A COACH ONCE SHARED WITH ME HIS TROUBLES.
“Chinese trainees just don’t get the idea of coaching” he said. “These trainees don’t understand why they should pay a coach money if they still have to solve problems by themselves. All the coach does is ask questions.” This particular coach was a local Chinese, who did occasional work with clients in second and third tier cities, which also happened to be where he had heard these comments.
Business mindedness differs across China with coaching expectations varying across third, second and first tier cities. First tier cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, are the most international, and have training expectations much closer to those of the West. But the second and third tier cities are where you will hear comments, like the one provided by the Chinese coach.
The most extreme attitude you are likely to encounter is “I pay a trainer to think for me so that I don’t have to”. This is clearly in sharp contrast to the Western preference of self-discovery, discussion and concepts. In the West, trainees are encouraged, and in many cases like, to figure things out for themselves. But for a Chinese audience this can be intimidating and a sign that the trainer doesn’t know what they are talking about.
There have been several occasions where the self-discovery style workshops that I have run have fallen flat on their face. I was hoping that the trainees would be able to discover the answers themselves, and contribute more, whereas for the trainees they were left thinking if we had the answers, then we wouldn’t need you, would we? Since then my training philosophy has been to first provide the answers, and then to challenge the trainees to use the answers and focus on raising self awareness. I have found this approach enables self-discovery style workshops, whilst at the same time giving the Chinese trainees what they want, that is, the ‘answer’.
Some trainers I know like to do it the other way round, by first getting the trainees to figure out the answers for themselves, and afterwards comparing them to the ‘official’ answers the trainer has prepared. Both of these approaches work, but in my opinion focusing more on their use of the answers, as opposed to their discovery of the answers, is a much more effective use of the trainee’s time – in China. Again, let me emphasise – in China.
Or in other words, be pragmatic.
And when giving answers, these answers you need to be practical, not conceptual. Instead of telling trainees to be more direct, show them how to be direct. Instead of telling the trainees to use a logical structure when communicating, you need to give them that logical structure. Instead of telling the trainees to practice making eye contact, tell them how they can overcome the challenges of making eye contact. Chinese trainees are looking to the trainer for certain takeaways that they can start using immediately.
The moral of the story, be pragmatic, and then some. Design your training around tools that are so simple to use the trainees can immediately apply to their work. Work the concepts into the introduction of the tools, and enable self-discovery through the application of these tools.
If you do this, the trainees will realise your true value, regardless of the city’s tier.