Chinese Leadership How to work effectively with China is a pressing issue for many multinationals says Ashridge China Representative Barbara Wang. Globalisation is having a major impact on organisations and leaders must adapt to survive in the new world order.
How to work effectively with China is a pressing issue for many multinationals says Ashridge China Representative Barbara Wang.
Globalisation is having a major impact on organisations and leaders must adapt to survive in the new world order. How to develop leadership skills and work effectively in China are pressing issues for most multinationals. Cultural understanding is vital for leadership in China. To overcome cultural hurdles Western leaders need to have an open mind and be willing to learn about the Chinese mindset.
Here are five top tips to developing effective relationships with in the Chinese market:
First understand the critically important concept of “face”. Face has a much deeper meaning in China than in the West. Many Chinese people will go to great lengths either to save face or to save someone else’s face. Face is about dignity and respect and a person’s social role. It’s not just about feelings but a key part of what holds society together. An old saying is that a person would rather die than lose face. A person can lose face by declining a social or business function on a weak pretext refusing a present expressing emotions uncontrollably or being too independent.
The notion of “guanxi” is a much more complex idea than the Western concept of networking. It is the platform for social and business activities in China and consists of connections defined by reciprocity trust and mutual obligations. Build up your guanxi and be aware of the dynamics of guanxi around you before you do anything. It’s an unwritten rule in China that if someone does not trust you they are unlikely to do business with you.
The Confucian concept of harmony is still important today. The Chinese sometimes perceive Western independence as a sign of showing off. In China being the first to come up with an innovative idea in a group setting can have significant social implications. It could be seen as showing off and possibly generate envy too. This is a challenge for many Western managers who want employees to come up with new suggestions or product ideas in a group setting.
The Chinese take longer to make decisions. Westerners believe in the value of making quick decisions and then taking action. The “time is money” concept when practised in China is likely to result in negative outcomes. In China decision making is based on ensuring that the balance of all parties is taken into account. The Chinese want to be sure that all angles of an issue are reviewed first and all matters are thought through before coming to a conclusion. This process often involves going back to the beginning and starting the thinking and the discussion again. Also since Chinese people do not like to tell you “no” in a direct manner never assume a deal is struck until you hear this explicitly.
Chinese communication styles are indirect. For the Chinese communications are about building relationships while in the West it about efficient exchange of information and getting things done as quickly as possible. Silence does not mean that your message is not getting through. The wise Confucian is expected to listen in silence. Leaders in China are expected to express themselves much less directly than those in the West. It’s not that the Chinese are unwilling to share information but Westerners will have to prompt their Chinese counterparts if they want details. Alternatively it may be best to approach someone on a one-to-one basis in private.
Barbara Wang and Harold Chee’s book Chinese Leadership
dispels the myths built up in the West about Chinese leadership. It has a practical focus and provides a framework for managers to ask the right questions make the right decisions and take the right strategies. The authors give readers an insight into how to stay competitive when operating in the Chinese market or when dealing with Chinese companies and managers.
The book Chinese Leadership is published by Palgrave Macmillan.