When is Helping NOT Helping? And When Feedback Hurts.
After helping launch Plante Moran Global Services (PMGS) in China, I would visit twice a year and spend time with clients, suppliers and our Shanghai-based team. On the last evening of each visit, as a way of expressing my thanks to the team, I would host a dinner for the team members, their spouses and their children.
So far, so good.
Several years after the tradition began, I was traveling with one of the Shanghai team members to a supplier’s location. We began our journey in a taxi heading to the subway station, where we caught a high-speed bullet train to the Pudong Airport. There, we boarded a flight to a coastal city. When we arrived, my colleague had a distressed look. The plan had been to take a passenger vehicle to the supplier’s town, but a severe rain storm was in progress and my colleague thought it would be safer to take a bus. My colleague was trying to figure out how to politely ask me if it was OK. I agreed to the revised plan, and we continued our adventure on a bus filled with local people, animals and lots of luggage (like something you’d see in the movies). When we finally arrived at our destination, my colleague had that distressed look again — this time because there were no taxi cabs at the bus station. There were, however, bicycle rickshaws. Finally the colleague summed up the courage to ask, “Would it be OK if we rode in this?” My answer? “I would love to!” The supplier was waiting for us when we arrived at the rickshaw station and drove us safely to the plant. (Editor’s note: I have been wanting to tell that story for years.)
As you might imagine, I had a lot of questions for the colleague during our lengthy journey. Most of what I was trying to find out was how the team was doing, and how they thought we were doing supporting the Shanghai team, 8,000 miles away from Plante Moran’s office.
During the course of our seven modes of transportation, and after I had asked the same question various different ways, my Shanghai colleague finally had the courage to tell me that the traditional team dinners were “nice.” However, since we went to a Western/American restaurant, the team had experienced sticker shock (my translation) and, to make matters worse, they didn’t especially care for the food. The crowning blow was when my colleague said, “It seems like a poor use of PMGS monies.”
I swallowed hard, and changed the venue for all future team dinners.
And I wondered, What else are we doing that’s stupid?
Hopefully this story motivates you to get feedback from your team. But can you beat my personal record of seven modes of transportation in just one day?