Sharing to succeed

I am considering taking up a business challenge which I have learned from a leading executive at the Japanese online retailing company, Rakuten.

The goal is this: to share my plans with two new people every day.

In theory, if I could find lots of experienced people who could offer feedback on my ideas and constructive criticism, I am sure it could really help me develop my professional life.

Mixed emotions

Yet I have to admit a part of me is intimidated by this challenge. 

Do I actually want to invite new people to scrutinise my work? Who can I trust? Will people understand the challenges I face as a self-employed person, confined to my home because of a lockdown?

Despite my reservations, I do have more than 1,500 people with whom I am connected on LinkedIn, so out of that vast network, there must surely be many people who do understand my situation and would like to help me. I’d like to help them, too.  

Ms Kono’s example

The idea of sharing one’s plans with two new people every day came from a book I am reading about Japan.

The book is called Japan’s Far More Female Future by Bill Emmott, a friend of mine, who is the chairman of the Japan Society. 

It includes an interview with Rakuten manager Kono Naho, who has more 3,500 staff working for her in Japan and around the world. She is one of the few women to have risen to the top ranks of management in Japan. 

Less going out

When Bill met Kono-San, she explained that one of her other personal goals is to limit her trips out with colleagues to a maximum of three times per month.

I should explain that they spoke before the Covid-19 crisis pushed socialising down the agenda.

Her point, though, was that in Japan many people, particularly men, often go out to eat and drink with their work associates several times a week – which is usually not great for their health, nor their family relationships.

Kono San told Bill: “After work hours, I want to spend my time with external people.”

She also expressed her view that good communication should be encouraged during working hours and doesn’t require people to be in a bar or restaurant.

Bill’s book reveals that during the first few years Kono-San worked at Rakuten, the company’s energetic founder, Hiroshi Mikitani, had a habit of texting her at all hours of the day and night.

Fortunately, things are calmer now and she has been trusted to make decisions more independently. 

“Before I was always waiting for my boss’s direction,” Kono San said. “Now I have changed. I have to be a leader.”

And for her, leadership includes being a good listener and constantly asking other people to give her feedback on her ideas.

Given her success in a competitive field, I’d like to take inspiration from her and seek more opportunities to talk with people who would enjoy sharing ideas, which could enable us to give mutual help in business.