I used to be the kind of weak-minded person who, when a project went badly, would try to escape personal responsibility by jumping to the conclusion that my boss hadn’t provided sufficient support, or that one of my staff had made errors. In fact, often times it was I myself who hadn’t properly supervised my staff, or who had failed to appropriately report to my boss. It might have been partly because it was an American company, but many other people in my organization at the time seemed to share in this kind of attitude. We would say to each other, “That’s not my fault,” always seeking to shift the focus to something else such as the economy, the staff, or the organization… looking to obfuscate our own role in the matter. It was as if good scapegoating skills were necessary for advancement and promotion. But I knew deep within myself that this wasn’t right, and I wound up leaving that organization and setting out on my own path.
The phrase “no scapegoating” was taught to me by one of our managers who had previously worked for another organization where it was held to be of central value. Rather than putting the blame elsewhere by saying “it was somebody’s fault,” “it was due to some factor,” or “we didn’t have time,” the idea is to see what can be done under the given set of conditions, and then take action. That was part of the company culture. Carefully observing this manager, I noticed that he never made excuses for failures. He would consider what could be done within the assigned budget, and give me a proposal. He would write out the required tasks involved in the project and explain them to his staff. He would monitor progress and report timely to the client. If there was something he didn’t understand, he would research on it himself; if he still didn’t understand, he would ask me relevant questions. He would assume ownership of the project, keep tabs on it from all angles, and push it forward as a whole. He sees the entire project as his domain, and his objective is to deliver the best possible performance in the given circumstance that he is facing. I always have a sense of confidence when assigning him a job, and I admire him as both an outstanding person and an outstanding professional.
I was often discontented when I was younger, thinking that “nobody is teaching me how to do my job,” and later that “nobody is teaching me how to manage.” Looking back on my college days, I was frustrated that I didn’t have enough money. After coming to the US, I would sometimes need to go back to Japan to work and save up some more, so that it took me six years to graduate. Since I didn’t have money, I drove a beat-up car with no air conditioning, which I didn’t like because it was embarrassing to ask girls on dates. I sometimes felt resentful and wished I had been born into a rich family. A few years after finishing college and getting a job, I took a trip back to Japan to visit my family, and I remember watching my father go off to work. He was wearing a threadbare suit and fake leather shoes. I wondered how much a suit and a pair of shoes cost, and why he hadn’t bought some that were a little better… As he had walked out the door, it hit me. It wasn’t that he didn’t make enough money. He had devoted tens of thousands of dollars to my studies in America, as well as sending my brothers to college. He had spent everything he earned on his children. That’s the moment when I realized my father’s greatness. He had scrimped and saved, foregoing the things that he himself wanted, so that he could manage to pay for our university. Without his assistance, it probably would have taken me eight years to finish instead of six. In that moment I became ashamed of the discontent that I had harbored until then, and my heart filled with gratitude.
From the manager who taught me about “no scapegoating,” I realized the courage of taking ownership, the pain of taking responsibility, the humility of learning from others, and the appreciation towards the wonderful staff members who have chosen to work in our company. From my father, I learned the love of caring for those around you with no regard to the wants of yourself.
Ownership, responsibility, reflection, humility, appreciation, love, and occasionally, pain. That is the level of commitment and effort required to demonstrate the ethic of “no scapegoating.” I imagine that I will continue to encounter failure over and over again in the future. However, rather than blaming someone else, I want to continue to ask myself what I could have done differently under the circumstance that I was facing, and whether I really gave it my all.
Unfortunately, my father who taught me so much passed away just before his retirement, having worked hard for his children, living a frugal life to the end. While I was unable to fulfill my filial duty, my father left his children a legacy of love. It may appear to our staff members that I am an unreliable leader, but it is nevertheless my goal to single-mindedly devote myself to creating a company in which, as my father showed me, all are loved and have the opportunity for the personal growth.