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COVER STORY: Personal and Corporate Coaching the LDi Way
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LDi Training (Leadership Development international Training), which is the longest running and most established international training and coaching organisation in China, leads the way when it comes to helping individuals and companies develop the ‘soft skills’ of doing business. The company’s mission statement is a short but important one: ‘Helping individuals and organisations to grow from the inside out’. LDi’s multinational team of experts are dedicated to empowering their clients through a range of training programs held across several cities in China. At the head of the organisation is Managing Director Mr. Martin Klopper, an inspirational business leader with an MBA and decades of experience in upper level management positions. Martin is a specialist in, amongst other things, corporate and personal development. We spoke to him for a greater insight into the work LDi does and to find out firsthand what it takes to lead one of the country’s biggest international training companies.
 
It is a pleasure to speak to you today Mr. Klopper, please can you start by telling us about your professional background? 
My first degree was in Economics, then later I went on to do an MBA. I also have various professional qualifications in coaching and I am a fellow of the Chartered Management Institute in the UK. Originally I specialised in city and regional planning- in which I have a masters degree. I worked in project management for some time with a consultancy company in London, and through my work there with a multi-disciplinary team and over a wide range of projects, I moved more and more into the management and leadership of organisations. When I first came to China I was working for a non profit organisation called the Jianhua Foundation; firstly as the Director then later as the CEO. During my time there I got to know the executive team at LDi. In 2006 I went to the UK and opened up a company called Knowledge Works. Three years later I was invited to come back to China and work for LDi. I am now the Managing Director of the company. 
 
Tell us a little bit about what LDi does here in Tianjin and elsewhere in China?
LDi Training is one of the oldest international training companies in China. The company was first registered in 1983, under a different name, and it has been my privilege to be part of the LDi Group’s tremendously successful history. There are two main divisions within our organisation at the moment. One is working with the international schools of China. We operate in six international schools around the country in total- including here in Tianjin. The other division, for which I am responsible, is training and leadership consulting. This involves coaching and working with individuals and companies in areas such as leadership, business consulting, executive training and even personality assessment. In the latter case we apply the PREP system which is the world’s leading, cross-culturally reliable personality profiling tool.
 
We also do a lot of team building programs and we have a site just outside of Tianjin called ‘Spring Rock’ which has a world class high ropes course for our experiential development programs. We are currently partnering with Trinity Western University to roll out an MA degree program in Leadership across China. After looking at many such schemes around the globe, we decided that this was the best leadership related program out there because it reflects what we value most- the soft skills of leadership: trust, team building, communication, conflict resolution and so on.
 
Which industrial sectors do you provide services for?
As a company which has something to offer all kinds of organisations, our door is open to everybody. In the past we have been fortunate enough to work with Siemens, Microsoft, Airbus, Procter & Gamble and a number of other big firms. But also of course, we serve many small and medium sized Chinese companies. There is a great deal of diversity within our client base. 
 
Because our niche is in the area of soft skills, our services are useful for all kinds of companies, in all sectors of business. We are not, for example, pigeon-holing ourselves as specialists in marketing or telecommunications. There are many possibilities and as time goes by we are always adapting our approach and services to best suit our client’s needs.
 
According to your website, one of LDi’s main axioms is helping organisations to ‘grow from the inside out’. Can you tell us what that means in a practical sense?
Sure, and that is exactly what informs our training programs and corporate development approach. It means that the foundations for good leadership are based on the values that we hold as a person. It is not about whether someone has the skills to add up a page of numbers etc, it is about how we behave towards the people around us: employees, colleagues, customers, suppliers and everybody we work with when doing business. 
 
I think that around the globe now there is a strong recognition that there needs to be an increased focus on value-based leadership. The 2008 financial scandal and collapse was partly caused by people’s values being directed towards the wrong things. There wasn’t just a collapse of the financial system, but also a collapse of leadership; not due to a lack of hard skills, but because of failures to adopt a value driven approach to management and service. When this happens it quickly erodes trust, and a big reason behind the mess we are all in now is a lack of trust across all levels of the global economy and national societies.
 
What are the challenges for companies who come to operate within the Chinese market and how does LDi prepare Chinese companies to go global?
There are unique challenges to working in China, but many of them are related to globalisation. People now have to think very carefully about how we do business in a global market. There are problems in this regard which apply to companies not just in China, but all around the world. At LDi we very much understand the importance of proper interaction between different members of an organisation. Sometimes companies are so focused on their products and sales that they forget about one of the most important aspects of doing business- working with people. There have been many examples whereby senior managers who are rising stars within their companies in Europe or elsewhere come to open a new factory or industrial unit in China and they neglect the importance of learning about Chinese culture. The costs of relocating this manager to here could be anything up to 1 million USD with all things included, and yet after several months he or she is on their way back home because they have not managed to rise to the challenge of living here and working effectively with the local people. 
 
This kind of career derailment can be avoided if more time and money is spent on preparing and training people to operate in this completely new environment. And this is where our services are incredibly beneficial to both multinationals here in China and also domestic companies who are expanding abroad. We have an excellent multinational team with a great deal of different experiences to offer.
 
From your perspective as the leader of an organisation which provides training in cross cultural relations, what are the key ingredients of creating good CCR practices within the workplace? 
One crucial element is an appreciation and a curiosity for other cultures. In conjunction with that, you need to have a willingness to learn and adapt. People’s ‘teachability’ is absolutely essential because the way we do things in our own countries will not always be the same in China or wherever you go abroad. Being adaptable to your new surroundings is about having the mindset that when things are done differently from what you know, it is not right or wrong- just different! 
 
Most people who move to China are determined to succeed and are often very pioneering in their strategies. However, without improving what we would call your ‘intercultural intelligence’, frustrations about things being done differently may hold you back. I think if we start out with the right mindset and invest some time into learning about the local culture and language, even if it is just a few sentences, then it will provide a much better foundation for future success.
 
Finally, tell us about the future of LDi and your own personal aims.
In terms of what LDi has lined up for the near future, we are doing many exciting things. For example, we are in the process of bringing someone into the company who has an enormous amount of expertise in strengths-based leadership. We intend to develop a new service line in this area very soon. And as always, we are constantly trying to make sure that all of our coaches are accredited and we are currently exploring ways for them to obtain new skills through the International Coach Federation in order to improve our overall quality of service.
 
Another thing that I am personally interested in doing is developing a premium product for CEOs which is based in all areas of experiential education. I want to get them out of the classroom for a while and give them the opportunity to do some activities which are more outbound and give them a chance to reflect on the nature of their leadership. 
 
So on the whole, there are plenty of opportunities, as well as plenty of challenges, and we will keep pressing on! 

By Tracy Hall 
 
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