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Learn to reach across cultural divide

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

In 2008, Jason Bosch launched a business called Origin Fruit Direct. A native of South Africa, Bosch wanted to import fruit into China.

Today, his company is thriving and has expanded its China operations. That’s partly because Bosch has adjusted his leadership and negotiating style to fit the Chinese culture.

Bosch exhibited a confrontational personality that was typical of his hard-charging entrepreneurial peers in South Africa. Yet such outward displays of aggression didn’t go over well in Shanghai’s business community.

Realizing he had to change, Bosch began to build relationships in China before attempting to make deals. He listened more than he spoke.

To manage Chinese employees, he observed how other Chinese supervisors showed deference to their staff—and he followed suit.

Bosch refashioned himself as an attentive, approachable leader. Rather than push people too hard, too often, he took steps to earn employees’ trust.

Bosch wanted input to improve his leadership, but he couldn’t rely on his subordinates to level with him. That’s because Chinese employees do not readily offer feedback to their managers on their performance. So he’s in the process of hiring an outside coach.

Finally, Bosch understands a lesson that many global entrepreneurs learn: You need to team up with local partners who know the territory.

As the only foreign fruit importing company with an office in China, Origin Fruit Direct succeeds by recruiting local Shanghai employees.

Bosch admits that he’s still adjusting his style as a foreigner. That’s why he seeks to delegate assignments to local employees who can open doors for him.  

— Adapted from “East Meets West,” David Niu, upstart.bizjournals.com.

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