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Takeaways from my Conversation with Steve Dacus, CEO of Seiyu and Walmart Japan

My February 3rd Conversation With Steve Dacus event, jointly hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan was fully booked with over seventy people in attendance. As with all my “Conversation With…”I leave ample time for the audience to ask questions of the guest directly, and like always, this audience participated with zeal.

Here some key takeaways from my conversation with Steve Dacus:

The Japanese are no different from other people in the world. Click To Tweet
  1. It is human to want to be acknowledged and respected for doing a good job. People respond well when you can enable that, and that enables a company to change. Traditional hierarchical culture limits that—ideas from below are stifled and people become conditioned to do only as they are told rather than think independently an act accordingly. Change that culture and you can change the organization.
  2. Don’t only rely on market data to guide your decisions. If you have Japanese relatives, think what they might do. In my case, I may ask what my wife’s Aunt Masako would want.
  3. Don’t be afraid to remove people from the organization who won’t change. Start with the leaders. No change is possible if your senior to mid-level leaders on not on board.
  4. Evangelize constantly with your people directly. Talk about what your business is about and what you strive for.
  5. Behave how you want your leaders to behave.
  6. In Japanese organizations, get rid of the practice of addressing subordinates with the diminutive  -kun. It is neither endearing nor respectful. It lessens people’s individual importance. How can you ask an employee to come up with good ideas and take initiative, when you address him or her in the same form that is reserved for children? Everyone should be addressed with the polite -san.

I have conducted previous “Conversation With…” events with other guests, including Rod Lappin, CEO of Lenovo Japan and James Chen, COO of Rakuten Ichiba. Don’t miss the upcoming “Conversation with Fulvio Guarneri, CEO of Unilever Japan” luncheon on June 3. Details will be posted on the ACCJ Web Site (

Photos courtesy of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ)

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