Early in 2020 I decided to support the Points of You® Japan Tribe by volunteering to be a facilitator at the annual Shiawase2020シンポジウム. I was excited to co-facilitate and introduce Points of You® to a new audience of people and to talk about happiness. And to do all this with a monolingual Japanese team would be a new challenge for me as I often work in a bilingual environment.
Of course, in early March we got the announcement that the session would move online. Points of You® is very much about creating full body experiences. We use sight, sound, smell and touch (maybe taste in the snacks on a longer session?!) How would we bring that to 80 minutes online? It was time for rapid prototyping and innovation.
I had already begun experimenting with online sessions using the Points of You Online tool running sessions about resilience so had some sense that the human connection could still be made and powerful coaching works online. Through open communication within the team of facilitators, a great idea emerged to really make a simple, clear and powerful workshop to work online. It was amazing to see the attention to detail, the commitment and devotion of the team
We surprised ourselves with 3 core ideas of Points of You®:
Breaking patterns with quick skill development
Open hearts for learning and sharing
Creating a sense of belonging in our virtual team and virtual workshop
Whilst I love the use of all the senses at a F2F workshop, we really created a powerful journey online to talk about happiness. Very refreshing in these challenging times! I could feel my ikigai reigniting as I connected with the people in the virtual room!
Leadership and executive coach Jennifer Shinkai has shared tips on coping with the COVID-19 crisis—both personally and professionally—in the second webinar hosted by the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ).
In a lively Q&A format chaired by Graham Davis, BCCJ senior adviser, the expert on change management and communications discussed the need for individuals and organisations to adopt flexibility, resilience and action in the face of the current global pandemic.
Shinkai explained that this approach is important because people are feeling the strain of the crisis, with immediate concerns relating to health, welfare and family as well as wider concerns about the economy and the future. Such stress can result in many different reactions and coping mechanisms, of which not all are healthy.
Acceptance and solution
Taking a moment to grieve the loss of business, professional opportunities or former work situations can be helpful, she said, but it’s important that the next step is forward-thinking; remaining stuck in a negative mindset is damaging.
She called on members to be strong and reminded them that anyone can be resilient, even those who think it is not their inherent trait. “Resilience is a muscle,” she said, and “having the ability to bounce back is a practice.”
Organisations can play a critical role in helping their people on this journey of grief to being constructive.
“As a leader, realize where you are—in terms of acceptance and solution—and accept that everyone is working through it at their own pace. Think about how you can shorten the time of that change curve and move people into action as soon as possible,” she said.
Shinkai said businesses and individuals should make the most of online software-as-a-service solutions to help maintain productivity, motivation and engagement while working remotely.
Online conference provider Zoom, for example, features video webinars, online meetings, conference rooms and breakout rooms to suit all kinds of needs. There are also chat and comment functions so activities can be interactive.
While she admitted such meetings require more rigorous facilitation, to ensure input is balanced across participants, she said they can result in “really good engagement and interesting conversations.”
Technology can also be used to stay connected informally. Shinkai suggested anyone feeling isolated should consider inviting a colleague for a virtual coffee—and not feel guilty about it. These kinds of interactions play an important role in helping staff do their work well.
Additional benefits to working remotely include greater productivity and the opportunity to boost connections online. As an entrepreneur, Shinkai has found using online tools to connect and talk to people has expanded her professional network over the years, helping her to have a “better global view.”
“When I was working in corporate, I was very mindful about how I was building my network within the organisation and local community,” she said. Now, she is mindful of building her network online and called on members to do the same, particularly at this time.
Disruption and opportunity
Noting the importance of innovation for business success, the BCCJ’s Davis asked if the COVID-19 crisis presented opportunities for organisations to be disruptive and stimulate new ideas.
Shinkai suggested that it was a good time to experiment, albeit with some caveats. Firms should “reduce the perception of risk and reduce the scale,” she said. For example, start something on a small scale and with a low budget, and use it as a learning activity.
“Applying a design-thinking mindset can also be great,” she added.
Staying structured, connected
For Shinkai, experimentation today is both an opportunity and a necessity. As her clients shifted their priorities from training to crisis management, her short- and medium-term sales pipeline dried up in late February, leaving her to look at other options.
Her passion was to continue helping people to integrate ikigai (life purpose) into their work, so she created Make March Matter, a free online community of professionals seeking to maintain productivity during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Piloting something new freed me from being a perfectionist,” she said, explaining that she created and launched the project in one day because she had no fear of failure. “Once I made the decision [to launch], I had an amazing change of energy and clarity to help me produce [the content],” she added.
Make March Matter aims to offer accountability, connection and inspiring action via three online sessions per week. Participants get regular check-ins and structure, which helps with their motivation, energy and mental health. The community also encourages and inspires each other, while evolving organically to adapt to user needs.
Shinkai will continue Make March Matter in April under the theme of “Action in April.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/makemarchmatter2020/
“I’m glad that I’m being useful at a time when I thought that I couldn’t be, and I encourage everyone to find a moment to think where they can find opportunity,” she said. “It’s a serious time, but also a time for play because everyone is changing, and the rules are changing. Start small and see what happens.”
Agile and open
Shinkai advocated flexibility, a “default-to-action mindset” and openness during this time of crisis. Entrepreneurs may be more agile and better equipped to adapt to new challenges, but corporate staff can also play their part in helping organisations be more agile.
When asked what lessons can be gleaned from the crisis, she said organisations should take time to realise the extent of what can be done online, celebrating what they were able to shift from in-person to online. “When forced to do it online, we’ve made it happen,” she said.
With many organisations also embracing change and disruption to keep their operations moving, it’s also a great opportunity to practice inclusiveness during troubleshooting, creation and decision-making. Engaging more staff not only improves morale, it also guarantees more ideas and therefore better results.
“It’s a great opportunity to hear different perspectives and different ways of doing things,” she said. “As each opportunity comes, we should be listening to different voices because they are seeing the world in a different way.”
In November I attended the Mashing Up Conference again. I really love this event because it’s “cool”. It has a casual vibe and is just a bit edgier than your average D&I “empowerment” conference. The team do try to bring some different ideas to the stage as well as some local legends.
I was happy to join two discussions where I could listen to the wry and laser sharp insights of one of those legends, Chizuko Ueno, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo who used her entrance ceremony speech as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the reality of institutional gender discrimination in Japan. Ueno sensei has an amazing delivery style where she challenges with the sweetest, most innocent question that just stops other panelists in their tracks. It is magic to watch!
In the first session, Ueno sensei talked about the family structure – here is the info from the Mashing Up website.
家族のカタチ2019 – 家族 is the bestという呪縛Family Diversity – Time to Reshape the Family Structure「家族末永く仲良く＝素晴らしい」。そんな価値観が強い日本社会で、家族とのつながりに苦しんでいる人がいるのも事実。おひとりさま問題、介護問題、夫婦別姓問題も含めて、家族とはどうあるべきか。そのあり方を問い直します。“Families that get along forever = wonderful.” This value is strong in Japanese society, but it is also true there are people who are suffering due to their family relationships. What should families be like, including people who are alone, people caring for family members, and husbands and wives having different family names? Those things will be reconsidered.
One idea in particular struck me in relation to my work on Ikigai and creating long and healthy lives worth living.
Talking on the subject of 介護 (elder care), Ueno sensei mentioned that she is hearing many adult children say
“I will look after my mother because I love her. But my father?! No way! I can’t stand him.”
It struck me as such a sad and terrible view. I thought about all the fathers who have been focused on their companies with no time for their families. The result is fathers who are so focused on financially supporting the family that they become alienated from the lack of relationship.
Men’s ikigai and their role in the family
A few weeks ago as part of my Ikigai research, I met with Dr. Akihiro Hasegawa, Associate Professor at Toyo Eiwa University and an ikigai researcher. He told me a similar story. Japanese men who live in multi-generational households with their sons after retirement report a decrease in their ikigai. Dr. Hasegawa explains that this is because their ikigai was so tied up in their self identity as the breadwinner, the head of the household, that when the generational roles shift, they lose their sense of self and purpose. Dr. Hasegawa’s research shows a strong link between having an ikigai and better health, slower onset of dementia and so on.
(As a side note, I asked if there was any impact to living with adult daughters and the answer was no. It seems that the father’s ego can survive that relationship into old age!)
Again, this idea of isolated fathers struck me as so sad and yet also so avoidable if we can change the working style and support people living different types of partnerships at home with an emphasis on family first. Glen Wood is doing a lot to raise awareness on パパハラ(Papa Hara – paternity harassment). It isn’t easy for men to ask for permission to break from the サラリマン salariman stereotype and spend time with their families. But the social and personal costs of isolation in old age for these types of people are no longer sustainable.
What do you think?
How can we start to address this problem? Some efforts are being made at the policy level but what can private enterprises and individuals do to support a healthier and happier second life and what might be the positive impact on society from that.
March was an amazing month as I was able to deliver 4 Ikigai x Points of You® workshops with very diverse audiences around the world
On March 4th, I delivered a 90 minute corporate session to an in-house Learning and Development team. Always a good challenge to facilitate for professionals. They all commented what a treat it was to be in the participant seat for a change!
Great personal insights using the Points of You® method. Enjoyable and also insightfulIkigai Taster Session – Corporate Participant
On March 5th, 8 people attended a sold out open session in Kinshicho at Smart Partners K.K.’s warm and open space. Even in a short amount of time people were able to develop a clearer perspective of what their Ikigai was and some small actions they could take to move forwards.
The contents was simple but powerful and professional facilitation of the program, with warm and relaxed atmosphere. It was test trial version of 90min, so it would be nice to join full session to see what are the outcome if we took more time of each work. Fantastic workshop! Thank you.Ikigai Taster Session Participant
The session helped me confirm what is my Ikigai and realize the gap between what I’m doing now and what I want to do. I’ve started to think about taking small actions to fill the gap.Ikigai Taster Session Participant
I especially appreciated her approach of adhering to the workshop’s protocol while allowing for individual interpretation of its components. Jennifer balances kindness and friendliness with the instructor role well.Ikigai Taster Session Participant
March 21st took me to Costa Rica for the first time to deliver the Ikigai and Points of You® Workshop internationally at the UN University for Peace. As part of the Gross Global Happiness Executive Development program, 20 people explored the four questions of Ikigai. I was thrilled to see how it resonated with participants from the Americas and Europe. And it’s not a Points of You® session without something “unexpected but precise” – the campus cat and dog paid a visit, reminding me not to take things too seriously and to be open to teachable moments!
Finally on March 28th, an executive client flew in from Brazil for the express purpose of finding out about the practical application of the Ikigai X Points of You® workshop for corporate clients. It was fascinating to hear how Ikigai is viewed overseas and give my perspective on how we can use the concept in a way that makes sense inside organisations. I really want to bust the myth that in order to live your ikigai you need to become an entrepreneur or join an NPO. Through the scale of a larger organisation, you can truly achieve lasting impact and deliver value that the world needs.
Find out more about running the 6 month “Integrate your Ikigai Journey Programme” to increase engagement of your talent in your organisation or arrange a taster session today.
As part of my Points of You® Master Trainer Certification, I am running a number of workshops around Tokyo to practice implementing the process with diverse groups. (Contact me if you have a group of 10+ people and an event space as I have some new processes I need guinea pigs for!)
On February 4th, I was invited back to Diversity Dojo to use one of my favourite processes, “My Photo Album”. With participants from all over the world many of whom were meeting each other and Points of You® for the first time, it was a unique opportunity for people to hear truly diverse points of view and think about fresh ways to address current challenges. I love this workshop as it allows groups to be creative, and for individuals to practice inclusive leadership. The process helps you to open your mind to every single voice and idea in the room. You can make new connections between ideas and see your issue from many different perspectives. It is these new perspectives and connections that drive innovation.
Thanks to everyone at Diversity Dojo for their engaged and active participation. This group is always very open to trust the process and thus had many “unexpected but precise” insights. I look forward to hearing about how they turned their insights into action in 24 hours, 1 week and the next month.
Contact me to try “My Photo Album” to engage your employees in a new approach to problem solving.
Ah SNS! Which platform? How to optimize? What’s the best SNS for my business? Content marketing is essential as an entrepreneur and at the July 2018 LeanIn Japan Entrepreneurs Meeting we had a deep dive session hosted at LinkedIn Japan’s Tokyo HQ.
Kaoru Jo and Sayuri Nishimoto from LinkedIn Japan showed us how much Linked In had changed. Whilst yes, of course, there is still a recruitment aspect to the platform, it is taking off as content network where entrepreneurs can build credibility and connections. 2 Million mostly bilingual members in Japan is a great niche to be part of.
It was also great to hear about the Women@LinkedIn initiative helping female professionals in Japan to extend their careers after childcare leave. Very much aligned with the work of the Lean In Japan Creating Change Chapter and the Diversity and Inclusion programmes I run as a facilitator to empower women to develop their careers in Japan.
1. Content Creates Connections
There is now 15X more content than job posts on the LinkedIn Feed. Use articles, bilingual posts and be active and helpful in groups to build your credibility. Find out your SSI to know how well your LinkedIn Profile is helping you to sell.
2. Lots of New Linked In Features
LinkedIn Video, Nearby feature and LinkedIn is perfect for networking in Japan. #hashtags also work really well on LinkedIn now!
Not sure what to talk about? Be useful and find out what people want to know about your expert area
4. Check before you delete or accept
Most Circle members had received invitations that were completely “random” and sadly sometimes far from professionally appropriate. Before you accept or delete, think about (or even ask directly) what made this person reach out to me? How can we mutually support each other?
Are you an English-speaking female Entrepreneur in Japan?
If you are an English-speaking, Japan-based female entrepreneur who would like to grow your business, apply online at Lean In Japan Entrepreneurs Circle.
Meetings are held monthly, online on weekday mornings with occasional hybrid face to face/virtual meet ups in Tokyo.
We’ll be taking a break for August but back on from September – date to be announced
Another conference I’ve attended several times in the last 19 years is the biannual FEW Japan Careers Strategies Seminar. 2 years ago I presented about Online Personal Branding drawing on my experience in marketing and recruitment. This year for the 20th CSS I moderated a panel on “How to Balance Careers and Caregiving in Japan”.
Originally, I was asked to moderate a panel for “Working Mothers”. However, I’m a huge advocate of getting to 50/50 when it comes to balancing careers and caregiving so I set about finding a working father to join the panel. I am grateful to all the people who recommended potential male panelists who are taking an active role in raising their children as part of a dual income family!
Photo Credit: The very talented TopTia
On the day, we represented a broad cross-section of industries, backgrounds and family situations, showing that there are many ways to manage your family and career. We had an active dialogue with the audience in an intimate setting. The panel covered diverse topics from which values drive our priorities to practical hacks that enable us to lead from those values. By telling our personal stories, we hoped to inspire other people to think outside the box.
1. Ask for the help you need at work
It’s more expensive for most employers to replace an experience team member than it is to accommodate your needs. Use your internal network to get the support you need, even (especially?!) when it has never been done before. Persevere and be open to different solutions
2. Know what is important to you
Mindful decisions and conversations about priorities with your key stakeholders (partner, employer, children) are essential. Weekly meetings, project management style whiteboards, shared calendars and a financial plan are ways these parents bring their business savvy to their home.
3. Outsource, automate or compromise
Non-iron shirts, automatic toilets, AI in the home, online groceries, no washing on a weekday, cleaning help and other creative hacks will help you to focus on priorities.
A great resource to consider the benefits to all stakeholders of dual income families is “Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All” . A good mix of statistics, anecdotes and practical ideas.
The Japan WIN conference has a special place in my heart. In 2016 I joined at a special rate for “women in transition” as I was moving from 12 years in a corporate role to begin working on my calling, my ikigai, to use my energy and passion to help people create and communicate change as part of diverse teams. It was at the event at the Shangri-la that I handed out my new meishi for the first time and as I delivered my self intro to over 100 people it can be fair to say that was a large amount of “fake it ’til you make it” tempered with a hefty dose of “imposter syndrome”.
When I realized that the speaker enrollment was open for the 2018 conference I decided that it was time to give back to the conference. thanks to my client testimonials I was selected as a workshop speaker and delivered a session “Rethinking your Strength: Shifting from Capability to Energy”.
Ever since I came upon Marcus Buckingham’s concept that “Strengths aren’t what you are good at. Strengths are what make you feel strong” during a Lean In Circle, I’ve been passionate about the power of doing what gives you energy. I also believe that we have more control about bringing this into our daily life than we may think.
In the 90 minute workshop, participants used cards from Points of You® The Coaching Game, Punctum and Faces to create their “Strengths Photo Album”. As always Points of You® delivered some “unexpected but precise” insights most commonly in hearing others describe their albums – a real view into the blind spot of the Johari Window.
My favourite comment from a participant was “I felt as if the scales had fallen from my eyes”. I have to say that for this to be achieved in 90 minutes makes me so happy as a facilitator and really impressed by how openly the delegates shared their hopes and dreams with others.
There were many great female role models at this event speaking with passion about their chosen topic and as always the Japan WIN conference was a great way to expand a network of like-minded people.
I was happy to see Steven Haynes back at the conference this year. I’m sure its the first time IBM Japan’s Conference room has had a 100 person conga line!
Contact me if you would like to offer the “Rethinking your Strength: Shifting from Capability to Energy” workshop in your organization.
Hope to see you at the next Japan WIN Conference!
You have to love an event that begins with a video of PicoTaro singing about Gender Equal Peaceful World.
With a focus on mindset change, March 8th’s #heforshe event for International Women’s Day hosted by PWC, Unilever and Bunkyo Ward brought many different ideas together.
Below are a few of the highlights – my translations may not be word for word but the essence is correct, I believe.
Akie Abe, gave some unscheduled opening comments. Whilst Mrs. Abe is well know for her active support of her husband’s approach to Womenomics, her use of 家内 (“her indoors”?) to describe her role always rubs me up the wrong way!
Marin Minamiya shared her views on the power of a positive personal mindset and encouraged positive self talk.
I loved her single minded determination and hope that we can all find some of her strength when we find ourselves facing naysayers. For example when she said that she could not get the money for her expedition, she spent time writing to hundreds of sponsors until she was successful.
The 1st panel focused on so-called Japanese “ojisan” (middle aged men). The speakers had some refreshing views and ways to support institutional and individual mindset change. However, I came away with a sense that Yagi Yosuke’s comment about the importance of action over mindset change is the key. In the 2nd panel, a simple example of how to change perceptions gave me hope. Creating gender equality does not always require complex organizational wide changes, just simple every day actions can make a huge difference.
The final panel focused on unconscious bias. The complex audience reactions to the same photograph showed clearly how we all have blindspots and that we need humility and self-awareness to overcome them. To get your organization thinking about those blindspots, take a look at the Creating Inclusion with Appreciative Inquiry programmes (日本語）(English). Naoshi Takatsu of IMD also shared doom interesting data about transactional and transformational leadership. Women on average have stronger competencies in transformational leadership skills so organizatiions need to shift their thinking on what leadership looks like in the 21st Century.
Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, gave the closing comments. He highlighted the economic, financial and social impreatives of gender equality. Mr. Polman shared the need to think about how to bring gender equality into your value chain. What are you doing at every level of your business to be #heforshe and bring about gender parity in the world?
How did you mark International Women’s Day this year? What will you do to reverse the slowing trend of gender parity and help Japan to rise up from the currently pitiful global ranking of 114th?