I think I'm turning Japanese
In 1980 I turned 13. A UK band most people have never heard of called the Vapors had a hit with the song "Turning Japanese". It had a really catchy chorus and a weird video. "I think I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so".
You can view it here.
I have just spent 2 weeks in Japan with my family. I don’t think I'm turning Japanese, yet. However, I was very impressed with the people and the country. It was my first visit. What a fascinating place.
There are 125 million people crammed in to a pretty tight space, yet somehow it all seems to flow beautifully.
Here are 3 things that I learnt from my 2 weeks in Japan.
- Being a team player is more important than standing out from the crowd. Japanese culture places a premium on cohesion and fitting in. Japan is crowded, yet because everyone seems so conscious of everyone else it all seems to flow. People appeared to me to have very high emotional intelligence. They queue in an orderly fashion. The queues move quickly. Everything runs on time. You wouldn’t dream of turning up late for a meeting or work as that would upset and offend the group. I didn’t hear a car horn or witness any road rage for 2 weeks. You aren't allowed to speak on your mobile phone on trains and buses. That’s a great idea. People are quiet and respectful. They are aware they are sharing a pretty tight space with everyone else. Most of the time you don’t see any litter on the streets. The Bergers take away - Spend more time each day thinking about how you can help others and less time worrying about your own agenda.
- The customer is king. There is no tipping in Japan. You can try, but they won't accept it. They don’t need a bonus or an incentive to do their job professionally. People take enormous pride in serving their customer. The service we received over 2 weeks was outstanding. I can't recall one bad experience. On the Shinkansen (the bullet train) the conductor turns and bows to the passengers after they have walked through your carriage. The food was always fresh. It was presented beautifully. Nothing seemed processed or full of preservatives. Smaller plates means smaller portions, which means less pressure on the old belt buckle. The beer was tasty and always cold. The vending machines all work, all the time. You never need to shake or kick them to get your change or product out. The Wi-Fi in the hotels was free and excellent. As a customer you felt special. All the time. No one rolled their eyes when we asked them the same question another 100 people had already asked them that day. The Bergers take away - Provide great customer service all of the time. Make it part of your culture. Treat all of your customers like VIP's and they will tell others and keep coming back.
- They have kept their traditional culture whilst embracing new ideas. After just a few weeks in Japan we had a very small taste of Japanese culture. I liked what we witnessed. Every team or business unit has its own unique culture. Often it's hard to describe it in words, but it exists. It's the little things that determine your culture. How you treat each other. How you treat your customers. How you address punctuality. How you balance old ideas whilst embracing new ones. How humour is tolerated. How people are treated when mistakes are made. How people listen to each other. How you dress. How long do you hold on to the old way of doing things. The Bergers take away - Successful leaders know culture is a great differentiator. Keep working closely with your team to build a special culture that embraces your key values.