Monday, February 20, 2012

Why does Asia keep eating US lunch?

I've just returned from a wonderful week working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you've been there, you know its charms...if not, put it on your bucket list. My trip there was not just to revisit a favorite city or to purchase some lovely batik paintings from 2 artists I met there in 2009 or to eat too much great food or even to enjoy the 100+ bear statues contributed by every country in the world.

No, I was there to work with 14 CIOs and IT executives representing Malaysia's major economic sectors; banking and finance, oil and gas, government. These 5 men and 9 women were there to learn how to initiate and implement successful major changes in their companies. (The vast majority of such initiatives fail primarily because folks focus on technology and not on culture and people.)

These leaders were sent by their companies to make sure they were growing and developing their capabilities. And this is where the lunch eating comes in...Their companies were growing and developing their capabilities.

Meanwhile back in the States and Europe the usual scenario is continuing to play out...tough economy? Training and travel are the first things to go in the corporate budget...after all, they are overhead. Forget all the data about the real ROI for investing in training and professional conferences, just cut them out and save a couple of bucks.

I spent most of November in Korea, China, and Singapore -- economies are booming -- just walk down the street and feel the energy -- and seminars are also full of people eager to learn to enhance their management skills.

Oh, and another any public seminar or even those conducted for companies on site, people end up not showing at the last minute - busy or boss told them they had to stay and work on a project. In all 4 3-day seminars, only 2 partial absentees. And one more thing, people in the US always leave early, especially the last day. They blow off the last half day. In Asia (where I've been working since 1996) they want you to go beyond the scheduled end time...even on the last day.

The point I'm trying to make is this: Asian companies and governments are investing in their people. They are promoting growth and development. They're bringing in external experts and exposing employees to the best practices in the market place. They understand they must expand their company cultures and embrace change and encourage innovation and creativity. They know if you want people to "do more with less" you must train them and support them to do it.

In the US the opposite is the norm.

When I was first beginning my career, my department head was asked to train us on the latest management practices and technology. His response? "Why train 'em, they'll only leave!" Well, of course people did leave...because they couldn't get any training and couldn't develop.

Lunch anyone?

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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.
The founding fathers were all great believers in are today's strategic leaders
Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers

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