Monthly Archives: October 2018


Picture I took at a coffee place in Naraijuku, and the forest walk from Torii Pass to Narai Oct 2018

Ichi-go ichi-e (Japanese: 一期一会, lit. “one time, one meeting”) [it͡ɕi̥.ɡo it͡ɕi̥.e] is a Japanese four-character idiom (yojijukugo) that describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people.

The term is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” The term is a reminder to cherish that many meetings in life are not repeated. Even when the same group gets together again, the essence and chemistry can never be replicated. Each moment then, is unique. Wikipedia

When we treasure the meeting with someone, networking does not need to be inauthentic. Instead of busy engaging in the digital world, we value the person in front of us.

The experience, the conversation, the connection.

As a host to ensure a level of experience possible as there is no guarantee one will have the chance to entertain the guest under the same circumstances again. 

Whether giving a routine presentation, or coaching someone, an ichigo ichie experience. Put down the digital devices and appreciate the moment.

What if I cannot stand my co-workers? Treasuring the moment is about mutual respect.

It is not about being emotional or romantic or best friends forever.

It is about leaving your baggage behind and enter the moment in harmony and boundaries.

Japanese bond with colleagues after work known as nomikai. Despite being introverts, collective cultures like Japan understand the importance of strong workplace relationships. (Often the bill is paid by the boss on company expense.) Although some companies are looking at other activities to improve bonding. This is lacking in most companies today which may be the reason for poor employee engagement – a detachment from your colleague. Bomding is done at an organisation level is not enough, and certainly not the same.

One who smiles rather than rages, is stronger. Japanese proverb

Ozawa: Self assertion is perfectly normal in Europe. Its the only way to survive. In Japan though, people think and think about things until they finally take action – or take no action at all. … I am not sure which mentality is better.

Murakami: Its true in just about any field in Japan. Maybe even in writer’s circles. People cant do anything until they’ve gauged the opinions of the other people present. They look around, they absorb the atmosphere and only then do they raise their hands and say something unobjectionable. That way there’s no progress where it matters, and the status quo is set in stone. #High Context#

Absolutely on Music, conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

A store that sells new husbands opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the
instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates: You may visit this store ONLY ONCE!

There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to The Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door read:

Floor 1 – These men have Jobs and love the Lord.

The second floor sign read:

Floor 2 – These men have Jobs, love the Lord and Love Kids.

Floor 3 – These men Have Jobs, love the Lord, Love Kids, and are Extremely
Good Looking.

‘Wow,’ she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. She goes to the fourth floor and the sign read:

Floor 4 – These men Have Jobs, love the Lord,  Love Kids, Good Looking and Help With Housework.

‘Oh, mercy me!’ she exclaims, ‘I can hardly stand it!’

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign read:
Floor 5 – These men Have Jobs, love the Lord, Love Kids, Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign read:

Floor 6 – You are visitor 4,456,012 to this floor.

There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Watch your step as you exit the building.

Thank you for shopping at The Husband Store.

Below is another version from the worldwide web told to avoid gender bias charges.

The store’s owner opened The Wife Store just across the street.

The first floor has wives that serve you daily.

The second floor has wives that serve you daily, love physical intimacy, have money and can really cook.

The third floor has wives that serve you daily, love physical intimacy, have money, can really cook, and are drop dead gorgeous.

The fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.


Spotted at 8am, Tuesday morning, a group of employees from Tokio Marine picking up trash at Tokyo Station. Enjoying a walk, company branding or team bonding. Just do it.

Picking up trash, sorting out rubbish and tray return.

Tokyo is a clean city. Singapore employs 70,000 cleaners.

Rupp et al (2018) reported that for employees lower in individualism, external forms of regulation, managers explicit expectations on employees’ participation in CSR activities, top‐down approach to CSR management might be more effective in strengthening the CSR perceptions–work engage-ment link.

Cultural diversity of the workforce in developing strategy around the CSR context are likely to result in an engaged workforce through enhanced CSR perceptions and the culturally bound management of CSR initiatives.

These issues need to be balanced with the primary goals of CSR initiatives (e.g., to reduce pollution, support local economies, and defend human rights), as well as the perceptions of other stakeholder groups such as consumers, shareholders, Rupp; Mallory, 2015).

CSR in the Value Chain by Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc.

Deborah E. Rupp et al (2018), “Corporate social responsibility and employee engagement: The moderating role of CSR‐specific relative autonomy and

individualism”, Wiley, Journal of Organisational Behavior (Accessed: 23 Oct 2018)


When asked what languages she spoke, this young lady living in Singapore told us that she speaks Dutch, English, Malay and Singlish. Singlish being the Singapore accented English.

I was so tickled until her father said that she had no problems understanding the aunties and uncles in the neighbourhood markets and often played the role of interpreter for her parents.

Indeed this was something my European colleagues who sent their children to local schools discovered, that their children had less of a problem assimilating in local schools and picking up the local accent proudly.

“A” taught me that morning on car-free Sunday to be proud of my local culture. I shall proudly declare, I speak Singlish. Do you?

Reverse mentoring is when an older person is paired with a younger person to learn from the younger one, fresh perspectives and new technology.

I am hopeful for the iGen who are culturally versatile tearing down all superficial divides, friends without borders and generally more altruistic.

Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish. Ovid 17 BC.


At Enabling Village

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me. Carl Sandburg

‘Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out’, Art Linkletter

15% of students (postgrad or undergrad) I’ve met in universities have an idea where they are going in their career. Majority have no idea. Many feel embarrassed even, that they don’t have a passion.

How can I follow my passion, if I don’t know what it is?

I recently discovered this theory, “Planned Happenstance”, although this theory was developed in 1999 by Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz.

Planned (having arranged the parts) + Happen (to occur by chance) + Stance (a view or attitude).

‘At the core of this theory is the fact that unpredictable social factors, chance events and environmental factors are important influences on our lives.’ John Krumboltz

Planned happenstance theory proposes that career counselors can assist clients to develop five skills to recognize, create, and use chance as career opportunities.

Happenstance opens up sources of new and non-redundant information. Our destiny can change in that one moment.

These skills are relevant for all of us.

1. Curiosity: explore new learning opportunities. Try a variety of activities, to discover what you like or dislike. A lunchtime talk ? A new sport?

This happened to one of my clients who was at a lunchtime talk at his church and sat next to a headhunter working on a project up his alley.

Or my friend AT, in her thirties, found her lifetime partner, at a friend’s wedding dinner. She nearly did not attend because of work commitments. Its not only in the movies.

2. Persistence: keep trying despite setbacks. Mistakes and failures can provide great learning experiences.

3. Flexibility: change attitudes and events. If things don’t go as planned, look for new opportunities as they crop up. Find out top 3 trends impacting your industry.

4. Optimism: believe that opportunities are within reach. Be ready for it. Pick up that skill now.

5. Risk Taking: take action, small steps even in the face of uncertain outcomes. Have lunch with a different colleague every week. Volunteer to do the next company presentation. Champion a cause at the next Townhall meeting.

In “Fail Fast, Fail Often”, the authors cite Jeff Dyer’s research that people who live in a new country for 3 months are 35% more likely to start a new business or invent a new product.

Some ideas
▪Map your luck, map areas of repetition and sameness in your life and replace with activities that bring new experience.
▪Talk to someone you don’t yet know on your course or place of work
▪Learn how to articulate your strengths and interests
▪Look for opportunities to develop new skills
▪Research a new company/ product
▪Do an internship
▪Get a LinkedIn account for networking, research and exploration
▪Keep a learning journal to help you stay motivated
▪Reward yourself, do an activity you enjoy

More ideas:

Luck Is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career. Krumboltz, J., & Levin, A.S. (2004) Impact Publishers.

Planned Happenstance: Constructing Unexpected Career Opportunities Kathleen E. Mitchell Al S. Levin John D. Krumboltz, JOURNAL OF COUNSELING & DEVELOPMENT, SPRING 1999, VOLUME 77

Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win: Ryan Babineaux, John Krumboltz

“What is your greatest weakness?”
“What is something you regret having done in the past?”

Interview questions you hope not to get. If you are not looking for a job, the feared performance appraisal meeting with the BOSS.

What exactly am I expected to say? The good news is that everyone has a weakness. No need to be defensive.

1. Use your judgment
Dont cite weakness in areas which are critical in your job. Such as “lack of attention to details” in accounting. Or something irrelevant like not being able to sing, if you are a banker.

Interviewers are also not expecting “confession box” answers. The interviewer is not a therapist, so now is not the time to talk about the skeletons in the closet. It may also reveal a candidates lack of common sense or not having done sufficient research by checking out critical competencies. I recall candidates who let their guards down to talk about feeling inadequate and not being sure if they are up for the job. Leave it out, or better still, don’t apply for the job. Maybe a recruiter appreciates your being candid? Not often.

2. A strength overplayed can become a weakness

One possibility is to talk about how our strengths can work against us. A double edged sword of sorts.

Fear your strengths“, Robert Kaplan advised. When you have too much of a good thing, it can interfere with your leadership. In his research, Kaplan cited Enron’s Schilling who was a forceful character to the extent that he would bulldoze audit checks.

Dont just understand your strengths, understand what happens when you overuse them.

Example. Steve Jobs was famous for his attention to detail and design for his products. However, if attention to details cause you to miss deadlines, that becomes a serious problem. One must be ready to ship.  

Also avoid overused labels like ‘I am a perfectionist’ which indicates lack of self awareness or condescending to others in the team.

Kaplan’s Leadership Versatility Index (LVI®) measures versatility on two major pairs of opposing but complementary leadership dimensions:

Forceful vs. enabling
Strategic vs. operational

Image result for leadership versatility index

What can I do?

3. Self Awareness and Willingness to get feedback

Show the interviewer that you are aware of this gap, and how it can interfere with your team’s productivity.

Building on the example above, show your willingness to listen to feedback or proactively sought feedback when you observed that the strength had become a weakness.

Leaders need a team to keep themselves in check.

In “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts”, Marshall Goldsmith suggests that  getting feedback is our first step in becoming more mindful about the connection between our environment and our behavior.

4. Working on your weakness.

  • Choose small changes
  • Adopt a regimen
  • Get counterweights or people in place to remind you (deferentially) or
  • Using “triggers” like a photo or a 2×2 card as reminder
  • Accountability
  • Daily reflection question

On that note, top coach Marshall Goldsmith comes up with a list of 40 questions and pays someone to call him daily as a commitment device.

A leader who is forceful, may need to dial back, and be more enabling. Spend time listening and supporting, rather than rushing forth to take charge of a situation.

This was something Linda learned as a manager, over-talking when her subordinates remained quiet.  Something she learned, was to refrain from over-talking and using the “pause” to help her, and asking for feedback.

So what’s your strength?


Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem: Robert E. Kaplan, Robert B. Kaiser

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (2015).

#21st century skills#