Book Reviews

Global Mindset Leadership – Navigating China and U.S. Cultures: Book Report




Global Mindset Leadership – Navigating China and U.S. Cultures: Book Report

China and U.S. are not set apart by their geographical locations alone. Other than the readily noticed incongruence in dialects from the two nations, invisible aspects such as values coagulate into an extremely powerful force that continue to disparate individuals from the extreme countries. Nevertheless, speedy globalization compels actors to act fast to bridge the gap, at least for successful cooperation. One of the valuable resources helping in this cause is Ranker Huang and McLeod’s “Global Mindset Leadership,” which contribute to the discussion that cross-cultural competence is a valuable qualification in the rapidly globalizing world.  The current analysis presents lessons learnt from the book, Global Mindset leadership: Navigating China and U.S. business cultures by Ranker, Huang,  & McLeod (2014) on the true differences between China and the U.S. Indeed, culture differences between the two countries are a near complete contrast.

Six major U.S. and China international management related points / takeaways

The first lesson from this book is the one around which its thesis is centered: importance of cultural relevance for successful and sustainable business operations in culturally differentiated territories.  The management practices between China and the U.S. differ to a large extent, and it is upon a leader to adjust to succeed in conducting business in either environment. The differences which are glaringly pronounced in, among other dimensions, “management and communication styles and decision-making” (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, 2014, p. 1880) are not only true but deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of natives of each country. Altering them is a tall order, and conformity at the individual level is crucial. And to succeed in making this transition, amendatory requirement for every aspiring leader and manager, one must “keep an open mind that some things will remain different and more appropriate in another culture” (p. 1880).

Secondly, successful management across culture is incompatible with complacence. The management must nurture a fluid business structure, one that is quick to note faults in the system and even faster to learn successful management practices from other countries. Putting this into perspective, the authors note that “red tapes” are hurting business success of U.S. multinational corporations. It is noted that time for making important decisions lapses because the CEO at a local U.S. entity lacks the authority to make the decision, and has to wait for the “head office’s approval”. Management layers is only one of the very many problems that plague businesses in the 21st century, and to succeed, the management must urgently learn to “adapt to rapid change, central control, respect for authority, building businesses on trust and working as a team (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, p. 1971). In the same vein, other researchers have argued that teaming in the workplace and business flexibility is not only vital to enhancing proactivity in the speedily changing business environment (Colomo-Palacios et al., 2014; Katzenbach & Smith, 2015), but helps  an organization remain lean in a highly competitive business environment as well (Hoch, 2013).

A third important lesson drawn from the book is the value a business could draw from attracting the best employees. It is revealed that working for the Chinese government is in itself highly “prestigious”. “Every year many of the most talented graduates choose to work for the Chinese government. Attractive benefits and employment stability offered by the government jobs are one reason” (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod , p. 1032).  Ideally, successful management practice would be described as such only if it involves a highly qualified staff whose activities are efficiently coordinated to achieve a higher business cause. However, hiring the right staff and retaining them are at the extremes. Businesses keep losing the best employees because they lack a retentive culture along with enough motivation and worker engagement practices to prevent the next organization from fishing their best-performing employee (Stanley et al., 2013). Accordingly, an organization should replicate the Chinese government by offering job “security”, meaningful remuneration and rewards, as well as safe working environment replete with challenging activities that keep workers on toes.

Another crucial takeaway from the read is that values are a crucial part of a business culture. An organizational culture that instills the right values, those in line with business goals and objectives, unifies employees by offering them a strong sense of meaning and direction (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2015). Citing the Chinese culture that is embodied on philosophy of ethics, moral standards as well as a host of useful principles – respect, sincerity, continued learning for personal improvement, the author reveal the importance of ethical operation in the business. Ethics in business is an essential topic for every decision that a business makes affects its reputation. Sadly, it is difficult to operate ethically when the individuals making up the organization do not care about ethical practice. This is why Kumar, Ramendran, and Yacob (2012) insists on building a strong organizational culture then using it as a basis for hiring employees with a mindset that resonates with the business culture.

The reading has also helped me imbibe valuable knowledge about how to negotiate across cultures. Cross cultural negotiations require more than just patience and it must be “a joint process” between the aspiring leaders. Also, there is need for mutual “respect” and frequent “communication” to “revisit goals” should the need arise. As the consultations progress flexibility is vital; the parties must remain “willing to revise and change [there stand] as more understanding is developed.” To succeed in this process, negotiators must have elaborate external goals and deep understanding of the environment and all the requirements (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, p. 2696). Taking a break from the international business framework, negotiations represent something every leader must excel in for mutually benefitting terms of engagement even in the local business arena.

Lastly, I have learned that it is entirely possible to enhance intercultural competences. However, to successfully learn cultural competence, it is important to develop effective communication skills at the personal level and overcome “language barrier” (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, p. 466).  Moreover, to be considered culturally competent, one must first reflect their on their culture and understand how it affects ways of thinking. A nuanced knowledge of one’s culture is the basis of for comprehending and developing creativity by utilizing the many “ways people like to operate”.

Enhancing cross-cultural competences

Enhancing cross-cultural competences requires, first, a nuanced understanding of the concept. According to Havidan, Global Mindset refers to “the leader’s capacity for self awareness and reflection” (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, p. 106).  Ranker put it differently by defining cross-cultural mindset as “going beyond believing that what has worked for us in our organization in our county, will work to the same degree in another country (p. 150). These definitions share one thing in common: they both dispel complacency and rigidity to see value in other people’s culture thereby imposing one on them and inadvertently limiting their effectiveness. Personally, I would not wish my legacy in the corporate arena to be described as such, and so I believe that I can improve my cultural competence through five main areas discussed as follows.

The first area to develop in the journey to becoming culturally competent is communication skills. Successful intercultural relationships are built through efficient, logical communication of thought. Ranker, Huang, and McLeod ask, “If we can’t speak communicate on a personal level, how can we do so on a corporate level?” (p. 466). This rhetorical device stresses the need to overcome language barrier as a crucial way to successfully becoming culturally competent. As such, I would conduct elaborate research before interacting with people from a giver country or location; understand their culture and a convenient way to communicate with them.  Unquestionably, this entails learning basic words in that foreign language and other few things that would be important to me depending on the need.

Another area to improve is to be aware of my culture and how it affects my persona. It is utterly ludicrous to acclaim a heightened level of cross-cultural competence without understanding one’s own culture first. I have to strive to understand culture within myself, and be wary of the fact that I only perceive the word in a particular way as a result of personal constructs including culture, history, and background. This knowledge would act as a basis for comparison and learning new cultural aspects as I interact with foreigners.

Thirdly, I believe it would be essential to uncover my deeply underlying beliefs, attitudes, and feelings concerning other cultures. Unless I can track effectively manage my attitudes toward different cultures, it would practically impossible to love them (assuming that would be even possible).Bias is a huge impediment to successful interpersonal relationships (Mathews & Thakkar, 2012). Paying attention to my conception of other cultures will help me understand explicit and implicit biases that may undermine my openness to different cultural heritage of others people. I would need to learn to monitor my reactions to values and customs that are dissimilar from my own. Otherwise, my professionalism and productivity while dealing with people from different regions will dwindle.

A fourth improvement would be centered on mental agility to help me learn from others.  As Ranker suggests, succeeding at this tricky but fundamental task requires great mental dexterity. Ability to observe, learn quickly as well as accommodate others from diverse cultural backgrounds.  It is recommended to aid the process of studying “the culture and behavioral norms” (p. 466) among the foreigners. It will help me find appropriate ways to respond to culturally based points of view, by enhancing my creativity by eliminating “assumptions, [remaining] open and absorbent of the many different ways people like to operate” (p. 150).

Finally, I could consider the using a trained interpreter, a bilingual, to help me learn the new language. Forming a non-formal relationship with the person will allow me to learn the aspects of the new culture with ease and added advantage of freedom to ask nearly any question regarding the new culture.

Strategies in improving CQ

If assigned to the U.S. to manage a local team the D.K.S.A model would be instrumental in helping me improve my cultural intelligence. In the acronym, the first letter represents Drive or motivation. To developing superior intercultural-cultural interactive skills, I would carefully analysis myself to identify my interests and confidence in functioning effectively in culturally diverse setting.  Subsequently, I would strive to gain Knowledge regarding the similarities and differences between cultures by “putting down [my Chinese] lens” Thirdly; I would focus on Strategy/Metacognition – making sense of culturally diverse experiences. As Ranker, Huang, and McLeod contend, “each new awareness of” of the given culture” “gives us one more helpful puzzle piece gradually describing the whole picture” (2014, p. 724).  Succeeding in my mission in American would begin by understanding that Americans will not seek permit unless in it is a legal requirement, yet my culture, culture dictates that permission should be obtained in virtually everything. My final focus would be on Action; the capability to adapt my behavior appropriately for different cultures.

American Business Values that could be Agreeable to the Chinese

Personal control over the environment: The Americans believe that each person has a responsibility to “control nature, their own environment, and destiny”.  Consequently, “energetic goal-oriented society” is nurtured. Leaving future to fate and doing nothing must to secure it, as a result, sounds more of a resignation, an attitude that could have detrimental consequence on business performance. Chinese business people would share this value because no business would succeed without a clear goal. And despite cultural differences, they still hold return on investment in high regard. A business culture that is defined by enthusiastic employees who are eager to set and strive for clear objectives explains why China has attained its present economic prowess in the global market.

Change/Mobility: In the American context, change is perceived positively. It is good for it signifies “progress, improvement, and growth”. This value is less of a differentiating factor anymore, especially in light of Ranker, Huang, & McLeod’s  (2014) study, which advises that people exercise tolerance and be less to judge as both countries tread the tricky path establishing culturally diversified business relationships. This value is proclaimed to lead to a “transient society geographically, and socially” (p. 823). China needs the change as much as the U.S. does. As China continues to position itself as a strategic player in global commerce, it already needs to be more receptive to change.

Equality/Egalitarianism: This important American value stresses the need for “equal opportunities; people are important as individuals, for who they are, not from which family they come” (p. 823). Apparently, this may lead to little differentiation on the basis of one’s status. Practically, superiority complex may have unpleasant impact on business negotiations especially when the other party perceives the other as excessively domineering. It is noted that “the forceful nature [of the American culture has made her successful] in selling concepts and products to the world” but at the expense of “sensitivity to the local culture” (p. 527). Corporations in China would work with this principle because the purpose of international trade associations is to evoke a sense of mutual benefit. Status recognition may, therefore, only be appropriate at the individual organizational level.

Self-respect: This value expresses Americans sense of pride in individual accomplishments, not in name. One has to earn the respect they need by working hard to achieve something to show for it, not accidentally through birth. Investors from China would readily assimilate this value because it dissipates the bloated ego people tend to draw from the size of their companies or “perceived” might their country possess, and using the same as a leverage for closing business deals that do not benefit the other party equally. Additionally, self-respect is a useful tool to keep employees on their toes at the company level to prevent joyriding.

Future orientation: This value proves that Americans are generally optimistic. They believe that, the past notwithstanding, the future can still be very successful. That is to say, in a America, dwelling in the past is seen as a hindrance to maximizing the good to be derived from tomorrow. Not valuing the past may appear in one part as lack of appreciation for history, but it has a bright side that would attract the Chinese. Regardless of the turbulent relationship between the two nations in the past, they can craft a whole new destiny if they both commit to the cause. In business context, having been on the opposing sides of the lever of brutal competition, firms can still reach an agreement and pursue a more beneficial cause.

Directness, Openness, Honesty: In the U.S., it is a common belief that the trustworthy are those who do not sugarcoat reality only to please someone.  Even though Ranker, Huang, and McLeod caution that this approach may cause unprecedented shame, the Chinese would, under the right circumstances, appreciate that the “truth [should remain] a function of reality, not circumstance” (p. 527). Negotiations should never be predicated on deception or insincerity. In fact, the Chinese believe in building trust first before closing a deal with another party. Their belief in trust predicates their discomfort with Americans’ tendency to overly “focus on the rule of law and endeavor to encapsulate all kinds of contingencies in a legal agreement” (p. 251).

Opportunities and challenges

A new type of relationship between major countries in the 21st cebtury will certainly bring along numerous benefits. First, the new type of engagement will boost economic activities as interconnectedness and interdependency escalate rapidly between the countries (Felbermayr & Larch, 2013). Already, China has shown signs of benefitting greatly as it has already acquired largest Americans corporations; “Shun Hui and another Chinese company, already acquired “Smithfield, the largest American pork processor” and AMC, U.S. largest movie operator respectively.

Additionally, the relationship will open vast market for goods from all participating countries.  China has “a diverse population of 1.3 billion” (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, 2014, p. 226), and the U.S. population is well over 300 million. Trade agreements will enable businesses from either country to sell its products to a larger market leading to speedy development.  Presently, all major American corporations have already established a footprint in China, opening way to myriad economic benefits.

Multilateral trade agreements will streamline economic development to a great extent. The pacts will eliminate economic barriers further easing the flow of raw materials, finished products and labor between the countries (Cullen & Parboteeah, 2013).  Increased interactions will, as a bonus, improve cultural understanding and political relationships between the individuals from the nations.

The association has opened a leeway for national debt to skyrocket. It is reported that the United States of America “owes China over 1.3 trillion in debt” (Ranker, Huang, & McLeod, 2014). Additionally, overlapping interests are projected to evoke conflicts as the “established superpower” – U.S. deals with “emerging power” – China. Unfortunately, these developments have not attracted some challenges too.

Additionally, conforming to foreign laws and regulations is extremely difficult. Complex tax implications and trading laws can make businesses incur significant cost in settling fines imposed following a breach of the law. Additionally, fluctuating currency rates may disadvantage businesses. Weakening currency may render imports unaffordable to one country thus reducing economic growth.





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