Project our abilities into the future
It is now virtually certain that Joe Biden has won the US presidential election. We often see in the media that this year’s election has highlighted the divisions in the country. Many people seem to be pessimistic about the various challenges that America is experiencing, including those relating to race, industrial and regional disparities.
In these times that we are living through, I am reminded of a certain speech.
John F. Kennedy famously said in 1961, “… ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country… ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” The reason why people still remember this speech is that it suggests for people not to simply to wait for whatever the government will do for them even as they harbor discontent with the current state of affairs, but rather to ask what they themselves can do for the freedom of humanity, one of America’s foundational philosophies. America aspires to be the embodiment of a country where, instead of expecting results such as fame and fortune in advance, fame and fortune come about as a natural result of the pursuit of philosophies. Indeed, this is the driving force that has propelled America to become a great power.
The attitude of pursuing philosophies rather than being dissatisfied with the current situation is, I believe, also important for corporations. “Sales aren’t high enough; the products aren’t any good; the employees’ abilities are lacking…” Many people look at their company’s present state and get focused on the negative. But to me, that’s not where the essence lies. Looking back 250 years, the strong country that America has become didn’t even exist yet. Apple, the technology company, was founded in a garage. Without any sales, products, or staff, no one looking at Steve Jobs in that garage would have imagined the Apple of today. But with ‘Think Different’ as his vision, Jobs gathered employees who shared his vision; and he proceeded to grow the company with his dreams fixed on a future that would amaze people with the products, different from others, that they created.
The same applies to addressing employees. Looking at the present situation, it is easy to be dissatisfied with a staff member’s abilities or approaches. While it may indeed be necessary to focus on such deficiencies, I would say that it is even more important to desire the employee’s future growth, working to foster the requisite environment through consultation. When I was younger, I often encountered bosses who couldn’t conceal their discontent with my immaturity or lack of ability, or whose intent was to exploit me. I had only a few bosses who took the time to consider my personal growth and gave me advice for my future. However, those few are the ones that I remember the most clearly. I believe that this is actually at the heart of personnel evaluation.
As a company, I want for TOPC to be focused not merely on evaluating ‘staff members’ current abilities,’ but instead to share an understanding of their ‘future aspirations and future selves,’ thinking along with them about how to arrive at that version of the future.
That means that I myself, as the company’s leader, should not be dissatisfied with our current state of affairs or with our employees, but should be seriously considering what it is that I myself can do for our employees’ future. I am the one who must desire the growth of our staff members more than anyone else in the company, as well as the one who must exert the most effort. While I am far from perfect, I still constantly think about what it is that will facilitate the growth of the staff, and constantly act on that.
If we look at the United States the way it is right now, we will no doubt see many problems. But we should also remember that what was merely a group of British colonies without the right of self-governance 250 years ago declared independence in 1776, proclaimed the abolition of slavery in 1863, established women’s suffrage in 1920, and confirmed the right of African-Americans to vote and take full part in society in 1965, moving slowly in the direction of freedom and equality. Present conditions may still be lacking, but the nation continues to approach its philosophies steadily. We need not be pessimistic, but each of us must nevertheless continue to endeavor in our collective quest for an ever “more perfect union.”
Although TOPC is still a young company, I believe in the future talents of our employees, who have chosen to work here instead of elsewhere, as well as in the eventual fruition of their efforts; and I believe more than anyone else in our future success together as a company. Even if we are lacking in capabilities today, I am confident that as long as we keep striving, we will become equipped with greater and greater capabilities in the future. Far from being disappointed with the present, I am committed to continuing our efforts to realize the future company that we will surely become. That is why, ‘Project our abilities into the future’ is placed at the center of our axis.
I wrote the preceding column in the wake of President Trump’s electoral defeat, and recalling John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech. While various factors contributed to the Trump’s defeat, I think that one of them was his slogan, ‘America First.’ The assertion that America is number one, that the United States is ahead of all others, jeopardizes the equal treatment of other nations. The concept of America being first is a ‘result’ not an ‘philosophy.’ Had there been a convincing explanation to the populace, referencing America’s foundational philosophies, about why the country needs to be strong, the outcome of the election might have been different. In the context of business, I believe that profits are a result, and that people are better motivated to action by philosophies they believe in rather than just numbers. If I can talk to employees about the company’s philosophies, get real buy-in, and move forward based on that shared understanding, the company will absolutely become stronger. These things occurred to me, and, in combination with our business philosophies, crystallized in this column.