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How to manage your Chinese employees effectively?


Chinese employees working in a manufacturing plantMy first real exposure to China and Chinese employees was in the early 2009, when my company decided to open its research and development center in Beijing, China; and put me in charge of newly developing system automation team in China. Since then, I have worked with Chinese employees extensively, either it’s at my current job or at some of the smaller companies that I have consulted over the years. Though I am still in the process of learning more about the Chinese culture, one thing is clear, the leadership style of the Western Countries is not effective when you work with Chinese employees. Thus, in this blog post, I would provide you with some insight on how to effectively lead your Chinese employees.

Management style: In developed countries like the United States, we provide opportunities to our employees to resolve problems/issues by themselves. While this kind of strategy (delegate and disappear) is very effective in developed countries, it doesn’t work well with Chinese employees. Chinese people are very traditional, they respect authority and are introverts in some cases. So, they will depend on you to take critical decisions of the project that you have assigned to them. In order to work better with them, you might want to …….(1) Stop by their desk or video conference them at least 1-2 times a day, and ask for blocking issues with their projects ……….(2) Have frequent team meetings to go over critical issues …….(3) Make their introductions to all of the stakeholders of the project, so that they can feel comfortable going to them directly instead of coming to you for smaller issues ………(4) Develop personal relationships with them. Strong relationships can help you go a long way.

Obtaining Information: Similar to adjusting your management style, you might need to change the way you communicate. Let’s say, if you are trying to get some information from a Chinese manager, and if this is your first time communicating with him, then you might want to utilize your contacts at similar levels in the organization to get that information. In most of the cases, information may not flow downward through the hierarchy as easily as one might expect, when the culture of the company is less hierarchical. In order to get the correct information on the right time, you might want to cultivate your informal contacts within your Chinese branch. And yeah! Always make sure to rephrase your understanding of the issue/solution, once you get the desired information. This practice will ensure that you are on the same page with your Chinese counterparts. Sometimes, language barrier can create various problems.

Presenting Information: Chinese culture is very status-oriented. Let’s say, you are a manager in the US company, who manages the offshore team of 10-12 Chinese employees. Now, assume that you want to change your current process. I bet you……when you will present your new plan to these employees, you will get very minimal or no feedback. Due to their status-oriented culture, there may be less feedback from the audience during a presentation than one might expect in a more equality-focused culture. And hence, I would recommend you to give them the opportunity to provide their feedback later through an e-mail or an anonymous forum. In most of the cases, they feel very comfortable in providing their feedback to their superior in a private setting as compared to a public setting.

I hope, these tips can help you to become a better manger, when you are working with a Chinese team. What other changes would you make in your management style, while working with Chinese employees?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

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Did you get promoted to a management position for the first time? Then stop doing what you know. Find out why.


After seven years in software development at a San Francisco based e-commerce company, my friend (let’s call him Mr. X) was promoted to his first manager’s position as an Engineering Manager. Up to that point, his track record had been stellar. His intelligence, focus, and determination had won him recognition and various promotions in his organization.

When his company assigned him to be the engineering manager for one of the company’s hottest new products, he ran into trouble early on. Mr. X’s past successes were due to his extraordinary technical leadership and programming capabilities. Accustomed to programming, he was a control freak and had the tendency to micromanage. His efforts to micromanage the engineering team alienated them. And within few months, Mr. X was back as being a technical leader (sr. programmer) and someone else was leading the team.

Mr. X failed as an engineering manager because he was unable to make the transition from being a strong individual programmer to an engineering manager. He failed to grasp that the strengths which had made him successful during his sr. programmer role could be liabilities in a role that required him to lead an engineering team by trusting their programming skills instead of doing it yourself.

What might Mr. X have done differently? He should have focused on mentally promoting himself into the new position, a fundamental challenge for new leaders. The one thing to remember is…………..you can’t become successful in your new job as a manager by continuing to do what you did in your previous position as an individual contributor.

Since you might have been promoted due to your skills and accomplishments, it is only human to think that your senior management wants you to do what you were good at. Maybe that’s the only reason why you might live in the denial, and believe that you are being productive and efficient, if you continue your old behavior. But instead of continuing your responsibilities as an individual contributor, you need to prepare yourself mentally to move into your new role by letting go of the past and embracing the imperatives of the new situation to give yourself a running start. This can be hard work, but it is essential that you do it.

I hope, this blog comes to you as a reminder to forget what you knew, and try adapting yourself to the new management role that you have inherited. What would you do in this situation, if you were to be promoted to your first ever management job?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How can you deal with your micromanaging boss without quitting your job?


ManagementStyleDon’t get me wrong. Micromanagement is also a style of management, and sometimes it is needed to manage some employees, but it doesn’t work in 80% of the professional environment these days. What will you do, if your Manager is a Micro-manager? How will you handle that situation?

I got the idea of writing this blog from a conversation that I overheard in the café. The conversation goes something like this…………..

  • Mr. X: What happened to you? You don’t look so good.
  • Mr. Y: Don’t ask? Tough times at work.
  • Mr. X: Tough times? I heard you even got promoted few months back. What happened all of a sudden?
  • Mr. Y: That’s the problem. My new manager is a Micromanager. He keeps tabs on me. I can’t even go to the men’s room without informing him. I feel I am in some kind of a prison. Do you know any other jobs that I can apply for?
  • Mr. X: I am sorry to hear about your situation. You know what? There is this Project Manager Job that recently opened up in my firm, and I think you would be a better fit for it. Let me pull some strings and I will get back to you.

Let’s assume that Mr. Y was right, and his manager was at fault here. What would have he done? In this blog, I will provide few pointers to effectively deal with your Micromanager.

Talk to him about it: I am a huge believer of second chances. And that is the reason why, I would recommend you to directly talk with your manager about this (preferably in your one-on-one session). Some managers are micro-managers by nature, and if you don’t point out that this style of management annoys you, then he will never know about it, and might not change his style of management. At least by having this conversation, you are giving him a chance to change.

Decide a fixed time for rounds: Most of the micromanagers like to make 5-6 rounds a day to check up on their employees. Obviously, you might not be able to change their behavior overnight, but you can definitely work with them to agree upon some fixed timings for their rounds. In this way, they don’t feel like they are losing their control over you, and at the same time you get some fixed time of their visits, so that you can prepare yourselves.

Establish your SMART goals: There are very few managers, who are micromanagers by nature. Most of the other managers use the micro-managing approach because they want to continuously monitor your performance. What if…… you take a proactive action about it, and work with your manager to establish your SMART goals? In this way, your manager will have an established method through which he can measure your performance. Thus, he won’t need to visit your cubical 24×7.

I hope these tips will help you to better manage your micro-managing Boss. Feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other ideas to deal with your micro-managing Boss. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Manager’s Guide: How can I make it easier for a new hire to transition in my group? (Part 1)


I have written numerous blogs about how to familiarize yourself with your new job, but I have never focused on writing the other side of the story. In this blog series, I will provide some guidelines which can help you to conduct useful conversations with your new employees during the onboarding process. I hope that you can create a positive onboarding experience for your employees through these tips.

Talk about strategic objectives: Obviously, you need to have several conversations between you and the new employee over first 6-7 months, but make sure to make the strategic objectives as your primary conversation topic. This will not only make her understand the relationship between her tasks and the objectives of your company, but it will help you to make her understand the overall picture. You can start this discussion by talking about the company’s vision and strategy; and then you can progress towards explaining her the company’s goals, priorities and business initiatives. During this discussion, you should always ensure that you try to connect company’s goals and your team’s goals with her day-to-day activities. This practice will help you in making her an autonomous resource of your team, who can connect the dots by herself.

Talk about the culture: I have seen various managers, who fails to explain the existing culture of their company to a new hire. They think that the new hire will catch up on the company’s culture with time. While this perception has some credibility, I would advise not to do that. If you would have explained the company’s culture to the new hire during the onboarding process, then it will make her transition easier and smooth, while you can benefit from her understanding of the existing culture. You can initiate this conversation by describing her the culture of the company including company’s norms, beliefs, values, traditions, symbols, etc. For example: our working hours are 8-5pm, and all the employees are supposed to be present on the company premises between our core hours – 9am to 4pm.

I hope these tips will help you to become a better manager by providing a clear direction for your newly hired employee. In the next blog post, I will be discussing about how to familiarize your new hire with the rules of your team.

Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can help your employees to easily transition to your company. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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