In many parts of the world, face-giving and face-saving are a critical skill for an OD practitioner to possess .
Via mastery of face issues, the consultant gains respect and trust which is leveraged to gather data, intervene and garner success.
Given the Western nature of OD training, few consultants know and appreciate what face is, i.e., how to give face and how to save face. Thus, the many errors OD consultants make in global organizations and the ensuing lack of trust which prevails towards OD consultants.
Face is external manifestation how people are held/perceived in the minds of others. In some ways, face can be seen as the “net worth” of how one looks and how one is presented. Face expresses the external net worth of one’s prestige, status and reputation, vital to the person and his family.
One gives people face by showing (exaggerated) respect, honour, praise, consideration and recognition in public. “Thank you Mr. Wu for inviting me to your office. It is my great privilege to be here. I hope that I will not waste your time. Without your support, our company could never succeed.” Please note, self-deprecation can be an important part of face giving. “I hope that I am not wasting your precious time”.
In return, Mr. Wu may lift your value and give you face. “Mr. Shevat, your time here is very valuable for all of us”.
One causes people to lose face by pushing them to speak directly about a sensitive or an embarrassing issue, especially in public. People also lose face by being criticized, or forced to acknowledge any problems and any limitations, in public but not only in public . “Mr. Wu, why did revenue decline last quarter”?
So if one is so busy with face, how do you get to the real issues “in a timely fashion”?
There are many ways of getting to the real issues, i.e., real in Western terms. But first, the client needs to feel you have given him real, prolonged face, and that you will protect him. This takes weeks, months and more.
Then the doors will open wide enough to crawl in. If you also have cultural humility, you will be one step ahead.