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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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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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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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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Three Success Factors for Robust Strategy

All strategic plans are perfect on paper in a theoretical static world. However, no strategic plan ever survives confrontation with the ever-changing realities of business and your perception of them. A robust strategy is one that can adapt rapidly to change in the environment as well as to change in your understanding of that environment. Below are three behaviors and practices for robust strategy common to my most successful clients.

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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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No One Has a Five-Year Strategy

No one has a five-year strategy, or even a three-year strategy much less a twenty-year strategic plan.

How much do you think Blackberry’s five-year strategy meant the day that Apple announced the iPhone? Business conditions are too unpredictable for most strategic plans to mean anything even beyond six months, and even that might be too long. Continue reading


Increase Your Attrition

Many companies are struggling to find the qualified people they need, so they resort to retaining the people they have whether qualified or not. They fight to eliminate or at least reduce rates of attrition when it is increased attrition that can do the business the most good. Retention of the best is all that matters.

Recently, the head of a large business unit of a major international company here in Japan told me that the company’s rate of attrition is of no particular concern to him, even though it is higher than industry average.

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