Last week, I held a CEO roundtable in Tokyo for business leaders share and exchange experiences, wisdom, and advice. If you lead a business, below are nine things you ought to be doing now if you want to thrive despite the crisis rather than just survive it.
Even though Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe now has the power to enact a state of emergency, he has hesitated doing so citing lack of evidence so far for meeting the conditions. Yet lack of evidence and evidence of lack are not the same thing, and you need not make the same mistake in leading your business.
Don’t underestimate the importance of peer support, especially now. My most successful clients ensure they maintain open communication with other CEOs for advice, to learn what others are doing that works and what doesn’t, and for emotional support. Communicating only with people in your head office and your staff just isn’t enough. Interaction with your peers will help keep you grounded and focused, and your stability will help your staff with the same.
The COVID-19 panic that has enveloped Japan and other countries in the world is primarily driven by sensationalism in media reporting giving people around the world a skewed perception of a personal health risk, which in Japan and the U.S. alike, is in reality exceedingly remote. Yet the real health risk is largely illusory.
My wife told me of a news report of a passenger on a Tokyo commuter train who hit the emergency stop button. When railway staff came to investigate, the passenger told them there was a guy in the carriage without a surgical mask who was coughing.
There are side-effects to Coronavirus. I suspect some of them will be permanent, and this is not a bad thing.
As my wife and I were walking around our neighborhood on Thursday afternoon, we noticed a lot of husbands and wives out walking, shopping, spending time cafes and restaurants, and enjoying themselves on a weekday when you would not have normally seen working-age people at leisure. As many companies in Japan are encouraging people to work from home, this is likely what a telecommuting lifestyle looks like—a stark contrast to the salaryman lifestyle with its crushing commutes into the city and late night drinking with colleagues and customers.
Tentativeness is rarely out of fear of consequences, but rather fear of unknown consequences, and there is a distinction.Tentativeness is rarely out of fear of consequences, but rather fear of unknown consequences. Click To Tweet
A Japanese government ministry official in charge of supporting small to medium size businesses said a recent event in Tokyo said that a shocking number of profitable privately-owned small to medium sized companies with perfectly viable businesses are simply closing as their aging CEOs are unable to find a reasonable successor. The children of the owners who might take over the family business frequently lack either appetite or the aptitude to do so, and few if any possible buyers for the business ever materialize. Rates of entrepreneurship in Japan in general are about half of other OECD countries.
Japan-fatigue is real and can be fatal to your success and career. Don’t try to explain how Japan is different to executives in your head office. While such conversations are great for dinner parties, talks with students, and war stories with friends, unless executives in your head office are interested in Japanology as a hobby, it’s best to leave Japanology to academics. Executives will find discussions only frustrating and tedious.
Leaders cannot engage people. People must engage themselves. All a leader can do is clear the way. Despite this, I often find overreaching conclusions from employee engagement surveys about leader’s capability that ought not be drawn, and decisions based on those conclusions that ought not be made.
Engagement is either in the nature of a person or it is not. Some employees will never be engaged no matter what you say or do because the business you want is not what they want. That’s fine, but perhaps they should be in a different role or in a different company. Other employees are simply disengaged from life, not just from your business specifically. You cannot fix that.