reap the full range of bottom line results.
A distributed workforce provides financial benefits such as: decreased infrastructure costs; increased customer service; and “cultural profit” through enhanced knowledge of distributed local markets. Management that leverages cultural differences instead of seeing them as obstacles can transform results by transforming the organization as a whole.

Keep yourself in the fast lane with peer benchmarking

Peer benchmarking, or mastermind, groups are a key component of the success of many high performers. 

I have created a handful of benchmarking groups for my own benefit. One of these is still very active after seven years of working together.

As a solo consultant, there’s camaraderie in a group of peers who trust each other. When I was diagnosed with a serious illness years ago, I asked my benchmarking group to help make sure I kept up my momentum. After a stunned silence, and a clarifying question, we were back to business as usual and I didn’t skip a beat.
Here are my tips on forming a successful peer benchmarking group:
1. Make sure someone is in charge. There’s much more power in the interaction when one peer steps up to make an agenda and lead the calls. This can rotate among members, just be sure to have a leader to keep from meandering.

2.  Meet in person regularly. I’ve got peer members all across the country, and we make it a point to meet in person at least twice a year. The in-person meetings supercharge our work together.

3.  Have clear rules of engagement. Have clear call times, expectations on preparation, and set mutual expectations about candidness and confidentiality–these operating agreements make high-performance interaction possible.


Drilling down on cultural geography

I’m opening a branch of my business abroad and know that investigatng the cultural geography is my number one task. I’ve been told that many of the issues one will confront will be entwined in the political environment, local macroeconomic situation and perspectives, local business culture, and the costs, risks and benefits associated with all. How do I drill down on each one of these areas in detail?
Get the right strategic advisors!
Your question shows a high-degree of savvy and cultural aglity. To do your research, work with a high-quality team local to the market that you’re entering and local to your home culture as well.
For example, our team has members that live in China and with me in the US. Internally we have different perspectives and have to make sure we’re communicating clearly enough to create shared understanding, otherwise we could be having conversations and walking away with fundamentally different understanding – which often happens in cross-cultural situations.
Our clients tell us that because of our unique approach we build a solid bridge that includes the research and understanding you talk about along with thier business objectives and our relationships in China for a successful China strategy.

Is a second language important or a hobby?

“The NYT recently ran a series of articles debating the importance of foreign language learning for Americans. In your view, is it essential for Americans to learn a second language or is it just an extra skill or hobby?”

For people already in a career, knowledge of a second language is not essential.
English is and will remain the lingua franca of business for at least the next twenty years.
Personally, I am bilingual and believe that language education is very helpful in developing your own cultural agility.
Having a global mindset is a key factor for advancement in the business world and mastering languages beyond english are one way to develop this.

Improving Confidence in Leadership

“What can my company do to improve ‘confidence in the leadership of my employer?’”

Include employees in the solution. 

Confidence in leadership is lost through some breech of trust. Rebuild trust by engaging employees in constructive conversation and be responsive. 

To be honest, this may not be fixable without a change of leadership. However, much can be achieved through humility, listening, and well-communicated, substantive changes.

The New C-Suite Requirement: Cultural Agility

If you’ve got your eyes set on the C-suite, you should ask yourself the following question: What are you doing to make sure you go from being a good leader to a truly advanced leader and an agile executive?

Becoming an advanced leader requires figuring out how to ask the right questions, keeping in mind your own biases as you interact with people in various cultural contexts. Your teams and your customers are distributed around the globe, so in order to get the results you’re looking for, you have to be able to motivate, encourage followership, and serve people from all different cultures.

I was recently speaking with Marshall Goldsmith, one of world’s top leadership experts, about the nature of cultural ceilings. Is there a cultural ceiling that executives hit that limits their career? We concluded that there is a cultural ceiling, but not necessarily in terms of a national culture. Rather, it’s the ability to function in every culture worldwide, regardless of the corporation or individual’s home country, that determines one’s ability to have a successful career as a business executive.

When executives develop cultural agility–the capacity to recognize, understand, and respond appropriately to various cultures, and to work within those cultures to achieve business results–they massively expand their ability to advance their career. They can get results from teams around the world, and from multicultural teams within their local organizations.

History is littered with the broken careers of leaders who lacked cultural agility. Consider Carly Fiorina. Carly really didn’t understand the Hewlett-Packard way. She set out to change the culture, and wasn’t received well at all. She could have had very different results if she had developed some cultural agility.

But she’s is just one famous example. There are many people out there like her who don’t understand why they can’t break through to the next level of management. Often, the reason they’re not advancing in their career is their inability to be culturally agile.

Let me give you an example. There was once a man from the Northeast U.S. who was transferred to the deep South. I first encountered him when he was speaking to a group of people, and I happened to be in the back. I understood what he was saying, but he dressed differently, and he used different words than the rest of the people in the room. The woman next to me noticed that I was nodding along, and, at the end, she turned to me and asked, “What did he just say?” The problem was that he wasn’t speaking or delivering his message in a way that was relevant to the people he was trying to motivate to work together.

I was engaged to coach this individual, and we really worked on developing his cultural agility. He became more self-aware, and conscious of the impact that he was having. He became more attuned to understanding the environment around him. He adapted some of his word choices, the way he dressed, and the way he interacted with people, while ensuring that he did all this in a way that was also authentic to him. The results were impressive: His team pulled together, followed his leadership loyally, and was able to increase its sales and profitability eightfold.

That man has now moved on to other senior positions because he’s able to replicate his success with this group. He would not have achieved this success with his team, or in his career, without becoming culturally agile–and this is only a domestic example, it isn’t even international.

Keeping this example in mind, what are you doing to make sure that you, your executives, and your team are culturally agile?


Addressing the Challenges of Working Remotely

“What is the biggest challenge you face when working remotely? Technology, time management, cultural differences, miscommunication, managing your image? And other?…And why??

There are two critical challenges when working remotely:
1. Relationships
Remote workers who do not get the same amount of face time as their colleagues do with their boss, co-workers, and their boss’ peers are laid off much more quickly.
2. Cultural differences
When communicating with team members around the globe, it’s hugely important to develop cultural agility skills so that you become easier for others to work with effectively.
Here’s a cultural agility assessment you can use to test yourself:

How to make a comeback

I have been a senior leader during tough times and advised company leaders throughout the downturn.  Here are my tips for keeping your head above water and making a comeback:

1.  Find your own inspiration. Business owners who have a tangible belief in the silver lining and are finding opportunities in tough economic times are inspiring. I see too many who are attempting to ‘fake it till they make it’ and their motivation rings hollow to their people.

2.  Include others. Instead of hiding just how bad things may be, being the entire leadership team to the table to brainstorm solutions. It’s very motivating for employees to be a part of the solution instead of them just seeing evidence of things crumbling around them.

3.  Recruit clients. Salons have pretty intimate relationships with their clients, recruit them to be champions to build the business and reward them in ways that doesn’t diminish their current financial benefit.