Asia’s perceived culture towards compliance is often quoted as an impediment for breakthrough performance.  This compliance culture is reflected in many ways, e.g. how meetings are conducted, who gets to say what based on hierarchy, and a general expectation that the “boss” will tell people what to do.

If your commitment is to produce breakthrough results, results that are unprecedented given the current set of circumstances, company resources and past track record, then you know that leadership and engagement from only those at the top is insufficient.

Below are three practical ways to enhance engagement and build the conditions for breakthrough performance in the Asian culture.  Rather than complaining about the culture, there are practical things you can do now to affect change.

1.    Stop having meetings that are a monologue

Critical business decisions are made and aligned upon in meetings. Yet one common complaint in Asia is that people don’t speak up and you don’t know what they are thinking.

If that happens, my recommendation is to stop the meeting.  Silence is better than a monologue.   Tell your people that it is their meeting and ask them how they want to spend their time.  Then be willing to deal with the silence.  More often than not, some brave soul will step in and the meeting dynamic will change.  This creates the context for a responsible, effective and committed conversation.

2.    Be aware of your own part in sustaining the status quo

Often, Asians are reserved about their passion and commitments.  Said in other words, respect for the status quo, respect for what is being perceived as the predominant agenda and respect for harmony supersede individual points of view and/or what might be perceived as “self-motivated” agendas.

As a leader, you need to be on the constant lookout for what behavior, actions and patterns of speaking are sustaining the status quo.  This includes being conscious of your own behavior (actions, interactions and patterns of speaking) and their impact on the predominant culture.   Your willingness to acknowledge where your own behavior is a mismatch for the intended culture is a clear signal that change is for real.

3.  “Practice” makes perfect

By “practice”, I mean a set of activities or protocols reliably taken over time, designed to keep a commitment alive (e.g. a new corporate culture).

Culture is ingrained in the day-to-day activities of your organization.  A new norm is established when people rigorously take on new practices that are consistent with the new culture. At the same time it is imperative to identify and retire practices that are inconsistent with the outcomes you are committed to. Spend the last five minutes of your meeting doing this and you will see a difference.

What new practices are you going to adopt for yourself and your team today?

What old practices are you going to retire?

Share your experiences with us.

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