Leaders February 2016

At the heart of teams

What makes them tick

Boarding a crowded train this week during Tokyo’s morning rush hour, I found myself face to face with a poster of The Decameron by John William Waterhouse. The painting is one of 65 from the Pre-Raphaelite collection of the National Museums Liverpool that are currently on loan to Tokyo’s Bunkamura Museum.

It is easy to see from the exhibit—held under the theme “British Dreams”—that the Victorian artists who created these masterpieces drew inspiration from the culture of the Renaissance, perhaps fascinated by a time and place very different from their own in 19th century Britain.

Unfortunately art history is just one of the many things that I know little about, but the connection between inspiration and culture is something that I find fascinating. Experts in leadership and the development of high performance teams have written at great length on the culture of organisations.

James Kerr, in his book Legacy–15 Lessons in Leadership, adds to this library with an absorbing account of the All Blacks culture, and how it has helped to propel the New Zealand rugby team into one of the most dominant forces in the history of sport.

Company culture

In management, culture typically refers not to art or literature, but to the purpose and values of a team or organisation. These concepts provide a business with its reason to exist, and the moral compass that guides the decisions of its management and employees, as well as, ultimately, the way it operates.

For better or for worse, every firm has a culture, but not every leader takes the time to articulate it clearly. Without doing so, though, it is hard to know whether it is helping or hindering their business.

With that in mind, members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) had a great opportunity on 28 January to hear first-hand how a clear purpose and cherished values are central to the success of fast growing member firm Walk Japan Ltd.

Speaking at the eighth event in the BCCJ’s Small is Great series, aimed at fostering interaction between smaller corporate and entrepreneur members, Paul Christie, chief executive, told the firm’s story.

Christie eschews hyperbole in favour of perfecting the customer experience. He prefers the quality of the product to speak for itself, and cares deeply about his customers and stakeholders. There are no short cuts, but with patient attention to detail and the right product, he believes that growth will inevitably follow.

Our values

Closer to home, the BCCJ remains focused on bringing to our members the people who matter. To do that, we rely on active member participation, and the efficiency of a nimble secretariat.

Like many service organisations, the chamber’s most important asset is its people. In that respect, the secretariat is our heartbeat, but the members are, and always will be, the lifeblood. That’s a BCCJ value.