Archive for Don Southerton

A Korean Business “Working Within the Culture” FAQ

Share

Korean Business and Why do Americans/ westerners need Korean cultural training?

For westerners this may be the first time working with Korean business and a Korea team. This opportunity brings with it the need to better understand their new partner’s culture, workplace norms and expectations.

In most cases, the western team will be interacting with a Korean expatriate team. Some of the expatriates will hold a line managerial position with day-to-day responsibilities alongside western managers, while others will hold key management C-level positions, such as CEO, COO, or CFO. In many, if not most, cases these expats may operate as a “shadow management” with considerable oversight of local operations.

With the best of intentions, the expats will look to build strong collaboration and teamwork and advocate less a sense of us and them. However, they do bring with them Korean work norms that can conflict with western work-life balance and western ways of working.

More so, Korean teams may make seemingly one-sided decisions with the best interest of the company in mind but without consulting local teams causing mistrust.

A solid training program followed by on-going support can address differences, such as sharing work styles, hierarchy, and comfort levels, plus providing work-arounds.

 What are some typical issues that arise, especially without training?

As with all individuals, no two of us are alike –and the same goes for westerners and Koreans… Each has his or her unique strengths, skills, experiences and personalities.

That said, expecting local teams to simply “get it” without support and training seldom works. Even if a better understanding of the work culture eventually occurs over time, this “learn as you go” approach we see as costly, contributes to stress, poor productivity and even employee turnover.

 What have Koreans told you about Americans? Work habits, commitment, etc.

If you ask Korean expats how they perceive Americans and westerners in general, responses would be very positive and respectful, especially toward western work ethics and work habits. Koreans see great value in American and western teams providing them with new insights and perspectives, as well as best practice

What might be covered in such training?

I see the training as two fold — 1) providing teams with an understanding of the Korean partner’s history, heritage, trends and popular culture and 2) looking at the Korean workplace and its norms, practices, and expectations.

Above all I feel a best practice is to share similarities and shared values when possible, along with instilling an awareness of and respect for cultural differences.

Addressing the team’s questions and concerns is also vital with issues, such as work-life balance, safety and quality processes and procedures and the overall expectations of Korean partners.

 Anything else?

To conclude, the need for Korean business cross-cultural training programs for local employees and management is a high priority.

The assumption that local and expatriate teams can bridge cultural gaps through practical on–the–job experience might work with those few highly intuitive individuals with the exceptional ability to assimilate cultures.

What stands out in numerous studies, however, is the need for ongoing multicultural training, that can successfully impact people, especially those who need to quickly adapt to new or changing business culture and values, while fostering sensitivity and teamwork among all members of the company.

Finally, I would add that I have found a Korean business tiered service model – training, mentoring and on-going strategic support — to be the most effective approach for an organization.

http://www.bridgingculture.com

###

Share

Still Time in 2017

Share

With a few weeks left in 2017, I’m happy to report that this year we offered over 33 Korea 101 and 201  “working within the Culture” workshops. Most were the new 2 hour format. We offered the Korean business sessions to not only across North America, but also to teams in the UK, France and Ireland.

BTW  There is still time left in 2017 for sharing the training to your teams.

And, the program is a great way to end the year strong and prepare the team for the many changes coming in 2018.

Contact me at 310-866-3777, Text or email.

Regards,

DS

 

Share

The Korean Business Toolbox 2017

Share

I’d like to share a new Korean business Toolbox that provides solutions to a recurring and deep concern by western management of South Korea-based companies. I find this issue surfacing often and so draw upon what I have found to work best to overcome and move forward.

Here’s the Link.  http://www.bridgingculture.com/assets/toolbox-2017_-intervention.pdf

In crafting the Toolbox over the past month and sharing sections as drafts, it’s received considerable feedback and positive reviews. These are always much appreciated.

As always we look for your comments and thoughts, too. So please share.

DS

 

 

Share

Consequences in Korean Business

Share

In my last commentary, I noted the huge challenges surfacing because of the current disruptive Korean business climate.

In particular, I shared the “why” behind Korean expatriates intervening in the local decision process. In some cases, these decisions are one-sided, lack collaborative and mutual engagement and have consequences.

In turn, western team see themselves consulted only to validate preconceived ideas or to implement directives from Korea.

Drilling Deeper

This has lead to local management seeing their input and expertise being marginalized– more so with complex situations and long-term planning “drilling deeper” may uncover ramifications.

More specifically, Korean teams under pressure are driven to take immediate action this can result in little joint discourse related to potential trade-offs and risks in projects assigned to the local subsidiary.

Particularly with a narrow and reactive workplace approach, one can draw an analogy to jigsaw puzzle building.

The pieces to a puzzle have many unique sides. There may be different ways to place them into the puzzle. What is required is to look diligently at all possible options.

Like all challenges, one needs to explore the different possibilities to find the right solution and how the piece fits into the overall puzzle—essentially one needs a reflective mindset.

As a Korean colleague once pointed out, their society beginning with grade school does not promote reflective thinking and instead looks to promote a thought process that leads to more immediate results. In fact, Korean high school students spend more than 14 hours a day studying, memorizing and preparing for exams—a model that stifles creativity.

I also see a cross-cultural aspect with many Korean decisions the result of a team workplace’s collective thought process, and in contrast, reflective thinking stems from an individual’s core consciousness.

Bottom line reflective thinking requires taking acquiring knowledge and then calling upon one’s own experience, utilizing evaluative skills and admitting personal bias.

The result is a broader perspective and a better view of the bigger picture.

Without working through a robust analysis of a problem from multiple angles and considering potential repercussions a solid evaluation can never arise.

All this said, by allowing one to think outside the box through a reflective and conscious lens, the time invested in analysis will lead to effective solutions—required in times of high stress.

All noted, in my next commentary I will provide some workarounds to soften the Korean reactive inclination to jump into implementing and producing immediate results—something we find dominating the current Korean business climate.

www,Learnmore@koreabcw.com

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Korean Business “Intervention”?

Share

I was recently asked to address a Korean business concern by local management.

Before sharing, I would like to state I work closely with Koreans daily. Many serve as expatriates, many on overseas teams. Like all individuals, no two of us are alike –the same goes for Koreans…each with their own unique strengths, skills, experiences and personality.

All said, the challenge I was asked to address is the company’s Korean expatriate partners (commonly referred to as Executive Coordinators) were intervening in what should be broad local decisions.

Probing deeper, local management felt based on their long experience in the market and industry that these decisions were often short-sighted, reactive and not aligned with their well thought out strategy. Of greater concern were decisions were one-sided and not a collaboration.

In any case, local management felt their input and expertise was being marginalized.

Frankly, this intervention is very cyclic.

Most recently pressure to meet “Sales Targets” had grown, so too, do we see increased intervention by the Korean teams.

Add that Koreans expats who’s DNA are rooted in a collective society and mindset where they feel not only the local stress, but also the Group’s broader pain (China and domestic sales down).

I find two drivers in the spike in recent intervention.

In recent years, overseas branches have had considerable success.

  1. In turn an expatriate working in an overseas branch could take credit for this success and they would see a boost their career when they returned to Korea… Many assigned, for example, to the U.S. and top markets in the EU and the Middle East move upward on to higher positions within the company.

Respectively, when sales are down … and they perceive that their careers will suffer if numbers are not met… it forces them to engage more and more…

  1. The second driver is Korea leadership pressuring their Korea teams to engage, come up with a plan, take immediate action and push themselves.

In some cases this has translated into serving less of a collaborating liaison with the Korean HQ and advisors—to now, the key decision maker.

Some background

Most Korean overseas subsidiaries have Korean management assigned to the host country.

The general term for these representative employees is ju jae won. Within the local overseas organizations, they may be called Coordinators, Executive Coordinators or Executive Advisors.

Some, expatriates also can hold a line managerial position with day-to-day responsibilities alongside western managers, while others hold key management C-level positions, such as CEO, COO, or CFO.

The Korean expat model has a rotation cycle in which teams and executives are assigned to overseas divisions for 3-5 years. They then return to Korea for reassignment with a replacement expected to take over—often with little preparation.

Strengths, skills and experience can vary, too.

For some, this is their first overseas assignment. This means it is also the first time newly assigned Korean expats may be required to directly participate in the decision making process.

In Korea, senior management makes decisions and their teams execute the plan.

Roles vary with each company, but most often, as I noted, a coordinator’s primary role is to act as a liaison between Korea and the local subsidiary.

So where is the challenge?

Ju jae won are skilled and accomplished in Korean style business operations, norms and practices.

However, they have now been assigned to an overseas subsidiary where norms, practices, expectations, and laws differ.

Moreover, their responsibilities and assignments in the subsidiary may be in a department or specialty, in which they had little or no experience in Korea.

Layer on stress and we often see reactions ranging hopeful second-guessing to risk-avoidance and holding back on any decisions.

More so recognize that expatriates are cognitive that local markets and management styles differ from Korea.

This said, under stress we see a reverting back to what working well in Korea.

This is often tackled with Korean colleagues as a team pondering over a challenge and developing a plan of action.

Where the disconnect may occurs in overseas operations is when they defer to their own or the Korean colleagues (locally and in Korea) in decisions over collaborating with local management.

Workarounds   I do have them…

That said, and not trying hold back or avoid sharing but some details are best known as every situation needs to approached differently…

I’d be happy to discuss and share my suggestion for a workaround…

Stacey stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet or chat by phone.

For all urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777

For more information on my work…. www.learnmore@Koreabcw.com

###

Share

Korean Global Dining Leader Looks to the Americas

Share

This week, I’d like to share three popular South Korean chef-inspired restaurant concepts that are moved into the second phase of international expansion. Successful launched in South Korea and Asia, Seoul-based SUN AT FOODS now plans to bring their handcrafted artisanal cuisines to the U.S and the Americas.

One of my longtime personal favorites, which I have talked about often, is Mad for Garlic that first opened in 2001. They are known for their garlic-specialized Italian cuisine served in rather unique restaurant settings.

I feel their secrets are Mad for Garlic’s method of removing the garlic’s pungent smell and unique way of cooking Italian cuisine with a Korean twist. In Korea and Asia they have won the hearts of both garlic and non-garlic lovers.

Building on the success of Mad for Garlic are two new concepts Modern Nulung and Bistro Seoul.

Inspired by 1930s Shanghai Renaissance era, Modern Nulang is the combination words of ‘Modern’ and ‘Nulang’ –the latter meaning ‘woman’ in Chinese. They have reinterpreted the era’s ‘modern women’ in their dishes, which guests describe as ‘Sophisticated’ and ‘Romantic’ Chinese Cuisine. Best of all, folks love indulging in an exotic Shanghai dining and cultural experience captured so well in Modern Nulang.

A third concept is Bistro Seoul. Here they offer authentic Korean cuisine made with fresh ingredients and seasoning prepared in a traditional but modern interpretation. Savory dishes include Grilled Short Rib Patties, and their ever popular Korean style pancakes that include Kimchi & Seafood pancakes, Crispy Potato pancakes and Minced Shrimp & Seafood pancakes.

SUN AT FOODS plans are now underway targeting top regional U.S markets as well as meeting with industry leaders and potential regional developers. In fact, I am their market development consultant and we’re eager to meet with potential partners to share the three concepts—each with their unigue appeal.

For more information on the brands, please contact Stacey my assistant at stacey@koreabcw.com, and she can schedule a time to meet or chat by phone.

For all urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777

###

Share

End of Year 2016 Thoughts of Don Southerton

Share

My EOY thoughts…

http://brandinginasia.com/south-korea-2016/

South Korea 2016: Gazing Back and a Look Forward

Branding in Asia December 31, 2016

It was a challenging year for both western and Korean overseas business teams. We all felt the common sense of worry frustration; coupled with the need to hit steep sales targets, there was the mounting anxiety from South Korea over a declining export economy and a weakening Won.
Not to mention, the political scandals that reached into the very core of Korean business groups—who watched as their Chairmen were called into the National Assembly to be prodded and probed on contributions in exchange for special presidential preferences.

Still, we are honored to support so many in leadership who come to us for advice and perspective—a role we take with utmost seriousness and hold in deep confidentially.

With 2016 came opportunities to share my thoughts and perspective to a wide audience including Branding In Asia who both highlighted work in an interview as well as published a number of commentaries.

So what’s before us in 2017…Trump, the Korean Presidential Election, and Succession?

What stood out at the recent National Assembly grilling of the top conglomerate Chairman, many men in their late 70s, was the targeting of the now de facto head of Samsung, who has assumed his father’s role.
“Trump?”—a name and an uncertainty that surfaces often. I constantly field questions from both Korean and American business leadership on the impact of the election and the new administration. Who would know I would be asked to speak in December about Trump to 45 Korea executives. I also find it interesting that diverse Trump scenarios tied to possible renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Accord by the new administration were mulled at the Hyundai Motor global strategy summit in Seoul.

Looking forward, trade agreements, US military support for South Korea and dealing with North Korea’s nuclear buildup still top the list. On the trade agreement front, my expectation is at some time during the next year it will be looked at deeper by the Trump administration. However, until there is a South Korean president in office, with the impeachment waiting to be upheld by the Courts, we’ll see no Trump-Korean President summit to drill deeper.

Presidential Election 2017

What I will be probing for is the “tone” of presidential hopefuls—2017 an election year in South Korea. One candidate, for example, is already demanding the Chaebol model be dismantled.

In particular, my thoughts were summed up in Forbes, in a timely December Frank Ahrens’ article remarking that an incoming Korean president could “ride into office on a wave of populist anger directed at the nation’s elites. Still, says veteran South Korea business consultant Don Southerton, “a new administration will need chaebol support to drive the economy and jobs or quickly lose public support.”

I’d add we have experienced decades of “love-hate” between the Korean Groups and the government. One minute mandating new rounds of regulations such as restrictions on mutual investments and loan guarantees to curtail chaebols—the next minute persuading chaebol leadership to spur growth. The reality is Group support by Samsung, Hyundai, LG, Lotte and SK is needed to create jobs, invest in R&D and support an incoming president’s initiatives to grow the economy.

Less likely considering the emergence of a more cynical generation that may threaten to upend an old system, nevertheless seeing disruptive politics emerging globally, we could even have a new president promising change but openly allied with the chaebol as engines of growth. We’ll have to wait and see. That said, at least in the short run post-scandal I see Groups coming under pressure in laws and regulations designed to increase financial transparency and accountability of family members.

The Succession issue

What stood out at the recent National Assembly grilling of the top conglomerate Chairman, many men in their late 70s, was the targeting of the now de facto head of Samsung, who has assumed his father’s role. With the mantle of Samsung now handed to the third generation of the Lee family, we may see similar at Hyundai and the other top Groups. In fact, South Korea’s textile giant, Hyosung just announced with year-end the ushering in the era of the group’s third-generation management. I expect more announcements in the weeks to come…

What will this new generation bring forth? For one, Samsung’s successor Jay Y Lee has promised to abolish the conglomerate’s “control tower” the Future Strategy Office in response to criticism about the office’s role in the group-wide business command and control operations. No major decisions such as acquisitions or entering new businesses without the FSO’s scrutiny. On a side note, Hyundai Motor Group is one of the few groups that doesn’t operate a de facto control tower. Unlike more diversified chaebol, Hyundai core business is automotive with its affiliates already aligned in supporting a common interest.

As for succession and an indicator of change at Korea’s second largest conglomerate, Hyundai Motor Group’s heir E.S. Chung continues to take a more visible leadership role. For example, E.S. Chung has sought to break away from the old model of a strictly Korean leadership team to more diverse international team as part of his strategy to better position their brand.

More recently he re-structured the annual year-end global strategy meeting of 50 Hyundai and Kia Motors Korean executives from their overseas branches. What stood out was the collaborative, open discussion based structure of the summit vs. an older conservative and hierarchical format in which the head of each overseas branch would give a one-way briefing to the Chairman.

We can assume E.S. Chung will continue to follow his design-loving passion and consensus-building management style in 2017.

Summing up

2017 may be seen as a year of uncertainties—both domestically in Korea and internationally with the potential for a weakening global economy, more disruptive politics and tightening of budgets and spending. The later is concerning since cutbacks would only hamper sales in what may be a tough market.

 

###

Share

Don Southerton Korea-facing Legal Consulting

Share

C.V. and Contact Information

Don Southerton

President and CEO, Bridging Culture Worldwide

1-310-866-3777

Dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com

http://www.bridgingculture.com

Offices in Golden, CO; Irvine, CA; and Seoul, South Korea

Services Provided

Korea expertise includes: Anti-trust, Licencing, MOU and Agreements, Korean culture and norms, business culture, gender in the Korea workplace, Family, IP, and deep insights into most of Korea major global conglomerates (including, but not limited to Samsung, Hyundai-Kia Motors, and LG). Southerton provides strategy, expert opinion testimony, litigation testimony, and case review for Defense and Plaintiff.

Experience

Don Southerton is an author, advisor, consultant, strategist, and coach working with many of the top Korea-based global corporations, along with major western firms that have ventures related to South Korea.

In addition, Southerton has advised and supported Korean Ministry of Knowledge, KOTRA, Invest Korea, The Korea Society, and US Korea Connect (the Korean Embassy in Washington, DC).

Southerton’s work has recently been covered in The Economist, CNN Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, Bloomberg TV, Korea Herald, Korea Times, Yonhap, Forbes Magazine, FSR Magazine, and a wide variety of local Korea media sources and interviews. He is also an author of 12 books and publications.

As an expert witness, Southerton has worked on cases involving anti-trust, wrongful death, IP, international family law, labor law, and personal injury. By virtue of his education, experience, training, and skills courts in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California have accepted his testimony and expertise.

 

Education

  1. A. History. University of Colorado, Denver.
  2. A. History. University of Colorado, Denver.

 

Post Graduate Study

University of Southern California (USC).

University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Intercultural Institute of California, San Francisco (IIC).

 

###

Share

South Korean President’s Impeachment, a Growing Likelihood?

Share

From Branding in Asia

South Korean President’s Impeachment, a Growing Likelihood?

South Korean President’s Impeachment, a Growing Likelihood?
By Don Southerton – Nov 28, 2016
While I advise Korean businesses for a living, I have been hesitant to expand my purview into the political world and offer my views on the indictments against South Korean President Park.

Nevertheless, impeachment seems a growing likelihood, with Politicos predicting the National Assembly can secure the required two-thirds majority vote needed to pass articles of impeachment.

So, what’s next?

Poring over scholarly updates, including those of my longtime friend Professor Steph Haggard’s insightful, “ Park Unraveling” series, I’ve come up with a primer on how this whole thing would play out.

The “If’s.”

If the National Assembly moves forward and passes an impeachment bill, the Constitutional Court is then responsible for deliberating the case. In addition, President Park’s powers would be suspended with the Prime Minister charged to lead the nation during the interim.
The Court then has 180 days to make a ruling on whether charges against the president warrant impeachment. If the Constitutional Court upholds the impeachment bill, the South Korean Constitution stipulates a presidential election must be held within 60 days. That means if the Court takes the full six months to rule on the case, the election would be held in August 2017.
If the Court rules in favor of impeachment, President Park would be stripped of her post and could face criminal and civil charges. Under Korean law, presidents while in office are immune from prosecution short of treason or insurrection.
It is worth noting, the next South Korean presidential election is scheduled for December 20, 2017. In the event, the Court rules in favor of President Park, incumbent Korean presidents are limited to a single 5-year term in office, and President Park could not seek re-election.
With no clear favorite yet for 2017 presidential election along with if President Park is impeached triggering an earlier election, pundits do feel the current United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former Korean Prime Minister, positioned well as the front-runner amid a field of opposition party hopefuls.
All noted, with the situation subject to change and quite fluid, we’ll have to take a wait and see approach to what unfolds next.

Share

Korea 101 On-line Launched

Share

Building teamwork and cross-cultural understanding is paramount to success. Misunderstandings and stress created by the differences in culture impact productivity and smooth business operations. Cross-cultural education is recognized as the chief solution to cultural challenges in the workplace.

Bridging Culture Worldwide (BCW) provides a wide range of Korea-focused training, coaching, and consulting services beginning with Korea 101.

What is Korea 101?
Korea 101 is a timely overview approach to Korean culture, modern history, norms and business culture. The goal of the program is to foster a better understanding of Korea and its business culture.

What are topics covered?
Business and social etiquette
History and economy of Korea
Culture (music, art and cuisine)
U.S./Korean relations including North Korea
The Korean workplace, management structure, and decision-making
Popular culture
New trends
Cross-cultural insights

Tell me more
For the first time we are offering Korea 101 in an on-demand online learning format. The intent of each of the five lesson sessions is to build upon the current experiences, while providing new knowledge and insights.

Korea 101 has been offered in corporate Live and Webinar sessions both in the United States and internationally for more than a decade. Thousands of participants have benefited from training and the insights it shares.

The program is conducted by noted author, strategist and lecturer, Don Southerton CEO and President of Bridging Culture Worldwide. Don works closely with many of Korea’s top Groups such as Hyundai Motor and is an experienced specialist in bridging cultures between Korean and non-Koreans. His firm, Bridging Culture Worldwide, is a Golden, Colorado, Irvine, California, and Seoul, South Korea, which offers programs and consulting to help management and employees appreciate and understand Korean culture and business relations.

Don has authored numerous publications with topics centering on culture, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism and early U.S.-Korean business ventures. Southerton also extensively lectures and writes and comments on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations. He is a frequent contributor to the media (WSJ, Forbes, CNN Fortune, Bloomberg, Automotive News, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Yonhap, Korea Magazine, eFM tbs Koreascape and FSR) on Korea facing business and culture.

Outcomes include:
A strong understanding of Korean cross-cultural differences and their relevance to Korean workplace culture.
Reduce tensions and frustrations rooted in cross-cultural issues.
Better morale and team spirit.
Support for interacting with Korean teams assigned to local operations.

The Cost for the 5 web-based on-demand learning sessions in $495.00.

To learn more, CLICK.

###

 

Share