Developing Leadership at a US-China Joint Venture

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1. The Challenge

The senior leadership team of a joint-venture gases and chemicals manufacturer located in southern China asked us to partner with them to:

A. Conduct an organizational culture assessment, determining:

  • The effects on organizational performance related to the challenges of balancing and blending cultural elements from the two Global Fortune 500 joint-venture partners, one China-based and the other US-based
  • Opportunities to close gaps between the intended and stated vision, strategy, goals and behaviors with the current state of the organization
  • Key stakeholders’ readiness levels to embrace change
  • Gaps in critical leadership skills for senior leadership team members

B. Design and implement solutions to:

  • Realize aspirations to build and establish a unique, high-performing 3rd culture organizational identity with reduced reliance upon stakeholder / sending organizations
  • Increase senior leaders' individual and team effectiveness
  • Improve mid-level managers' performance management skills
  • Engage all levels of the workforce and improve communication, cultural competence, collaboration, and teamwork

2. Our Solution

Beginning with Insights and focusing particularly on Capability Building, we worked through each of the four phases of the ThomasLeland engagement model with this organization:

Our consultants interviewed participants and other key stakeholders at the joint venture to uncover:

  • Challenges in building a 3rd Culture from the two owner-company cultures, one a Chinese State-Owned-Enterprise (SOE) and the other a US-based globally matrixed organization
  • Leadership team maturity, perspectives, understanding
  • Organizational cultural functionalities and dysfunctionalities.

Culture Design:
Early in the engagement, we partnered with the senior leadership team to craft key elements of the desired corporate identity both in the marketplace and in stakeholder experience. We guided the leadership team through a process for defining their values with supporting behaviors that set the course for the organization with an eye toward the 3rd culture. We further built upon this initial design work later during the Capability Building phase when we further specified the key behaviors expected and required to deliver the JV strategy and vision. The key areas of focus for the design included:

  • Establishing trust in high-pressure, organizational settings where two very proud and different identities must come together and build a successful business.
  • Leading foundational cultural aspects of employee engagement, collaboration, Inclusion, and respect.
  • Understanding the role of the leaders in creating alignment and ownership across the organization.
  • Adapting leadership styles from a range between authority and influence based on specific contexts.
  • Exploring the role of personal values and behaviors as they impact collective cultural identities at work.
  • Leveraging the positive results from effective coaching and mentoring – for myself, my team, and the organization.

Capability Building

To make these values real and ensure the norms are credibly embedded into the formal and informal aspects of the JV culture, we engaged senior leaders and mid-level managers inindividual and small group ImpACT Coaching™.

These coaching programs were punctuated by custom designed leadership development sessions to reinforce key learnings, celebrate key milestones, and reinforce the collective alignment and focus of leadership.

  • Design and delivery of a customized management development training program
  • Design and implementation of a comprehensive solution to enable cultural competence and an inclusive environment. Solution included classroom training, teambuilding activities, reward and recognition programs, a peer coaching initiative, mentoring opportunities
  • Design and implementation of an integrated approach to talent management, including:
    • A sourcing and selecting model based on behavioral interviewing, competency and skill based position descriptions
    • A performance management system that includes 360 assessments, technical and professional ladders, technical and professional competency libraries, relative performance evaluation, ongoing performance feedback and systematic reviews, manager and employee input in employee development
    • Technical and soft skills training and development plans for all employees
    • On the job training, development through job assignments, and cross training opportunities available for all employees
    • Succession planning, beginning with identification of and planned development opportunities for high potentials and emerging leaders

3. Results Achieved

  • Leaders with a proactive approach to problem resolution. Demonstrated strong sense of personal ownership in addressing issues. Very positive “we can” attitude.
  • Leaders teaching leaders! Leaders at all levels identifying others who are interested in learning, who are driven – and then coaching them, informally mentoring them.
  • Leaders actively encouraging cross-team collaboration; even encouraging employees to learn from other functions, share with other teams; making cross-team assignments available for employees who want to progress and advance quickly.
  • Leaders that seek to define their success through the success of their teams.
  • Employees who are proud of their new team, their work, and their company.
  • Employees who readily express appreciation for the hard work and attention given to team building, culture, and recognition from senior leaders.
  • Employees that are willing to make personal sacrifices in order to help meet team and organizational goals.
  • Employees actively seeking, on their own time, to learn more and improve their professional and technical skills.
  • New hires who immediately recognize and appreciate the positive, engaged, proactive, inclusive culture, and safety focus.