Tips for Thriving in China, Part II
Written by Caroline Zhou, Principal Consultant of the Institute of Executive Coaching China
Caroline Zhou, Principal Consultant of the Institute of Executive Coaching China has worked with more than 300 coaching counterparts at the director and executive levels. She has partnered with senior management teams across Asia Pacific to help executives develop an effective leadership capable of steering companies through necessary change. Caroline’s multicultural and corporate background adds value and diversity to her executive coaching practice www.iecoaching.com
4. Understand “face”
By definition no one anywhere likes to be embarrassed, but Chinese society turns more than most on giving “face” and, more importantly, not causing anyone to lose it. Face is a feeling. You want to make your contacts feel good and you don’t want to make them look bad in front of anyone. The frankness with which you speak to a Chinese person about a problem at their end might, for instance, be different when you are in private from when you are with their subordinates.
If you cause an important contact to lose face, you won’t be told but you might find your emails are no longer returned and that he is always in a meeting when you try to call. This happens all the time to westerners starting to do business in China. It can be fixed by giving your contact back their face, which will need to be with an audience, preferably the same one in front of which they lost face in the first place.
Much is made of “face” as a foreign concept to westerners but it’s not really that complicated. We all know how it feels to be made to look good or bad by someone else. It isn’t hard, therefore, to use that empathy to work out how to make ourselves understood without embarrassing or belittling anyone. And that’s a great skill to have in any culture!
Face can also work very much in the favour of overseas brands because of “face consumption”, buying products because owning them increases a person’s prestige. This is one reason, for instance, that younger Chinese love overseas brands.
5. Immerse yourself in your industry
You need to invest time in understanding the dynamics of your industry in China. As well as new competition you might encounter a company you know from doing business in Australia. Don’t assume, however, that it’s enough to know them from home. A company that’s a small player in Australia might be much bigger force in China and vice versa.
Things change fast in China and you will need to be across which companies are the rising stars and which are in decline.
Professional organisations are open to foreign businesses and are good places to learn, as is the local media where you can see who is getting the most exposure.
6. The importance of courage
Australian companies are often more conservative than, say, American companies when it comes to moving into China. Some will visit China many times over a period of years but keep postponing a decision to invest. Succeeding in China takes commitment and energy. Those who have that energy and are willing to take the occasional risk will make it happen. Those who invest but are too timid will struggle.
Growth in any new market takes courage but the potential rewards of the Chinese market could make it very much worthwhile to take the great leap.
About The Institute of Executive Coaching
The Institute of Executive Coaching works with organisations to provide innovative leadership and coaching support to improve the performance of individuals, teams and organisations. Since 1999 the Institute has trained more than 2,500 coaches and become known as one of the region’s most respected executive coaching, coach training and leadership development organisations. All of the Institute’s services are designed on the key principles of the Institute’s mission to empower people to fulfil their potential and develop the leaders of tomorrow. http://www.iecoaching.com/
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