Business meeting talking about excellence and diversity.

Excellence, Not Diversity

If you are a business leader pursuing diversity, you are chasing the wrong goal. It is not diversity that matters, but rather excellence that counts. Diversity of people is merely a natural result.

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Leader holding up employee who stands out from mediocrity and tradition.

No Tradition in Mediocrity

If you have ever heard someone use the adjectives traditional Japanese to describe an uninspiring manager, the moniker is only half-true. Only by replacing the word traditional with mediocre can you accurately reflect reality. There is nothing traditional about mediocrity in Japan, just as anywhere else in the world.

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Hands outstretched with palms up with white sleeves holding generic people.

No One is Indispensable

The success of any business rarely depends on any key manager or executive. It is only the mistaken belief in the indispensability of an executive that masks and suppresses the talent of others. Your leadership bench is often hiding in plain sight.

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No Pain Points, No Problems

What if your prospects and clients have no pain points and no problems?

Presumption of damage is never a good way to start a relationship with anyone, whether in business or otherwise.

Not long ago, I was working with a sales team to help improve their capability to ask questions when meeting with prospects. Without fail, during role plays when I played the customer, each one asked me variations of “Do you have any particular problems?”

When I responded, “No, we don’t have any particular problems,” each salesperson was flustered and did not know how to respond. Each one, after a few awkward exchanges, simply withdrew and promised to call again at a later date.

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Proffer Value, Don’t Presuppose

Japan Rail Shinkasen’s first class is called the “Green Car.” It is the most comfortable first class of any high-speed train I have ridden, whether it’s France’s TGV or Amtrak’s Acela. Japan Rail has outdone even itself introducing a class higher than the Green Car called “GranClass” on some lines. Yet, GranClass has got to be one of the best kept secrets in Japan and I doubt this is because Japan Rail wants it that way. It’s just that Japan Rail employees act as if they do.

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Adapt the Company to Your Style

The most successful expat CEOs in Japan I know never adapt their leadership style to their company’s culture. They adapt their company’s culture to their leadership style, and there is no reason you cannot do the same in your company in Japan.

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Cultivating Boldness

The scarcest resource in a business today is not talent, money, or technical ability, but rather independent thought and the courage to act on it.

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Ownership is Taken, Never Given

A leader can never give anyone ownership of a business initiative or objective.

Ownership is always taken, and to take ownership requires the will to do so. A leader can no more give someone ownership than a leader can give someone will.

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