Monday, March 12, 2012

Leadership Development and China

I’ll be traveling to Shanghai, China to begin discussions with a large state-owned company that’s interested in our executive development programs.

I’ve been to China and Asia before, but it’s been a while. Also, I’ve never actually been involved in a business negotiation process with the Chinese.

Here’s what I know:

1. You MUST understand the roots of Chinese culture in order to understand the elements of Chinese negotiations. Things like Guanxi (personal connections), Shehui Dengji (social status), Jiejian (thrift), and Maianzi (“Face”) will all come into play at one time or another. A lack of understanding leads to frustration and a lack of business.

2. While there are differences in context and culture, generally speaking, the principles of leadership and management are universal.

3. Drink only bottled beverages.

Fortunately, I have lots of smart readers from all over the world with tons of experience to share. How about passing along some of that wisdom for me and my readers?

1. What advice do you have for doing business with China?

2. What advice do you have when it comes to executive/management/leadership development and China?

3. Any travel tips?

In addition to publishing your comment and being a valuable resource to me and other readers, I’ll offer a prize (a book or gift from China), using To be eligible for the drawing, you must leave me a way to contact you (Twitter or email).

Entries must be received by next Monday, March 19th, 2012.


Unknown said...

1. What advice do you have for doing business with China?

Understand that a signed contract is clearly understood as the start point of negotiation and having reached that point your real discussions are only beginning. Any ambiguity in the contract will be the focus of future discussions. If you haven't explicitly defined the quality of product/service you are procuring make sure if it really is the great deal you think you just scored as you will often find that a 1 USD shirt you bought on a great bargain, is in fact just that, a 1USD shirt.

When you have developed a good relationship with a Chinese company you will find that they can be incredibly loyal and good partners, but that will take time and commitment, and is best achieved by frequent face to face interactions. If you can either learn some mandarin, as the consideration is greatly appreciated.

Lastly, do not be intimidated by the invocation of the long history of the Chinese culture. Many foreigners in China feel a need to subsume their own culture out of respect, but a partnership is formed by equals, and respecting their culture while not giving up your own values and culture will lead to finding a compromise between both cultures will lead to a better long term relationship.

2. What advice do you have when it comes to executive/management/leadership development and China?

Particularly outside Shanghai and Hong Kong, you will find that the traditional leadership models still apply, in that age of the candidate and family connection are the predominant factors in leadership selection, trumping relevant experience, knowledge or training. As a foreigner you will be excused if you don't fit this model, and your very exemption may mean that you find more skilled junior local people will attempt to use you to circumvent this barrier. Be careful of the battles you fight on their behalf as the resulting loss of face for the senior person may cost you a good relationship.

Any travel tips?

Don't just live off McDonald's and KFC, the range of good and interesting local cuisine is incredible and varied and most of it doesn't include the very strange ingredients you hear tales of - although those are available if you are brave enough to try them.

Dan McCarthy said...

Wow, what great tips! Thanks for taking the time to write this. I love what you said about partnership of equals and finding compromise between cultures.

Alex Dail said...

Thanks for the insight into doing business in China. I recently wrote a couple of article about Chinese style leadership here is a link to one you may find interesting: