Last fall I was offered a wonderful opportunity to provide leadership training in Tokyo. But I also decided to take some time off and spend three glorious weeks touring Japan. Here are a few leadership insights gathered along my journey through this ancient, tranquil land. Japan has so much to teach and share, including keen lessons in wise business leadership and dynamic corporate DNA.
Adapt as Needed with Strategic Agility
If you travel throughout Japan on high speed trains, subways, and taxis, you’ll likely have to navigate your way without understanding the language. More than once I arrived at the wrong destination. But just as it is in business, “wrong” is relative. Maybe you just wound up in unfamiliar territory…but if you have the right vision you’ll see that it is just an opportunity you were not expecting.
Many of the world’s great innovations came quite by accident. But it is no accident that those who took advantage of them had their eyes open and the right mindset to capitalize. Don’t get emotional and frustrated, which causes the release of stress hormones that narrow your outlook to tunnel vision. Adapt, adjust, and approach those challenges with a solution-oriented strategy.
Pare Down Communication to Convey the Essence
For my leadership presentation, I had to cull my content in half but still deliver a great workshop. You may find that difficult. But remember that Michelangelo carved away marble…didn’t leave it or add to it…to create the inspirational statue of David.
In my case, I was forced to cut many of my sentences or anecdotes in order to tailor them to my Tokyo audience and the way that my English version might come across a different way when my translator converted it to Japanese. Cut the fat from your language and presentations. Get down the heart…the core leadership DNA…of what you want to say to move your audience to action.
Unplug to Recharge Your Creative DNA
Imagine immersing yourself in a beautiful, calming bamboo garden or walking past a gorgeous temple that has stood for thousands of years. Around you people are missing the beauty of the moment, absorbed in their digital devices. Those gadgets are fantastic tools, and I love mine. But sometimes you need to unplug them in order to plug yourself back into what makes you feel grounded, centered, alive, and creative. Do that at regular intervals to recharge your leadership DNA.
You’ll be amazed how many new, creative ideas flood into your mind…once you create a space in your head that invites them inside. Without that kind of intentional pause to regroup and reflect, you’ll burn out. We’ve all seen it happen to even the most talented and experienced leaders. But those who keep themselves refreshed gain more energy…and then you can share that contagious energy with your teams. That’s how you cultivate and dynamically sustain genuinely healthy corporate DNA.
Build Connections, Relationships, and Trust
If you’ve ever worked in Asia, you know that to do business there, people have to feel that they can trust you when you come into their organization. Even before I landed in Tokyo, I could feel the rapport taking root. Despite the language barrier that I sometimes encountered…and some unfamiliarity with the local culture…the relationship was building from both sides. When you feel that happen it is so exciting because it means you are establishing a partnership based on genuine trust…the kind that reaps shared rewards for years to come.
I reached out to ask for their help and offer mine. I made inquiries into the issues they wanted to solve, so that I could become a truly invested partner. Today I still stay in touch with the leadership team. Soon I’m headed to Singapore to work with leaders there. But my new Japanese colleagues have already gone beyond the call of duty to encourage others to take advantage of my services while I’m in the region. No leader ever makes it to the summit alone. Business relationships are the key to your success, so take time to forge new ones and maintain the ones you already have.