When faced with complex issues in the organization, leaders sometimes feel they are wrestling with multiple problems alone, and this is hard. But leaders who recognize that they are connected to others know they do not have to work everything out by themselves. Confronting large (and even small) issues in the organization, they have allies.
Effective leaders are never alone. Leaders can build many close, elegant relationships at work. Those who take the time to build them know they can always ask for help. Leaders who cultivate strong relationships can talk and work with others to create fresh approaches to challenging tasks.
When people get discouraged they often feel powerless and isolated. These feelings are rooted in old patterns learned early in life. As adults, people in organizations are seldom truly alone and without power. Think of the relationships you have in your organization, with people who are good sounding boards and fellow travelers on the journey.
Western management and people-development practices often don’t work well in Asia. There are a number of areas to modify to fit better with local cultural practices and behavior when working in East Asia. I’ve outlined some generic areas for consideration. It’s also important to look at country-specific norms. Each country is different and each individual is also different.
- Religion — Spiritual beliefs are central to the ways of doing things in many parts of Asia.
- Pace of change – Slower in Asia. More time is needed to get people aligned.
- Family – The family unit is the primary unit. The extended family, the clan, the language or dialect group are all important. Effective managers know about the personal lives of their team members and help each person to be successful in family life.
- Learning style – More rote learning than ‘creative learning.’ In China, Japan and Korea, learning how to read and write characters inculcated a mastery of technical aspects prior to creativity.
- Business, economic and political environment – Extremely varied in Asia. Each country is different and often localities are also different.
- Collective – the group is more important than the individual. People norm to the group. Transformative potential is in the group.
- Hierarchy – Seniors and elders are respected and their face is the face of the group. Seniors are expected to take care of juniors. Juniors norm to the views of seniors. Managers find it harder to ‘empower’ people and tend to want things to be done their way. Titles are important symbols and give people face.
- Relationship orientation – People form relationships and through them accomplish tasks. Establishing group networks and reinforcing a sense of belonging to groups (the workgroup, a factory, alumni groups) motivates people. Position people when they are new to roles or are being introduced. Building trusting relationships is the foundation for success.
- Consensus and harmony – it’s important for everyone to give input, understand and then norm to the prevailing view.
- Face – give and maintain face. Find alternatives so that people can decline without saying ‘no.’ Don’t put anybody in a position where they might be in the wrong or look foolish in front of others.
Interventions that work, from projects to retention practices to learning and development initiatives, tend to take Asian values into account.
Work to consciously appreciate those around you, especially those with whom you want to cultivate one-on-one relationships.
Any time you find your mind being filled with a lot of mental chatter, taking you away from the present moment, pause to think with appreciation about things in your life.
- As you go through the day, pause to note what you appreciate about someone in particular.
- When it seems appropriate, make an appreciative comment.
- Let feelings of appreciation take hold.
Reflect on the effects of appreciation
As you begin to practice appreciation, take time to notice:
- Do your attitudes toward other people and the manner of your connections change?
- Do you notice that other people’s attitudes and the manner of their connections have changed?
- Does the discipline of appreciation change how you go through the day—how you work, play, and rest?
- Do you have more or less patience? Do you feel more or less stressed? Do you have more or less energy?
(Some questions adapted from Rao, S. Srikumar, Are you Ready to Succeed?, New York: Hyperion, 2006. p. 96)
Once you begin the practice of appreciating the world, your work, and your place in it, you may discover that old resistances drop away and you have new energy and strategies for being the best you can be.
For example, when I began this discipline I realized I became more relaxed. I had much more patience for people doing things in different ways. I felt less stressed. My husband commented that I was much easier to live with. He wanted me to keep up this practice. Over time I became much better at building relationships. I feel more deeply relaxed and joyful every time I have conversations with people which are based on this attitude.
All of my coaching conversations are based on this attitude. Some clients need to learn this. They report that they feel that they feel less pressure, enjoy people more and have more patience. People around them are not only more relaxed, they are also more effective.