Steven's Blog

Two white puzzle pieces on a chalkboard with a chalked in lightbulb. Puzzle piece plus puzzle piece equals lightbulb going off.

Not Invented Here

“Not invented here” syndrome is not unique to Japan and is one of the most common forms of passive resistance to any reasonable organizational improvement or change in organizations everywhere in the world. Make no mistake, those who warn of the dangers of “not invented here” pretend to be doing so in the best interest of the business. Yet, it is only their individual self-interest about which they care.

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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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Master the Matrix

While I sometimes hear CEOs complain about their lack of authority in a matrix organization, the most successful CEOs I know never do. They have all mastered the matrix, wield tremendous authority, and influence their own and the business’s advantage despite the ambiguities inherent to a matrix organization. If you are the CEO of a Japanese operation of a global company, work within a matrix organization, and you feel your authority is stymied, think again. You just might have far more power and authority than you realize, if you know how to wield these right.

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Provoke Your People

If you want to achieve dramatic change in mindset and behavior, the fastest way is through provocation. By provocation, I mean deliberately evoking a visceral emotional response in others. There is nothing wrong with provocation if you do it right. It’s just that, as a leader, you ought to be provocative, but never a provocateur—the two are not the same.

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Conversation with LVMH Japan President Norbert Leuret

On February 5th, I conducted an on-stage conversation with LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Japan President, Norbert Leuret, for both the American and French Chambers of Commerce at the Tokyo American Club. Here are my takeaways from that conversation.

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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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