October 2014

October 7th, 2014 by Caitlin Morrow

Last month I was in Hong Kong for 10 days delivering Diversity and Inclusion training with a local team for a US bank. I’ve been over there on business four times over the past couple of years so I feel like a local now and I'm getting to know the place, my favorite street food, the MTR, markets and where to go to see some greenery in the city (easier than you might think).

Hong Kong is at an impasse at the moment. The Occupy Movement is having a significant impact on the economy of the city, for rich and poor alike.  There’s a huge diversity of wealth in Hong Kong, it has one of the biggest income divides in the world. Leung’s comments last week about the poor dominating elections if true democracy were allowed has no doubt strengthened the resolve of the students. But Hongkongers want their city back and many want democracy too. So, how is Hong Kong going to find a resolution?

Last week, Leung said he would listen to the students, he said he was prepared to compromise.  This was a good start, but the talks were reported as fruitless. If Hong Kong politicians are unwilling to meet again then the students have suggested they will seek discussion in Beijing.  But how will the students make sure they are heard? Maybe they’ll need to adapt their own behaviour? They’ll need tolerance, understanding and the ability to walk in their ‘opponents’ shoes.  And what about Beijing? They will also need these characteristics in order to engage in open dialogue. Both parties will need to work hard at keeping an open mind and engaging empathy. How can both parties ensure they listen and compromise? 

The business world has been focusing on how best to work together for years. The Diversity and Inclusion training we recently delivered in Hong Kong and across the region asked participants to consider walking in someone else’s shoes. Now, I’m not suggesting that a Steps training programme would solve the unrest and help suddenly find some cohesiveness between these two factions - I think it may need a bit more than that! - However, looking to business may offer some food for thought. Many of our clients are making great strides in inclusion, diversity and recognising the existence and impact of unconscious biases. There is a concerted effort for individuals to take personal responsibility and employ the inclusive leadership behaviours of seeking to understand, demonstrating tolerance and empathy and acting with integrity. 

I am very proud of the recent work we did in in the region for a leading US bank, and particularly the people we worked with. The delegates were both local and expats; there was cultural difference as well as general difference of opinion.  I have learnt that culture plays a huge part in how we respond and deal with a problem or challenge. Hong Kong was our main hub but we also worked in Tokyo, Taiwan, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei. In many of these countries there is a reverence shown to more senior people that is not replicated in the west. This reverence can sometimes stifle the sharing of opinion. However we found that many of our delegates were in fact happy to share their opinions, they were willing to take responsibility, particularly when the senior people encouraged this and were genuinely willing to listen.  This led to greater understanding amongst the groups and a willingness to hear and begin to understand contrary views for the benefit of all. Individuals were displaying a real energy for behavioural change. 

There is no doubt that many politicians work hard at empathy, understanding and tolerance and many are excellent leaders, but these things don’t just happen. It’s up to all of us to challenge ourselves and listen to feedback in order to find resolution at work, in our personal lives and in any given conflict. 

So, will Hong Kong find a resolution? No doubt, eventually. Could individuals do more to reach an effective resolution? Without a doubt, definitely.


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