Time in Tokyo
December 1, 2010
I had excellent sessions with Kaname and Tomio. This trip is session 7 of 8 for Speaker Development and the topic is “Leader at a Critical Juncture.” Tomio began the program anxious because his English is weak. It has gotten better as we have progressed and he admits that one benefit of doing the program has been the practice. I believe, however, that as he lets go of the worry, he is naturally better in English. In this session, it was definitely true. We spent a lot of time at the opening of the coaching session talking about his leadership role. The speech he wrote for this session was about making changes within the organization in order to optimize opportunities to bring transformational change to clients at this exact moment. He says clients have begun to set their sights on bigger goals and it is in this downturn that they have realized what is not working at their companies and what it will take to be a global player.
Back to Tomio’s speech—his big ask to the firm is to supply the necessary resources to fuel the transformation focus, as he believes it will create substantial business. He knows the idea he has which will achieve this will not be universally received. He is an optimistic man who is fiercely loyal and devoted to this company and to making the Japanese presence something spectacular. He also is focused on developing leaders in Japan. The conversation was excellent and it led him to ask me how I perceive him. He said he realizes an individual is never certain how he is perceived. I told him what I’ve learned and experienced of him in our time together. He enjoyed hearing it. As he delivered his prepared speech I made notes and afterward remarked on his energy, vocal projection, and his pacing. It was clear he was connected to his passion in this piece. All these things are noteworthy because I’ve struggled to bring his presence more fully to life when on his feet. Even in Japanese he can be bland. Not this time. And as I looked at my notes I realized he had created his speech with awareness. There was a good structure in place, a good build and support for his message. It needed work—but the bones were strong. A significant step change in Tomio. I looked at him and told him so. He was so pleased. This was quite a moment and I expect based on all our work that the changes I noticed in him are lasting ones. His leadership showed up as well as his command of the room, the material, the audience, and his body. Afterward, I wondered if he were driven by some competitive spirit to hit this mark. In our previous session he told me Kaname credited his work in the TAI program with winning a new client. He had to give the presentation in English and he said he did everything he’s learned in our work. He started with a story. I still remember how alien beginning a speech with anything but the agenda felt to these two when we first started doing presentation crafting work. Leaps forward for each of them.
To thank me for the work, Kaname and Tomio took me to a traditional Japanese restaurant. The meal had about 30 courses! Obviously, we’re not talking American sized portions. More than the meal, for me the fun was watching the two of them as they sat across from me. I sensed it was a bit awkward for them but things loosened up as the Japanese beer flowed and wine was poured. Watching how they interact with each other gave me an idea about the final session. Neither of them had previously allowed me to bring in audience, although in this session, Tomio finally acquiesced. He called Kaname to see if he would be audience and I could hear the relief in his voice as Kaname said no. It was in Japanese but I heard it. So for the last coaching session instead of an audience I will bring them together for the entire time. Tomio seemed to like the idea. We shall see…
As a final note, this coaching session with Tomio got me thinking about the cultural divide. I tend to focus on what I don’t know about the cultures and business protocols in the countries where I work, which is important. Acknowledging and learning about other cultures does matter. However, sitting across from Tomio, listening to him handle my questions about his leadership and later during the on-the-feet work when he told me he wanted to find more variety in his delivery, i.e. bring animation to his storytelling, it reinforced how truly applicable our approach and work is in all settings. I have always known this is true, but something about my work with the Tokyo guys brought a new dimension to the idea that TAI is truly about communication between humans. And that can transcend cultural differences.
Off to Singapore…