Situation: A company recently set up an operation in Shanghai. An immediate shock has been that that the Chinese engineers have not been able to solve problems creatively. To date their solutions are limited to following an outline provided by the home office. How does the company address this? How do you get a Shanghai office up to speed?
Advice from the CEOs:
Current Chinese culture is to do what you’re told, and not to vary from the direction given by those to whom you report. However, these are smart people. Given time and training they will get through this. Can you be patient enough to allow this to occur?
The most important role in your Shanghai location is a trusted, competent Chinese General Manager. This individual can get you where you want to be the fastest. It is also the hardest position to fill in China.
One option is to investigate connections through the SCEA – Silicon Valley Chinese Engineers Association. Many SCEA members are Chinese who have been educated in the US but want to return to China. You may find good candidates here.
The best candidates have bi-cultural exposure – they understand Chinese culture, but also understand US standards, expectations and operations.
Be sure to check US references of any candidates who are currently in the US.
Early operations and adaptations are the most difficult. Talk to people in Shanghai who have solved this problem.
Develop a separate project selection / development methodology for projects you want to transfer to China. This will change as the Chinese employees begin to approach US standards.
As you hire new Chinese employees, look for individuals who play and write music. They are naturally more creative. Microsoft has used this approach successfully in China.
Situation: Most CEOs manage multi-generational staffs. While there are differences between baby-boomers and younger generations, it remains important to give younger workers meaningful guidance. What have you done to successfully mentor younger workers? If you are one of the younger workers, how have you been effectively mentored at work?
Advice from the CEOs:
Many have noted that, compared with baby-boomers, younger workers have higher levels of self-confidence. This enables them to be more accepting of constructive criticism and guidance. One company establishes individualized performance metrics to help younger employees monitor their progress. This helps them to chart and see their progress. Along the way, managers meet with them frequently to answer their questions about company processes and the rationale behind them.
In some cases, CEOs have found some younger workers have a tendency to short from the hip. They mentored them to communicate more thoughtfully and carefully using a team approach because they found younger workers to be more team-oriented than older workers.
Many forward thinking companies involve individuals from all levels of the organization in their planning processes. This addresses the desire of younger staff members to be included in high level decisions. Younger workers prefer this to being told to wait until they have more experience.
To help younger employees grow, one company breaks down job tiers into more levels or sub-levels, and offers incentives for reaching the next level of skills more rapidly. They also reset expectations more frequently.
Particularly in Silicon Valley many younger employees are swimming in debt. Some purchased houses on adjustable-rate interest-only loans and other creative financing solutions. As interest rates rise some will encounter difficulties. In anticipation of this, one company brings in external resources to offer counseling in personal finance. Some of the local financial services companies offer this as a benefit to company’s employees at no cost to the company.
Key Words: Multi-generational, Baby-boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennial, Echo-boomer, Mentor, Coach, Self-confidence, Processes, Communication, Team approach, Involvement, Listening, Financial counseling, Patience
Situation: A CEO has not taken a vacation for years due to focus on the company. He knows that he needs a vacation and wants to take one. However, he feels guilty taking time off. How do you take a guilt-free vacation?
Advice from the CEOs:
For your general health, you need to take time off to refresh and recharge!
Think of the vacation as your CEO Test – have you created a team that can perform in your absence?
You may be amazed at the initiative that some will take given the freedom to do so. As a corollary, initiative is accompanied by risk and your employees may make some bad choices. Be patient. Congratulate them for taking initiative and coach to improve choices.
Stay out of touch. Don’t call in daily and see what happens. If and when you do call in, don’t solve challenges that come up – let your people solve the challenges. Keep a few notes. On your return see where you need to adjust procedures to allow employees to make independent decisions.
More than one CEO has found that taking 3-4 week vacations each year has had very positive results. The company actually performs more efficiently and with more energy upon their return than it did when they left!
To ensure that you take a vacation, schedule it in advance. Let everyone know that you are going to take it and Just Do It!
If you can’t take the time to plan a vacation, have your spouse or a loved one plan the vacation.
If you need to feel in touch during your vacation, take your laptop. You may never even use it, but it will be there as a security blanket. Once you are on vacation, let family and personal priorities rightly take precedence over your need to stay in touch.