A Lesson from Winnie Ho: The Art of “Being” in Business

Winnie Ho is a petite Chinese woman in her late forties who works for a large company in Hong Kong.  I would regularly go to Hong Kong to work with our vendor base – Winnie was my partner at these meetings helping me to navigate language and business pitfalls.

On one particular trip I was in a fully distorted arrogant state.  Just 31 and doing my best to pretend I knew it all.  We’d been given the bad news that something I had wanted to do with a specific vendor was no longer possible at the price that had been agreed to. In front of the vendors management team I simply said “no, the price is nonnegotiable” and walked away from the bargaining table.  I was the customer after all.  Full of my own self-importance I refused to budge an inch.

Later in the office that evening Winnie, her boss Estella and I were going over the situation.  I was really mad.  I couldn’t go back to the head office with this news. It would cost us a lot of money.  I continued to explain this to Winnie & Estella.  Then Winnie tells me that they are willing to hold the price if I am willing to accept an increase on another project that had not been confirmed as yet.  That would help both of us to get what we wanted. Fair enough.

I was livid.  There was no way I was going to do that and let her know in my very animated manner that this was completely unacceptable. Allowing me time to express myself, she then quietly and gently walked up to me and placed her hand on my forearm.  Which caused me to quiet down immediately.

She tilted her head and said “Maria, the world is round.” Smiling at me. “Do you understand?”

“What is she talking about?” I thought.

I paused and responded “Do you mean to say that what goes around comes around?”

Winnie shakes her head no. “The world is a circular place Maria. Where you choose to enter the circle is a reflection of your character.”

This made the pit of my stomach fall to the ground.  My mouth gaped open. “Where do you choose to enter the circle here?” She smiled and walked away.

The lesson that Winnie taught me is that one must look at who we are being in the world and enter from a point of giving, understanding and compassion.  Rather than only thinking about getting what we want. It is the ability to enter the circle from an attitude of abundance being on the “offensive” rather than entering the circle in a state of lack and self-serving which is a “defensive” stance.  No partnerships or relationships can be built on defensive sand. If they are, they are unhealthy and lack stability.

This bit of wisdom has stayed with me for more than 15 years.  I hear her sweet words and feel her warm smile.  It is at those times I am reminded to consider who I am being in the world.  Realizing that the words I choose and the actions I take are a reflection of my character.  In the Chinese culture the word “character” means values and the metal of which you are made.

Where do you choose to enter the circle today?

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: