Work with people who love to learn.
I had mixed feelings about taking on clients from China because I have long had concerns about China’s humanitarian and environmental policies, and I didn’t want to be part of a problem. I wrote about that here.
But as I worked with them more closely, I noticed something very different about them. They loved to learn.
I first noticed it when I gave a group of Chinese investors a tour of a manufacturing plant. It was a very average American operation. Nothing especially inventive or state-of-the-art about it.
But my guests were wide-eyed in wonder at every step of the way. They asked a thousand questions, even about some of the most minor and mundane details.
They really wanted to learn and understand new things. And at the end of the tour, they bowed and shook my hand a long time. They praised the plant as beautiful and efficient, and they thanked me for my time and knowledge so much that I almost felt embarrassed.
Since then, I’ve heard the same thing from younger Americans who have worked for Chinese clients as tutors or English teachers, either in China or remotely. They often find their clients to be insatiable learners, full of curiosity and eager to adapt traditional ways of doing things with new ideas they have learned.
How different is that from what passes for good leadership in the United States?
Have you ever noticed how often American CEOs get applauded for being decisive? How often they are praised for knee-jerk decision-making? For their John Wayne swagger — shooting first and asking questions later? Even when their companies would be much better off if they just took a breath, counted to ten, and did some research and reflection?
I have watched them turn a team of talented executives into a kennel of yes-men.
I have watched them ask questions just to catch their staff off guard. Not because they wanted to understand a problem better.
I have watched them lead by diktat, even when the results they delivered were abysmal.
Whether they’re American or Chinese, the future belongs to leaders who do three things:
Keep an open mind.
Ask lots and lots of questions.
This article first appeared on the Varamark Research blog at https://www.varamark.com/post/china02