You are receiving this email because of your relationship with Directions Consulting. If you do not wish to receive any more emails, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this e-mail



It's 2015, and it may look set to be a year of many changes.


While most of the changes will eventually be changes for the better, still some of the changes could be rather turbulent and may cause discomfort if not disruption to work.


Perhaps it's time that we learn to really accept change as a constant feature in our professional lives, and it might be helpful to inculcate in our hearts and minds how best to prepare ourselves for the changes ahead.  And to that, we might get some advice from the late Kungfu legend, Bruce Lee.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. Bruce Lee and the Tao of Change Management; and

  2. What Makes a Boss Too Formal?

This issue's main article is on "Bruce Lee and the Tao of Change Management", and we explore how conventional change management thinking may be inadequate to prepare ourselves for the impending frequent changes, and how we can deal with such changes more effectively.


In brief:

  • "You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend." is probably the best advice on change management one can ever get;

  • Sometimes it's not that people are resisting change, it could be just that they need to know where they are heading towards;

  • When dealing with resistance, be like water again, for "The successful army avoids the solid and strikes at the hollow, just like water flows from higher to lower ground."   Read on... ...

To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here (

Bruce Lee and the Tao of Change Management


by c.j. Ng


Not too long ago, I have a friend who just attended a 2-day workshop on Change Management, and was enthusiastically sharing what she learnt in that workshop.  According to her, what struck her most was that change is like unfreezing the ice in a teapot, put it into a teapot of a different shape (that represents the future state), and then refreezing it.


What she had described is the Kurt Lewin's model of change management, where the three phases of change include:
  1. Unfreezing;
  2. Changing or transitioning; and
  3. (Re)freezing
The premise is very simple.  First you have to get people warm-up to the idea that they have to change.  Then we get them to change.  Then we make sure that stick to the new ways and DON'T EVER revert back to the old ways.


While this premise will be great for certain changes (such as losing weight, where you have to stick to your new diet AND exercise regime FOREVER), it may not be as practical if we live and work in an age of frequent and sometimes turbulent changes.

Enter the Dragon

"Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup;  You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle;  You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot.  Now water can flow or it can crash.  Be water, my friend."

This is perhaps the most famous famous quote from the late Kungfu legend, Bruce Lee.  And it probably is relevant in dealing with frequent changes as well.  Here's why.

The main weakness in Kurt Lewin's model is in many change initiatives, most companies don't even have time to refreeze into their new ways of doing things, as the new changes become replaced by even newer changes. 


Or worse still, some companies have already froze themselves into the new ways of behaviours, that they will have to go through the long and painful process of unfreezing themselves when even newer changes take place.


The solution? Don't think of ourselves as ice.  Instead, get everybody to think of ourselves as water in a container, like a teapot.  If we put the "water" in a teapot, then we become the teapot.  If you put the "water" into a bottle, we become the bottle.


"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water."  said Bruce Lee.  Likewise, what all of us need to be aware today is to never get set into one form, be that a set of procedures, a certain organisation structures, or even a certain way of working.  There could be forces beyond our control that could force us to change, and the more fluid and flexible we are in adapting to different work demands, the higher our chance of dealing with changes successfully.


"A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready... ...Ready for whatever may come."  Perhaps this should be the mental conditioning for employees, especially managers and executives too.  Perhaps this is a new approach that companies need to institutionalise.

Getting from Where We are to Where We Want to Be


The other aspect of conventional ideas about managing change, is to reduce the resistance towards the changes.  It's called the "force-field analysis" where by there are forces for change, and there are forces against the change, and change will only be successful if the forces for the change are stronger and hence overpower the forces against the change. 

Now this analysis will be helpful if you want to predict future socio-economical-political changes, BUT might have some challenges if you were to try to use such analysis if you were tasked to lead the change.


Hence, if you are dealing with people, and you know that some people will be more resistant to changes than others.  If you look closer, however, people may not be simply resisting the changes.  Sometimes, they are just hesitant, not not entirely against the changes.  And sometimes, such a behaviour is actually good for the change.  Let me explain.


When people fear or are resisting change, at times it could that they are comfortable at where they are, and hence didn't want to change their old habits and environment.  However, if change is imminent, or that why we MUST change has been clearly communicated,  most people do and agree that they would have to change.


What they are considering next are

  • What are we going to change into, or where are we heading towards?

  • Is where we are heading towards really better than where we are now?  Will it really save us?

  • Will there be stability after this change, or will there be even more unexpected changes to come?  etc.

Sometimes acting to fast to implement changes may not always be a good idea, IF many of your people have doubts NOT about why they must change, BUT what they have to change into.  Hence instead of rushing to change, perhaps a deeper thinking and clarifying of what to change into and where we are all heading towards may actually help the change efforts. 


Not only will you gain more buy-in from all around, you could also gain insight on what could be some of the potential roadblocks or risks that you need to mitigate, which allows you to have a smoother transition.


Water Flows from Higher to Lower Ground

Despite our best efforts and the best of intentions, there could still be doubts and resistance from different corners with regards to the change.  In fact, no matter how good you are as a leader or manager, there could always be people who would doubt your decisions or intentions.

Now some experts may suggest that we deal with the most vocal or dominant of the doubters, and if they are won over, the rest will follow.

Unfortunately, unless we can resort to actions that really "silence" our opposition (by firing them, for instance), the above methods may not be as effective.  And trying to win over the most resistant of all people may take a much more time, energy and effort that you could afford.

Instead, we get inspiration from water, again.  "The successful army avoids the solid and strikes at the hollow, just like water flows from higher to lower ground" "水之行避高而趋下, 兵之形避实而击虚", as quoted from Sun Tzu's Art of War.


What this means is that we win over the people whom are supportive of us, and those who are sitting on the fences.  If there is enough momentum to have enough people supportive of the changes, the change will then succeed, with or without the buy-in of people resisting such changes.


Another way to make sure the water flows from higher to lower ground, is to ensure there are multiple small wins when implementing the change, rather than holding out for the massive change that frightens people.  When people gain more confidence by having the small wins, you are more likely to gain greater buy-ins and momentum to create more productive changes in the near future.


Need help in getting better results for your change management efforts in 2015? Simply e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

HR Matters Workshop in Singapore: 5 Feb 2015

Hiring for Attitude


  • What Makes Your Ideal Candidate?;

  • How to Hire Suitable Candidates;

  • Measuring Attitude in Interviews;

  • Measuring Attitude in CVs

VENUE: Singapore TBC


DATE: Thursday,  5 Feb 2015


TIME: 09:00 a.m. - 17:00 p.m.


PRICE: SGD 480 nett


Click here to register.


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Tips for International Managers:
What Makes a Boss Too Formal?


Answer the following questions quickly without giving them much thought. Do you expect a boss to wear an Armani suit or khaki trousers with jogging shoes? Should she travel to work on a mountain bike or in a limousine? Do you call him “Mr. Director,” or are you more likely to address him as “Sam”? How you respond to these questions depends on your individual personality. It also may reflect the country you come from.

For Steve Henning, raised in egalitarian Australia, the answer was clear. The best boss is just one of the guys:


At home I was a near-full-time bicycle commuter. I’m a senior vice president and my Australian staff thought it was great that I rode a bike to work like many of them did. So I decided to bring my bicycle with me when I was assigned to a new job in China.


Unfortunately, Henning’s decision backfired:


My team was humiliated that their boss rode a bike to work like a common person. There are plenty of bikes on the road here but they are not carrying vice presidents. The team felt my actions suggested to the company that their boss was unimportant, and that they, by association, were also unimportant.

In today’s global economy you might be an Australian leading a team in China, a Russian courting clients in Brazil, or a German acquiring a company in India. The ideal “power distance” between the boss and his staff is deeply woven into the education system and family structure of each society. If you’re the boss it’s particularly important to understand what to expect from the culture you are working with.

When Joseph Alabi moved from Nigeria to Denmark, he was taken aback by the way his Danish staff spoke to him. Everyone — from the secretary to guys on the shop floor — used his first name and didn’t hesitate to contradict him in meetings. As he pointed out:

In the part of Nigeria I come from, we are taught to show the utmost respect to anyone above us in the hierarchy. When an older brother asks his little brother to fetch him water, the little brother does as told or suffers the wrath of his mother. When a grandparent arrives, he gets down on his knees in order to greet him. At work, you wouldn’t dare call your boss by his first name, let alone challenge him in public or in some other way insult his position in society.

At first he took things personally, but gradually Joseph realized that the Danes simply show their respect very differently from Nigerians:


The Danes have something called “the Law Of Jante”, which is a set of extremely egalitarian principles. Do not think you are better than others. Do not think you are smarter than others. Do not think you are more important than others. These and the other Jante rules are part of the way the Danes live. Hierarchy is almost entirely absent in this society. Children call the teacher by his first name. Young children challenge elders without hesitation. And the boss really is treated like he is just one of the team — a sort of facilitator among equals.

For anyone working globally, the nuances of hierarchy can be complicated. It is no longer enough to know how to lead the Australian, Chinese, Nigerian, or Danish way. You have to know how to manage up and down the cultural spectrum, and be flexible enough to adapt your style to the culture at hand. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

In an egalitarian culture:

  • It’s okay to disagree with the boss openly, even in front of others.

  • People are more likely to move to action without getting the boss’s approval.

  • In a meeting with a client or supplier, it is not important to match hierarchical levels.

  • It’s acceptable to e-mail or call people several levels below or above you.

  • With clients or partners, expect to be seated and spoken to in no specific order.

In a hierarchical culture:

  • People will defer to the boss’s opinion, especially in public.
  • People are likely to get the boss’s approval before acting.
  • If your boss plans to attend a meeting, your suppliers or clients will send their boss. If your boss cancels, their boss will likely not come.
  • Expect communication to follow the hierarchical chain; people correspond with others on their own level.
  • With clients or partners, you are likely to be seated and spoken to in order of position

After several years in China, Steve Henning reflected on his experience:


I soon got rid of the bike, and stopped asking everyone to call me by my first name (Mr. Steve was our compromise!). I abandoned early strategies to make their culture more like my own, like implementing an open-floor seating plan. My team no more wanted me seated in a cubicle [than] riding a bike.


He came to not only adapt to this new culture, but to also see that it had its advantages:


When I was managing in Australia, every idea had to be hashed out at each level. Hours and hours were lost trying to create buy-in. When I first started working in China, I felt frustrated that my staff wouldn’t challenge my ideas. But I have developed a very close relationship with them over the past six years — almost a father-son connection. And I have come to love managing in China. There is great beauty in giving a clear instruction and watching your competent and enthusiastic team jump right in and attack the project at hand without pushback.

It’s natural for us to experience our own way of doing things as normal. But as we gain cross-cultural experience, we begin to see that every style has its advantages and disadvantages. And over time, a leader can start to smooth over the cultural gaps in team interactions, while capitalizing on the assets each cultural group brings. The more global the team, the greater the potential for misunderstanding… but also the greater the opportunity for the experienced leader to achieve success. This is the true value of leading in the global economy — getting the best of all worlds.

To find out how you can manage across different cultures, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001

Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia.


Using the Belbin Team Role Profiling, Directions Management Consulting helps develop high performance teams and leadership at every level. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as Delphi Packard, InterContinental Hotels Group, Alcoa Wheels, Standard Chartered Bank, Merial, ThyssenKrupp, Lowe's Global Sourcing, Diehl, Kulzer Dental etc.

Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


Enquiries and suggestions, pls. e-mail or visit


Mailing Address: Shui Cheng Nan Road 51 Lane No. 9 Suite 202 Shanghai 201103 China