The central issue Sealed Air Taiwan is currently facing is how to determine if the newly hired, Paul Huang, can produce the necessary sales results and whether he fits the mold for his position as sales manager. Historically, Sealed Air Taiwan was struggling with both stagnant sales and high operating costs. The branch was not adapting well to the Sealed Air’s established business model and there were even talks of shutting the branch down.
Bob Kayser was brought in to turn things around and quickly realized that the problem this branch was facing was a cultural divide between Taiwanese beliefs and the current United States business model. After training and extensive work improving the sales team, Kayser was eventually able to start turning the branch around and making incremental improvements to sales and profit. The issue that the branch now faces is that its leader, Bob Kayser, has been given a larger role at the firm and cannot devote as much attention to the Taiwan branch as he has in the past.
The branch needs to find a suitable successor that can continue the growth process Kayser set in place. The question now is whether Huang is an appropriate replacement or whether the company should keep looking for the position and possibly promote from within. After a brief visit to the United States for an orientation session, there are already concerns that Huang is not a proper fit for the sales manager role and will not be the saving grace this branch needs. Problems: Corporate culture: Sealed Air has operated under a unique corporate culture.
They are not a company that operates under a strict set of rules and guidelines. They want to empower employees rather than suffocate them with quotas and metrics. Some of these characteristics, such as their lack of defined legalistic rules and the attention to family, worked well with the Asian culture. Others, however, such as their hands-off management style and shared decision making have shown to be a problem with certain Asian cultures. Sealed Air was trying to operate as a global company while romoting a very American dominated corporate culture. National Culture: Sealed Air Taiwan, specifically, was having such difficultly because the parent company tried to take a successful American business model and move it overseas without any consideration of cultural differences. What had made the U. S. sales team successful was a very foreign concept to the Taiwanese employees and often went against years of their Confucian-style education, which taught them to respect authority without question and strictly abide by instruction.
Kayser experienced problems in the beginning of his role as regional manager of China because he just tried to further enforce the American model. He thought if he could get the sales managers to think and work like the American sales representatives then the branch would share the same success as the American branches. Kayser was also at a disadvantage when trying to establish American ethics within the Taiwan branch. The Chinese corporate culture of bribing customers in order to make the sale was considered unethical by Seal Air standards and hurt their competitive advantage.
Kayser only experienced success and growth after realizing that there was a legitimate cultural divide that made the American model not appropriate for Taiwan. Only when Kayser changed his management style to take into consideration this difference was he able to reach the Taiwanese employees and inspire them to become the sales representatives he was looking to create. Huang: After Huang’s trip to the United States, Steinke is having doubts about his capability to fit the sales manager role. Steinke is defining a good sales manager as someone who is personable and able to inspire their sales representatives in a hands-on fashion.
The problem with Steinke’s observation is that this is a very Americanized viewpoint of a successful leader. He is not taking into consideration that other cultures value different attributes in their leaders. There are, however, legitimate concerns if Huang’s personality and management style will fit the Sealed Air mold of what a sales manager needs to accomplish. Huang seems very data and numbers driven, while Sealed Air was really looking for someone who could spend their time in the field managing the representatives rather than analyzing data.
Although some of Steinke’s issues with Huang seem to be mere cross-cultural misunderstandings there does seem to be disconnected between Huang’s personal strengths and the desired expectations as a sales manager. Recommendations: It is our recommendation to remain with Huang and keep him in his current role as sales manager. The first reason for this recommendation is that in the past Sealed Air and Kayser have made the mistake of trying to solve the problems in Taiwan with American solutions. Steinke’s problems with Huang are primarily based on what is expected from an American sales manager.
He is not taking into consideration that Taiwanese employees are motivated by different types of leaders and respond to different types of management styles. Kayser, for example, was only successful when he gave up the idea of employee empowerment and realized that these employees preferred to be given specific instructions. Huang is also an appropriate fit for this role because he understands Chinese culture. He has already been successful in a Chinese sales environment and has proved that he knows what it takes to sell products and/or services.
His attention to detail and data may serve to be an asset in this role as Taiwanese employees respond to meticulous instruction. Having Huang be well versed in sales policy and able to provide detailed instructions will help him become an effective leader. Huang did understand that much of his job meant being in the field with his representatives but he also understood the importance of having background information to help his sales team address any problems that could arise. He is a hard worker and is willing to do both the necessary background research as well as put time into the field.
He is not just an employee who only wants to do what is written on his job description; he is willing to do what he feels is necessary to be successful. Not giving Huang a chance at this position would be another cultural mistake on Seal Air’s part. Steinkle and others are basing their assessment on a few days worth of misunderstandings. They are not taking the time to see the situation through a Taiwanese employee’s eyes but are just contorting to their own cultural beliefs about what a good leader looks like.
Huang posses all of the necessary attributes of what is needed out of a leader, especially in an Asian culture. If Sealed Air still does not think he fits the mold of a sales manager they could request that he take a few leadership or motivational classes. Without the classes Huang would be an appropriate leader but with the classes Huang could be more like Nick Pacak and become an inspiration to his sales team. Either way Huang is a hard working with necessary background to help him be successful in this position and deserves the chance to try and prove himself.
Another recommendation we have is for the Sealed Air Company as a whole. Instead of hiring a replacement for Huang they should look to hire a cross-cultural consultant who can help educate them on cultural differences and how global business can successfully address such issues. Even though Kayser has seemed to learn a lot during his time in Taiwan and China the company still does not seem to understand that different nations operate in very different ways then the United States.
The cross-culture consultant would be able to come in to the situation Sealed Air is currently experiencing and let the American executive team know if Huang’s behavior and personality is typical of someone who manages in Asian cultures. This consultant could also help American managers who are being assigned to Asian braches so that they do not encounter the same trouble that Kayser did and so branches do not suffer the way Taiwan had in the past.
In conclusion, Sealed Air needs to address the major issue of cultural differences within a corporate environment if they want to remain competitive within a global marketplace. Sealed Air should be more strategic when initially planning their global ventures so they do not need to invest the time and money it takes to fix them. Sealed Air Taiwan specifically should take the lead in this new way of thinking and not dismiss Huang because he does not fit the American model. It is our recommendation that Sealed Air give Huang the benefit of the doubt and allows him to prove himself as sales manager within the organization.