2014-15 Canada-China Business Forum Magazine - Page 74

OJO_Images/iStock Photo EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP Then it became hard to find an expatriate manager who had five or more years of experience in China. Home offices would send people to China on big expat packages and after a two or three-year stint, these expats would return to their home countries for promotions. Promotions were used as incentives to go to China. So China was often just a stepping-stone on the “Great Wall” of career advancement. by Paul von Wittgenstein The New China Hands: Executive Leadership in China Today B ack in the early 2000s, multinationals were seeing fresh expatriate managers with little or no China experience struggling with Chinese culture, language, localization and the other challenging aspects of leading local teams and managing organizations in foreign countries. Expat managers have decided not to rush home after a limited engagement. Instead, they stay on and develop their careers in China. And they are very good at what they do. Good managers and leaders are easier to find in China nowadays. These managers form strong networks and share best practices. They are better integrated with their Chinese colleagues and make lasting friendships. Loyalty and commitment among Chinese employees becomes stronger, because the foreign leaders are seen as less temporary than they used to be. All of this is good for organizations. Expats back then lived in closed, tightly-guarded expat communities and associated mostly with other expats at expat functions. There was little integration into These expat leaders often have the culture and society around more trouble convincing their home them. They were not really office about how things should part of China. This attitude be done in China, than they do also carried into the workplace. convincing Chinese staff how to do Expat managers were typically things the Western way. This is a counting the days till they could paradigm shift in leadership focus. return to their home countries The good news for organizations – and their employees felt it. seeking highly-capable expat Needless to say, that attitude leaders in China is that you may “China was often just a results in organizational cultures have more success recruiting from stepping-stone on the ‘Great of continual flux, lack of stability Wall’ of career advancement.” the China talent pool than you and a sense that leaders are would by sending someone from temporary – obviously not the best thing for headquarters to work in China for a few years. It organizations. As a cross-cultural consultant, takes at least three years for a fresh expat leader to trainer and coach, all of this worked quite well, become effective in leading their teams – gaining and it was easy to find projects to help with the trust, establishing organizational culture, learning basics of leadership, communications and team and using communication channels etc. If their development. However, things have changed over planned tenure in China is only two to three years, the years, and there is a more mature expat talent then they are just starting to get good at leading pool in China now. This is a good thing for China, when they have to leave. If headquarters keeps the companies and the people working here. cycling leaders in and out, then the best they will achieve is mediocre performance from the China team. Good local talent is growing simultaneously Recently, CanadAsia held a workshop in Shanghai with the ever-increasingly attractive pool of expat on Leading Teams in China to Win! Ten years ago, leaders in China. There are even more highlyall of the participants would have had less than qualified, experienced, motivated and capable 10 years of experience leading teams in China. Chinese leaders. These managers and leaders, This was the first time CanadAsia have seen a some of whom have more than 20 years working group where all of the participants had more than in multinational firms, are able to balance the 10 years of experience leading teams in China. business practices of headquarters with the needs What a difference a few years have made. These and realities of local teams. This is often the ideal participant