Podcast
Working with Japanese
Japan
March 15, 2023
58 Min

Working with Japanese with Natsuyo Lipschutz

But to get to the right person, you have to make the detour in the Japanese culture because that's their system. Right. So without understanding it and skipping all that system thinking, well, you're making a great shortcut and that's a better way to get results. No, it's going to go completely the opposite way. So understanding the system is quite important.
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Working with Japanese

What is the first thing that comes to mind when discussing Japanese work culture?

It is respect, hard work, lifetime employment, and technology savvy for me. Every book I have read about cross-cultural communication and management has had a chapter on Japan.

In my conversation with native Japanese Natsuyo Lipschutz, she explains the Japanese culture and how it is to work or manage someone from Japan.

It is a fascinating conversation about one of the most exciting cultures to study workplace dynamics.

Show Notes

Natsuyo Nobumoto Lipschutz is a cultural diversity and cross-cultural communications strategist

She is a Japanese-English bilingual keynote speaker, and she works with global organizations that want to improve cultural diversity and have their leaders communicate effectively beyond differences. 

TEDx speaker, 5-time Toastmasters international speech contest champion, US-Asia business strategy consultant, and World Class SpeakingⓇ public speaking coach, Natsuyo Lipschutz shares compelling stories behind her cross-cultural communication strategies in her signature keynote. 

Natsuyo is also the bestselling author of The Success Blueprint, which she co‐wrote with world‐renowned business speaker, Brian Tracy.  She is also the author of 20Ji Ni Sogiotose (“Say It in 20 Words”) in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, as well as Story Ni Otoshikome (“Motivate with Your Own Story”) in Japanese. 20Ji Ni Sogiotose was awarded “the top 10 business books of the year” in 2021. 

Natsuyo began her career at a top Japanese trading company, ITOCHU International in New York. Natsuyo then received her MBA from New York University and held a management consultant position at McKinsey & Company. Today, Natsuyo is the managing principal of her strategy consulting firm, ASPIRE Intelligence, as well as an executive consultant for Breakthrough Speaking, a global public speaking consultancy. She also serves as the first Asian board of director at the National Speakers Association New York City chapter.

Outside of work, Natsuyo is a competitive ballroom Latin dance national finalist, a proud mother of a pre-teen daughter who’s a model and competitive figure skater, and a breast cancer survivor. 

Resources

To book Natsuyo for your next corporate event, or to book private coaching,  please visit

http://www.natsuyolipschutz.us

To inquire about strategy consulting, please visit

http://www.aspireintelligence.com/en 

Connect with Natsuyo

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E-Learning Course

From the episode

Japanese terms mentioned

Taishoku

Sakoku

Kuuki wo Yomu

Gaman

Wa

Series mentioned

Midnight Diner (netflix)

Pachinko

Key Episode Insights

Cultural Dynamics and Communication Styles in Japan

🌍 Natsuyo Lipschutz helps global organizations elevate cultural inclusion by guiding leaders through a three-step process to identify and embrace cultural differences.

🍱 The typical office worker in Japan usually has a set lunch schedule from twelve to one, where they either go out for lunch or bring their own bento box consisting of balanced rice, vegetables, meat, and fish.

🗣️ Despite presenting a logical and well-researched strategy, Natsuyo Lipschutz's approach was not well-received by the CEO, emphasizing the importance of understanding cultural dynamics and communication styles in the Japanese work environment.

💡 "To truly understand and be understood, it is important to consider the individual unique culture of each person, rather than just focusing on the cultural differences between countries."

🌸 In the Japanese work environment, reading the atmosphere and understanding the context is crucial for maintaining relationships, harmony, power balance, and a sense of security within a group.

😮 Politeness and respectfulness are highly valued in Japanese culture, reflected in their language, bowing, and gifting practices.

🌸 Group harmony is highly valued in Japanese culture, with individuals prioritizing the needs of the group over their own, which can add complexity to group dynamics.

🤝 "I can't inconvenience my team or my group because of the care for all, the respect for others."

🌍 Natsuyo Lipschutz suggests that to learn more about working in a Japanese culture, it's important to go beyond learning protocols and instead focus on understanding cultural differences and effective communication.

🍣 "Jiro Sushi is a must-see documentary about food in Japan."

Unique Cultural Mindset and Influences in Japan

🌍 The unique geographical and historical circumstances of Japan, being an island nation with limited external influences, have contributed to the development of a distinct cultural mindset.

🎎 Japan's specialty lies in its ability to adopt and adapt from the outside world, incorporating interesting Japanese details and elements into seemingly Western influences.

🇯🇵 The Japanese language has a word for almost every phenomenon, highlighting the rich and nuanced nature of their culture.

Importance of Individual Perspectives in Global Work Environment

🌍 Globalization may make it easier to move jobs across borders, but it's important to remember that you will always be working with individuals who have their own unique perspectives and feelings about the work, which can impact the dynamics of the relationship.

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Paul Arnesen
Paul Arnesen
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Full Transcript

Paul Arnesen

Hello and welcome to the Working with Us podcast.

My name is Paul Arnesen, and today we will learn more about working with Japanese. Japanese work culture is a great country to discuss when it comes to comparing work cultures. And why is that? What is so unique about Japan and its culture? To assist us in understanding the Japanese work culture and the mindset, I am super excited to welcome my guest today, a native Japanese but New Yorker heart, Natsuyo Lipschutz. Before we jump into the conversation, please let me read the biography of Natsuyo.

Natsuyo is a Japanese English bilingual keynote speaker who works with global organizations that want to elevate cultural inclusion and have their leaders communicate effectively beyond differences. She is a TEDx speaker, five times toastmaster, international speech contents winner and bestselling author, strategy consultant, cancer survivor, and Latin ballroom dancer, Natsuyo Lipschutz shares colourful stories behind her cross-cultural communication strategies. Through her dynamic presentation, Natsuyo shows global organizations and their leaders their three-step process to identify and embrace cultural differences. To get your message heard and acted upon across cultures, please comment below about your experience of interacting with or working with people from Japan. Perhaps you see it differently than us. And if you liked our conversation, please remember to click the thumbs up. And if you want to learn more about other cultures in future videos, make sure to subscribe. So without further ado, please welcome Natsuyo Lipschutz.

Paul Arnesen

Hello, Natsuyo; how are you today? Welcome to the podcast.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Very good, thank you. How are you?

Paul Arnesen

I'm good as well. I mean, it's finally a good day outside here today, like it's usually been raining. Usually, this time of the year it rains quite a lot. So it's been dry finally, and I'm happy about that. What about you over there?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

For us in New York, it's been a very warm winter, and for the first time, we had a blizzard this week. And the blizzard was just one inch of snow or two and a half centimetres of snow, and they call it a blizzard.

Paul Arnesen

Oh, wow.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, it's been unusual this year.

Paul Arnesen

What happens then if it's a blizzard? So I'm from Norway, I don't know if you know that country, but it's really far north. We have a lot of snow and it can snow a lot until anything shuts down. How is it in New York? Do things shut down when blizzard?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

It's pretty good in Manhattan, all the subway systems are obviously underground, so it's usually running and buses are pretty good. And as soon as we hear that the snow is coming, the snow trucks, what do you call that? The trucks come out to sprinkle salt on the ground, so they're pretty prepared. But if you live in the suburbs of New York, it's a different story. It accumulates and you have to shovel snow on your own, so it's a totally different story. But I live in Manhattan, so it's been good.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, if you live in a city centre, like, especially a metropole like New York or Manhattan, it's probably a little bit different. Yeah, I know that. Okay, so well, we're not here to talk about New York, we're here to talk about Japan. And this is one thing I'm very curious about, and I ask this question to all my guests, and that's the lunch culture among typical office workers in Japan. And actually, when I was thinking about this, I had no idea because you can think about food and Japan. That is two things that go together hand in hand. But what does a typical office work in Japan do for lunch?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, they usually have a set lunch schedule from twelve to one. So during that time, people go out for lunch, or a lot of people bring their own bento or a lunch box. And the typical bento box consists of rice and vegetables and meat and fish, and it's really balanced. And if you're talking about moms preparing Japanese lunches, which I used to do when my daughter was in elementary school, it's called character bento. You make little tiny things really cute, and you put some rabbit-faced rice balls or heart-shaped eggs or something like that, and you decorate it so nicely. I didn't have time to do that, but that's quite typical to see very pretty, nicely presented bento in Japanese culture.

Paul Arnesen

And do they go out to eat or do they eat at the office?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Like yeah, a few people go out together. And if you go to Tokyo, in the office area, there are a lot of restaurants that are serving set menus for lunch. So it's called Taishoku. For lunch, you usually get Taishoku, which has all the balance, and you can choose from multiple different choices. And it's very quick because it's a set.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, but you've been in the US now for more than half of your life anyway. So have you adopted into the American style, or are you staying with Japanese?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, I buy salad, soup and salad, or sandwiches and bring it to my desk and eat it as I'm working. So that's not quite a Japanese style.

Paul Arnesen

No, I mean, that's the thing we adopt, right, to the culture we are mostly into. But I still think we keep a little bit of the old thing once in a while, maybe, at least I do in Italy, where I am. So sometimes I have to have my traditional Norwegian lunch, which is just two slices of bread with something on top. It's really boring, but for me, it's very satisfying.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, it's nostalgic, right?

Paul Arnesen

Absolutely. Okay, so when we talked the last time, you gave me, actually, a very interesting story. And I want you to repeat that for the listener about something that you probably wouldn't expect to come from someone who's native to a Japanese culture like yourself. But you have a story about a 400-year-old company that you were hired for, and it didn't go as well as you wanted. Can you please tell the listeners that story?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, absolutely. First of all, I'm a strategic consultant and public speaking coach and cross-cultural communication strategist now, but when I just started my strategic consulting company back in 2004, I was hired by this 400-year-old, very traditional Japanese arts and crafts company. And it was the CEO who hired me, and they wanted me to structure their US. Strategy, us. Market strategy. And the CEO, Mr K, had the whole strategy laid out, but he wanted to make sure that his strategy is going to work in the US. So he hired me, and I did my extensive research and analysis, just like I always do as a strategy consultant. And I said to myself, Mr K's strategy is not going to work. So I prepared this masterpiece presentation explaining why his strategy is not going to work and why mine would. Very logical and very there was no room for argument. It was an excellent, excellent presentation. Now I presented this to the entire team. The next day, Mr Kay calls me and he goes, call me or come to my office. And I said, wow, he must have really loved my strategy. And he wanted to talk to me one on one.

So I go to his office and the first thing he said is, who do you think you are? I said, well, you hired me. I'm your consultant. Who do you think you are? In my head, I didn't say that.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, of course.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

And then he said, well, I know this industry, and you embarrass me in front of my entire team. You are disrespectful. You're fired. So in my mind, I did my job perfectly as a strategy consultant, but at that time, I had been in the US for ten years already, so I was somewhat Americanized, and as a strategy consultant, I had to be very logical and direct. That's the way I communicated the strategy. And looking back at the strategy, the strategy is fantastic. But the way I communicated was a huge mistake. So in his eyes, I was the youngest Japanese female who doesn't have as much experience as he does. And he was back then a 60-plus-year-old CEO with a government official background. So he really expected me to be respectful of his career, his position and his background, and also, especially his position within his team. And he basically wanted validation from me that his strategy is going to work. But it was the contrary, and I treated everyone equally, and it included everyone in the conversation. And I was very straight to the point, and I ended up getting fired. So it wasn't the strategy, it was a communication that I didn't really consider the Japanese traditional culture, even though I was from Japan. So from that experience, I really learned that cross-cultural communication is not just between let's say Japanese and American or a person from this country to the other person from another country. But it could happen, a communication mistake could happen between people sitting next to each other. Right. At the end of the day, everyone has his or her own unique culture. Your upbringing, your value system, your circle, everything is really different and unique to every one of you. So at the end of the day, you have to think about the culture of one. That's what I call the individual unique culture to really understand each other and to be understood.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, absolutely. I had a good quote from another conversation I had with a German specialist, and they said in the end, you sort of work in the culture, but you don't work with the culture. So you would work with either someone who would work with Paul or they work with Natsuyo, and we bring on our values to work. And that's sort of the, even though, inside of us we have some sort of inbred culture from our upbringing and everything, but we are still working with individuals. But I think what you experienced obviously was kind of a systemic thing, right? This is also something that is typical when it comes to maybe larger corporations. Maybe also because it was a 400-year-old company that had like very traditional values and everything. So yeah, I think this is a very good learning experience for a lot of people to take back because we think about especially nowadays where everything is so globalized that we move our jobs so easily from border to border because we do it virtually. But in the end, you always work with some system, some person that has a different opinion and meaning and feeling about what you do and that can actually make or break a good relationship.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Right. It's interesting that you mentioned the system. My mistake was about the way I communicated too, but also the system that I didn't really understand. So in the Japanese culture, when you want to get something done, you don't really go directly to a higher-ranked person. You would start with someone close to you and then make your way up little by little so that it sounds like it's a little bit tedious and it's a detour to get to the right person. But to get to the right person, you have to make the detour in the Japanese culture because that's their system. Right. So without understanding it and skipping all that system thinking, well, you're making a great shortcut and that's a better way to get results. No, it's going to go completely the opposite way. So understanding the system is quite important.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, let's just move on because I think this is a good segue to what traditionally and tradition is a very good words to use when it comes to Japanese culture. Because if I'm thinking about Japan, I think about traditions, and things that take time. The culture is, so they develop things in the long term. Most of what I'm looking for, everything is craftsmanship. These are things that, if you go on YouTube, you look at these videos of people making swords or anything, like, it takes time. So we have this perfectionism. I'm trying to think about where culture sort of comes from and why different cultures sort of develop these kind of things for the system as you talk about, like, hierarchy, the way you communicate internally in businesses and maybe in life and personal life as well. And if you look at Japan, just like, geographically, it's an island, obviously, if you don't know, that's an island capital Tokyo, and it's surrounded by waters. And that's sort of been the life and story of Japan for ages, but it's also not been a country that has its conflicts and everything and a lot of influences from outside as well, throughout history.

But in many ways, maybe it developed into some sort of a unicorn in many ways, in sort of the geographical sense, in the cultural sense of the world, because it didn't have that. A country like Germany, for example, has all those influences from all the borders next to it, or the US. Which is a country full of immigrants.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Right.

Paul Arnesen

Have you ever speculated or think, thought about how the Japanese cultural mindset sort of evolved?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah. So one really unique thing that happened in Japan I want to highlight is what we call Sakoku. The Sakoku literally means chained country. So between the 17th and 19th century, japan isolated the whole country from the outside world, and it was about 220 years of national isolation. So that's called Sakoku. And Sakoku ended in 1853, and Japan opened its border to the world. At that time, they were really rushing to modernize and Westernize everything in Japan. So the Sakoku, or isolation, national isolation, had a very significant impact on Japanese culture, both by preserving traditional practices and by fostering the emergence of new ones. So Japan became really good at adapting and adopting from the outside world and adapting into Japanese culture. So adopting and adapting are the speciality of Japan. So there are interesting things that appear to be Western, but if you look at the details, there are very interesting Japanese details or elements within. So, yeah, adopting and adapting and obviously the culture.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, and it's not that long ago, if you think about it in the context of a life, the history of the world, because these things also evolve over time. So you can think about this as being, say, three, four generations ago, and it's sort of passed down through generations. Right. And I think that this is what we probably see today. And then just to go over to the next question, then, if you think about all these things, about also the story you mentioned earlier, what does that say about the typical Japanese sort of person? Maybe doesn't have to be the CEO of a company. It can be just the typical worker or the general sort of sense. Well, if you can explain the Japanese mindset to someone, what do you say?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, we all know that everyone is unique. But that being said, if I dare to generalize what the typical Japanese people might be as a society, japan is still relatively homogeneous, right? And they have a shared cultural background and set of values. And this means that people can rely on shared cultural assumptions and knowledge to communicate rather than having to explain everything explicitly. So typical Japanese people are the high context people. Now for the benefit of listeners who may not know the concept of high context and low context. It's a cross-cultural model called high context low context. And the high context culture. People in the high-context culture rely on context, and it's not necessary or even inappropriate to spell everything out too explicitly. So they know to read between the lines and that's context hiding under the surface, right? And in Japanese, we say “kuki wo yomu” or read the atmosphere. So high context people read the atmosphere and make inferences to understand the context so that relationships or harmony or power balance, and a sense of security are all maintained within a group. But on the other hand, the low context culture means people rely on verbal messages and there is no room for inferences.

And they're more explicit, logical and direct, which means tell what you're going to tell, then tell them, then tell them what you've told them. And the low context people focus more on individual excellence rather than group harmony. So that being said, the typical Japanese people are very, very high-context and that also includes their politeness and respectfulness. They are really known for their politeness and respect towards others and it's even reflected in their language. We have three different degrees of kegel or polite expressions depending on your position, compared to the other person you're talking to, you use different levels of kegel or polite expressions, right? And it's also reflected in the bowing and gifting practice and so on. So politeness and respectfulness are typical Japanese people's features. And also in a business setting, they tend to have really hard or strong work ethics and they work really hard for long hours and they're loyal to their jobs. And even the concept of Gaman or endurance is pretty common in work and personal life. And this Gaman endurance is the result of their group orientation, which leads to the next point. The Japanese really value group harmony.

So the concept of Wa or harmony is really valued in Japanese culture. And they put groups before individuals first. They put the group first before individuals because they want to maintain the Wa, the harmony within the group. So that adds complexity to group dynamics and finally, attention to detail as you said. And like I mentioned about bento boxes even within a little tiny bento box. It's so detailed. And Japanese people are meticulous about paying attention to details in so many different aspects of their lives, from food presentations like bento to manufacturing, to the design of the packaging. While typical Japanese people are very plight and respect strong work ethics, group first attention to detail and high context communication.

Paul Arnesen

This is super fascinating. And I have a question, especially on the group context, because if you can, how did this work out during the Pandemic? For example, when a lot of companies, I don't know how it was in Japan, were forced to sort of work from home in an individual setting. Because I actually worked for a client during the Pandemic that was looking for someone in Japan to help them, a European company. And it was very difficult to find a specialist. They exist, obviously, but it was just very complicated to find individuals working from home located in Japan. And I don't know if this is just because maybe it has to do with this group context or if is it something else that we have missed there that it's difficult.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, it's really interesting. So in the beginning, it was very hard for Japanese companies to go virtual with every meeting, right? Because of this group orientation and pre-pandemic, they needed to meet in person, face to face. Meetings were so important. So that's why even I used to go to Japan three to four times a year to meet with people, from the companies face to face. And all of a sudden that totally changed because of the Pandemic and everyone started to work from home. And I heard from a lot of companies that, well, now we can't meet in person and we don't know how to talk across the screen. So I give presentation coaching and global public speaking coaching or training. So I was asked to give a lot of training online because they have to speak online. So let's do training online, right? So I got really busy. So that was almost like they were half panicky about this whole change in working style. So they had a hard time because of this group orientation. But then I started to see that something kind of conflicting. Even though they want to work together in person as a group, once people started to get used to working from home, they didn't want employees to come back to the office.

Because maybe this is part of group harmony too, because if you have COVID without knowing and come to your office and spread it to the other people, the entire company, then that does harm to the entire group. So I can't be selfish to want to go to my office. If the consequences will be to spread of germs unconsciously, then that disturbs the group harmony. So it was almost like, is it the group orientation or an individualistic orientation? I think it's a combination, but in the end, I think it's about I can't inconvenience my team or my group.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, because of the care for all, the respect for others. But also the thing is, I think it's interesting this is something you mentioned earlier about the adopting and the adapting they are probably good at if a situation arises like this where you have to you're forced to adapt. Maybe in a sense, this is what you have seen. Then eventually they did adapt to it and maybe now I don't know how it is today. I mean, we see this today, especially in the US. For some, a lot of the companies that did go remote first, just due to necessity, they started to sort of say let's stay remote and then now they're sort of going back to the old ways again. So maybe that's something, again; like you said from the up until the 1860s of learning how to or after learning how to adapt to the new situation and circumstances is something Japanese can be really good at.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah. And adopt, adapt and then keep evolving.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, that's interesting. Another concept that I think is interesting about Japanese so when I studied business and culture, Japan is always a very fascinating country to talk about also because you have this concept of there's probably a word for this in Japanese because I think every phenomenon in Japanese has a word for it. Like their lifetime employment. Is that something that still exists? Because it's interesting when we talk about different cultures and careers and prospects of work-life balance and sort of where they want to be, where they see life from when they finish school and what they do with their life. So how does it work in Japan?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, it still exists, even though it's been changing. The younger generation put their individual excellence first and they switch jobs and they start their own companies. But traditionally lifetime employment is or was a thing. And a lot of people still work for the same company for 30 years, 40 years. And I think how can I put it in a little positive way? I can't I'll just say it. I think that's hindering the ability of Japanese people and their presence in the global world because I believe diversity in any aspect is really helpful to create synergy and create new ideas and generate some good products and services. And when I say diversity in this context, I'm talking about your own diverse experience. If you're working for the same company for a long time, you get used to one way and that may set your norm, as that may set your standard, which may not be standard from a different company or a different world or different industry. So being exposed to different work scenarios really expands your horizons. But with that said, Japanese companies, because of the lifelong employment, try to rotate you it depends on the company, but they try to rotate you from one department to another so that you can experience many different aspects of the business.

But I think, you know, experiencing different companies, different industries, different jobs, functions would lead to a greater good in the end.

Paul Arnesen

But do you see a change in this in the younger generation? You said, like, new startups, people are more entrepreneurial now, maybe, because I think that a lot of these golden steps are built on very old traditions when basically the world was a little bit different. And I'm not sure I think there should be a good balance of this. Do you see today all those tech companies are doing mass layoffs? So if you get a job today, you don't really know that you have that job security for life. So a lot of people are struggling to know how long will I actually be able to stay in this job. So you don't have that security. Sort of self gets very sort of vulnerable, and then obviously you need that balance and maybe in a way that could end up to be something more positive coming out of Japan because maybe the younger generation sees like, okay, let's do a combination of this and maybe that's beneficial. Who knows?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, I would say it's beneficial. If the company knows that people will move around or let's say you are the employee and you want to move around companies, then you want to really improve your skills and maximize your time at this company so that you're going to be highly worth for the next employer. So you would try harder to improve your skills. Right. So that's going to be beneficial for you and for the employees and the employers. Employers also have to change the game as well, assuming people will move around. And then first of all, how can they improve retention so that people will work a little bit longer? Because companies invest their time and money to train you. They don't want you to leave so quickly. Right. So how can they change to improve retention? And second, they have to create a system so that the knowledge is shared so that if someone leaves the team, the team is still functional. Traditionally because of the high context culture, things were the knowledge and experience were kind of not verbally shared or systematically shared because you watch your senior for a year or two years or three years and kind of learn from watching what they're doing.

But you can't do that anymore if people switch jobs within a few years. You have to systematically share the knowledge and experience and train the new employees to be functional on day one. Right, so, yeah, the companies have to learn to play the game differently.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, usually now, I see a lot of the younger generation in every country around the world. They get more educated about what is happening elsewhere in the world. It's not that closed anymore. We have this globalisation. Is there a lot more ambition to not necessarily leave Japan for other opportunities among the younger gen? I'm thinking about brain-drain in some sense because maybe if a company can't adapt to if there's a lot of skill in a market, that skill a country wants to keep that skill there, they don't want them to leave elsewhere. Even now with a remote world people can hire from anywhere and do you see anything of that in Japan now, like where the younger generation is getting more ambitious in that sense?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

That's a very great question. In my eyes, the tendency is really polarized. They say in Japan that the younger generation is not motivated or ambitious. Not ambitious enough to leave the country and experience the outside world. And they are too comfortable because they are given everything they need. We're an abundant country, so they have everything they want and they want security. So they don't want to go out overseas to work and challenge themselves. So they say in the media that younger generations are staying home or staying in their home country and not going abroad as much. But in my eyes, the younger generation around me, let's say from my college I'm involved in my college alumni club and they are quite ambitious and they have a clear goal of what they want to do and achieve. And some of them start businesses while they're in college, and they're really not going for the big-name companies but they really think about what each company provides that motivates them, and they're thinking about their career path and what career path they want to achieve. So in my eyes, they are ambitious enough to think about their career even beyond Japan.

So I think they're a very polarised situation between two groups of the younger generation in Japan. One is really the one group that wants to play safe and stay in Japan, and lifelong employment is fine, but the other one is going totally opposite. They want to go overseas, they want new opportunities, and they want challenges and uncertainty is totally fine, and they want to take risks. So I think there are two extremes.

Paul Arnesen

In the younger generation now, and it hits very close to home in many ways because the different cultures just as a context of being the Norwegian I'm from, it's like, a lot people don't leave their country as well because everything is catered for from it's a very socialist, democratic socialist country. So why risk it? You have such a good life here. And I don't. Like, for example, I'm in a city I don't know how many million lives here, but I know one from my same country that lives here, which is a little bit crazy because it's sort of like, I think it's just some cultures have this security built into their systems and their parents sort of give it down to their younger generation. Then. Yeah, you need to have that sort of built-in ambition.

Guess that's what you saw at your college, those people that really want to challenge themselves a little bit, and they will always obviously exist out there. But anyways, let's move on because otherwise, you can talk about this for a long time. It's a fascinating topic. Are there any common misconceptions about the Japanese culture or the work ethics or something that you often hear that is very misleading or maybe even a bit confusing to try to or difficult to explain every time? That's not reality? Do you hear anything?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

In the work setting? Well, I was going to say, in general, nothing to do with the work setting conception about all Japanese people eating sushi at home. No, we don't. Sushi is for a special occasion. It was expensive. It takes so many years of practice as a professional to make sushi.

Paul Arnesen

Can I add a fun fact on sushi, and you probably can confirm this, that the salmon on sushi was not really a thing that was invented in Japan, or maybe it was invented in Japan, but it wasn't a thing until it was Westernized a few years ago. Is that correct? I heard that somewhere.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

California roll, salmon, avocado. Right. That's not invented in Japan.

Paul Arnesen

Exactly.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

In fact, some years ago, I went to a sushi restaurant in Japan, and there was an American couple sitting at the counter they ordered a California roll and the sushi chefs were like, what's that? California roll, do not order that in Japan!

Paul Arnesen

No, this is fascinating. I think that's just like the typical stereotype. Every culture hears about something. You hear something in the media, you have this idea. And yeah, it doesn't really sound true. It's not really true. But yeah, I think that when it comes to misconception, and especially when you're working with someone from a different culture, it's always a good thing to listen to them, to try to understand them before you start judging them. And I think it's just in a general sense; that's why I asked this question about misconception because a lot of things can always be told, but it's completely there's no context to it. Right. For example, you can say that the respect they have in Japan, maybe someone can see it. As I say, how can I work with someone that is Japanese? That if they're going to have this very for some cultures, it might feel artificial, that kind of respect, but it's actually a sign of true respect. It's not something they do just to impress you.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Right, yeah. So that reminds me of one possible misconception in the workplace. So people work for long hours after hours. Right? And that's because of the hard-working culture. And if everyone is staying at the office, you don't want to be selfish and leave the workplace early just because you have a date at night. Right, but that's somewhat true. Maybe it used to be true, but I think it could be a misconception that it's not that they want to work late. It's just peer pressure. So they're waiting for permission to leave work early, or they often wait for permission to do something, to speak up in the meeting or to leave early from work or do something different, right? So, because it's a group-oriented culture, if someone gives you a permission to do something different, then they will be happy to do that. So if you are a leader in a Japanese company, give permission to your direct reports to do something differently. Even if it's about leaving work early, leave sharp at 05:00 sharp, you know, give permission to do that. And I'm thinking about my father. My father passed a long time ago, in 2003, but he was the president of a big auto-related company in Japan and very respected in the industry.

And he used to tell me, and now I understand why he was doing that. He used to tell me that, well, I'm leaving my office at 05:00. I'm like, why? You're a president; you're so busy. And he says, well, if I don't leave early, no one can leave. So that's why I leave first. See, that's like giving silent permission for everyone they can do that too.

Paul Arnesen

That's very fascinating, and I think very easy to misunderstand these things. And also, I think it's on the side of the employee as well. I guess if a Japanese is working for maybe a Western American company, they feel that they need to wait for this permission. And then, as you said, a manager would never give that permission because it's not natural for them. Right? And just talking about leading someone or being a manager, if you are a manager, who is if a non-Japanese manager is going to manage a team of Japanese, or just one for that matter, what is a good thing to do or to have in the back of the mind to keep someone motivated at work? Or what's the opposite? What keeps them demotivated?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, to keep them motivated. I would say three things. One, provide clear expectations and goals because Japanese people are very high-context, they try to guess what you're expecting, and it could be wrong, right? Especially as a non-Japanese leader expecting your Japanese direct reports to do something, then that expectation and goals have to be communicated so that they can work efficiently. Japanese people are goal-oriented and they won't appreciate clear guidelines and expectations from their superiors. So they're providing clear expectations and goals. And secondly, because of the group orientation, encouraging teamwork and collaboration would be really important too. I mentioned the concept of Wa or harmony, that's highly valued in Japanese culture. So the encouraging group, teamwork and collaboration as a group and thirdly, showing appreciation and recognising when someone did, even if it's a tiny bit of good deed or made a tiny baby step of progress, then recognize it and show appreciation. And they may not verbalise their appreciation often, but they really appreciate it. And that will be because appreciation is not often verbalised. When it is verbalised, they really appreciate it, and that leads to higher motivation. So those three things I can think of to motivate Japanese people and to demotivate Japanese employees, or it could be a number of things, but the lack of communication, maybe they tend to value clear and frequent communication from their superiors so that they know they're on track.

So lack of communication can lead to confusion, misunderstanding and demotivation. Again. Well, I'm a communication specialist, so I think of communication as being the central integral part of motivating people.

Paul Arnesen

No, absolutely. And I think especially for a culture that, in all cultures, you don't want to let people guess too much what's going to happen.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Right

Paul Arnesen

And especially if you work across borders and there's already a lot of could be a lot of confusion just because you work with someone from a completely different culture than your own. So it's important to establish clear communication guidelines, and that's one of the big aspects. When I work with companies that are looking to hire global teams, sort of like if they come to me in recruitment and say they just want to build a team of specialists, my goal, and that goes to lead to the next question I have is to try to put together a good team regardless of location. So I'm also trying to understand who can fit the best into a specific role or a specific department in a job. So what's the value of having someone born and raised in Japan could bring to the team just based on their sort of generalising, of course, their background experience and what they bring to a team?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, I may be repeating myself, but they're team players. They value harmony and group work, and teamwork. So bringing a Japanese person to your team will normalise the harmony of the group. And there may be some outspoken big-voice people in the team, but the Japanese will normalise the tone in the team and create a harmonious working environment and really foster teamwork within the team. So when the teamwork is working well, then you can generate synergy and more productivity, and maybe you can generate better ideas when working together well in a diverse team. So the Japanese employee can be the glue of the team.

Paul Arnesen

Absolutely. That sounds great. I mean, I would love to work, and I love working in a diverse team, and I have worked with some Japanese, and it's always a very rewarding thing to do because also another thing you didn't mention now, but you mentioned earlier, is that sense of look for perfection, like to have everything good. I think it's an interesting thing, especially if you're working with things that have to do with design and creating something new because they see these things just from their upbringing in a different way than someone who's just going to try to force their way through and let's get this product out really fast. But then someone might say, I want to have my say here because I think we need to visually; this looks better if I do this. So that's good to have someone in my opinion, that's just my opinion. I would love to have someone who has that sense of perfectionism on the team.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, I agree. You have to have different perspectives and evaluate those different perspectives in your team to do better.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah. Okay, so we are getting up to the hour here, but I think that it's interesting also when I'm talking to someone in your position and also working in cross-cultural communication, and I asked this question, I asked a question earlier this year about how can I learn more about working in other cultures? And the answer I always get is, well, you have to go there and work. Well, that's not possible for everyone. So do you have any suggestions for people that would like to learn more about working in Japanese culture, working with Japanese, or just learning more about Japan in general? Do you have any recommendations?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Well, two recommendations. One, work with me. I provide presentation coaching and training. But within my presentation coaching, I go over the cross-cultural aspect. And not just what I don't do is teach you the Japanese protocols. Like, oh, this is how you give business cards, and this is how you bail. That's not my domain. But with a deep understanding of cultural differences, how can you communicate effectively beyond those differences? So that's what I teach. So connect with me and work with me so that I can show you how you can work effectively with Japanese people. And that's one. And two, maybe watch some Japanese drama on Netflix or some TV shows. And then the drama with subtitles, of course, will be a really interesting and good way to get insights into little snippets of Japanese culture. And you can feel that Japan and Japanese people. So watch some TV drama.

Paul Arnesen

The name escapes me. I can put it in the show notes later. I just recently saw a series on Netflix it was Korean Japanese, where this family is running what's this game called in Japan that is really big with the small metal balls?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Pachinko.

Paul Arnesen

Pachinko. It's called pachinko. That's a series. So Pachinko is a Korean Japanese, but 50% of the show is in Japan. And there's a father who runs a Pachinko venue back in the son went to the US to study. So he's like perfectly fluent in English, and he sort of works between Japan and it's a very interesting little also has to do with the Koreans coming into Japan and everything. So it's not only that, but it's actually, for me, the first time I saw something that really showed a little bit in the 80s that sort of business savvy, Japanese American, sort of going overseas, coming back to Japan, trying to sort of put, as you said at the beginning, the story. You said this way of looking at how to run a business in Japan. They were buying property and everything in Tokyo. So I would recommend that one as a beginning, although it has a little bit of Korean in it, but everything that has to do in Japan and they speak Japanese as well with subtitles okay. And American. So it's like a combination.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

One of the Netflix shows I was watching was in Japanese. It's called Shinya shokudo. In English, it's midnight diner. It's about this one-man diner, tiny little alley, and each episode highlights different people who visit this diner. And sometimes, it's a salaryman or businessman, or sometimes it's a young girl who aspires to be an actress. And they bring their own life challenges and how they interact with the master of this diner. It's very subtle, very high context, but there are the regular customers who get involved and help them. So you really get a feel of Japanese people and their culture and how it takes a whole village to raise a child-kind of mentality. So you really feel a good sense of Japanese culture from The Midnight Diner. So I recommend that one.

Paul Arnesen

I will add that in as well.

Yeah, of course, it's Jiro Sushi as well. I don't know if that's like a famous documentary called Sushi, but that, for me, talks about the perfectionism of just how dedicated someone can be to a trade, which I think is very typical as well. At least the view I have of a Japanese is a stereotype, maybe, but that's sort of tradition. And I also just want to mention, and you can probably confirm this if it's true, but I think that if you have a very high ambition of either going to Japan to work there or anything, there are probably a lot of Japanese chambers or something around the cities, the big citizens that have events and stuff that you maybe can attend and visit to, sort of have a feel for like business clubs or something. I know that from other cultures that usually every city, at least a major city, has something where you can visit and have a feel.

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Yeah, well, there are chambers of commerce as well. And there's also Jetro. It's a government organisation that fosters internal and external trade. It's a trade organisation, so they may have some events. But if you are interested in specific industries, I recommend that you go to some industry specific trade shows, and then you get to see a lot of different vendors. So that could be interesting.

Paul Arnesen

Yeah, I think the main point here is to get in touch with you. So how do they get in touch with you? Tell the listeners where the best way is?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

So, you can find me on LinkedIn, Natsuyo Lipschutz, and just send me a message from LinkedIn. Or you can go into my website, natsuyolipschutz.us. And when you go there for the first time, you get to sign up for the newsletter, where I can send you cross-cultural tips and global public speaking tips. You'll receive a lot of valuable content from me. So two ways LinkedIn and Website are perfect.

Paul Arnesen

And I will add all those links in the show notes of this episode. So when you hear this episode, you can find it on workingwithus.co you would see the episode about Japan. There you will find all the information we talked about. I've tried to add in also all the fascinating nitpicks that you mentioned about these Japanese words. I need to ask you later what everything was, because this is super fascinating. It's a lot of good knowledge here. Well, do you have any final words? Anything you would like to add?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Well, I think not just working with Japan, but when you're working with a global audience, the key is, in my eyes, communication. First of all, you need to acknowledge that we're all different, even if I'm Japanese and you're Japanese, or even if I would work for the same company. Everyone has different values. So acknowledging the difference is the first step. And second, you need to analyse where the difference might be and how big. And with that understanding of your analysis, then you can adapt your communication. And I call this the three-step process called the three A's. Acknowledge, analyse, and adapt. So with the three A's in mind when communicating with people from diverse backgrounds, then you'll find the fourth A, which will be amazing.

Paul Arnesen

Amazing. So I think that should be the final word. Thank you very much, Nasuyu. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I really believe and hope the listeners will get a lot of value out of this as well. Any plans for the rest of the day?

Natsuyo Lipschutz

Well, I have to pick up my daughter from school and drive her to an ice skating rink in New Jersey because she's a competitive figure skater, and then she skates four to five times a week. So I'm going to move my office from my office to the ice skating rink office.

Paul Arnesen

That sounds like a very typical work and life day for a lot of people. Well, thank you very much. Have a great day. Thank you as well. Thank you, everyone, for listening. And please look up the website, sort of the episode on WorkingWithUs.co and until next time, have a good day.