March 14, 2011

Objective self-analysis helps influence career path

   Special to The Japan Times


Yukio Sadamori

Today is the beginning of the rest of your career, irrespective of what stage it is at or what the foundation is. Whatever action you attempt to take today, it will definitely influence how you build your career.

In this day and age of frequent and rapid changes in global business conditions, you may not survive over the long term unless you reinvent yourself to cope with a new, challenging environment in a timely manner.

A career means a sequence of attitudes and behaviors associated with work-related experiences and achievements over a span of a professional life. In order for your career to become satisfying and successful, you need to objectively and calmly analyze yourself from the perspectives of your occupational aptitudes and talents, and constantly strive to upgrade your job-related skills, not solely relying on your subjective motivations and aspirations.

Managing resources

Developing business skills entails learning how to make the best use of management resources. In your selfdevelopment efforts, your main focus should be on the knowledge of and experience in the strategic use of these management resources, namely human resources, financial resources, production resources and information technology.

No matter what occupation or position you may wish to hold, as long as you are engaged in business activities, you should be conversant with managing at least one of these resources, in addition to English language skills.

In global business activities, you will also need to manage cultural diversity as a strategically valuable resource of synergy in enhancing organizational effectiveness.

In the past, many research findings about human behavior in organizational settings highlighted the predominant differences in behavior among people of certain national cultures at a general level.

In recent years, however, cultures and national boundaries do not dictate behavioral differences so clearly in global business settings because quite a few globally mobile business executives stay at length in countries different from their home countries, working in multinational organizations of different nationalities from their own.

Therefore, there is little significance in categorizing and characterizing certain behavioral patterns by national cultures. Overly emphasizing such cross-cultural idiosyncrasies is counterproductive, leading you to cultural prejudices, and does not provide you with any meaningful insights into your global business partners. Whomever from any given country you work with as your global business partners, they never represent all citizens of the country.

In fact, successful global business organizations recognize cultural diversity as an indespensable management resource. More and more, multinational organizations are coming to appreciate the virtues of cultural diversity and make every effort to manage it to their advantage. Organizations that adopt a multinational strategy can become more than a sum of their parts. Operations in each culture can benefit from operations in other cultures through an enhanced understanding of how the world works.

Three questions

Global business should not be adventurously or haphazardly pursued. Based on many years of global business activities, I strongly believe that the following three introspective questions ought to be asked by every company and its employees before contemplating a new business venture in any country.

The first question must be: Are we really excited about going to visit the country and are we motivated to work with the people there?

Business means to motivate your counterparts or customers to the extent that they are fully excited about taking actions that you wish them to do. However, unless you are excited about your own business, you cannot gain the confidence of your counterparts or customers.

Therefore, you should then ask: Are the country's people excited about our coming and are they thrilled to work together with us for their own benefit as well as ours?

If both questions are answered in the affirmative, the third and most critical question will be: Are we really qualified for our intended venture and are we competitive enough to accomplish it better than any other competitors?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then there is a good chance of success for the venture.

The Four S's

In connection with the third introspective question, you may wish to analyze yourself and your company in preparation for the anticipated competition with domestic and overseas rivals. Here are the four comparatives that symbolize being on the cutting edge in business.

In order for you to get ahead of others, you should always be:.

• Smarter - you are wellversed in the advanced technical knowledge required for the proposed business engagements while overcoming technical obsolescence.

• Stronger - you are financially advantaged, equipped with abundant resources and influential in getting the support from others when needed.

• Swifter - you are prompt in making the right and tough decisions, and taking actions before possible competitors.

• Slimmer - you are costeffective in pursuing your project and require your partners' minimum resources to accomplish your task. Having these traits adds to the chances of success in global business.

Language training tips.

Now let me give you an important perspective on building business communication skills. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the English Renaissance author, courtier and philosopher wrote these thought-provoking words some 400 years ago:

"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."

Based on my teaching experiences, I firmly appreciate Bacon's emphasis on reading and writing in the same magnitude as conference (debate and discussion). In complex global business involving diverse people having different interests under different contexts, the exact presentation of ideas and the logical inference of them are always critical to successful communication.

I strongly recommend in my classes that students write enough to thoroughly examine and elaborate what they want to communicate in speaking rather than to try to talk off the cuff without carefully evaluating the accuracy and effectiveness of their oral presentation.

By the same token, substantial reading will provide you with deeper insights into critical subjects in complex business arrangements. It also warrants ample time for you to understand the presented ideas at your own pace before you attend a conference.

People tend to be lured by lively discussions and negotiations when considering English language training. However, you should take a moment to appreciate Bacon's words and remind yourself that reading and writing are definitely the foundations of effective conference, and pay due attention to your enhanced exercises in reading and writing in formal business settings.

Reputation counts

Business, after all, is a constant competition to win a good reputation from the stakeholders of your business engagements that ultimately link economic value with social value. Successful performance in your business engagements depends on the competitive advantage of your occupational knowledge and skills.

If you are aiming to engage in business activities on a global scale, you should always be mindful of the two main dimensions of successful global human resources. One is that your domains of business are of a global nature both in terms of geographic areas and fields of technical expertise. Of particular importance are your performance management skills, including your capabilities to identify issues to address, to evaluate problem-solving alternatives and to coordinate among the interests of various conflicting parties. You should take into account not only the laws and regulations of the respective host countries but industrial practices and societal norms that are different from those of Japan.

The other dimension is to have diverse groups of stakeholders throughout the globe who recognize your professional expertise and leadership, as well as your personal qualities, such as humility, integrity and empathy. Such personal dimensions help you in the long run to establish a lasting network of people in different industries in different countries based on their personal trust in you. If such personal trust is strong enough, you will often find yourself in an enviable situation where some of the people with whom your negotiations failed before are excited about coming to you to discuss another project because of your personality.

Being respected and admired as an individual rather than as a member of a certain organization is all the more important in global business.

Yukio Sadamori is a manager of the global human resources department of the human resources and general affairs division at Mitsui & Co. in Tokyo. From 1992 through 1993, he served as a member of the education ministry's study group to examine the government policy on foreign students. He is as an adjunct lecturer at Keio Business School.










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