Client Success

Client success stories

The case studies below will give you a feel for the ways in which we have helped clients across a wide range of industries, company sizes, and locations to deal with a broad spectrum of situations, at any level within their companies.

Each of our client engagements is unique, but in every case the key elements are the same: We learn about the client’s situation and specific needs, design a customized solution, and deliver it with the utmost care and professionalism.

Working Effectively with Japanese

Success story 01
A Silicon Valley startup had a lot at stake with its entry into the Japanese market. It needed to make sure that its new office in Tokyo would be successful, but was concerned about the unique challenges of navigating Japanese business culture. The startup knew that even the best strategy wouldn’t overcome a failure to engage their new team members across the Pacific, whose buy-in was needed for carrying it out. After interviewing several of the key Japanese players at the new Tokyo office, we prepared a customized training session to focus on the issues most likely to be important in their work together, emphasizing communication style, bridging the language barrier, and understanding differences in human-resource management practices. The U.S. team felt more confident having gained this knowledge, and was able to start off on the right foot with the new colleagues in Japan.

Success story 02
The locally hired employees at a Japanese financial firm’s subsidiary in Indonesia interacted frequently with Japanese expatriates, colleagues at the head office in Japan, and customers at local Japanese subsidiaries. Noticing that these local hires often seemed frustrated in their interactions with Japanese, the company sought to equip them with skills needed for handling these interactions based on knowledge of Japanese business culture. We dispatched one of our facilitators, a Japanese who has significant experience working in Indonesia, to conduct a training session. The participants took this opportunity to transform their frustration and concern by voicing questions about Japanese culture that had been accumulating in their minds over the preceding months. After the session, the Indonesians better understood reasons for the Japanese behaviors they had observed, and were equipped with new strategies for strengthening their working relationships.

Success story 03
A Japanese auto parts factory in Mexico noticed that many locally hired Mexican employees had concerns about their interactions with Japanese co-workers. The Mexican employees worked very closely with supervisors and technical advisors sent from Japan, but had never been briefed about Japanese culture. Behaviors such as a gruff style of delivering feedback, lack of emotional expressiveness and dearth of small talk had been off-putting to the Mexican employees, who found them to be rather cold in contrast to their own culture’s more friendly style. The company wanted to help these employees learn more about Japanese business culture so that they would have a better understanding of the factors shaping their Japanese colleagues’ work and communication style. We conducted a Working Effectively with Japanese session in Spanish, explaining the differences while also emphasizing the values that Japanese and Mexicans share, such as the importance of relationships, formality, and respect. The Mexican employees were glad to learn the cultural explanations behind the behaviors that they had found perplexing, and believed that the training helped them feel closer to their Japanese colleagues.

Working Effectively with Japanese: Advanced Version

A Japanese auto parts manufacturer that has a network of affiliated manufacturing subsidiaries in the U.S. holds an annual leadership training program for up-and-coming managers at its various group companies. As part of the program, they wanted to cover Japanese culture. Because the participants had worked closely with Japanese for at least 10 years and many had attended previous cultural training sessions, however, they needed to reach beyond our basic Working Effectively with Japanese session to our advanced version in which we customize sessions with material relevant to the unique needs of the participants. In the case of this auto parts maker, we covered decision-making in Japanese companies, and techniques for dealing with internal and external Japanese customers. Using case studies and role-playing, and drawing heavily on the participants’ past experiences, this highly interactive session further developed their ability to be effective in their organizations.

Communicating with Japanese Customers

Success story 01
An American auto parts manufacturer wanted to add Japanese automakers’ U.S. operations to its customer base, but was unsure how best to cultivate Japanese customers. The approaches that had worked with American clients were not bearing fruit with the Japanese. We conducted a workshop that explained what Japanese customers expected from interactions with suppliers, particularly within the automotive context. We then worked with the Americans on adjusting their sales approach to be more effective with Japanese. Finally, we guided them in modifying their PowerPoint deck for sales presentations so that it better stressed the themes likely to be of interest to Japanese. As a result, the Americans were on their way to growing their business by building long-term, productive sales relationships with the Japanese.

Success story 02
An American airport was preparing for the opening of a new direct flight to Japan, after a service gap of several years. Earlier, the airport’s reputation among Japanese fliers had been tarnished by policies deemed to be biased against Asians. Airport management was now faced with the challenge of rebuilding customer confidence, and wanted Japanese passengers to be treated in a manner they found to be respectful and culturally appropriate. We conducted training for all staff at the airport, encompassing the TSA, customs, immigration, and retail workers, preparing them for the types of interactions most likely to take place in the context of air travel. Topics covered included cultural attitudes, how Japanese passengers might behave differently than American passengers, how airport procedures differ in Japan, and how to deal with the language barrier. Participants had an opportunity to get answers to their questions, and gained confidence in their ability to interact effectively with Japanese passengers. The airport’s service to Japan has since continued uninterrupted, its reputation among Japanese passengers restored.

Effective Meetings with Japanese

At a Japanese electronics company’s U.S. subsidiary, the American employees were feeling frustrated with their meetings with Japanese colleagues, including those held in the U.S. and those conducted by videoconference with Japan. The Americans felt that they and their Japanese colleagues often seemed to be talking past one another, and that meetings often ended without a clear conclusion. We delivered a session that started by looking at the different assumptions that Americans and Japanese hold about the purpose of a meeting, and then explored specific techniques that the Americans could use to make communication before, during and after meetings more effective. After applying these techniques, the participants reported that their meetings were more productive, and less stressful.

Effective Business Trips to Japan

At Japanese machinery manufacturer’s U.S. subsidiary, a group of locally hired employees was scheduled to travel to Japan for meetings. Although the Americans had been working with Japanese colleagues and felt comfortable interacting, this would be their first time visiting Japan. They wanted to be prepared and to make a good impression. They had questions about etiquette and protocol, including how to handle social situations such as business dinners. They had heard that they should bring gifts, but didn’t know what would be appropriate. They were also concerned about the dress code. And they wanted to know how to make the most of their limited time during the trip, and what to expect in off-hours conversations. We delivered a focused class for those employees, responding to their concerns in detail and ensuring that they were ready. The group had a successful trip, accomplishing business goals and building stronger relationships with colleagues in Japan.

Working Effectively with non-Japanese

The purchasing department at the headquarters of a Japanese electronics company was tasked with coordinating the procurement of raw materials and components from around the world, interacting with suppliers from a variety of cultures. The Japanese team members noticed that cultural differences sometimes led to misunderstandings, errors and delays, and wanted to minimize these. Asked for our help, we conducted our Working Effectively with non-Japanese seminar, giving the department members a framework for thinking about how they could better interact with the range of cultures being encountered. We discussed the challenges in coordinating complex transactions in the face of significant cultural differences, and solutions for avoiding common pitfalls. The participants came away armed with new ideas for dealing with suppliers and handling challenging circumstances to avoid the previous problems.

Managing non-Japanese Subordinates

Success story 01
A Japanese electronics company had begun to hire a large number of non-Japanese engineers, particularly from China and Taiwan, to work at its headquarters in Tokyo. The engineers, assigned to managers who had never supervised non-Japanese, felt apprehensive about how the experience would unfold. The company was concerned that there might be misunderstandings, or worse, friction. In dual sessions with the engineers and their managers, we showed the non-Japanese engineers how the expectations of Japanese managers might differ from those of their previous managers, and we put the managers at ease by showing them how they could prevent cultural differences from impeding their work relationships. In learning how to handle important communications including instructions and feedback, the managers developed the skills and confidence they needed to work effectively with their new non-Japanese subordinates.

Success story 02
A Japanese trading company was managing its network of offices around the globe with a corps of expatriates sent from Japan. A key part of the expatriates’ work was to supervise the locally hired employees. The Japanese, many of whom were going overseas on their first assignment as supervisors, had frequently reported feeling a lack of confidence in managing their local subordinates. Wanting to strengthen their pre-departure training program to better prepare the expatriates for this aspect of their role, the trading company asked us to design and deliver a session on managing non-Japanese subordinates. Taught by an instructor with personal experience managing an overseas subsidiary of a Japanese company, the sessions focused on the role of the supervisor in managing performance, using tools such as job descriptions and performance evaluations, and gave specific techniques for making work requests and giving feedback. With this content under their belts, the participants were prepared to succeed in this important aspect of their overseas assignment.

Effective Cross-cultural Meetings

At a Japanese auto parts company’s manufacturing facility in the United States, meetings were a significant point of friction between the Japanese and American managers. The Americans were frustrated that Japanese managers did not participate in brainstorming discussions, instead making decisions in separate meetings attended only by Japanese. Meanwhile, the Japanese found the meetings they did attend, run by their American counterparts, to be intensely frustrating. They had trouble keeping up with the fast pace, stumbled over the jargon and slang being used, had difficulty following the logic of the meeting’s flow, and felt unable to get a word in edgewise. We conducted two sessions: One for the American managers to alert them to the Japanese managers’ concerns and help them to modify their communication style, and another for the Japanese managers. Our facilitator explained the assumptions held by Americans about the purpose of a meeting and how these affect the structure and flow of their meetings. She then showed the Japanese managers how to participate effectively in an American-style meeting and how to influence the pace and direction of a meeting. Finally, she shared ways to let native speakers of English know when their speech is difficult to follow. All of this was accompanied by specific English phrases that the Japanese could apply as needed. The Japanese managers felt relieved that there were understandable and addressable factors underlying the challenges they had been facing. They left the session excited to apply what they had learned in order to have more productive meetings with their American colleagues.

Effective Cross-cultural Presentations

At an American financial institution’s Tokyo office, locally hired Japanese team members frequently needed to make presentations to parent company staff in New York. Although these team members spoke English well, and many of them had lived in the U.S. or Europe previously, their presentations were viewed as not being sufficiently persuasive. We worked with them on presentation techniques, with an emphasis on how to be succinct and impactful.

Effective Cross-cultural Negotiations

At a Japanese trading company’s U.S. subsidiary, the Japanese expatriate staff frequently engaged in negotiations with American companies involving investments, mergers and acquisitions, and buying and selling of goods. The differences in negotiation style between Japan and the U.S. were often a source of headaches for the Japanese staff, who were unsure how best to navigate some of the situations. They frequently felt pressured by American demands that were difficult to accommodate in the Japanese corporate culture, and experienced difficulty effectively expressing their negotiating positions. They feared that some negotiations resulted in agreements that were not as favorable as they might have been, and that others resulted in no agreements at all, missing opportunities and wasting time on all sides. Our seminar started with a discussion of cultural differences that affect negotiation, and then went on to cover American expectations and assumptions at each stage of the negotiation process. We shared specific approaches that the participants could employ in negotiations, including strategies and English phrasing. The participants felt empowered by a new appreciation of the reasons behind the difficulties they had encountered, more grounded in an intellectual framework for thinking about the negotiation process, and armed with specific techniques they could apply going forward.

Effective Communication in the Global Workplace

A team at the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese electronics company interacted closely with counterparts in Japan. The Japanese leader of the U.S.-based team noticed misunderstandings and miscommunications between his team and the group in Japan, and felt that the team in Japan would benefit from targeted information designed to help improve communication. He asked us to deliver a session that could give the team in Japan a quick “boost” in their ability to communicate well with the team in the U.S. Using a Japan-based facilitator with significant global experience, we delivered a session that covered communication techniques and English phrases that can be used to increase the effectiveness of communication in emails and conference calls. We also discussed cultural factors that would affect how communication from the Japanese side would be interpreted in the U.S. After the session, the leader of the U.S.-based team noticed a significant decrease in communication disconnects.

Effective Communication in Manufacturing and Technical Environments

A Japanese auto parts manufacturer brought some of its most talented technicians to the U.S. to work closely with American employees on improving the production process. The technicians had never traveled outside of Japan, and spoke very little English. They felt frustrated with their limited communication skills and were unsure how to quickly improve them. We delivered a course that combined basic English expressions that would be used in a manufacturing environment with the basic cross-cultural knowledge that would be needed to forge good relationships with American colleagues. The course was designed to impart immediately useful knowledge in a concentrated format. The participants were glad to have the opportunity to learn information that they could apply right away, and appreciated that their company had offered such support.

Speaking Sophisticated English

The Japan-based managers at an American pharmaceutical company’s Japanese subsidiary interacted frequently with colleagues at the parent company, including senior managers. These interactions often involved negotiations and other delicate conversations in which it was important that they expressed themselves clearly yet diplomatically. Although the Japanese managers all spoke English well, they had concerns about how to express nuances, particularly when navigating difficult topics. This course gave them immediately applicable techniques for expressing their opinions clearly without being abrasive, delivering negative information smoothly, and using positive expressions to balance difficult messages. The participants were glad to have tools they could put to use right away to increase their agility in important business situations.

The Effective Multicultural Team

A team at a Japanese company’s headquarters, made of individuals from Japan and several other Asian countries, worked closely with a group of French colleagues based at the firm’s subsidiary in Paris. When the French group visited the headquarters for a series of meetings, the team’s leader wanted to take the opportunity to increase understanding among the team members and address some cultural and communication style differences that had been affecting their work together. We conducted a teambuilding session in which the group members explored their different cultural styles and learned how those had affected the way they worked together. By revealing to team members the role that culture had played in how they handled certain situations, the group gained clarity on ways to work together better going forward. Pleased at how much old “stuff” they were able to resolve in a short period of time, members were excited about their stronger team spirit.

Global Culture Training

Success story 01
A Japanese pharmaceutical company was conducting research and development at three locations globally – Japan, the U.S. and Europe. The employees at each location frequently worked together on virtual teams, including on conference calls among people from all three geographies. In order to ensure that the teams could be as successful as possible in their crucial mission of developing life-saving drugs, the company wanted to minimize the potential for cultural misunderstandings that might slow them down. Our locally based facilitators conducted training at all three R&D locations, comparing and contrasting Japanese, American, and European cultures. The sessions featured case studies customized to the firm’s situation, emphasizing techniques for successfully managing communication in the three-location virtual-team structure. Discussions brought into the open many of the participants’ concerns about their interactions, and provided new ideas for making these interactions more productive. Now on the same page with similar background information, participants were poised to make the most of their projects’ unique structure.

Success story 02
A Japanese auto company was building a new plant in Mexico. It planned to have a large number of American employees from one of its U.S. based plants travel to Mexico to train their Mexican counterparts on their jobs. The majority of the American employees had never traveled to Mexico other than on vacation, and were not familiar with Mexican culture. The company wanted to provide them with enough information about Mexican culture to forge strong relationships with their Mexican colleagues and complete their knowledge transfers successfully. Our session was taught by a facilitator with deep experience working in Mexico, and focused on Mexican values, communication style, and etiquette, as well as safety, while traveling in Mexico. The participants felt well-prepared for their trips, and the knowledge-transfer project was successful.

Success story 03
A Japanese financial institution had recently hired a large number of Indian nationals to work at its headquarters in Japan. Differences in communication and work style had begun to cause friction between these Indian employees and their Japanese counterparts. The company asked us to conduct a Working Effectively with Indians session for the Japanese employees, to help them learn about Indian culture and gain more insight into their Indian colleagues’ behavior. The session, taught in Japanese by a native of India, explained Indian values and where those that differ from Japanese ones might lead to potential conflict in the workplace. Based on this information, the participants were able to create strategies for increasing the effectiveness of their interactions with their Indian colleagues.

Pre-departure Training

Success story 01
A Japanese camera company that regularly sends expatriates across the globe wanted to ensure that accompanying spouses were prepared for the challenges of adapting to life in a new location and culture. They asked us to conduct a special session for spouses who were scheduled to move abroad. Taught by a facilitator who herself was a “trailing spouse” on her husband’s assignment to three different countries, the session discussed cultural differences and best practices for adapting to life in a new culture. The participants reported that the information provided helped to allay their fears about their upcoming relocations, and they appreciated meeting a role model who had made her assignments successful and enjoyable.

Success story 02
A Japanese auto manufacturer’s U.S. subsidiary regularly sent U.S. employees to Japan on short-term assignments at the company’s head office. During these assignments they were embedded in Japanese teams, working closely with colleagues to coordinate the use of American-made parts in the company’s car designs. The company wanted these individuals to be productive on these assignments and not be blindsided by the Japanese working environment. Although all these employees had significant experience working within the company’s U.S. operation and thus were familiar with the basics of working with Japanese, working in Japan would require an even higher level of cross-cultural skills. We were asked to conduct a pre-departure training session to prepare the participants for working effectively within Japanese work teams and to transition successfully to living in Japan. The participants appreciated the information and felt more confident going into their assignment.

Post-merger Integration

Success story 01
A Japanese pharmaceutical firm acquired a British biotech company, resulting in a management team of Japanese and British working together virtually. The challenging logistics, combined with the cultural and language differences, and the complexity of post-merger integration, led to a breakdown in trust and a refusal by the Japanese side to accept British proposals. We led a two-day offsite session for the management team to address these issues. We began with breakouts for the Japanese and British to tease out issues, then brought the group together to work through these. Afterward, a participant said: “Following the meeting you facilitated with our Japanese colleagues, our working relationship improved immensely and we formed a very efficient cross UK-Japan team.”

Success story 02
A financial institution based in the U.K. was in the process of being acquired by a major Japanese bank. Knowing that the majority of their employees had little experience working with Japanese, the financial institution wanted to make sure its workers were prepared to work closely with their new Japanese colleagues during and after the acquisition. At stake was the ability to achieve a well-integrated and synergistic operation, including new joint business development projects. We designed a customized Working Effectively with Japanese session that addressed the anticipated challenges in interacting with Japanese as well as the questions employees were likely to have during the acquisition process. We delivered the sessions in London, Edinburgh, New York, Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore, using our facilitators based in those regions. Employees participated enthusiastically, asking our facilitators many questions. Afterward, employees felt prepared to collaborate and build relationships with their new Japanese colleagues.

Remote team management

A Japanese IT company had many development teams scattered across Japan and in locations around the world. The teams experienced many of the typical communication challenges faced by remote teams: detachment, insufficient alignment, uncertainty about progress on key tasks, and lack of warmth and team spirit. This created headaches for the headquarters-based teams, including slipped project deadlines and rapid turnover of personnel at the remote locations. Our seminar addressed cultural issues involved in working with teams based overseas, and the general challenges of remote-team communication no matter what the culture. We offered specific recommendations for making task-tracking more transparent and video conferences more engaging and productive, creating virtual substitutes for in-person socializing, relationship-building, and confirmation of one another’s ideas. The workshop format included detailed discussions about specific difficulties that the participants had encountered, and the generation of solutions. The participants were glad to have confirmation that the challenges they were experiencing were common ones, and appreciated the practical recommendations we provided.

Preventing sexual harassment and discrimination

Success story 01
New regulations in the British financial sector meant that increasing numbers of Japanese expatriate managers were now being made individually accountable to the regulatory authorities for their conduct and competence. Yet understanding the existing English-language training on conduct and competence had often proved very challenging for non-native English speakers from a different business culture. We were asked by a Japanese bank’s subsidiary in the U.K. and their law firm to help address this situation. We developed a series of leadership seminars conducted in Japanese that looked at concepts such as accountability, diversity and inclusion, as well as how to interpret terms, such as “reasonable,” that arise in policies and regulations, using real-life case studies and role-playing. The seminars were highly interactive, and resulted in the participants developing a deeper understanding of the material.

Success story 02
At a Japanese company’s U.S. operation, a Japanese expatriate made a comment to an American employee that he did not realize was inappropriate, but which upset the American employee who felt it was offensive. The company realized that it needed to strengthen the sexual harassment prevention training offered to Japanese expatriates. All of the Japanese expatriates had previously participated in the same sexual harassment prevention training as the American employees, but there were concerns that it was insufficient because it had been conducted in English and was designed for an American audience. The Japanese expatriates also needed additional training to better understand American laws and cultural expectations. We provided an in-depth session conducted in Japanese that helped the participants understand not only what is inappropriate behavior in the U.S., but also why it is considered unacceptable in the U.S.

Executive teambuilding with action planning

Success story 01
The management team of a division of a major Japanese electronics manufacturer’s Silicon Valley sales and marketing organization was tasked with launching an innovative and exciting new product. An American, new to working for a Japanese company, had just been made the head of the team, unusual in a firm where Japanese typically fill such posts. In order to meet its goals, the team needed to improve communication among its American and Japanese members so they could work cohesively, and coordinate more effectively with colleagues and senior executives in Japan. We held a bilingual teambuilding session during which key issues faced by the group were brought to the surface. These included American concerns about the communication and decision-making styles of the Japanese, and Japanese concerns about perceived lack of continuity and follow-through by the Americans, and concerns held by everyone about the language barrier and its impact on their work together. During the session, new customs for meetings were designed, roles and task-handoff protocols were clarified, and new strategies for improving collaboration with the team in Japan were created. Implementing the action plans drafted in the session created better alignment within the team and helped set the foundation for their successful product launch.

Success story 02
A new President had recently been assigned from Japan to a Japanese chemical company’s U.S. operation, just as the company was embarking on an ambitious program to revitalize its corporate strategy and culture. The company brought its management team to a resort in the mountains for our intensive, bilingual teambuilding session with the goals of helping the managers to get to know the new President better, to strengthen relationships and create alignment around the new strategy. Two days of intensive discussions, punctuated by enjoyable meals and an icebreaker social evening, helped the group form stronger bonds while hashing out plans for advancing the business. After the offsite, the group had more open communication and better coordination on its new initiatives.

Creating a Hybrid Culture

Success story 01
A Japanese company’s research and development facility in the U.S. wanted to clarify its corporate culture and how it was leveraging the strengths of both its parent company and local employees. At an offsite for its executive team, a hybrid-culture discussion was used as a non-confrontational way to surface underlying issues and concerns about how Americans and Japanese in the company were interacting. The discussion was then shifted to identifying which aspects of each culture were important to reflect, including talking about any aspects that could potentially conflict. The group produced a statement of the key factors that the company wanted to emphasize in its corporate culture, and this was used going forward in internal communications, and as a basis for training and performance evaluation.

Success story 02
A Japanese company and an American company had recently announced the intention to merge. The leaders planning the integration process realized that combining two firms with unique corporate cultures rooted in two very different national cultures was going to be challenging, and wanted to begin laying the groundwork at an early stage for bringing the two together in an effective and respectful way. Our hybrid-culture session for the integration team, conducted in both English and Japanese, helped members to begin thinking about cultural integration, and how to merge in a way that honored both companies’ cultures.

Mission and vision development

A Japanese auto parts company’s U.S. subsidiary wanted to clarify its mission and vision. It had been using a version created decades ago that no longer felt relevant to the employees, who saw it as mere words on a wall. We conducted a session with all of the firm’s managers, including Japanese expatriates and local American hires. After developing a common understanding of why a clear mission and vision were important and how these would be used by the company, we led the group in brainstorming and then wordsmithing a new statement. Because the participants were highly engaged in its development, the company’s mission and vision became meaningful to them, and served as a stronger reminder of what they needed to accomplish and why. The new wording was used subsequently by the company as a valuable communication tool.


An American pharmaceutical company’s highly successful Japanese subsidiary wanted to hold a positive and energizing session during its management team offsite. Switching back and forth between English and Japanese to accommodate the mixed group of participants, we facilitated a conversation structured around the StrengthsFinder® instrument. The session began with the attendees sharing what they appreciated about each person in the room – important positive feedback that is not often communicated when everyone is busy. Then, the group looked at the distribution of strengths within the team and used that as a jumping off point for discussing how the team could enhance its communication and teamwork. The session ended with the participants each creating individual action plans for how they could best leverage their strengths to maximize their contributions to the team. The session left everyone with a smile on their face and specific ideas for reaching new heights together.

Employee engagement and motivation

Success story 01
A Japanese subsidiary in the U.S. had conducted an employee engagement survey, and had been surprised to find a large number of negative comments from employees. Wanting to understand better the context behind the comments, the company asked us to conduct focus groups with all of the department managers, and separate focus groups with team members from each department. We prepared a report to senior management summarizing our findings, including specific recommendations for addressing the issues raised in areas including internal communication, collaboration between departments, and human-resource management practices. We then coached the CEO on how to present the results along with the planned action steps at an all-hands meeting. Employees were glad their feedback was heard and the issues addressed in a timely manner.

Success story 02
An American multinational had conducted an employee engagement survey for all its subsidiaries globally, and found that the figures for Japan were significantly lower than for any other country. The client asked us to analyze the comments that had been submitted by the Japanese respondents, and to put these in a cultural context. Our report helped the headquarters to better understand the local employee concerns about management style, internal communication and corporate culture that were driving the lower engagement, and gave specific suggestions for areas in which the headquarters team could follow up with local management.


Success story 01
A European cosmetics company asked us to coach the incoming president of their Japan operations who was being transferred from France to his first assignment in Asia. We worked to familiarize him with Japanese culture and advised him on navigating communications with Japanese employees and customers while he became comfortable with his new environment. Topics included the distinctive features of Japanese work culture, communicating with subordinates, creating a consistent corporate culture across brands, and diversity topics such as the generational gap and professional women’s issues in Japan. The coaching enabled him to get off to a good start in his new position and build positive relations with Japanese team members.

Success story 02
A Japanese electronics company brought in a non-Japanese executive for a senior position at the headquarters in Japan. Relocating from Europe, he had never worked in Japan nor within a Japanese company. Topics included building positive working relationships with Japanese colleagues, navigating the decision-making process, innovation, and corporate transformation. A group session was also conducted for his Japanese peers who would be working closely with him. The coaching helped the executive prepare for his role as a promoter of change in a way that would be effective within the Japanese environment.

Success story 03
At a Japanese shipping company’s U.S. subsidiary, a Japanese manager had engaged in inappropriate behaviors that resulted in complaints to the human resources department, relating to raising his voice in the office, using harsh language toward subordinates, and making belittling comments to female employees. The company was concerned that if he did not change his behavior, he would need to cut short his assignment and return to Japan. In an intensive 1-day session conducted in Japanese, our coach helped him to understand why his behavior did not match with the expectations of the U.S. workplace. Our coach also addressed issues of culture shock and challenges with providing effective negative feedback in English, which were adding to the expatriate’s stress and feeding into his inappropriate behaviors. After the coaching session, the Japanese manager stopped the inappropriate behaviors; improved his relationship with colleagues and subordinates; and successfully completed the remainder of his U.S. assignment.

Organization and HR consulting

A Japanese machinery company’s subsidiary in the U.S. was experiencing high turnover and was not sure why. Management asked us to investigate, so we conducted in-depth interviews with a cross-section of employees. Based on our findings, we prepared a set of recommendations for addressing issues with the job descriptions, compensation, performance evaluation system, and internal communications that had been the source of employee concerns. We also identified deficiencies in team interactions and recommended training in cross-cultural communication and management skills to address these. After implementing our recommendations, employee morale significantly improved and turnover decreased.

Global Leadership

A Japanese e-commerce company’s headquarters in Japan has an extremely diverse employee base, with a large proportion of non-Japanese from every corner of the globe. The firm’s middle managers play an important role in leading this highly skilled, multicultural workforce to execute complex projects with high quality in a fast-moving environment. We prepared a customized training session that combined management and communication skill-building with cross-cultural knowledge. Participants in the program, conducted for more than 300 people, reported increased confidence in managing their diverse teams.

Servant Leadership

The leader of a development division at a Japanese e-commerce company had become interested in the philosophy of servant leadership and found it very helpful when he applied it to his work. He wanted to share it with his team and have it become the norm in his division. We conducted a full-day servant leadership training session for all the managers of the division at each of its two locations. The participants were enthusiastic about the concepts and were very engaged in the application exercises. Servant leadership became a common language among the managers, leading to a consistency of approach that reinforced itself to become a powerful message to employees.

Feedback and performance evaluation

A Japanese electronics company’s U.S. subsidiary was implementing a new performance evaluation system, and wanted to ensure that its Japanese managers would be prepared to implement it effectively. The difference between the new system and the one used at the firm’s parent company in Japan was a concern in that the new system required significantly more feedback to employees. We delivered our feedback and performance evaluation in Japanese with Japanese-language materials, emphasizing areas most likely to be unfamiliar to the participants as well as tips for delivering feedback effectively in the American environment. The participants were highly engaged during the role plays, building their confidence level for conducting effective performance reviews in English. The roll-out of the new performance evaluation system went smoothly, with the Japanese managers implementing it effectively.

Leadership for Women

Early participants in this newest addition to our roster of seminars, Japanese female managers reported that the servant leadership concept, with its emphasis on supporting subordinates rather than telling them what to do, clearly resonated with them, advancing their desire to develop leadership styles different from the ones they had experienced from their own managers. They enjoyed the practical skill-development portions, with the training room as a safe environment in which to try different approaches. We also had vibrant discussions identifying and challenging Japanese cultural expectations of how women should speak (the Japanese version of the “double bind” for women) and attitudes of Japanese male subordinates toward female leaders. Conducting the session with a female-only group opened another dimension to the conversation, and gave the participants the opportunity to share concerns that might have been difficult to broach in another forum. Knowing that others shared the same challenges helped increase their confidence that they could become the sort of leaders they envisioned themselves to be, as opposed to just copies of the managers they had reported to in the past.

The Leadership Challenge

A Japanese game company’s subsidiary in the U.S. had grown quickly, bringing a number of new managers into the organization. This rapid growth had led to inconsistent leadership styles while preventing timely training. To address these issues, we conducted a Leadership Challenge workshop for all managers in the organization, including the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) 360-degree assessment. The managers found the LPI feedback to be very insightful, and were enthusiastic to have a structured opportunity to develop their leadership skills. In the session they made specific plans for increasing their leadership behaviors on a daily basis. The session also enabled the firm to establish clear expectations for managers about leadership-style.

Encouraging the Heart

A division of a Japanese electronics company’s U.S. subsidiary received the results of a company-wide engagement study, showing the group had received low marks on recognizing good performance. As a way to address this issue, the head of the group requested an Encouraging the Heart session for his management team. The session was an opportunity for the managers to reflect on their own experiences receiving positive feedback, being recognized for good results, and celebrating successes, and learn techniques for creating more opportunities for those in their teams. The participants then made detailed plans for practicing each of the seven aspects of Encouraging the Heart. After the seminar, the managers had a better understanding of why recognition is important, and increased the quantity and authenticity of the recognition they shared with team members.

Change Management

A foreign-owned hotel in Japan was about to undergo a major physical renovation that would result in significant changes to operations. Well-established protocols would be disrupted and there would, at the same time, be major challenges in ensuring that guests would continue to have good experiences. To help prepare, we conducted a change-management workshop for the leadership team during which its members reflected on their past experiences with change, learned about models and techniques for effectively managing change, and planned how to handle the renovation with minimum disruption to guests. The workshop also enabled the team to map out how to communicate with the hotel’s staff to motivate them through the period of intense change. The renovation was completed on time and with no major problems.

Productivity improvement

Success story 01
A major Japanese ICT company wanted to spur thinking among employees about how to improve productivity. We conducted a workshop for participants drawn from different departments across the company. After a spirited discussion about the ways in which the company’s culture either promoted or inhibited productivity, the participants brainstormed ideas for how they could cut out unnecessary tasks, increase experimentation, reduce bureaucracy, and improve relations with internal and external customers. Each participant brought back a list of plans to implement in their work team, and was prepared to serve as an ambassador for culture change, thus seeding new ideas throughout the organization. The event also served to connect kindred spirits from within far-flung parts of the company who hadn’t met previously, and who used their new connections to further network on change-related topics.

Success story 02
A team at the headquarters of a Japanese automaker became the first in the company to adopt Agile software development, and decided to implement the 8 Habits approach to improve its transformation experience. The members of the newly formed team had never worked together, and most were unfamiliar with Agile and its philosophy. We held Part One of an 8 Habits workshop in the afternoon after the first sprint planning meeting, which introduced the participants to the mindset needed to make Agile successful. During the session, the group made specific plans for what kind of team culture they wanted to build in order to support the move to Agile, and decided on specific actions they would take to build that culture. The session also had a significant teambuilding effect for the participants, helping them bond in preparation for the work ahead. Three months later we conducted Part Two of the workshop, focusing on areas where the group needed fine-tuning in how its members worked together. The team was able to implement Agile both quickly and deeply, and the speed and quality of their work gained attention from senior management. One of the team’s leaders reported: “If we hadn’t done this workshop, we would have ended up with Wa-gile (Japanese style Waterfall with a thin veneer of Agile) for sure. Just adopting Agile practices is not enough, we need the spirit.”

Success story 03
A team at a Japanese systems integrator had adopted DevOps a year prior, and decided to conduct an 8 Habits workshop as a way of refining its approach and further boosting teamwork. During the session, the team was able to identify ways in which members had been successful, and areas where they could do better in terms of internal communication, prioritizing tasks, reducing red tape, and implementing new ideas. Specific action plans were created to address areas for improvement, which the team was able to adopt. Individual learning was also significant – later the client reported that one leader whose style had been problematic “changed his approach 180 degrees for the better” after participating in the session.

Writing Coach

A Japanese expatriate responsible for facilitating mergers and acquisitions for his firm’s U.S. subsidiaries served as a liaison between his parent company and local managers during the M&A process. In this role, he needed to clearly and effectively transmit the concerns of the parent company, the seriousness of those concerns, and the alternatives available to the subsidiaries, as well as to explain to the parent company any special situations hampering the subsidiaries. In the process, he needed to build confidence and rapport with all involved. Although competent in English communication, he felt the need to build his skills and confidence. Our writing coach assigned to work with him had a business background sufficient to understand and discuss the issues raised in the communications. After an NDA was signed, our coach was available to edit emails, reports and presentations in real-time. By using examples of the manager’s current interactions and communications, our coach was effective in helping this individual absorb and apply new skills while taking a minimum of his scarce time.

Linguistic Coaching

Success story 01
A Japanese company’s subsidiary in the U.S. requested a series of eight Linguistic Coaching sessions for a group of Japanese employees, ranging in rank from a Senior Vice President to an HR Assistant. The goal was to help them refine their spoken English to increase understandability. Participants experienced quick improvement, with one reporting at the second session that she had even been complimented by her American supervisor for speaking more clearly. The participants found the sessions so valuable that they requested eight more, which focused on reinforcing their improved skills through giving presentations. Participant comments included: “This is what I always wanted,” and “Why didn’t they teach us this before?”

Success story 02
An individual client contacted us for Linguistic Coaching after getting negative feedback on her performance in a job interview. Despite that poor performance, she had been able to secure a callback, and wanted to prepare for the next interview, scheduled to take place in a matter of weeks. In the follow-up interview, she would have to make a presentation. In Weeks 1, 2, and 3 we coached her on the basics. She worked hard and made noticeable improvement from the first day. Starting in Week 4 we discussed the content of her presentation and refined it in several ways. In Week 5 we did a trial run of her presentation, reinforcing basic issues and developing public speaking skills. Two weeks later, she reported that she got the job.

Live lessons

A Japanese company’s Silicon Valley office periodically hosts trainees from Japan for six-week study programs which include attending academic courses as well as meeting with customers and partner firms. The participants have not lived or traveled extensively outside of Japan. As part of the program, we conduct a six-session set of language courses designed to help the participants quickly adjust to using English in real-life professional contexts. The content focuses on introducing oneself, small talk, effective discussions, and presentation skills. The sessions help the participants make a smooth transition to working in the U.S. and support their success in the program.


Success story 01
A Japanese electronics firm had a team of brand ambassadors scattered across Europe, from Russia to the U.K. There was a need for regular virtual as well as face-to-face events that would be educational and also a source of inspiration and connection. For many of the brand managers, Japanese culture, both generally and corporate culture specifically, was unfamiliar and difficult to relate to. The solution we provided was a series of quarterly webinars in which we delivered topical insights into Japanese culture, pegged to a seasonal theme, and related them to the parent company’s corporate culture where appropriate. Topics covered included Japan’s Springtime new-employee entrance ceremonies and Japanese personnel practices, and its New Year’s cleaning tradition and the importance of cleanliness in Japanese culture. During the webinar, the brand ambassadors connected to each other – talking about the situation in their own country, then thinking about how Japanese culture and corporate brand values might relate to their own country’s culture. This discussion prepared them for helping their local staff engage with and understand the corporate mission, values, and philosophy. Excellent participant feedback has made this an ongoing series for the client. The company also licensed the e-learning component for delivery to a broader audience internally.

Success story 02
A Japanese ICT company had a complex international team of the type increasingly used by global firms: A knowledge-management team based partly in Japan and partly in India was led by an American manager based in the U.S. who reported to a French supervisor based in France. These diverse and dispersed team members needed to collaborate closely in order to support customers effectively and to evolve the company’s own internal technology. The team’s leadership saw the need for an intervention that could help break through the communication barriers, but given the geographic distances it was not practical to gather everyone in one place. The Japanese had limited English capability, and while the Indian team was fluent in English, it was spoken very fast, which meant that teleconferencing would also be difficult. Our solution was a face-to-face meeting in Japan, attended by eight Japanese, two project managers from India plus the American and French leaders. The purpose was primarily to help the Japanese understand how to communicate more effectively with people from India and the West, to give the Japanese a chance to express their frustrations, and gain confidence in voicing concerns in English. For the managers from India, attending this session gave them an opportunity to build trust with their Japanese colleagues, and to see for themselves the very different work environment in Japan. The other Indian team members all completed our e-learning modules, and said that it really helped them to better understand their Japanese colleagues.