Coaching Upwards in Asia

Essentially, this concept of  ”Coaching Up” traditionally does not exist in this region of the world and comes across as supremely counter-cultural.

I was recently leading a workshop on Doing Business in Hong Kong and some of the locals who were present were visibly shocked at this concept of “lower” employees critiquing “the boss”.

In some business environments in the US, top executives – knowing what they don’t know – make a point of surrounding themselves by strong leaders to fill their knowledge gaps. They recognize that they can only have so many experiences in their career and value input from those with different experience. They actively welcome and encourage open criticism of their strategic plans and processes so that the business as a whole is better for it. Their employees “coach up”, on all levels of the hierarchical chain.

In Hong Kong, however, learning in the business environment is not experiential. It’s traditionally passed on from the “higher” to the “lower”, on whatever hierarchical scale is envisioned. The “Master” should always be better than the “Apprentice” and pass on his instruction. The “Teacher” imparts his knowledge on the “Student”. This is the way of Confucian mentality that traditionally permeates the business world and allows the system to work properly.

Considering implementing a “coaching up” program anywhere in Asia?

Unless you have succeeded in securing an extremely strong “Western” corporate culture in the local environment, better think again.

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