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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Updated 12 days ago

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THE Leadership Japan Series is powered with great content from the accumulated wisdom of 100 plus years of Dale Carnegie Training. The Series is hosted in Tokyo by Dr. Greg Story, President of Dale Carnegie Training Japan and is for those highly motivated students of leadership, who want to the best in their business field.

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THE Leadership Japan Series is powered with great content from the accumulated wisdom of 100 plus years of Dale Carnegie Training. The Series is hosted in Tokyo by Dr. Greg Story, President of Dale Carnegie Training Japan and is for those highly motivated students of leadership, who want to the best in their business field.

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Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

Cover image of THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Latest release on Jan 13, 2021

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 12 days ago

Rank #1: 81: How to Give Praise That Resonates

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How To Give Praise That Resonates

Cynical, skeptical, doubtful, cautious, suspicious, worried – yep, that is our usual reaction when we hear praise being directed toward us.  You're the boss, you have read about the power of praising staff, however it never quite seems to work the way it should.  You recognize and praise outstanding work by your Japanese staff to the whole work group, but nobody looks very happy about it, especially the praised. Why is this so hard?

Japan throws up a few additional challenges when it comes to praising people.  We all know about Japan’s strong group culture, the preference here for consensus decision-making and the submersion of individual preferences to the bias of the group.  One of the by-products of this groupthink, is that the boss singling out one person publically for praise, creates issues within the group dynamic. 

The majority of the group are probably OK with the praise, but there are bound to be those who feel unhappy.  They think they should have been recognized too,  or that the recipient of the praise is hogging the group limelight.  The praised staff member feels the cold hard steel of piercing eyes in their back and faintly hears the muffled, malicious comments being passed around about them.  Instead of the praise being a powerful motivator, it becomes a burden and an embarrassment, as the herd harmony is damaged.  The expression “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” tells you a lot about the pressure to conform in Japan.

So how should bosses in Japan use praise to motivate people?   Pick your mark carefully.  For some, public praise is what they want and they don’t care about a few whiner losers.  They have the strength to stand apart and are comfortable.  For those who are more concerned about what their work neighbours might think, then best to praise them in private. 

As mentioned earlier though, even praising in private has its challenges when we who are on the receiving end are doubtful about the praiseworthy words we are hearing.  Praise is also a pretty rare commodity in the Japanese business world, so it’s oddity draws double suspicions.  One is that the praise is a trap and the other that it is not warranted.  The idea that praise is dangerous or misdirected often springs forth because of the way it is delivered.  The boss has good intentions but is a fluffy and flawed communicator in the praise department.

The main problem is a poor connectivity between the worthy deed and the word choice.  Vague stuff, such as “good job” or “well done” are feeble, unconvincing and ineffective.  To help wind our way though this semantic minefield, let’s use a simple acronym to prompt our thoughts around how to give praise. TAPEQ stands for Things, Accomplishments, Personal Qualities (strengths, traits), Evidence and Questions. 

Things includes appearance, accoutrements, possessions. 

Accomplishments are their achievements, the outcomes, the results.

Personal Qualities are items like patience, discipline, concentration, energy.

Evidence is the observable indictor of the above three areas for praise.

Questions refers to switching the airtime away from you and over to them, to get them talking about what they did.

TAPEQ can be applied anytime, anywhere but in the workplace, Accomplishments and Personal Qualities are most likely to be the focus of praise.  The key is to link these observations back to the proof of the achievement or trait.  An example would be, “Thank you for your work on landing Megacorp as a new big client.  I saw the email traffic and noted your sustained effort, despite all the difficulties thrown up by the client, to satisfy their needs, so well done.  How did you manage to keep it going, when it looked like this deal was going to collapse so many times?”.

In this case, we have mentioned the outcome, provided proof of what we saw and then tossed the ball to them to talk about how they did it.  The comment and the evidence were linked and therefore credible.  The pivot to them talking allows them to add further proof by dropping in some detail that backs up your observation, thus making the whole story hang together.  The focus is off the boss and on to the praised and so there is little dwelling on any feared second agendas behind the words of praise.

Bosses be ambitious – look for those TAPEQ moments and get busy engaging your team through praise.

Jan 14 2015

10mins

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Rank #2: 352: Covid-19 Financial Crisis Leadership

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Covid-19 Financial Crisis Leadership

The Covid-19 virus is nomadic, persistently wandering around the countries of the world infecting people and proving deadly for those over 70 and or with an existing health condition.  Health professionals provide advice on how to limit the spread of the virus and washing your hands, cancelling events, restricting travel, working from home and social distancing have proven to be good advice.  For those businesses impacted by these preventative measures however, the restriction of activities to reduce virus contagion means constricting their ability to make revenues and therefore make payroll.  For small and medium sized business, it can seem like a race to the bottom, between which one will get you first, the virus contagion or bankruptcy. 

As the business leader, you can feel you are staring down the barrel of oblivion.  You are worried.  Your team are worried.  They look to you for a way out of this and for some comfort that you know what you are doing.  Do you actually know what you are doing or are you just trashing around desperate and uncertain of survival?  The first priority is to face reality and stop kidding yourself.  “It will disappear in the summer, because the virus doesn’t spread as fast once we get to 40% humidity” is not a plan.  I pray for all of us that idea is true, but what if this virus doesn’t follow the same projections as other similar viruses or it just keeps extending, as it rolls out through different populations?

You are the leader, so you must seek clarity around what you are facing, in order to know what to do. Start by writing down the worst business fear you have.  Call it out, don’t try to hide from reality.  Having done that, gather the team, share your worst case scenario and work together to take action to minimise the damage.  Transparency is critical, regular communication both oral and written must be maintained and keep it real. The team will rally to your call to arms, because they all know TINA - There Is No Alternative.  By sharing the scenario that is worrying you the most, you can align the power of the whole group and give them ownership of devising and executing on the right solution.

Be proactive as the leader and you in particular, must be super positive.  Things are never 100% negative in business and you have to be the beacon of light on the hill for your team to give them hope.  Look at your resources, things like cash on hand, accessing available government grants or soft loans, asking for debt repayment moratoriums from your bank or applying to receive a line of credit, negotiating invoice payments to be extended to sixty, ninety or one hundred and twenty days plus.   Smaller companies have almost no margins to help much, because they are grappling with their own death throes.  Larger players have better capacity to help and so ask early and often for assistance.

Plan for three phases, not just what is in front of you today.  Think about things in terms of the immediate, mid term and post-crisis.  Get everyone also living in the future, focused on life after Covid-19 and not just the current confusion of the moment, as key information changes, government policies lurch and markets gyrate. 

I remember reading Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search For Meaning” where he noted that those who survived the Nazi concentration camps, tended to be those who maintained a future orientation, as they grappled with the day to day atrocities. We have to give our team hope for a brighter future.  We assemble our immediate action plan, which moves into the second phase as we execute the plan and then the final phase is where we land after the crisis has passed.

When your revenue stream dries up or is reduced to a dribble, it sounds counter-intuitive to be focused on your customers, when you are unsure you will even be in business in a few weeks to be able to service anyone.  This is another aspect of future orientation to keep us all going through the immediate threats to our existence.  Talk to your customers to see where you can help them, because if they don’t survive, your survival is guaranteed to be gone.  Maybe they can’t pay you or engage you today, but this Covid-19 won’t last forever and how do you want to be thought of when the viral cloud finally dissipates?

Is there an area of your business you can pivot to, in order to keep going?  Maybe the income streams aren’t as large, but some income is a lot better than none.  In every crisis there is also an opportunity.  This is part of the positive messaging the team needs to hear. When the share market peels thirty percent off the value of solid companies, there is a buying opportunity.  When people realise they can work from home, there is an opportunity to service that need.  When there is too much reliance on China, there is an opportunity to diversify supply chains, tourist and investment inputs, as well as export markets. 

Change itself is agnostic, but our reaction to change is the key.  Forging a strong, proactive, positive, do or die mentality is a must for the leader in a crisis.  Communicating your powerful belief in the future for the company, moulded in the harsh crucible of truth and realism, amplifies the team’s sense of hope. Involve, plan, execute, review, execute, review and keep executing is the way forward.  Winston Churchill’s speech to Harrow, his alma mater, in 1941 should be our guiding light and we need to convey this message to our people “never give in, never, never, never, never….”.

Free LIVE On Line Stress Management Sessions

On a separate note, we are running public LIVE On Line Stress Management classes, which will be free to all attendees on April 16th (Japanese) and 17th (English).  We are also offering the same thing as an in-house programme, delivered LIVE On Line for our existing clients and for prospective clients.  This allows us to help our clients and our community.

The registration process for these free stress management sessions is being offered on our website, so please go to this specific page: http://bit.ly/dale_stress_e

Mar 26 2020

13mins

Play

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Rank #3: 350 Covid-1929 - Are You A Wartime Or A Peacetime Leader

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Covid-1929: Are You A Wartime Or A Peacetime Leader?

“Hey Greg, you misspelt the name of the virus, you dummy - it’s Covid-19”.  Well, did I now?  Actually the 1929 reference is more accurate.  Wall Street crashed and the chain reaction pushed the whole world into a miserable recession, that destroyed lives and businesses.  In my view, that is what we are looking at here and the question is, as a leader, are you ready for the commercial carnage? 

Launching a start-up, maintaining market share and seeking rapid growth escalation are all different requirements and not all leaders can do all three with equal flair. China’s retreat from markets has thrown a lot of business plans straight out the window.  Now the virus contagion goes global. We are entering an economic war zone and are your leadership skills ready for the challenge? 

As a leader, focusing solely on the health aspects is to join the media led sensationalist panic.  If you have an existing health condition or are over 70 years of age, then you have a very high mortality risk from the virus.  For everyone else, the biggest risk is that your company goes down and you are out of a job.  Are you the leader able to make sure that doesn’t happen?

In 1929 the stock market tanked and everyone, including the Government, started scrambling to preserve cash and stop spending.  This just drove a stake through the heart of the capitalist system, as people’s panic stopped the wheels of commerce.  This will begin to seem very familiar to everyone very shortly.

Japan is the first major capitalist country, apart from Hong Kong, to really suffer from the virus.  The pain starts for small medium sized (SME) businesses.  Here, these SMEs account for 99 percent of all enterprises, 70 percent of employment, 50 percent of the value added manufacturing sector and 60% of the nonmanufacturing sector.  According to Government statistics 70% of companies in Japan don’t make a profit, so many will be SMEs and be in that situation.

The virus is curtailing commercial activities.  Abe closes the schools and people focus on what to do with the kids at home.  The other issue that doesn’t get enough attention is what happens to all those businesses who have revenues tied up in supplying schools with lunches and other services?  Events get cancelled and that means everyone who had revenue potential in that event, gets zero income or maybe even loses money.  Tourists, both domestic and international, are stopping their activities in Japan, so the entire industry takes a huge hit.  This affects thousands of businesses directly and also those who were looking at supplying goods of services to that industry.  Hokkaido gets locked down to avoid the virus, but what about avoiding the corresponding loss of cash flow?

This is how we recreate a 1929 scenario.  I would guess that right now, almost all SME enterprise leaders in Japan, are focused on preserving cash.  This is the oxygen of business and without it you don’t last long.  The way to do that is stop investing, stop spending and stop paying other people for the bills they have already sent you. This chain reaction leads to an economic meltdown and it won’t be contained in Japan alone.  Like the virus, it will envelop the entire world, as it creates the same domino effect on all businesses.

You are the leader.   What are you going to do during this mass slaughter of fellow SMEs, to make sure you don’t go down for the count?  The war time leader doesn’t try and tart up the reality for the team. They tell them straight where the firm is positioned now, regarding cash reserves and are totally transparent about the stages the business will go through.  Stage One is stop all unnecessary spending. Stage Two is stop paying other people, including the Government.  Stage Three is cutting salaries, starting with the President, who leads from the front and goes down to zero, while the others take a progressive haircut of firstly 10%, then 20%, 30%, 40% etc.  Stage Four is to throw in the towel and declare bankruptcy.

During these four stages on the way to the Apocalypse, the leader must be constantly communicating where we are right now and that we can survive this.  The team will not be conveniently gathered in the office anymore, because they will be scattered to the winds at home.  Are they actually working at home?  That is a question, because with the downturn there may be less for them to do. 

Suddenly they have time on their hands and can brood about how bad things are and how fragile this company they have trusted with their livelihood is.  Constant media bombardment with bad news wears people’s spirit down. Watch for signs of depression and stress in the team and get them help if these appear.  The leader must be a beacon of raw hope and optimism and more importantly must keep communicating that to the team.

The leader needs to keep them all busy too.  Meetings that were face to face, can still be had by video conferencing, as the tech is very accessible and inexpensive today.  Scheduled meetings should continue to offer some normality, routine and opportunities for good internal communication.  Don’t stop holding them because everyone is at home, hold them anyway, but now do it remotely.  Offer remotely delivered training for your clients or for your own team – it could be product knowledge, technical hard skills or soft skills training.

Create projects and get them involved.  It might be focusing the sales team to take the opportunity of decision makers being at home and contact them there, sans the usual bevy of brilliantly talented gate keepers, who frustrate our efforts to reach the boss.  It might be developing marketing campaigns that align with the current situation.  For example, drop the usual key search words for pay per click leads and go after different terms and phrases.  It might be to clean up systems and projects that have been kept in abeyance, because previously there wasn’t the time available.  Plenty of time available now if there is no work going.

Be positive and radiate belief that we can come out of this long dark tunnel.  Brainstorm what can be done in the new environment, start executing on that plan, constantly communicate, be totally transparent and provide massive hope of a better day coming.  Be a war time general for your team.

Free Live On Line Stress Management Sessions

On a separate note, we are running public Live On Line Stress Management classes, which will be free to all attendees on March 19 (English) and 24th (Japanese) and April 16th (Japanese) and 17th (English).  We are also offering the same thing as an in-house programme, delivered Live On Line for our existing clients and for prospective clients.  This allows us to help our clients and our community.

The registration process for these free stress management sessions is being offered on our website, so please go to this specific page: http://bit.ly/dale_stress_e

Mar 11 2020

17mins

Play

Rank #4: 323: What Sort Of Coach Are You

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What Sort Of Coach Are You?

Many Japanese executives have grown up in the “tough love” school of OJT – On The Job Training. They were scolded severely by their bosses and given a very hard time.  Their bosses did this in the belief that this is how to get people to perform correctly.  It might have worked in a different era, but not today.  Young people won’t put up with that type of treatment and they don’t have to put up with it.  The next generation are the first “free agent” employees in Japanese history. There are already 1.6 job offers open for those seeking work.  In the case of youth, they are in serious, serious short supply.  This situation is not going to change or improve.  This means that anyone imagining that “tough love” is how to coach and develop people is in for a rude shock, as young people will simply quit and walk out the door to the competitor.

What sort of coach do we need to become?  We have to be an excellent listener.  How hard can that be?  Not very hard you might be thinking, except we are all becoming poorer listeners in this advanced high tech age.  We are all super busy, so we are rushing around doing many things and we are short circuiting every interaction to fit it all in.  What this means is we are so busy thinking about what we need to do, we are not really listening to the staff members.  We don’t ignore them because that is too confrontational and unprofessional.  What we do though is to pretend to listen.  We look like we are concentrating on what they are saying, but in fact we are tuning them out, because our own thoughts are too dominant.

You may not be guilty of this sin as a listener, but are you a selective listener instead?  This is very common with salespeople, who are listening for verbal cues from the buyer so they can make a comment or offer a suggestion.  They are not really fully concentrating on what the buyer is saying and are only focusing on the pieces that excite them about a possible sale.

Coaches can become guilty of the same thing.  They are listening to part of what they are being told and are racing ahead with their own thoughts anticipating where the conversation will go.  This is a guaranteed method to miss key cues and signals from the staff member.  A better form of listening is attentive listening.  This means shutting out all the distractions and giving your 100% full concentration to what they are saying.  You are “in the zone” so to speak.  This is immediately felt by your listener, who appreciates the fact you are giving them your full and undivided attention.

The highest form of listening is empathetic listening.  It sounds a bit esoteric, but it is listening for what is being said and what is not being said.  It means studying the words that are being chosen and what is not being revealed fully. It is gauging the body language to check this against the words coming out of the staff member’s mouth.  It means really feeling whatever the staff member is feeling and relating to them at that level. This and attentive listening are so powerful today, because everyone else is doing such a poor job of listening.  We will immediately stand out if we operate in this way.

Often the issue is the staff member won’t open up to us with their issues.  There may be some trust requirement not quite built yet, sufficient to tell us their thoughts.  They may be guarded.  It is very difficult to deliver effective coaching if you don’t know the full scale of the problem facing them.  We need to be asking them open questions.  An open question is one to which you can’t answer with just a “yes” or “no”.  You need to state your opinion.  We can also ask hypothetical questions to get them dealing with scenarios they may not have considered as yet.  This is particularly useful when dealing with projects and anticipating problems which may arise once the project is underway.  We can ask exploratory questions to dig a bit deeper into the background, the current situation and why they think what they do.  We might ask them some comparable questions,  “If this happens, is it better to do A or what about B?”.  This gets people engaged and talking.  Sometimes a closed question, where the answer is a yes or no is handy to get clarity around a subject.

Bosses tend to be very interested in what they have to say.  But when we are coaching we have to suspend that desire and get the staff member to do 80% of the talking.  That means asking questions, getting more information and in particular listening in a way that builds trust.  If I feel you are only giving me fake listening, then I won’t open up to you and share what is really going on.  The honesty of the listening invites honesty in reply.  Here are some considerations: which level of listening are you applying – pretend, selective, attentive or empathetic?

Also, do you feel you have earned sufficient trust from your staff, where they can tell you honestly what are their issues?  To coach the team is no easy matter because most of us confuse coaching with giving orders.  Take a moment and reflect on how you have been as a coach for your team?

Sep 04 2019

11mins

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Rank #5: 280: Do You Have To Be A Saint When Leading In Japan?

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Do You Have To Be A Saint When Leading In Japan?

Leadership can be broken up into two main activities.  One is making sure that the processes of the operation are all delivering what they should, when they should and where they should.  This is relatively straightforward, because usually all the processes are known and the people doing them have done them before and know what to do.  There are clear measurements around quantity, quality, and timeliness, so we can keep track of how we are doing. 

The other aspect of leadership is building our people.  This means constantly skilling up to meet the changing demands of business, to make sure they are highly engaged and producing both effectively and efficiently. We need innovation in business to move forward and the people reporting to us are usually great sources of innovative ideas - if we are able to get them to care.

How we make the operation run smoothly is a choice.  We can be a tyrant and brutalise our people, using fear, retribution, punishment and potential banishment to oblivion, as tools to get conformity to our will. This can even be physical.  I saw a snippet on Japanese television recently of a Korean company, K-Technology’s CEO Mr. Yang Jin Ho, beating his male ex-staff member by slapping him across the face, making him kneel on the floor and then belting him on the top of his head. Mr. Yang recorded the beating as a souvenir, which has now gotten out and gone viral on social media.  This is extreme and when you see the video, it seems incredible that this could be happening in this day and age.  Yet there are still versions of this floating around in Leadership Land, where the attacks may be more verbal, rather than physical.

In this type of environment where the fear factor is the main leadership card being played, you can guess that the “building the people” part has gone completely missing from any consideration.  The same for getting innovative ideas from the troops.  Everyone will have their head down, trying to be as small a target as possible and just doing their job and no more.

Now we may not be a tyrant or a demon like Mr. Yang, in the workplace, but we could be clinical, cold, outcome driven, extremely “business like” in the sense of no warmth for and no interest in our people.  We may be highly efficient, fully focused on getting the results and the people are just there to make sure that happens.  We are not there to mollycoddle them.  We are not there to be their friend.  If we want a friend, we will get a dog. 

Everyone is an adult and they know what they need to do to make the numbers.  If they want to get ahead, they should take full responsibility for developing themselves and that has nothing to do with the boss.  We pay them, so we expect results type of philosophy. Is this bad?  Do we have to be a saint, to be indulging our people, rather than rigorously holding them accountable?

Yes, we have to be a saint or as close as we can get to it.  There are 1.64 jobs for every candidate looking for a position in Japan and it will only get worse from a boss’s difficulty of hiring perspective. Recruiting people is becoming more expensive in terms of the costs of finding a replacement and the disruption of someone leaving.  There are lots of hidden opportunity costs we must pay, when there is a break in the work production process.  Keeping our people becomes only more important, so the people and communication skills of bosses are paramount in a way they have not been in the past.  Hard skills aren’t enough and are not an excuse anymore for not doing what is needed in the 21stCentury workplace.

We need to take a greater interest in them as people.  This may be hard when you yourself are extremely independent, self-reliant, driven, mentally tough and need no positive feedback or support from anyone. You tend to see the world the way you are, as opposed to how your people are and how they see the world.  This gap can be pretty big.  If you want to keep your people, then you need to change.  If you can’t be bothered to change in this market, then you will see recruiters lifting your people out of your organization at a rate of knots. 

Communication and people skills are the two areas usually requiring the most reengineering.  Is this easy?  No!  But understanding the “build people” role makes the difference.  Your role is defined, it is part of what a modern leader needs to do, so you can’t just squib it.  Disengaged people do no contribute anything to the innovation process.  They don’t care about the company, so they don’t care about making it more productive, through their creativity contributions.  This usually means there is a lot of untapped potential inside organisations waiting to be released.  Our job is to create a greater sense of engagement and identification with the company’s competitive advantages through innovation.

There is no shortcut here either.  Each person has their own agenda, motivation, desires, dreams, goals and the better the boss understands that, the easier it is to know how to align the firm’s agenda with the individuals.  It is not manipulation, but getting a good overlap between what the individual wants and what the company wants.  When we get the staff member’s WHY and the company’s WHY to line up, then the leading bit gets a lot easier.

How would we know all of this?  We need to want to talk to our team members, to want to help them, to want to be saint like. This is the starting point.  Put their interests first and work from there. If you can’t do that, no problem, you won’t be around for long, so it will all become a theoretical exercise anyway. Your replacement will pick up the torch and carry the organisation forward in your stead.  It will be out with the old and in with the new.  Which one do you choose?

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.enjapan.dalecarnegie.com

and check out our whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Author of Japan Sales Mastery, the Amazon #1 Bestseller on selling in Japan and the first book on the subject in the last thirty years.

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Nov 07 2018

11mins

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Rank #6: 341: Want To Be A Great Leader - Then Be Yourself

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341: Want To Be A Great Leader - Then Be Yourself

Masa Namiki

  • While you can be ready for a position from a capability or mindset perspective, it does not necessarily mean you are ready from an actually `doing the job` perspective. One of the biggest struggles is that I did not have a viable local leader reference point when I was not sure, because my managers were regional leaders but their advice inevitably did work in Japan because they were drawing from their own experiences in different countries, with different people and different cultures. I also was not resourceful enough back then to have an outside of company network to draw upon.
  • The key in leadership for me has been understanding that I do not have to be some big CEO type, I need to be authentic to who I am, building personal connections and showing vulnerability helps me lead by being able to connect with staff as a real person.
  • Change is also not effective if it is leader-driven because once the leader shifts their attention elsewhere, the change shows up as the temporary illusion that it was. I have found that I have to get the staff taking ownership of the process. Things like give them more responsibility, empower them more, show them how they can benefit from the direction I want to go in so they feel that by driving the change, they personally will benefit from it as well as the company.  
  • To encourage innovation and risk taking in a traditionally risk-adverse culture, I try to publicly acknowledge the risk first and stand behind the risk-takers so they feel more empowered to continue. We also try to make sure we capture when people are taking risks so we can talk about it in their evaluation.
  • With engagement surveys in Japan, we need to explain what the scores mean to try and avoid that Japanese unspoken conservatism loyalty score of 3/5, so that people feel empowered to rank as they really want to.
  • Having confidence in your intuition as a leader and being open about is very helpful. You can say `I understand that logically but it isn`t sitting right, so let`s discuss further`. It is helpful not only to avoid making decisions that you felt in your gut was not the right decision at the time anyway, but also to show your staff that you are a person who does not have all the answers and that is okay.
  • Do not assume you know why something is happening. Connect personally with people. Be respectful of Japan.

Jan 08 2020

54mins

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Rank #7: 330: Harry Hill- From Zero to $700 Million

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330: Harry Hill- From Zero to $700 Million

Today we have an interview with Harry Hill the ex-CEO of Shop Japan.  He went from being an English teacher in Gifu, to the founder of firms that grew into a $700 million business.  He has his own leadership mantra, using the acronym VICES.  

V - Vision

I - Integrity 

C - Competency

E - Efficiency

S - Sustained Success

He also mentioned that although VICES can sound a bit negative, as an acronym, but it also reminds him that power can be a vice, pride can be a vice, inflated self-importance can be a vice and that you are always just a step away from crashing failure and oblivion in business.

When I asked Harry for three pieces of advice for new leaders in Japan he nominated these points:

1. Trust and Check

2. Listen rather than want to be heard

3.  Identify who are the biggest obstacles and immediately and publically remove them

Oct 23 2019

1hr 3mins

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Rank #8: 295: High Performer Coaching

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High Performer Coaching

Coaching high performers is tricky.  They have talent, ability and are already highly motivated.  They usually have a pretty healthy ego as well and have probably been mentally trying out your chair, to see how it fits them.  Interestingly enough, this is the group the boss pays the least attention to.  The under performer gets all the time, because the leader is trying to fix something that is broken.  The issue here is even if you get a 100% lift, it hardly registers, because it is coming from so far down at the bottom.  The high performers however are where the big results reside, but they are thought not to need any coaching.  Ask yourself, “How much time do I invest every week coaching my top performers?”.

If we look however into the world of sports all the top performers get tonnes of coaching.  The elite level of performance demands it and demands an elite coach.  Why aren’t we applying the same logic to business?  The first problem is we have mentally ruled them out from “needing” coaching, because they are usually highly self sufficient and self contained. This is good but top level athletes are the same and yet they get taken care of by their coaches to take them to the maximum of performance.  We should be looking at how we can take out high performers in business to their maximum level of performance too.

Here is a coaching model for high performers.

  1. Listen, observe, evaluate

If we think about it, a high performer challenges us to come up with interventions that will raise their performance even further.  A low performer’s situation is easy, but not so with the best of the best.  We have to be an intuitive observer and make lightening fast assessments about actions and behaviors that are inconsistent with or not moving this person closer to achieving the organization’s goals. Stretching a top performer will raise the performance level of the entire group.  We have to coach them directly in their experience, competence and confidence levels.

  1. Identify An Opportunity

We must choose our battles wisely when dealing with talented people.  We don’t dwell on negatives, instead we look for quickly identifying the critical factor, that specific behavior, that must change before anything else can change.  When we see an opportunity to coach we must trust our judgment and instincts.

  1. Cushion

A cushion is a verbal or non-verbal message that softens the environment and creates more receptivity to the coaching.  When you have established trust with the person, something as simple as using their name while smiling, in a soft tone of voice works well.  It is always good to start with praise.  Don’t be general with the praise though.  “You are doing a great job” is in fact pretty lousy praise. We need to be referring to something specific.  Their jobs have multiple facets and so which particular part of their job are we referring to?  What precisely did they do, that was good? When we make the intervention, we do it very softly.  We could ask, “May I make a suggestion?”; “How about this angle…”;“What would happen if…”.  Or try a statement such as, “Try this…” or  Let’s test this…”.

  1. Provide Context, Action, Benefit

As soon as we specify an action we want them to take, we run into trouble.  They are smart individuals, who have analysed situations, found the best path forward and risen to the top.  As soon as they hear our suggestion they go into critic mode. They start thinking about why that won’t work, why that is wrong, etc.  We need to start by explaining the why, but deliver that in the form of the background to our thinking, producing the context for them, that got us to this way of thinking in the first place.

The best way to explain the context is in the form of a story.  This should be chock full of people, places, situations they know, so they can mentally go into the story.  The context itself has their minds racing toward a conclusion or a solution. It will probably be the same one we have reached, based on everyone’s shared knowledge of the background. 

At this point we bring forward our recommendation for them and then bridge straight into the benefits to them of taking that course of action.  Then we shut up and let them tell us what they think.  We don’t finish their sentences, cut them off, contradict them. We hear them out in full.  This may be killing you, but please persevere. Feeling that you are being fully listened to, is an important relationship builder.

  1. Reinforce

Now we go into detective mode, looking for clues of them doing well with the new suggestion.  Reinforced behavior becomes repeated behavior.  It could be as simple as a big smile and an enthusiastic, “Excellent” , followed by a pin point summary of just what was in fact excellent.  A strong strength recognition response will often be just the encouragement the person needs to keep moving forward.  It might be a lunch or a dinner.  These things are about the boss giving their most valuable resource – their time.

High performers are not used to being coached.  They however have latent and still untapped potential that the leader can help unleash.  Ego and pride are barriers and makes the methodology chosen critical to success.  Try these five steps to high performer coaching to get the best results with the least amount of friction.

Feb 20 2019

11mins

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Rank #9: 227: How To Snuggle Up To Employees

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How To Snuggle Up To Employees

We often hear about the need for bosses to do more to engage with their teams. The boss looks at their schedule and then just checks out of that idea right then and there because it seems impossible. The employees for their part, want to get more praise and recognition from the boss, to feel valuable and valued. Bosses are often Drive type personalities who are extremely outcome and task orientated. People are there to produce, to get the numbers, to complete projects and to do it with a minimum of boss maintenance needed to be invested.

The snag in all of this though is employees don’t want that. They want the boss to be more interested in them, their career and their family. The feeling of being valued by the boss has been found to be an important trigger to create strong engagement in staff. Driver bosses rarely pull that trigger. They believe you need to “harden up baby”, do it yourself “like I did”. They wonder why we need to mollycoddle this lot.

In fact they don’t know how to snuggle up to staff and get to know them, because they never experienced that from their own bosses and they are not built that way. They grew up independent and self-reliant. They are driven to achieve and have a take no prisoners approach to business. They are survival of the fittest advocates. Consequently, they are not much for small talk. They are permanently time pressed, so everything has to be driving toward an outcome or it is a waste of their valuable time.

How do you snuggle up to employees anyway? Bosses need to engage with their staff by using the “innerview” to deepen their understanding of who the person is who works for them, what are their motivations and interests. The skeptics may be thinking “brilliant”. Now they can interrogate their staff, find and start pressing their hot buttons, to get more production out of them having found some keys to staff motivation. This is not what we are talking about. Staff can spot this very quickly. They won’t be interested in being manipulated by their bosses for higher productivity gains.

The effort is to get to know the team better, so that as the boss you can help them to succeed in their work by aligning their goals, interests and motivations with those of the organization. The classic win/win.

Getting to know staff starts with asking basic factual questions. Where did they grow up, where did they go to school, what did they major in. Where have they worked in the past, what are their hobbies, how many in their family etc.

To go deeper we need to ask causative questions. The “why” of their choices. Why did they pick that field of study, why that school, why this company, why that hobby, etc.

Then we get to values-based questions. Getting to know how they tick. If you had your life over again would you do things differently and if so , what would you do? What were some turning points in your life? What have been some of the work and non-work related things you have done that have made you feel proud? If you were giving advice to a person entering the workforce what would that be?

These questions have to be asked in a relaxed manner, not spewed out like machine gun fire. This is getting to know someone better in order to better be able to appreciate them as a person. It is not a drill in shaking them down for private information, which can be used later to exploit them.

Conversations like this, done correctly, invite massive mutual understanding. The end result is better communication and shared values. A uniting of mutual interests toward achieving goals together. So all of you driver bosses out there, this is how to get cuddly with the team. First sort out your objective and make sure it is reflecting the real interests of the staff.   Drop that manipulation thing. Then make the time available to have a deep one on one conversation with another human being who also exists on this planet just like you. Believe me, good things will flow from this.

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.japan.dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Nov 01 2017

11mins

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Rank #10: 124: Go Ahead, Motivate Me

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Go Ahead, Motivate Me

 “Motivate me” must be one of the saddest requests a leader can receive. The request may not be so bluntly articulated, but the underlying assumption that the boss is there to motivate the staff seems to linger. “If only I had a better boss, I would be better”. “If only this company got its act together, I could get mine together”. “If only these other staff weren’t so hopeless, I would do better here – these people are holding me back”. The search for salvation located in the responsibility of others is a big fail. Many religions offer salvation, but they all seem to require something from us to deserve that salvation. The world of mammon is no different.

Motivation, loyalty, accountability, effort, responsibility, engagement – probably every boss is expecting these from their staff. They are all outcomes from inputs. Inputs from both the boss side and the staff side. We know what level of staff motivation we want as leaders, but how do we achieve it?

Some favoured leader methodologies are yelling, threatening, instilling fear of loss, shaming and humiliating. Steve Jobs ticked the box on quite a few of these in his early days as a leader. He has become a halo encrusted, saint like figure nowadays because he took Apple away from the brink of self immolation and gave it a second life through his leadership. He was however a flawed leader who, at various times, resorted to these methods. His later success does not validate these bully boy tactics and favourites. “It was okay for Jobs, so it is acceptable for me to cascade the tough love down to my team”. Maybe not!

You and I are not Steve Jobs, so let’s not get carried away with the parallel logic extension. He had many other fine attributes driving his success and remember he was successful in his field, not ours. We also need to look at the opportunity cost of what he could have achieved, had he been a better people leader. Getting massive compliance will not get you enough creative innovation. It is difficult to be fearless about coming up with new ideas and possibilities, if the boss scares you to death.

Jobs could have done more, much, much more, if he had played to his people’s strengths rather than abusing them about their weaknesses. He was able to get brilliance from the brilliant, which is probably not all that hard because they are brilliant already. The trick is getting brilliance out of the average person. That requires a lot more effort and skill. This is also where most of us live, because brilliant people are expensive and usually we can’t afford too many of them.

By contrast, Craig Bellamy is a Rugby League coach in Australia leading the Melbourne Storm team. He is famous for taking 2nd and 3rd level athletes and turning them into 1st class talent. He didn’t have the financial capacity to pay for a team full of stars, so he took people with potential and developed them into stars. This is a better model for us because very few of us can afford to employ a team of stars, but we can create stars.

Another challenge for strong leaders is they often work off the assumption that what made them successful is the model for everyone else to follow. Oh if it were only that easy! This is why you hear so much whining when bosses get together. They are dissatisfied with the staff because they can’t operate at the level they require. We forget sometimes that we too had to learn things when we were at their age and stage, that we now know and take for granted as common sense.

I hope this isn’t new information but, unfortunately, few people are ever going to be like you. You realise this as you go though life, when trying to deal with various others, but mysteriously, we tend to forget this fact when at work. There is a reason for those differences. Personality styles are often broken out into four boxes and by definition we tend to suit one box over the others. Hence three quarters of the population are automatically not on our wave-length. Hmm!

So how can we motivate the people who are not like us – probably the majority of staff. By the way, if your staff are all the same personality style as you, because that is how you have stacked the recruiting system, settle back for disaster ahead. Your flagrant cult of your personality type and lack of diversity will bubble up so much group think, you will assure yourselves you are correct all the way along, as you speed lemming-like, straight off the cliff.

Let’s assume that is not the case and you have a typically diverse work group with people with various preferred personality styles. Do yourself a big favour and start communicating with the team, as they prefer. This is beyond the Golden Rule, on toward the Platinum Rule of “treating everyone, as they wish to be treated”. That means knowing what is self-motivating for each person and counter-intuitively, aligning that with the organisation’s goals, rather than the other way around. Think about what you have to do to achieve that powerful outcome.

Here is a hint. Communication skills, one of the most important soft skills, are a key to success here. What we say is important (technical expert content), but how we say it (expert communicator delivery) is more important. Many professionals are in complete denial about this. They firmly believe that their big brains and abundant knowledge will be sufficient. Not true!

We like to do business with people we like and trust. We might trust your professional skill, but if we don’t like you, we will only deal with you if we have no alternative. That would be a pretty rare case in these highly competitive times in crowded professional fields.

In Japan’s case, dentists and lawyers are a good examples. There are currently too many of both for the size of market demand, so the competition is fierce. In this situation, being able to communicate well with the client is critical. If they don’t feel you are on their wave length, they just head off to another practioner.

This will be the same for how Middle Management in Japan communicates with the younger generation. If the young don’t like it, they will leave. Given the constant demographic nightmare of fewer and fewer young University graduates, then they have many alternatives to working for you.  

Be clear - we can’t motivate anyone but ourselves. However, as the leader, we can create an ecosystem where the team are encouraged to motivate themselves. Mirroring their preferred communication style when speaking (which is based on their personality style) leads to better understanding. Talking in terms of the other person’s interests, rather than our own, is more likely to be motivating for them.

The trick is you have to spend time with your team to know what their individual interests are. We loop back to the soft skills of good communication. The boss’s barked order generates docile compliance. The alignment of staff self-motivation with the direction of the organisation’s strategy, coupled with the right communications skills, get’s our people going the extra mile. That is a good goal - Platinum Rule turbo charged self-motivation.

Staff should motivate themselves and bosses should craft environments where staff motivation can be encouraged to flourish. This is a better distribution of responsibilities and has more opportunity for sustained success.

Action Steps

  1. Build on people’s strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses
  2. Remember you aren’t Steve Jobs and so don’t mimic his faults
  3. Your success model only works for you, so don’t expect it of others
  4. If you only hire people just like you prepare for disaster, you need diversity
  5. Use the Platinum Rule – treat everyone the way they want to be treated
  6. How you say it is more important than what you have to say
  7. Create the environment for self-motivation – that is your job as the leader
  8. Mirror the communication style of each of your people for the best communication outcomes

Nov 11 2015

14mins

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Rank #11: 312: How To Use Networking To Increase Your Revenues

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Networking When Doing Business In Japan

There are two varieties of networks here for me - the Japanese speaking and the English speaking. With regards to the Japanese speaking groups, there are a few things which are a bit different.  Japanese people are raised not to talk to strangers and guess what, they carry this idea over to networking events as well.  In a typical Japanese event, it goes like this: if I know you and I meet someone else I know, I will introduce you to each other.  I won't walk up to a complete stranger and start introducing myself.  

This is how it is done here, but it is pretty limited in terms of how many people you can get to meet. In our case, with my team, we bowl straight up to strangers at networking events and introduce ourselves. If you are going to create a contact point with someone new, you have to make it happen.  You have to be polite and reasonable, but you also have to break through the barriers.

As a foreigner, the social rules are not as strict for me, as compared to my Japanese team members. Often I am the battering ram, to walk up to groups standing around in a semi-closed circle and break in. I then introduce my staff member to everyone and away we go. I just keep repeating this all evening and we get to meet a lot of new people and some potential clients.

At English speaking events there are two varieties again, those who are Japanese and those who are foreigners.  The Japanese always get there early and they will go straight to the tables and sit down, uninterested or unable to meet anyone.  I don't let that little detail stop me.  I walk straight up to them and introduce myself, "May, I meet you? My name is Greg Story" as I extend my business card to them.  They are usually a bit taken aback, because they thought they were safe from having to meet anyone new or speak in English, but after starting the conversation they warm up.

If you go to networking in pairs or groups, my rule is don't sit on the same table.  How are you going to meet anyone if you sit together.  This happened the other day.  I was at a networking event and two representatives from a foreign embassy, who are involved in furthering commercial relations with Japan, were all poised to sit down together.  I was in that business for twelve years for Australia, so I suggested that was plan was not possibly the best use of their opportunity and that they should “work the room”.  I don’t think they quite managed that bit, but they at least sat separately and met many more people

My Dale Carnegie Training Japan rule is we divide the room up. I will take this half, you take the other half and we will get back together at the end and exchange notes on who we met at the event.  This sounds simplistic, but so many times I meet people sitting together who are from the same company.  Why would you do that?  I also start with the people sitting down at other tables and leave my own table until last. I walk around meeting everyone at the other tables and then finally at my own table, because I will have a chance to engage with them over lunch. 

The organisers sometimes provide a list of who has signed up to attend the event and this is very handy. If they haven't done that, it is always a good practice to get there early and check the name badges.  This allows you to put a face to the name of those people you have already met and to identify some people you may want to meet. It is also a good practice to ask the organisers to introduce you to people you want to get to know or at least point out who is who, so that you can go and introduce yourself.

I position myself right near the door, so I can meet people as they come in.

I recommend you always have a couple of key questions which will help you to know if this is a potential client.  If they are not a potential client, then move on because time is tight and time is money. I see some people getting trapped and they manage to spend all the time speaking with just the one person.  I do this parting very politely and say, "thank you, I am going to meet a few more people today" and move on.  I am there to find clients and this is not a social activity for me whose main purpose is to chat with new people over lunch. I do that too, but that is not why I am there.  I want to build my contact base and find buyers.  That is the point of networking.  To know and to be known.

In our ancient Western fairytales, the wicked witch turned the beautiful princess into a frog and she can only be released from the spell, if the frog is kissed by the handsome prince. That is all the potential client networking guidance you will ever need right there.  You have to kiss a lot of frogs, before you find the beautiful princess. You don’t know which of these people at the networking event is going to be the next client for you, so start kissing as many frogs as possible, from start to finish, if you want to build your business in Japan.

Jun 19 2019

55mins

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Rank #12: 342: The 2020 Leader

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The 2020 Leader

Are you a perfect leader?  If you are, bully for you.  For the rest of us we continue on the journey.  As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra once noted, leading is easy, the getting people to follow you bit, is the snag.  Leaders do make such a huge difference. This sounds like the great man ideology in history, where specific individuals are credited with making the difference, rather than socio-economic factors and the contribution of others, who didn’t get their names into the official histories.   Business is different though.

The same industry, the same market, the same firm, the same staff, the same technology, the same capital, the same competitors but the outcomes can be so different depending on who is leading the firm.  We see this phenomenon all the time in various turnarounds.  A new leader is sent in and things begin to improve.  They bring in their own trusted people to execute their decisions.  They break many eggs in order to make the new corporate omelette.  They drive through their vision, mission and values for the business.  They are relentless about using these to drive structural changes to impact individual thinking.  They align systems around these messages to make them come alive for the team.

Then they leave for another post and their replacement begins to unravel all the good that was done and drive the firm down.  Within surprisingly short order, the firm is headed south and the office politicians, hangers on, sycophants and assorted ne’er-do-wells take over under the new regime and the whole company goes to hell in a basket.  We have probably all seen this either up close or from afar. It is real.

As the leader how do we take the organisation forward?  What is our job?  It sounds like a stupid question to be asking a leader, but it isn’t.  We tend to get drowned in a lot of stuff and find we are living permanently in Quadrant One – Urgent and Important.  This means constantly fighting fires, living in the moment, becoming a crisis solving junkie.  We are nomads, moving constantly from meeting to meeting, sprinkling pixie dust around wherever we go.  We lose sight of our real role because we are too busy working in our business, instead of on our business.

We have three jobs as leader and we should never lose sight of them.  We set the direction for the firm, we get the right people on the right bus and in the right seats and we grow those peoples’ abilities.  Sounds simple, but we screw this up.  We think because we have the vision, mission values installed on various walls throughout the firm such that everyone knows where we are going.  If you ask people to repeat the content from memory, I will guarantee that process will be character building, as you discover they will get two of the five values and nothing else.  If you cannot remember it I don’t how you can live it?   The leader may get sick of saying these things over and over, but that is the job.  Maintain a relentless drumbeat on these things, so that the team will get it and keep on getting it.

Have the individual work teams brainstorm how to get these lofty words into daily rituals, so that we are all living them.  When they do it they will own it.  When they own it, these items will become the basis for decisions and actions being taken.  Unless we can manufacture the ownership then these lofty words will be lofty and irrelevant.

When there are 1.6 jobs for everyone looking for a job in Japan, the choice of the right people becomes a challenge.  A guy I know here has taken over the running of an American firm and he is out there in the social media telling everyone he is looking for A Players for his business and they should be contacting him.  Sounds reasonable except we are all looking for A Players, they are in short supply and now becoming very expensive.  We are all involved in a bidding war for talent and these young candidates have no compunction about accepting our offer, arranging to start on a certain day and then dumping us for a prettier face, joining another crew instead.  This is Japan!  Who could imagine such a thing would become so standard.

So recruit and retain become key leader skills in 2020.  Today, we need to inject ourselves into the recruit process and not leave this entirely to others.  We need to work on retaining good people by giving them opportunities to grow and that means work assignments, projects, coaching, training and mentoring.  Yes, I know you are already busy.  But look at what is keeping you busy and ask yourself how that content aligns with the priorities that are confronting us all as leaders today?  Time to realign our thinking, time usage and priorities to match the demands this new year is ushering in.

Jan 15 2020

11mins

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Rank #13: 260: Praise Or Flattery When Doing Business In Japan

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Praise or Flattery: Doing Business In Japan

Japan is awash with praise but it is praise more on the flattery side of the equation.  When you get here and you speak a few words of Japanese they will quickly tell you how fluent in Japanese you are.  You use chopsticks at the restaurant and you get praised for mastering this tricky set of implements.  This is all flattery, so don’t believe a word of it.  Japan has been a high density living environment for thousands of years, so flattery is grease to smooth the wheels.  They have learnt that the way to increase harmony is to smooth out all the rough edges, so this is where praise and flattery come in.

It happens in our countries too.  I am fascinated by American culture.  Winston Churchill noted the US and the UK were two countries separated by a common language.  Australia and America look similar but we too are quite different culturally.  I was reminded of this recently when an American businessman I had just met for the first time at a networking event introduced me to another American businessmen by saying, “Come meet my good friend Dr. Greg Story”.  No Australian would ever dream of doing that, because we are far too cynical, but this is how they grease the wheels in America.

The difference with praise and flattery in Japan is that they have institutionalised it.  When you get praised in Japan, (a) don’t believe a word of it and (b) just politely accept the praise.  Don’t say, “no, no, no” when they say something complimentary about you.  Just politely say “thank you very much for saying that” and move on, both sides happy with the fiction of the flattery. 

When I first arrived here on April 1st1979, I couldn’t speak any Japanese.  After a few months of studying Japanese, I could barely give the cab driver instructions on where I wanted to go.  The drivers reaction though was “Mr. Customer, your Japanese is so excellent”.  Four years later, after completing a Masters degree at Jochi University, when I was heading home and climbed into a cab, I got the exact same reaction “Oh Mr. Customer, your Japanese is so excellent”.  So if you receive praise here don’t believe a word of it, they are just being nice.

Interestingly though, because there is so much flattery going on here you can cut through with some praise of your own back to them.  They all know it is the flattery format so usually nothing really resonates. Everyone politely joins in the game of flattery and no one takes what is said at face value.  You can have what you say taken at face value however, if you know how to deliver the praise so it is believable.  You can actually get cut through and gain differentiation with the other person.

Be it the buyer, your team or anyone you meet in Japan, if you want to recognize something they did, then be very specific about it.  Don’t make general comments like “very good” or “good job” or ”good comment”.  All of this is too vague and just sits in the flattery basket to be mentally disappeared immediately.  Instead tell them something they did that was good, but then isolate out the thing that was good.

So with the case of staff, it might go like this: “Your comment in the meeting Suzuki san was really excellent.  When you said that we should go together to visit our buyers, that was really insightful.  I am sure the next level down never get visited and the chance for us to meet them and say thank you, is a great chance to build the relationship and increase future sales volumes.  Thank you for bringing that possibility up at the meeting”. 

In this example, we have drawn out what was good, so that the praise is related to something specific which they did, which has value. When they are a staff member of your firm, tell them how what they did helps the firm’s big picture and encourage them to keep doing that and thank them once more.  If we just say “good job” they cannot relate to that comment, because they are very busy doing many tasks and just exactly which one is it you are referring to?  We need to tell them. 

For example, “Suzuki san, thank you for that great comment in the meeting, that was great.  Your insight is very valuable. We are going to take that and change what we are currently doing to provide a better service for the client, as a result of your comment. This will help us win greater market share, thanks to you.  We really appreciate that input and please keep those insights coming, we really value you.”.  This will not be seen by the staff member as simple flattery that can be disposed of and forgotten immediately.  This style of giving praise will resonate and in a country drowning in fake flattery, you will stand out in the crowd.

Jun 20 2018

9mins

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Rank #14: 328: The Five Drivers Of A Positive Workplace

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The Five Drivers Of A Positive Workplace

As the leader you set the culture and tone of the form.  In Japan, up until a few years ago, you could get away with whatever you liked as the leader.  You could create a hellhole to work in and everyone caught up in the vortex had to put up with it.  There was shame attached to changing companies and mid-career hires were given the cold shoulder by the HR hiring teams.  The end of the Bubble economy in the late eighties, the IT industry meltdown at the turn of the century, the Lehman Shock in 2008 and the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011 shaken things up here over the last forty years.  In particular, basic demographics of a declining population have moved the locus of power to the employment candidate away from the hiring firm.  Having a positive workplace becomes even more important to attracting and retaining good staff.

As leaders we need to work on our skills in five areas.

Self-Confidence

This world of rapid change is throwing up new risks, daunting challenges and fierce competition.  Change is no longer just constant, it is moving at hyper speed. How do we keep up and how do we gain the confidence to have the audacity to lead others in such a complex construct?  The first step is to take charge of our attitude and determine that we will take the steps needed to make ourselves more confident.  This will mean emerging from our comfort zone and putting ourselves into tough situations where there is no road map and no guarantee of success.  Only by doing that ourselves can we have the ability to lead others to do the same thing.  “Do as I say, not as I do” won’t cut it anymore.  Despite how we may personally feel at any one time, we have to be the beacon, the guide, the strong stream of positive light in the organisation, pollinating everyone with our rampant optimism.

People Skills

Leaders often become leaders because of their high IQ, despite their desperate EQ skills.  In today’s business world, people skills are an essential ingredient for gaining influence and persuasion with others.  Every person needs a defined approach and the leader must know just what that is.  The Golden Rule is severely flawed.  We shouldn’t treat people the way we want to be treated.  This is a mistake, because it assumes that everyone is like us.  We need to treat people the way they want to be treated and we must spend time with them, to know exactly what that actually is.  Busy leaders however can miss this because they are not spending the time and so are not able to function at a high EQ level with their teams or teach it to their subordinates in middle management.

Communication

Shouting out commands is the quick and dirty way of leadership.  Very time efficient, and maybe even rewarding to the leader themselves, but ultimately not very effective.  We need to be asking questions rather than telling people what, and sometimes even how, to do it.  The megaphone has to be replaced by the earphone.  We have to amplify our listening skills.  Individually, we cannot possibly have all the answers today, as the world is moving so quickly and business is so much more complex.  We need to be able to tap into all of the ideas of our team and that requires changing our skill set from commanding to becoming a sponge.

Leadership

Leadership is about creating the environment that allows our people to motivate themselves to succeed.  We have to set the vision, manage the processes and build the people. We can inspire them through our advanced communication and persuasion power, but ultimately they have to do it.  Our job is to help them do that.  Leaders used to be locked away on the executive floor where quiet reigned, the carpets were plush and the secretaries fulsome.  Today they are often working in open spaces with no set desk, just like everyone else.   This requires a lot of flexibility and openness to being available to the team, rather than being closeted away.  We have to lead from the front today and role model what we want to see in others.  Our daily work visibility has never been higher in business.

Worry and Stress

Gloomy, depressed bosses kill enthusiasm.  The ability to face trouble with a constructive attitude will determine how successful we are in building the team spirit.  Tension, stress, worry - all kill our productivity, so we need good methodologies in place to deal with them.  Dale Carnegie’s book “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living” is a treasure trove of the means to reduce stress and get ourselves back into peak productivity.  Read it and you will become fully capable of reducing your stress and being much happier.  If you want a happy team, then you need to be happy yourself.

The world of work challenges us as leaders to constantly re-evaluate what we are doing.  There is no pause button, as it all happens in real time and at a fast clip.   The competition for talent is real and people are more mobile in japan these days and they will leave to find a happier work environment.  Develop these skills and this will be yours and you will have a greater choice of which talented people you want to hire.  The alternative is be like everyone else and be on the wrong end a beating, as you hustle and bustle about trying to hire and retain staff.  It is a zero sum game of winners and losers, so don’t play that game.

Oct 09 2019

12mins

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Rank #15: 270: Coaching People Out Of Downward, Negative Spirals

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Coaching People Out Of Downward, Negative Spirals

You are resilient, sturdy, capable, independent, hardy, self-motivated, constantly pushing and challenging the organization to go forward.  You don’t need anything in terms of social recognition or internal worth validation from others.  You are the leader and you get the job done.  Bully for you. The issues arise with those working for you, who are not like you.  They may be younger, less experienced, less educated, less confident and less convinced they can change the world through working at your firm.

Leading a bunch of clones is easy, because everyone gets it and they will file into line on command. We never get this situation though, unless we are in the elite military units perhaps, where a fearsome pruning process has been applied to whittle the punters down to the right group of super high achievers.  What we get is what the person or people before us hired and which the company can afford.  We may be able to hire a few of our own selections while we are in the job, but with job promotions, and job hopping on our part, we may not be there long enough to rely on that fix.

We have to lead the team, as they are, with their many inconsistencies, diverse motivations and abilities.  Often we are trying to push the organization forward, yet we have to rely on our team to do the hard yards, to get the shoulder firmly up against the wheel rim and pushing with all their might.  Are they up for it?  Do they believe this is the right wheel to be pushing?  Are they convinced they can actually do it?

In Japan, we are leading a group of people who are often firmly ensconced in their comfort zones. In old Japan, families were grouped together in a system modeled on how the Chinese emperors ran their country. Broken into units of 100 families, if there was any crime or rebellion, the immediate family would be punished severely, but so would the remaining other families in the 100.  The pressure to conform, to be part of the group, to not challenge the existing order was complete.

You might be thinking, “yeah, yeah man, that was hundreds of years ago”.  True, except that if you have had your children in the Japanese school system here, you will immediately know that the pressure to be the same, to not stand out, to go with the group, to go along to get along, is still the tried and true social normalization method in play.  So we receive staff as adults who have been socialized to not make mistakes, to not be the “nail that sticks out” because it gets hammered back down. Here we are their leader: the iconoclast, the innovator, the fearless challenger of established norms wondering why we are not getting anywhere with the changes needed.

We need to be coaching people on whether their beliefs about this change are true.  Staff reach straight back into their tried and true play book, that says the best way to avoid a mistake is to do nothing, do nothing new and never do anything risky.  They are negative on change, fearful, scared.  We need to have a conversation around the drivers of their belief that this particular change is bad.  They may have never had that introspection moment, because a fish is the last thing to discover water.  We are the same.  We are surrounded by common sense, accepted dogma, established truths, so we never really challenge our views, we just look for ways to cement them.  In Japan, even more so.  

Next, we have to get them to mentally rephrase their beliefs and challenge whether those negative beliefs are universal and necessarily applicable in this case.  This is an inside out process. Yelling orders and berating people doesn’t affect belief change. It just creates solid discontent, which then races like a fire throughout the group, who all fear their turn for being berated is coming.  We need them all to come to see it is worth trying. Barking orders is easier than coaching people to change, because that takes a lot more time and effort.  We often take the easy path and then wonder why we are failing.

The key point is to have them own the design and execution pieces, rather than you firing out specific game play orders.  You have probably done this before or are very comfortable with change.  You instinctively know what needs to be done, what, how, when, who, where etc.  Great, but shut up about it and let the team work it out themselves.  You can gently guide through questions and suggestions, but keep the direct orders in your back pocket.  If you can restrain your ego and or impatience, you will find they will come up with a good plan and then they will have the ownership necessary to deliver on the plan.  Let’s focus on the outcomes and be flexible on the means to achieve the goals.  

Are you actually flexible by the way?  Often the crash through or crash types are inflexible, convinced of their immortality, their perfection and that their right is might. Good luck with that in Japan!

Aug 29 2018

11mins

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Rank #16: 21: How To Build Trust, Credibility And Respect

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Dale Carnegie Training Japan: http://japan.dalecarnegie.com/

According to recent research by Dale Carnegie Training Japan, there are three critical drivers for engagement, namely, your relationship with your immediate supervisor, your belief in senior management’s direction for the organisation and your sense of pride in working there.

An emotional trigger also creates engagement—the feeling of trust.

What is meant by trust? It can be defined as confidence in the fact that you can rely on a certain person or thing.

The presence of too little trust or too much trust can be dangerous, however. A healthy level of trust comes from making good decisions and exercising good judgment, using a balance of head and heart, facts and instinct.

Working in a healthy trust environment versus one full of distrust brings many benefits: greater job satisfaction, employees who are more engaged, improved productivity, reduced stress, more innovation, better customer interaction, and high staff retention rates.

Trust, respect and credibility are tightly interconnected. If you don’t TRUST me, you will not view me as credible, nor will you respect me. If you don’t RESPECT me, you will not view me as credible or trustworthy. If you don’t find me CREDIBLE, you will not trust or respect me.

What are the usual signs of distrust? Here are six warning beacons:

Low morale and lack of motivation or initiative

High absenteeism, tardiness and staff turnover

Guarded communication or an active gossip/rumour mill spreading often false information

An undercurrent of fear and worry among staff

Cynical or suspicious behaviour

Defensive or aggressive behaviour and communication

It can be tricky discerning levels of distrust in Japan. As a boss, you will certainly be the last to know if there is a sense of distrust in the office.

It pays to have informal talks outside business hours with various staff, so they can tell you what is really happening.

The boozy bar-side chat is standard operating procedure among older generation Japanese, so they can tell the boss he is an idiot and later save everyone’s face by blaming the demon drink.

If trust is lost, how can it be restored? First of all, you must be aware of an important cycle related to the deterioration and rebuilding of trust.

First, an event or events trigger a breakdown in trust between people. Second, feelings of disappointment, anger, resentment and fear come to the surface. In response, we feel the need to emotionally disengage from the issue, to pull back, take a "time out" to reflect on the situation.

We then discuss and communicate our thoughts and feelings about the situation with the other person. This part is tricky in Japan, because people don’t easily tell you what is wrong.

remember once spending a full hour of total, unbroken silence with a company employee, waiting for the answer to my question asking about her concern. After what felt like an eternity, the woman finally spoke up, only to say, "I can’t tell you!"

After discussing your thoughts, be generous in spirit and give the person in whom trust has been lost a second chance. It is to be hoped this will lead to a positive outcome, and that the person will redeem themself. Finally, with time and more positive interactions, trust can be re-established.

Once trust has been compromised, it is not all a lost cause. We can be proactive and take five steps to boost and restore trust.

Put your ego aside and allow yourself to be seen as vulnerable. Reveal yourself as a human being, not just an authority figure.

Honestly review your perceptions and take full responsibility for your part in breaking the trust. Examine your assumptions and be honest with yourself. Reflect on what role you had in the situation.

Meet privately with the person and disclose your perceptions and concerns. Ask for their perspective, keep an open mind, truly listen and put yourself in their shoes. Shut up and let them do most of the talking.

Find out what the offended person needs from you to repair the broken trust, and share what you need from them. Listen and check for understanding. Meet on a regular basis to assess progress.

Be vigilant about upholding your end of the deal. Actions will speak volumes.

The way in which we communicate can either reinforce our positive efforts or derail them. In ascending order of importance, consider the following factors as ones that influence communication.

Appearance

Facial expressions can be misinterpreted. Never forget, employees are expert "boss watchers", always scanning leaders’ faces for their moods. Japanese bosses have a genetic disadvantage here, because their serious, concentrating faces and their angry faces can look the same in many cases! Make sure you are aware of your own facial expressions.

Behaviour

A person’s demeanour, attitude and character all communicate positive or negative feelings. Constantly check what your attitude is conveying. Maybe your body language is screaming at someone, even though you haven’t said a word.

What you say

The words we choose, the facts we give, the stories we tell, the knowledge we access—they all play a big role in engaging a person.

How you say it

Most importantly, a speaker’s tone, pitch, speed, strength and tempo when talking all send messages to listeners. We need to carefully align these aspects with our intended message.

In addition to this advice, I recommend Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People. It is a timeless classic on how to improve your daily interactions. Read it for the first time or, if it has been a while, read it again. It could change your life. It certainly changed mine!

Related article by Dr. Greg Story:"How To Build Trust, Credibilty And Respect"

Dec 19 2013

9mins

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Rank #17: 338: Leading An Intentional Leader Life In 2020

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Leading An Intentional Leader Life In 2020

Leaders are made not born.  Yes there are some bossy types and charismatic types who bubble to the top and assume the mantle of leader, as their rightful place.  For the rest of us, we have to learn about leadership in the angry fire of the real world of work, where the stakes are high, the competition fierce and the mood unforgiving.  In Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull’s 1969 book “The Peter Principle” we all rise in the hierarchy to our to our level of incompetence.  In other words, we get promoted to a point where the job requirements outstrip our capabilities.  Well that makes sense, but we don’t have to be relegated to supremely low level though in the process.  We can push ourselves to the highest height possible if we do a few things along the way.  Here are some ideas for 2020 on becoming a more skilful leader.

  1. Understand the difference between being a leader and a manager.A manager makes sure all of the processes are working correctly.  Things get done on time, on budget, without error and with maximum efficiency.  The leader does all of that, plus they invoke passion around the WHY, set the direction for the team and build the people.  We can be very busy with the process and forget about building the people. 

If we have no one to do our job, then we have nowhere to move to up IN the hierarchy.  The big bosses will keep us where we are because they can’t replace us.  Don’t worry about creating people who can take your job.  We want that because if you become known as a builder of champions, then the organisation will give you more scope to build other champions, at a higher level in the organisation.

  1. Don’t forget to work on your job as well as in your job.If you have ever cut down a big tree or cut up fallen branches with an axe, you notice it doesn’t take much for the axe blade to become dull and for the cutting to become more a bludgeoning, rather than cutting exercise.  It is the same with our way of working.  Being constantly busy in the business is just cutting and slowly seeping into bludgeoning.  We need to sharpen the axe to keep the blade keen and we need to spend time in Quadrant Two of time management – “Not Urgent But Important”.  That means time for studying about leading, spending thinking time about the business, planning and strategizing.  In 2020, schedule appointments with yourself and protect the integrity of those slots, in the same way you would protect that time if it was for a client.

  1. Delegate your work to your subordinates. This is a double whammy exercise because it builds capability in your future leader bench and gives you Quadrant Two time. When people are being considered for promotion, those higher in the food chain want to know they will have a safe pairs of hands at the wheel.  They are looking for people with experience at that level, except how do you get that required experience, if you are busily working away at the level below?  The answer is delegation.  By delegating tasks to your successor group, they can speak about their experiences of doing their bosses job, when they are being interviewed for the post.  When you sell it like this, your subordinates will welcome the chance, instead of being sullen and resentful about having to do the boss’s job.

  1. Keep harping on about the WHY, long after you are sick of hearing about it.We tell people why we are doing what we are doing and that is that, or so we think.  People just don’t get it, believe it, follow it, absorb it, integrate it or develop upon it from just one hearing.  As the leader you need to build a culture where the WHY is front and center of the decisions being taken, the strategies being formed and the execution piece of how we do the business.  You will get sick of hearing about it, but keep making reference to it.  You need to drive it into people’s work habits and the fabric of their thinking about their tasks.  One telling won’t cut it.

The new year is a fresh chance for some fresh thinking.  Break free of the mental bonds we have enveloped ourselves in over the last few years.  Let’s spend some time determining just what we want and how we are going to get there.  Bring your “A” Game to 2020 and life as a leader will get a lot better.

Dec 18 2019

12mins

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Rank #18: 256: Getting Staff Engagement When Doing Business In Japan

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Getting Staff Engagement When Doing Business In Japan

According to our global research, there are three critical issues that determine the level of engagement and one key trigger point to getting engagement.  This research was duplicated here and japan and showed the same trends. The relationship between the staff member and their supervisor or boss is an obvious make or break point for getting high levels of engagement. What is your relationship with the team? 

Often we are promoted on the basis of our ability, our smarts and then we find we are leading people who are not like us.  We think that being smart is enough but actually our EQ or Emotional Quotient is much more important than our IQ when it comes to leading and engaging the team. When we start a new business there is so much pressure and we are so time poor, we often forget about the impact we have on the people around us.  We forget to thank them, to encourage them, to coach them.

As the old saying goes, we don't leave companies, we leave bosses.  Now in many cases they don't actually leave, they stay put but they are not fully engaged.  They are there to collect their pay and do the minimum possible to stay out of trouble. 

The second key point is the level of trust on the part of the troops with the direction for the company being taken by senior management.  The degree to which the people at the bottom believe the people at the top, know what they are doing has a strong influence on engagement.  This sounds simple but often the internal communication mechanism from those at the top, to those at the bottom are not working well. 

When people don't know the WHY it is hard for them to sign on for the journey.  We may think we have fully explained the vision and mission and the troops get it.  This is rarely the case.  We have to keep hammering those key messages over and over again because people do not get it from one telling.  Middle Management should be reinforcing the key messages from the top but often they are not doing that. 

They are soaking up all the information but they are not passing it on.  The people at the bottom do not have a clear idea of the rationale for decisions or direction changes, because no one has sufficiently explained it to them. The other aspect was pride in the company.  When you work for a brand name or a big powerful company, it is easier to feel pride in what you are doing.  But for small medium enterprises, we have to work hard to create that pride.

Battles between internal silos is a factor of modern corporate life.  This is directing energy and focus away from the rivals out there in the market.  The silo leaders complain about other parts of the organisation and this doesn't help to build a strong sense of engagement within the organisation.  This is a weakness in the leadership because they don’t know how to engage the team from a holistic point of view.  I had a case of a client where their key opponent in the market had been disorganised and wasn't much of a rival, but they were changing, they were improving, they were on the way to becoming a strong rival. This is perfect.  You can unite the team against those rivals, galvanise people’s energy and attention. Have the offsite, the dinners, the after work drinks - anything that will help bond people on the inside against the enemy on the outside.

The trigger point to engagement was feeling valued.  Everyone is working away in their role but do they understand where they fit into the big picture.  Where their little job makes a difference, where they make a difference.  For a lot of admin jobs it is hard to feel anything you are doing means anything.  We have to have those conversations where we reassure everyone that what they are doing is important and that they are important.  One of the issues is we forget to tell them because we think either they know already or they don't need to know.  They should be able to work it out for themselves.

Well they can't and they need to have their importance, their value to the organisation constantly reinforced thru the communication skills of the leader.  In a time poor world we can find ourselves moving from one meeting to another and shooting out orders in the interval.  This is not going to engage anyone and where is the feeling valued part? You might think you are doing  this but you may be fooling yourself.  You can do a quick self audit and confirm how much of your time is spent communicating to the troops that they are valued in this organisation.

May 23 2018

10mins

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Rank #19: 300: You Have To Chastise People, Right?

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You Have To Chastise People, Right?

I was meeting with the HR team from a client company.  In fact, this was the first meeting with the HR team, because previously we had been directly dealing with the sales line managers.  They were looking for a leadership programme for people being moved up into leadership positions for the first time.  They had requested the manuals, so I brought them with me and we were going through them.  The HR head stopped on a page where it referred to giving praise to staff.  “Doesn’t the boss have to give out corrections and chastise staff for poor performance, rather than giving praise”, she asked? She said she had a attended training from a competitor – a very large Japanese domestic training company and that is what they were teaching in their programs – how to give strong leadership to staff.

I have to say I was overjoyed when I heard that piece of market intelligence.  It means this behemoth rival of ours is a dinosaur and so far behind it is breathtaking.  I explained to her what happens when you directly criticise people.  They either puff up their chests like a barnyard rooster and fight or they slink off with their tail between their legs, like a beaten dog, giving up entirely.  Maybe in the good old days of a high unemployment rates and young graduates hitting the workforce like machines, you could get away with this type of leadership. 

We have 1.6 jobs for everyone looking, unemployment is at all time lows and the numbers of young people in the 15-34 age bracket has halved over the last twenty years. We are running out of demographic margin to find enough people for our companies.  In addition to that, we have to be really clever about the retain part, because it is going to take ages and cost a bomb to replace people who up and leave.  So idiot managers yelling at people isn’t going to work anymore.

Those who make mistakes or are underperforming generally know this and either try to justify their position or just see a collapse in confidence.  Given we can’t just fire people willy-nilly, we need to be in the restore people business.  If we criticize, they throw up defensive positions and these people don’t take accountability or responsibility.

We need to see the person as a whole – they do some things well and other things not so well.  It is typical for the boss however to become a fault finder, rather than a good finder.  The boss is always in fix mode, so when something is broken they fix it and their biggest fear is something is broken, but they don’t know about it.  They are constantly scanning for bad performance.

We should see what the person is doing well and recognize that.  Praise the things they are competent it.  For the things they are not doing well, we can refer to these indirectly.  Why not directly?  Why not tell it like it is baby and get it all out on the table?  If we want the person to accept responsibility and fix it, we need their cooperation.  So praise first, then we might call attention to their mistakes indirectly.  We might ask them how they think we could fix this issue.  For example, maybe they are not meeting their sales targets.  Telling them they are not selling enough is not new information for them, they already know what.  We can ask though, “The team will miss their target for this quarter.  What can you do to help the team make the target?”.  They have missed their target, they know it and now they are being invited to talk about what they can do in their area of responsibility, to get the numbers back up.  It is the same message as, “hey stupid, you missed your target, what are you going to do about it?”, but without the resistance which arises to looking at alternatives and solutions.  We get on the forward momentum train and look to what can be done.  We want them to own the solution, because they are more likely to execute on those ideas.

We might talk about our own mistakes before we draw attention to them.  This provides an entirely different context to the discussion. The boss has admitted that they are not perfect and that they understand that things go wrong, but intimate it is possible to recover from mistakes.  We let them save face and we tell them we are sure they can fix the problem. We are giving them support in that we believe they can recover from this and we will help them.  For those people who collapse into depression and lose their self belief, this is important to rebuild them and send them back out there in the firing line to make it work the next time.

Yelling at people may make the boss feel good, but it is not helping the business.  We cannot operate as if demographic exigencies don’t exist. We need to keep people and make them productive and that requires a different skill set as a leader.  The EQ or Emotional Quotient is certainly the key. Bosses who lack this understanding will pay a weighty price of lack of staff. In fact they will be losing staff continuously and the business will see competitors thriving as they wither in the vine.

Mar 27 2019

13mins

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Rank #20: 343: Be An Authentic, Vulnerable Leader To Draw People To You

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Paul Hardisty

  • Once you walk the talk over a given period of time as a leader, you gain trust, and then people will follow you, instead of just doing what you say. Then you start getting buy-in and ideas and you can work cross-functionally.
  • On engagement surveys, if you are giving a very low score, then you should not be coming into the office. If you are not going to be part of the solution, then you should reconsider your career and job. Engagement scores however tend to coincide with big decisions, e.g. head count freezes has a negative impact on scores, but bonus time has a positive impact. It is also not helpful to compare countries against other countries. It is about trends and patterns and feedback. You are always going to get people who score low, but it is when you see big swings that you know there is an issue.
  • I used to think that my job was to find a local leader to replace me once I moved on, but I have realized we are an international company and rotation is a better solution, so succession plans are not just country-based, they are global.
  • While it may not be a fantastic analogy, chopping the tree down from the top takes a long time. If you wedge things in the tree all the way up, the tree will fall the way you want it to fall.
  • The unwillingness to change in Japan is strong. We have long had an innovations/idea box and you can put your name on it or not, but we would offer prizes and that encouraged people to put their names on it. But then we received feedback that the idea then became the responsibility of the person who suggested it, and yet often it was not even about their own division. So we created a business development department that reported directly to the CEO, and they can then tackle any strategic ideas that need to be implemented cross-functionally. It was a great tool to get ideas out of heads and onto paper and then to receive quick feedback on that idea by a specialist department who was responsible for it.
  • Employee meetings are held quarterly and they are mandatory to the extent I myself would walk the floor to see who was not in attendance. There would be various presentations but it was designed as a forum for communicating what needed to be communicated.
  • I used to have a pizza lunch every 3 weeks with the newcomers where they would have to answer 5 questions and I would have to answer the same 5 questions honestly. It helped build trust and exposure. My door was always open. I would meet with anyone and everyone.
  • Sharing personal stuff really helps brighten engagement. I do it because it is just me and how I am but especially in Japan, I realized it was seen as a really big deal. My view is you do not need to be a rock or some kind of impenetrable individual. You are a human, you have a family, you have a dog, you have issues, so its okay to relate to people and have them relate to you. You should not stop a weekend activity you have been enjoying for decades just because you are the CEO or whatever.
  • I think it is important to be careful what you wish for because changing things that are inherent to a culture, even if they sometimes cause frustration, would fundamentally change the country. Manage the business with the environment you have. Use it to your advantage.
  • Do not be brainwashed by some of the things you have been told about Japan either by foreigners who are new to the country or who have been there a long time. There are as many challenges in Japan as they are in any other countries. Focus on the good and where there are growth opportunities. Yes, it can be a flat market in general but pick your battles and look for areas you can innovate in. You need to think and you need to ask for help. Consultants can often give you insights into the market from a bigger picture and help you develop those plans, as well as point out where you can hit to grow your business, grow your career and grow your family. So be open-minded, draw your own conclusions and enjoy the ride.

Jan 22 2020

59mins

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