Respecting diverse opinions, temperaments and work styles is every professional team’s philosophy-until the first stressful event comes along. Then, stress and conflict splits even the best team into factions from which recovery is hard and slow. While it is nearly impossible to prevent internal showdowns, it is relatively easy to predict them and prepare: a smart way to improve both the productivity and atmosphere of the team.

When it is time for important decisions, most teams lean towards one of the four strategic styles we use as benchmarks at our East-West Leadership workshops: ‘dare & win’ (Red), ‘disrupt & engage’…


Intercontinental business meetings used to be for top management. COVID19 changed all that: anyone with a broadband access is a global problem-solver now. In general, most people support remote work. But connected cars, fridges, apps and meetings come with built-in flaws. Professional communities are complex systems that take years or decades to reach an equilibrium in speed, quality, risk tolerance, helpful and unwelcome behaviours. New ties between regions (let’s say an European and Asian branch) are bound to start with resistance and develop into collaboration over time. Normally, adjustments are so gradual that they remain invisible. Dramatic changes, the sort…


If you’re a foreigner who was here to answer the door when the friendly officials of China’s 2020 National Census turned up with their clipboards, you may wonder how a turbulent 2020 changed foreign demographics in the country.

In recent years, China’s government has shifted rhetoric from global integration to global leadership. Indeed, the country boasts the world’s largest population, a disproportionate share of its most populous cities, biggest container ports, banks and army, as well as proliferating global outreach programmes. But in terms of hosting foreigners, China is a bottom-ranking nation. A generous estimate of a million foreigners in…


For leaders in business, healthcare, government, education and more, 2020 was both a dream and a nightmare. As a former diplomat who has spent the last 15 years consulting global firms on intercultural leadership, I watched with fascination as a global pandemic filled people with purpose and hesitation, spirit and fear, all at once. As the unimaginable unfolded, the corporate executives, entrepreneurs, diplomats and academics I advise experienced the sort of crisis they had anticipated for decades, hoping it would never occur. ‘A new normal’, often mentioned in speeches, publications and conversations, could not yet emerge among the chaos. 2021…


For business leaders running multinational firms in China, the first half of 2020 was a surreal time. One executive I coached had to manage his team through a stressful lockdown only weeks after he started his new job. Many had to choose between being grounded for week at home or at work. As COVID-19 measures hit China just before the Lunar New Year, a significant part of China’s expat community got stranded abroad during home visits, at beach hotels, guest houses, at headquarters or with friends somewhere around the globe. For years, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) was a…


From multibillion multinationals to startups, businesses were unprepared for COVID19. Exactly like the people inside them, firms had planned for many risks and their countermeasures, but not this. Individuals and teams feel the same way: there is not much they can do about it, apart from limiting exposure and improving resilience. It is frighteningly easy to get the balance wrong. Stay inside too long and you wither under a pile of canned food. Stay active and you increase risk. Ultimately, the solution is the right level of diversity between necessary measures. …


2020 stood for ‘vision’ at most multinational leadership teams I advised, coached or trained last year. On the horizon, they had one looming challenge: China. Where is it heading? How do we respond? What can we get? Who can manage it? China is a leadership challenge because in the generally well-oiled world of global firms, this key element seems to go in all directions at once. It finally shortened its infamous ‘negative list’ that bars foreign firms from strategic industries and tore an exit through the Great Wall with the Belt-And-Road initiative. Meanwhile, against WTO commitments, it introduced ‘Made in…


The lonesome masked figures of security guards in empty streets have become an eloquent social media meme in China’s cities during the current Coronavirus outbreak. Expats merrily selfie away in deserted shopping malls and airport lounges. Well done everyone who is missing from the picture: health authorities remind citizens to avoid crowds (easily done these days) and keep their social interactions to the minimum. But while we stay out of harm’s way at home, confinement itself can become a problem.

During the past couple of days, I share tips on WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, on keeping healthy, productive and…


Global people skills aren’t optional any more — 2019 made this message clear. Global business reached managers of tiny startups in Mumbai or multibillion firms in Manhattan even if they never went abroad. Many companies I advise and coach have management teams with more nationalities than members, zigzagging between appointments in three continents. Virtual sourcing, outsourcing and customer care have made even the simplest operations intercultural. Even if every single employee comes from one city, migration makes cultural acumen an essential skill for their bosses. …


Those who have ever been foreigners in China know how easy it is to trample onto the country’s countless taboos, and how awkward the consequences can be. But recently, China-based expats themselves have become a taboo topic. How many foreigners are there? Are they ‘guests’ or contributors to the country’s global success story? Is relocation to China a privilege or challenge? Do foreigners have any right to complain? Are they arriving or leaving? If you need a great conversation-stopper while in China, these questions will work like magic. …

Gabor Holch

Gabor is a cross-cultural teamwork & leadership development consultant, coach, author and speaker who has served 100+ clients in in 25+ countries.

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