Theme: influencing with integrity – how to integrate a coaching attitude in your management role.

As I was preparing to go to China for the first time, I received a document from the company I work with, explaining some of the particularities and the characteristics of the Chinese society. It included also 10 key tips about what is really important to take into account when working with Chinese people. The first key tip is:
“Demonstrate flexibility in your thinking. Western thought is dominated by linear logic; Chinese thinking is influenced by early philosophers, who saw a paradoxical balance of opposites in all things. Where Westerners tend to look for clear alternatives (option A instead of option B), the Chinese may examine ways to combine both options.”

Reading this first recommendation, I immediately recognized the deep connection with my own systemic approach and I really looked forward to tune into that atmosphere. Besides these tips I did some research and found some very nice quotes of old Chinese wisdom. In the beginning of the first training day, I shared the following one with the participants:

“Teachers open the door; you enter by yourself.”

I could immediately feel a strong recognition by the Chinese participants and at the same time some resistance.  In the course of the training I understood that this kind of thinking is difficult to make present in the way of leading people. They don’t see how they can be teachers/coaches in their role-identity as managers. For them being a manager means giving orders to ensure a fast and high performance. The attitude to stimulate others to take their own responsibility and constantly stimulate learning, didn’t seem to be part of their representation of a manager.

Working in different countries in Europe and the US, let me understand that also in these cultures combining the role as manager and a role as coach is a difficult challenge.

But in here in China, I was able to refer to their deep ancient culture and tradition to stimulate this combination.

The deep characteristic in the quote above has to do with the quality of inviting someone. So it’s not about pushing or forcing someone. Pushing and forcing have to do with power, with gaining a certain result within a certain timeframe and presupposes a kind of arrogant attitude. While inviting has to do with caring and connecting, with generosity and humbleness. If you invite someone, you also take time.

I could feel that each of these ‘inviting elements’ or let’s say, ancient Chinese values, where still present in the participants. But they where hidden under a strong conviction about how a manager nowadays should be.

I think that China is mainly seen in its  high level of productivity and minor labour costs and yes, Chinese managers like to represent themselves like that, too. But If you tune into the deeper layer of their culture, you can also feel that complementary element where the importance of slow processes, human connections and a humble non authoritarian approach is (still) very present and important.