Happy New Year!

Although our new year celebration has come and gone, the Chinese New Year has just begun. In China, new year’s is traditionally one of the most important holidays of the year, and because they use a separate lunisolar calendar, their new year lasts much longer than ours—15 whole days (January 23 through February 5 this year).

My husband Jim travels all over Asia for his work.  He has logged a lot of time in China, where very early on, he learned that to be successful doing business in China, you have to stop thinking in Western terms. And while it can be very difficult for someone born and raised in the United States to think like a native Chinese, you can triangulate between Eastern and Western thought. For instance:

  • Do as much as you can to understand the richness of the culture and key historical events
  • Don’t expect them to adapt their business practices to yours – or you may be sorely disappointed with the outcome of your venture.
  • Don’t spend precious energy getting frustrated over a system that may or may not make sense to you.  It doesn’t have to make sense to you; it is after all, their system, not yours.

This cultural comparison got me thinking about the staffing and consulting world. A client once told me they couldn’t stand the seemingly arrogant consultant who comes into their 100-year-old Fortune 500 company and tells them on the first day how to run their business. “Have a little humility and respect for the smart people that built this successful business,” he said. “Seek to understand first, then help us be even better,” he continued.

He made a very valid point: It is important and practical to understand first, then work to add value where we can.

In the consulting world, there are many instances where frustration can peak because we are only seeing something from our point of view.  For example:

Candidates are often frustrated when recruiters can’t provide meaningful feedback after a client interview because the client only told us they selected another candidate. We try, but often can’t make someone gives us feedback.

Recruiters are frustrated when client rules prevent us from getting additional detail directly from a hiring manager.

Hiring managers are frustrated when their day is interrupted by 12 vendors calling them to ask the same questions.

It is important to recognize, some things we can influence and change, some things we cannot. Focus on adding value where you can – like finding another role where that candidate will shine!

It is the time of year when I remind myself to first seek to understand the reasons behind a rule, process or system and then decide what I can influence and the manner in which I will take action. During this time, I seek to understand how I can adapt, use my strengths and time in a way that adds value, and to choose not to deplete energy and time on things I cannot change.  It is the time of year to put critical focus on the outcome and put positive energy into that desired outcome.

Best wishes and good luck in 2012—this year of the DRAGON!

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