Thursday, March 14, 2019

Building Bridges: Closing Gaps

Snow Storm and blizzard conditions here in Golden, Colorado... That said, wanted to share some thoughts--building bridges: closing gaps.

It can be challenging to come up with a workable solution to a pressing issue, especially when under stress and the demands of day to day, not to mention the need to consider the Culture.

For me, sound advise requires pulling apart the matter to the core and then sharing a plan to best build bridges and close gaps — something which is more art than science ☺.  Critical thinking is a key component in this process, too, as it goes beyond rudimentary decision-making. It often involves the ability to analyze multiple data points and make an intelligent, practical interpretation or decision. 

I find when presented with a business issue clear thinking is a must. I have found stepping away amid the process valuable and useful. Martial arts and bouldering are a big part of this recharge and re-focus routine.  I find after a demanding workout session constructive thoughts flow along with clear thinking. Both needed to tackle the challenges of Korea facing business.

On martial arts,it has been a lifetime endeavor-- entering my 47th year of training, teaching and study.  Like with martial arts where I have been fortunate to have studied in the most disciplined, traditional and demanding of the arts, I take my bouldering serious, too. 

Regarding bouldering, it’s a form of intense low height (up to 20 feet) rock climbing without the use of ropes or harnesses. Most often we climb on small rock formations (boulders) or in a climbing gym on artificial rock. Bouldering is not to be confused with free soloing, the later made famous in this year’s Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo and risk-seekers climbing above safe heights, where a fall would always result in serious injury or death.
building bridges, closing gaps
Living in Golden, Colorado has its benefits…. Golden, Colorado is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, only fifteen minutes from the heart of Denver but a world apart. Golden is also home of the internationally famous American Alpine Club and nearby some of the best climbing in the Americas… It also has an Earth Trek climbing gym and it’s not uncommon to find some the best sport climbers in the world training.

Now, how these ties into Korea facing work…

As I noted above, I find a constructive thinking process a must when a solid solution is required for a perplexing business issue. Adding a layer of concern and pressure are the ramifications for clients if not addressed and resolved.

In other cases, clear thinking is needed when I see a situation unfolding with long range implications, but the client often burdened with presentism and day to day workload and needs to be nudged to act… Again, in this situation and after years of Korea facing work, I have seen the ramifications if no action is taken—with most downsides avoidable.

Bottom Line
With work centering on—Strategy, People and Culture…and always the element of Korea, I’m here to discuss your challenges. Happy to set a time to chat, too.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Time Changes and Korea

Just an FYI for the teams in the US. South Korea observes Korea Standard Time (KST) all year.
Clocks do not change in South Korea. 

I find it best to double check call times to Korea this week 

Korea business question. just Message, Text or email

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Korean Business Culture: The 3 Essentials

Overseeing an international project in South Korea?  Managing a local Korean subsidiary--the brand’s HQ and senior leadership in Korea?  Then, you are from time to time bringing on new executives and team members.

Lesson learned tell us the new hires will need Korea facing support and insights into the many nuances that will impact their day to day interactions and business decision.  

For starters, I feel there are 3 essentials to better understanding the Korean mindset and DNA with regard to Korean business.

Hierarchy—place and order
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Korean culture and deeply embedded in the workplace is hierarchy .

Unlike the West, within this hierarchy no two individuals have the same place within the social matrix--age, education, family, employment and title /position with a company or organization determining where one stands within this matrix. 

Especially with new hires, Korean colleagues will ask questions to better place them in their social matrix. These questions may include family, the university they attended, the prior companies they were employed, and the work positions they have held.  (Not trying to pry but it’s common for questions to get rather personal, too, such as marital status, if they have children, do they go to Church, and how old they are …).

Traditionally Korea was a status conscious society.  For the elites this manifested in a wide range of status markers from Celadon pottery, refined behavior, ritual robes, distinct cuisine, and table manners. 

Today a former rigid class structure no longer dominates—class distinction and status more determined by one’s education, the company where one is employed, job position, and personal income. More so, we have seen considerable upward social mobility within Korea—a direct result of the nation’s economic successes. 

Going hand and hand with upward mobility has been the demand for luxury and premium goods and products.  In fact, these (most often Western branded) lux items have taken on the role of status markers.  

This list can include designer eyeglasses, handbags, and watches, as well as ties, scarfs, belts and name brand clothing. 

BTW with new casual dress codes in Korea, I am finding for the workplace top name brand jeans, polo and t-shirts very popular. 

Generations—shared experiences
South Korea’s dominant age groups have great impact on Korean business culture, so there is value in understanding the differences in Korean generations. 

In South Korea, a generational group is defined more by its shared experiences than by a specific number of years. 

For instance, older Koreans who lived through the Korean War and its aftermath are more conservative, strongly allied with the U.S., and still uncompromising towards North Korea. 

In contrast and the dominant generation in the workforce today are South Koreans in the 26-35 age group. Many of this group have studied abroad, look to work on overseas teams and projects, are fluent in English (and often another language or two), and have a global perspective. 

This younger generation of Koreans is less concerned about ideology and are more pragmatic. Their primary concern is finding a job. They are also a strong “gotta have it” consumer class and individualistic as a result of the impact of globalization, the Internet, and many have attended western schools and universities. 

It is no surprise that many of the recent changes we’ve seen in 2018 and in 2019 address concerns this generation have had about the Korean workplace.  This ranges from work-life balances, gender issues, and no longer tolerating past norms where an older generation often bullied subordinates.  In fact, on the later we find the new generation are now speaking out in social media and reporting cases to whistle-blower sites. 

All three noted, I see hierarchy, status and generations as a lens to begin to better understand the Korean mindset, both within their society and in the workplace across their global organizations.  

Adding to the above, and as a best practice there will be an ongoing need to support teams on the nuances of Korea impacting their day to day interactions and business decisions. As always, I am here to support and ready to jump in !


Monday, February 25, 2019

A Day in Korean History: March 1st

Each year March 1st is celebrated as a South Korean National Holiday—this year, the 100th anniversary, of greater significance– a Day in Korean History.
Some context regarding its significance.   
We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people.
This we proclaim to all the nations of the world in witness of human equality. This we proclaim to our descendants so that they may enjoy in perpetuity their inherent right to nationhood.
In as much as this proclamation originates from our five-thousand-year history, in as much as it springs from the loyalty of twenty million people, in as much as it affirms our yearning for the advancement of everlasting liberty, in as much as it expresses our desire to take part in the global reform rooted in human conscience, it is the solemn will of heaven, the great tide of our age, and a just act necessary for the co-existence of all humankind. 
Therefore, no power in this world can obstruct or suppress it!  
The above was the manifesto read by Korean independence activists on March 1, 1919.    
It was one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance to repressive Japanese Colonial Rule. Sadly, it would not be until the end of the Second World War, the defeat of Japan and the end of decades of suppression that Korea would regain its independence.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Daeboreum: The Great Full Moon

Many of us enjoy learning about the culture and traditions of Korea amid an ever-changing society. This week, on February 19, Daeboreum is observed, celebrating the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. BTW, historic mentions of Daeboreum date back to the 1200s.  Daeboreum (대보름) literally means “great full moon”.   

Daeboreum Festival

As a cultural observance, Daeboreum is accompanied by tradition, rituals, and foods. As with all cultures, some practices remain more common than others…and there are often variations. That said, in recent years festivals have sought to preserve their traditions. 

Common practices may include:
It's popular to crack nuts (usually peanuts and walnuts)  with your teeth, tradition that this will keep your teeth healthy as well as other ills away for the year.

People will cross back and forth on the walk bridges in the evening, the belief that it will make your legs strong and healthy for the new year.

 People will brave the cold and climb mountains to catch the first rise of the moon. It is said that the first person to see the moon rise will have good luck all year or a wish will be granted.

 A rather visually striking tradition in the countryside and today at festivals is whirling burning charcoal in cans filled with holes. Bonfires today are also common in Daeboreum festivals. Both the falling charcoal embers hitting the ground and the bonfires are tied to when in the past farmers burned dry grass on the ridges between rice fields in preparation for good crops in the new year. 




Friday, February 15, 2019

Korea Facing Thoughts 2019

My Korea facing weekend updates share thoughts and real-world topics as they unfold.  Your comments, point of view and inputs are appreciated. 

This week’s question…

Why are companies long tied to Korea the most engaged in support and coaching? 

1.    My sense is those long engaged in Korea facing business have come to recognize their own deeper need to better understand the issues and business norms, which impact their decisions and the outcomes. In most cases, in conversations, I confirm their thoughts… adding context where needed.  

2.    They have witnessed costly repercussions when not aligned with their Korean partners and leaders. They also strongly encourage their new hires to meet and get insights vs. the new hire without a resource tackling the challenges. Especially when they know Korea can and does throw some curve balls. 

3.    And, contrary to the assumptions that executives and teams will over time solely rely on their own insights, the fact is employee and leaders alike at these companies ask for ongoing backing. They find me being onsite on a regular basis an important part of this support

One thought regarding on-site support. I’ve come to recognize it’s as much about being available for the team in person, then solely by phone or email.  When onsite, my most common requests by even the most seasoned is: “Do you have a few minutes to talk,” “How long will you be here?” or, “Is this a good time to discuss …..” 

As always, I am here to support you and the team. I’m always open to discuss things as they come up—private and confidential.  


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Culture Alert: Korean Lunar New Year 2019

This year the Lunar holiday falls from Monday, February 4 to Wednesday, February 6 (Korea time).  The celebration usually lasts three days: the day before the Korean New Year, Korean New Year itself, and the day after the Korean New Year.

On a cultural note, Lunar New Year or Seollal is a highly celebrated traditional holiday in South Korea. Korean New Year generally occurs in January or February on the second new moon after the winter solstice.    

It does not only mark the passage into a new year, but it is also a time for families to catch up with each other, pay respect to ancestors and celebrate with traditional foods and gifts.

For us working with Korean teams, it’s a great time to re-connect.

For your Korean colleagues (in Korea), you can wish them “Happy Lunar New Year” by phone, text, or email, on Thursday, January 31(so, Friday in Korea, which is their last day in office prior to Holiday).

For expat Koreans working outside Korea/ globally, or in your local operations, you can wish then Happy Lunar New Year on Monday, February 4 (in the West). 

Here is the formal greeting--Sae hae bok mani ba deu say yo

Give it a try.   You will find it will be greatly appreciated. 

Question, just reach out to me …