Monday, December 06, 2010

Business Leadership in China - review

Best Buy ShanghaiImage by Fantake via Flickr
On average once a week I get a call, an email or tweet from a manager, a business speaker or business coach, mostly from the US, who announces that he or she is ready to expand a booming business into China. They seek my advice as president of the China Speakers Bureau or as a former foreign correspondent on how to get things done. Some have already found a Chinese publisher for their renowned US publication and see a smooth way ahead.
I always try to stay polite.
Last week a manager from a recruitment company called in to tell me they were ready to expand to Shanghai. Fortunately for him, that is one of the industries I'm a bit familiar with. I told him that might be quite a challenge. "But we have looking already into the licencing," he said.Well, that is nice for starters. But I have a few more questions 
Have you been there? Have you looked into the competitive situation? Have you looked into the cultural difference on how Chinese feel about their world, their compensation? He had not.
I mention American giants like Ebay and Google who failed in China, to show I'm not doubting their core competence. I try to convince them that a success in the US or Europe does not translate one-on-one into a success in China.
Fortunately, the Business Leadership In China: How to Blend Best Western Practices with Chinese Wisdom by Frank T. Gallo by Wiley is now out in a revised edition to support my case. Gallo does an excellent job in using his extensive China experience to explain how different Western and Chinese leadership works. Yes, they can be blended, but its not easy or obvious at first glance how to do this.
The book is probably too outlandish for those who do not know China. While the book is a must read for anybody in a leading position in China, both Chinese and non-Chinese, it might only work for those who are really willing to learn from their own mistakes after having been working in a different business culture for a few years.
Gallo offers a rather comprehensive overview - although he is also right when he qualifies it himself as “scratching on the surface”. Ans, just like any cooking book, even the best one, cannot guarantee that your own dishes will be fit for human consumption.


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