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Japan’s World Champions

June 3rd, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General, Leadership

2015 World Kendo Championships

A major event took place in Tokyo this past weekend at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. Held were the 16th World Kendo Championships, and Japan swept the games across-the-board, winning 1st place in the men’s, and women’s individual and team competition.

Men’s Individual Matches:

1st Place  Tadakatsu Amishiro        Japan

2nd Place  Yuya Takenouchi            Japan

3rd Place  Man Uk Jang                   Korea

3rd Place  Hidehisa Nishimura       Japan

Women’s Individual Matches:

1st Place  Mizuki Matsumoto           Japan

2nd Place  Yung Yung Hu                 Korea

3rd Place  Bo Kyung Won                 Korea

3rd Place  Yukio Takami                   Japan

Men’s Team Matches:

1st Place                                              Japan

2nd Place                                             Korea

3rd Place                                             Hungary

3rd Place                                             USA

Women’s Team Matches:

1st Place                                              Japan

2nd Place                                             Korea

3rd Place                                             USA

3rd Place                                             Brazil

Japan Men’s Team Winners

Men's Team Winners Receive Their Awards

The US Team

Japanese Men's Team alongside the Italians, good fighters

I was surprised, and somewhat disappointed that these championships were not widely covered in the Japanese press, although NHK TV did broadcast the men’s team championships on the last day, Sunday.

The World Kendo Championships represent the “World Cup” of Kendo and are held every three years in rotation around the world ever since the first world championship was held in 1970. They have only been hosted four times in Japan, the first one in Tokyo, the 4th one in Sapporo, the 10th one in Kyoto, and the 2015 championships back in Tokyo. The next World Kendo Championships will be held in Inchon, Korea.

Internationality at its best

This is a truly international contest, with nearly 50 countries participating from Asia, Europe, and Latin America. I’ve wondered why this truly magnificent martial art isn’t included in the Olympic Games (along with Karate) and was pleased that the Vice- President of the International Kendo Federation indicated that for Kendo to join the Olympics was his goal.

Curiously, Hawaii had its own men’s team apart from the US team, as did Taiwan, Macao, and Hong Kong and China. Not surprising, most of the players on the Hawaiian and US teams were Asian-Americans.

Men's Japan, Korea Teams Square Off

The most exciting matches were between the Japan and Korea teams. The Korean players were powerful—tall, muscular and aggressive— but the Japanese outpointed with their finesse, grace, agility, and technique. These qualities are great Japanese strengths to be very proud of.

In for the "Kill"

Korea and the US Lock Swords

A champion in the making

Whenever I see champions in any field, whether in the martial arts, other athletes, the arts, business or government. I am always reminded and sometimes chastened by the extraordinary effort that any champion makes. We recognize the greatness but can’t fully grasp the “blood, sweat and tears” that these champions experience to get where they are.  Raw potential is not enough no matter how great. It’s the effort, the hard work, the toil that brings a champion to the winner’s stage.

The All-Japan national championships will be held at the Nippon Budokan next November. It is such a splendid and fitting venue for such a beautiful art, reflective of the Samurai spirit.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

Interface Inc.

©2015 Warren J. Devalier

Leadership

December 11th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General, Leadership


People often ask me to describe a leader. My pithy answer is to suggest that you will recognize a leader when you see one in action.

Some confuse leadership with management. Of course a manager can be a leader and a leader a manager. The distinction is that a manager’s focus is to keep things running, whereas the leader moves things in a new, different direction. The manager keeps the earth spinning on its axis; the leader moves it forward in space.

Often people limit the concept of leadership to the person at the head of a hierarchy. The titular head of any hierarchy in effect holds the reins of leadership, but anyone, anywhere in a hierarchy can exercise leadership, no matter where they position on the totem pole.

Think of flat organizational structures  where each worker pulls the oars of a vessel in co-shared leadership. Sure there is a boss, a titular leader, but the effective leaders in this organization are emergent. Anyone can exercise leadership who looks around, notices that something can be done better, convinces others that that idea makes sense, and galvanizes action, whatever their position. Round the edges in this hierarchy so that its triangular form becomes circular, and each member supports the team like spokes on a wheel. This is very much the organization structure of a learning team in an MBA program. Envisioned this way, the interrelationship of leadership and teamwork is apparent.

In defining the qualities of a leader, I begin with self-awareness. Leaders understand their strengths and are cognizant of their vulnerabilities. They can discern the strengths in others and have the prescience to know that sometimes success occurs despite their actions, not because of them.

Leaders have vision. They know where they want to take an organization, their brains are fertile with ideas, they have seemingly boundless energy, and they are passionate about their beliefs. If they do not believe what they espouse, who else will believe them?

I have never known a leader whose communication was not concise, who could not message, who did not inspire. They might be extroverted or introverted, but in all cases could articulate their vision with the concision (and precision) of a laser beam. As such they are adroit negotiators.

Leaders are good at teamwork, at attracting supporters who embrace their vision, at building a so-called coalition of the willing. And just as they are passionate, they are compassionate and empathic, sensitive to the needs of others and appreciative of the support they receive. They generally set high standards for others and are toughest on themselves. They display mind and heart.

Last but not least, the leader has integrity. The organization may have a written code of ethics that fills a library, but it is the leaders who set the ethical tone with their actions. History is replete with ruined organizations whose leaders did not act ethically. Enron is a prime example.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier
President
Interface Inc.

©2014 Interface

So you want to go to Harvard Business School?

July 29th, 2013 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Interface Times, Leadership

HBS

I can certainly understand your ambition. We have always put HBS at the top of our top school ranking for several reasons, a most important one that HBS produces results: top executives in any field, for profit or not-for-profit organizations.

Over the years (since we began gathering statistics), Interface has helped 55 clients gain admission to HBS:

Number of Interface clients admitted to top schools:

Wharton —164

Kellogg —148

Chicago (Booth) —147

Michigan (Ross) —133

Columbia —95

Cornell (Johnson) —89

MIT (Sloan) —72

HBS —55

Stanford (GSB) —40

Most of these clients were Japanese or from other countries in East or Southeast Asia.

Some of these clients are now among the most successful new-generation leaders in Japan, on TV or reported regularly in the news of the “Nikkei” or “Wall St. Journal.”

What underscores the quality most distinguishing them? What did they have in common?

It was not merely because they were sponsored by their companies, had the highest test scores, or grade point averages. Indeed we have helped clients with low GPAs or GMAT scores gain admissions to their dream schools.

The most important quality our clients had was strong leadership potential. A passionate ambition to make an impact in the world and contribute to society. That may sound hackneyed but it summarizes their most important distinction.

And the secret to our training services is to eschew “template consulting” and to draw out the unique strength of each client, to develop their leadership not just for successful MBA applications but for success in the game of life.

It is may be about unmasking a hidden talent. It may be about helping a client overcome an application weakness.

In all cases, it is about developing the leadership potential of our clients in the critical area of communication. I have never worked for, observed, or known of a leader who could not communicate effectively—as impactful messaging is the prerequisite to build consensus and a coalition of the willing.

It is also about helping our clients develop the other qualities of their leadership though an intensive professional coaching experience. Our clients regularly feedback that their consulting at Interface taught them much more than how to succeed in getting into a top MBA program.

It prepared them for the MBA experience itself and for the leadership capability they desire in their careers and in the community.

Big changes are taking place in the applications process of leading MBA schools: experiential interviewing formats, as in the case of Wharton’s group interview or Harvard Business School’s Post-interview reflection essay.

Many schools have reduced the number of their essays and maximum word limitations for each. These schools include Wharton, Columbia, Michigan (Ross), NYU (Stern) and of course, HBS. Other MBA schools will follow this path.

The principal force driving the reduction is that admissions committees are exhausted reading thousands of overwritten, over-dramatized, impersonal and stereotypical applicant essays.

HBS Classroom

“You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, academic transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores, and what your recommenders have to say about you.

What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

Use your judgment as to how much to tell us. We don’t have a ‘right answer’ or ‘correct length’ in mind. We review all the elements of your written application to decide who moves forward to the interview stage.”

Harvard Business School sets the pace for the first new ground rule—Less (quantity) is more.

HBS has just one essay, said to be ‘optional’:

1.The ‘optional’ essay is not optional.

For the entering class of ’13, Harvard received ~9,000 applications, interviewed ~1,800 applicants, made offers to ~1000, and will matriculate ~900 of those.

Only 5 of those accepted were Japanese. It’s obvious that unless you are married to the Dean’s daughter you had better submit HBS’s ‘optional’ essay.

2.Copying and pasting a stale essay is death.

Most applicants applying to HBS also apply to Stanford and Wharton.

Among the worst mistakes you can make is to submit the Stanford essay “What matters most important to you and why?” to Harvard. The adcom will smell it a million miles away. Ding!

3.Make it personal.

Were we to caption essay components with the pronouns ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘who’, applicants too often bore admissions with essays that exaggerate the ‘what’, give less emphasis to the ‘why’—the thinking behind a decision point —and ignore the ‘who’, the personality.

HBS adcom will see as much as they need of the ‘what’ in other parts of your application. Your résumé should already capture the best of your achievements.

Consider an essay theme that shows them who you are and how you got there in a poignant, personal essay.

Our clients admitted to leading MBA programs have written moving essays that ‘leap’ off the page. You want to join this group.

4.This is a time to be creative.

Stay away from regurgitating achievement-type essays, telling admissions why you want to go to HBS, or making patently flimsy excuses about why your GPA or GMAT is low. It won’t work.

Spend your time and energy crafting a creative essay on a theme not apparent elsewhere.

5.Be concise.

If you can’t communicate in a concise manner, HBS admissions will conclude that you won’t communicate concisely in the Harvard classroom. It takes little to imagine their verdict. Ding! A concisely composed 300-400 word essay gives you plenty of room to articulate your thoughts.

HBS writes that it does not have a “correct length in mind” but I would avoid like the Bubonic Plague an essay exceeding 1,000 words and strive for much less. Target to make your HBS essay fit on one page.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier
©2013 Warren J. Devalier

Athletic legends, world-class heroes

March 25th, 2013 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General, Leadership

Mike Powell, Carl Lewis, Willie Banks at Foreign Press Club of Japan

There’s something special to be in the presence of champion athletes in a world-class all their own:

Carl Lewis, arguably the greatest track and field athlete of all time (10 Olympic Gold metals, former 100 meters world record-holder),

Mike Powell (who still holds the world record in the long jump, 8.95 meters),

Willie Banks, (triple-jump world record holder), philosophical, eloquent, spiritual

Dai Tamesue, former Japanese Olympian, who brought the group together.

There’s something even more special, inspirational actually, that these great athletes came together to coach young kids at the Tohoku Sports Summit 2013, consisting of two events, the Tohoku Sports Coaching Conference held in Sendai on March 23, and the World Record Camps held in Ishinomaki City on March 24. Before the World Record Camps, the sports champions visited Kadowaki-cho in Ishinomaki City to lay flower wreaths in memory of the victims of March 11.

Tokyo Olympics 2020!

Humble, self-effacing, the athletes talked in soft, poignant tones about their volunteer work in Tohoku. “When we told the kids that we would see some of them in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and “saw their faces light up, we knew we had changed lives,” commented Willie Banks.

There’s a touch of “fortuna” or perhaps “irony,” that Wille Banks’ birthday is March 11, and he spoke of how the news of the earthquake and tsunami shook him, a long-standing admirer of Japanese culture. Seeing first-hand the devastation of Tohoku, and the “smiles, laughter, enjoyment of the kids, shows that hope and love will provide the strength for the region to rise again.”

The athletes offered advice to those who aspire to achieve greatness in athletics, yet their tips apply to any leader in pursuit of excellence:

“Never put yourself in a situation where you later ask yourself why you did not try something. Try, and finish with no regrets, knowing that you have done your best.”

“Have a goal, want something badly, passionately. Persevere, and be determined to overcome adversity, turning it into something inspirational.”

“The most important element to become a great athlete is to consider your family as your strongest team. Coaches and trainers are good to teach you technique, but a family’s support is overarching.”

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

3/11 Tsunami opens window of opportunity

July 20th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, Leadership

First and foremost:

Huge, heartfelt congratulations to the Japan team that won the women’s World Cup last Sunday, against all odds beating the US team 3-1 after a penalty shootout.  This was the first time Japan had beaten the US in women’s football (soccer) in 26 games and the first time an Asian country won the women’s World Cup. The Japanese  so-called “Nadeshiko”team overcame aerial strength and height superiority to achieve victory with their Japanese strengths in teamwork (organization, efficient midfield formations), a never-give-up attitude, and gutsy spirit.

And these are the same strengths on world display of Japan following the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami—resilience and nobility to be wonderfully proud of. In fact, the Japan women’s team watched the grim footage of the tsunami to increase their motivation.

Gerald Curtis @Foreign Press Club

Today I attended a professional luncheon and press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Speaking to the group was Gerald Curtis, Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, Visiting Professor at Waseda University, and Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Economic Studies and Tokyo Foundation. Professor Curtis has been among the most widely respected and often quoted commentators on Japanese politics for 40+ years and has repeatedly visited Tohoku since 3/11.

Professor Curtis does not mince words. He lambasted the response of the incumbent Prime Minister Kan, the DPJ ruling party and the opposing party in response to the 3/11 disaster and predicted that Prime Minister Kan will be out of office by the end of August, but he may “not go quietly.” He emphasized the role of a leader as more than someone who can say something boldly, but rather someone who can also get something done. He derided Prime Minister Kan as someone who takes up pet projects, hangs on them tenaciously, and then drops then to move on to something else, without ever having the vision or designing the strategy to bring an idea to fruition.

Putting it bluntly, he remarked that Prime Minister Kan could not organize himself out of a box.

In this political vacuum, however, Professor Curtis sees a groundswell of activity outside of the national realm to give hope:

One is the emergence of local leaders, mayors and governors in Tohoku and other Japan areas who are active, pragmatic leaders, who realize the limitations and bureaucracy of the national administration, and who are taking charge.

Two is the activism of the private sector to help rebuild Tohoku, including Mitsubishi Corp and other companies, which have set up large funds, and Toyota Corporation, which restarted its plan to open an engine factory (and training school for its workers) in or near Sendai.

Three is the renaissance of volunteerism in Japan, including workers who hop on a ‘volunteer bus’ after work on Friday, spend the weekend cleaning up disaster-torn Tohoku, sleep in tents, and travel overnight on Sunday to return to Tokyo for work Monday morning.

The combined strength of these three groups provides vital force to help Japan not only recover but to grow stronger. 3/11 provides the golden opportunity to achieve reform, moving away from the current dependency on high-risk nuclear power generation to the promotion of renewable energies, which draws on the technology strength of Japan, stimulates fresh entrepreneurship, and creates jobs.

With strong leaders in place, Japan can move forward to create a sustainable model for the future and avoid a steady but inevitable decline. Despite a decreasing population, Japan has a rich pool of current as well as not fully tapped high-energy workers to meet its economic needs, including older workers and women.

The victory of Japan in the women’s World Cup and the outpouring of volunteerism to help rebuild Tohoku have given Japanese a renewed sense of pride in what it means to be Japanese, and confirmed the strength of core Japanese values. What’s missing is leadership. Bring forward and develop the leadership potential you have to turn challenge to opportunity. You can and must do it. And will.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier



©2011 Warren J. Devalier


A blueprint for Japan’s future success

June 22nd, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Leadership

ACCJ White Paper Cover

Well, generally I stay out of the crosshairs of politics, especially as I can’t vote in Japan as a permanent foreign resident.

But an article I read today in the Wall St. Journal leaves me with a disquieting feeling, and I pass it along to readers: http://on.wsj.com/lwnXqi

The gist of the article is that neither the lackluster Prime Minister Naoto Kan nor the two leading contenders to replace him appear to be talking about genuine reform in Japan—when March 11, as tragic as it was, presents a golden opportunity to enact needed policy change.

Recently I attended a press conference of three experts who discussed a major White Paper: “Charting a New Course for Growth” Recommendations for Japan’s Leaders. These three speakers were Michael J. Alfant, President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Japan and CEO of Fusion Systems, Kyoji Fukao, Professor of Contemporary Economies, Hitotsubashi University, and Nicholas Benes, Governor and Chair, ACCJ Growth Strategy Task Force and Representative Director of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan.

The ACCJ Growth Strategy Task Force (GSTF) was formed in January 2010 and is made up of 70 people of diverse Japanese and other nationalities and backed by 17 financial sponsors. It drew on the findings of the Fukao-Kwon Report of Hitotsubashi and Nihon Universities and the Eberhart-Gucwa Report of Stanford University. The mission of the GSTF is to provide in-depth, independent analysis to inform policy makers and to offer practical recommendations to the government of Japan in key policy areas, to promote long-term, sustainable growth.

You can read the detailed findings of the task force in English or Japanese by downloading the White Paper on the ACCJ site (far left column):

http://www.accj.or.jp/user/210/index/

The authors see great opportunities and potential in Japan given its large capital base and savings pool, powerful technology base, and strength of human capital.

Fresh Japanese entrepreneurship is critical to sustainable growth

The key findings of the Fukao-Kwon Report are startling and provide a clue to Japan’s growth potential. In the period 1996-2006, independent Japanese companies lost 3.8 million jobs (the impact of shifting production offshore), whereas foreign companies created nearly 150 thousand jobs and new Japanese companies established after 1996 created nearly 1.2 million jobs. Stimulating and supporting this entrepreneurship is the key to future growth.

The GSTF recommends several initiatives to spur entrepreneurship, as described in the ACCJ White Paper, including:

  • establishing an Office of Entrepreneurship in the Cabinet, reporting directly to the Prime Minister, a step to communicate how vital entrepreneurship is to the nation and celebrate successes
  • using innovation awards to draw positive attention to the role of entrepreneurs in bringing innovation to market
  • reducing regulatory barriers that hinder new market entrants
  • encouraging entrepreneurs from abroad to establish businesses in Japan by increasing ease of use and relaxing the requirements for self-sponsorship visas
  • emphasizing private-sector financing and encouraging market-based equity financing of startups and small businesses
  • creating a bilingual and searchable national database with user-generated uploads for underutilized technology that anyone can access

Other GSTF core recommendations are to promote inward globalization through expanded Foreign Direct Investment and more open immigration policies, utilize tax incentives to encourage startups, and enhance services productivity through deregulation. Many people do not know that currently 80% of Japan’s GDP comes from services and only 20% is from manufacturing. I was one of them.

Leadership is the vital link to the whole blueprint

The GSTF firmly believes that with leadership Japan can:

  • become a vibrant center for entrepreneurship, innovation and finance in Asia
  • generate higher rates of per capital GDP growth
  • stimulate a fast-moving economy that creates exciting job opportunities for younger generations
  • attract needed talent and investment through immigration

What’s vitally needed is the leadership to realize Japan’s full upside potential.

And that is where you enter the picture. Make it happen. Create the future. It is yours for the making.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier






©2011 Warren J. Devalier

The Quintessential Pro

June 8th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, Leadership

Ichiro at Bat

I just returned from New Orleans, my home town, which I had not visited since Katrina hit the Big Easy (as New Orleans is dubbed) on that fateful day, August 23, 2005. Much to my relief, surprise and utter delight, the city has made a remarkable comeback. The houses are mostly all rebuilt, repainted and spiffed up, and the music and food distinguishing New Orleans are as good as ever.

It made me even more optimistic that Japan will bounce back from March 11, 2011 stronger, thanks to the resilience and persistence of its people.

And no where is that determination and other strength more evident than in Ichiro Suzuki, in his 11th year with the Seattle Mariners, with so many records of excellence to his credit that they will surely name a street after him when he retires. These include record hits (262) in a single season, and 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons. Ichiro has played in so many all-star games (10) that he is a star unto his own. On April 2, he became the Mariners All-Time Hit Leader, surpassing Edgar Martinez.

The "hitting machine"

Now 37, Ichiro maintains avoids injury by continuous stretching and training likely as hard as or harder than any other player in Major League Baseball. A perfectionist, fans call Ichiro “the hitting machine.” Safeco stadium, the home base of the Mariners, has concocted a special sushi in his honor, Ichiroll.

Setting the pace

Last Sunday, Ichiro was in outstanding form, with a huge two-run triple in the third inning on a slashing liner to right-center, and a laser pinpoint single later in the game, helping the Mariners tally a come-from-behind 8-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. In addition to winning 15 of their last 20 games, the Mariners have won six series in a row, a streak pulling them second behind Texas in the American League West.

Ichiro is the quintessential professional and a role model for anyone seeking a ranking place in global leadership. And that includes YOU.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

post-script—I`ll post an iPhoto video of Ichiro in the next few days.

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

MBA Consulting: 一石二鳥

May 18th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Interviews, Leadership, Test Preparation

The Louvre Back Court

One of the topics that my clients often bring to the table in MBA consulting and leadership coaching is the desire to enjoy a better work-life balance. Well before the tragedy of March 11 and its aftermath people seemed to be working harder and harder and spending less and less time in leisure activities that rejuvenate and actually improve productivity at work.

With the challenging time demands placed on you in your work and in your test preparation for MBA studies, you likely feel that there is just not the chance to engage in extracurricular activities, no matter how much you wish to.

Attractive MBA candidates have an active life outside-of-work

This absence of activity outside of work leaves your résumé looking shallow compared with candidates who balance their contributions on-the-job with involvement in the community off-the-job. When MBA admissions are assessing the attractiveness of MBA applicants, and the quality of their test scores, academic experiences and professional experiences are judged to be similar, the offer of acceptance may well go to the candidate who is active in extracurricular activities.

Clearly, work is the focus of your life but it is not your only life.

No one would suggest that you not focus on your job and strive for excellence in your professional life. However, if you have no activities outside of work since graduating from your university, and you desire to become involved in your community, ask yourself why you have not taken action. The answer is probably related to the need for improved time management.

Good time management is a skill invaluable for the rest of your career, and as you progress in general management in your organization, you will be increasingly involved in activities outside of your office. These will include social or quasi-social activities important in business and client relationship building. They may involve participation in extracurricular professional organizations, like your local chamber of commerce. Or pro bono lectures at local universities.

Learning to “kill two birds with one stone”

A good time manager knows how to “kill two birds with one stone” as the idiom goes, and sometimes more than two. You would be surprised at how much extra time you can squeeze out of a day if you work at it. Remember that the skill development in time management that you acquire during this phase, when your are preparing your MBA application, is an ability essential to succeed in MBA studies, during which you will be required to read, analyze, and discuss hundreds of pages a week of materials written in English, and to interact daily in English on study teams or in group projects with your MBA classmates.

Improve your English in the real world

Most of you are struggling to improve your iBT test scores in preparation for your MBA or other graduate school application, and the most likely greatest challenge for you in the iBT test is the speaking section, consisting of several tasks integrating listening and reading skills with spoken English. Unless you supplement formal study of iBT textbook material with informal practical English discussion in the real world, your improvement may be far less than your potential.

Already worried about being called on in an MBA class? This is the so-called ‘cold call’, in which suddenly your professor may ask your opinion on any of the material assigned for your MBA classes. Don’t wait until MBA summer school to prepare for such English communication. Start now by speaking English and developing English-language negotiating skills to enhance your iBT score, improve your ability for MBA study itself, or for that matter, for your entire life.

Prioritize—Focus—Integrate

You can “kill (more than) two birds with one stone” by integrating the focused study you are doing for the iBT with participation in Toastmasters International, a virtually free-of-charge public speaking organization with branches around the world, and even chapters in overseas MBA and other graduate schools, including Kellogg, Harvard (Kennedy School), and MIT. There is even a Wharton alumni club Toastmasters in the Silicon Valley.

Aside from presenting prepared English-language speeches in Toastmasters, you will also have chances to “think on your feet” in extemporaneous public speaking and discussions of current issues, training that will improve your iBT score, pre-prepare you for MBA interviews, and provide interactive English practice simulating the real world of an MBA student.

Consider, for example, the TABLE TOPICS component of Toastmasters meetings. For 20 or 30 minutes before the prepared speeches, your Topicsmaster will select a topic and call on several members in your group to give an impromptu 1-2 minute response. You may be asked to give your opinion and will learn to concisely present 2 or 3 reasons to support it. Other exercises ask you to state a problem and its causes, indicate a goal and the ways to achieve it, or describe a process.

Many of my clients enjoy Toastmasters not only for the value in developing their English communication ability but also for the opportunity to broaden their international network and develop their leadership as officers in the club. You will learn to speak like a leader. I have never known a leader who could not communicate effectively. Have you?

How to join Toastmasters

1.    Go to Toastmasters International @ http://www.toastmasters.org/

2.    Use the ‘Find’ function to locate a Toastmasters club near you, or start up a club, in itself a leadership opportunity.

3.    In Japan there are 108 Toastmasters clubs, including 19 in Tokyo. Some meet during breakfast or lunch time, others in the evening, some on weekends. Select and visit the club most convenient to you in location to your office or home, or in the scheduling of its meetings.

It’s as simple as that.

Happy Toastmastering!

All the best,
Warren J. Devalier



©2011 Warren J. Devalier


MBA Consulting & Coaching

May 12th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Leadership

Jardin Du Luxembourg, Paris

One of our clients, soon to be headed to Kellogg in the entering class of 2011, wrote some insightful comments on our Home Page, which you will be interested in taking a look at in the testimonials corner or among topics. We post all the hottest news in the MBA world on our page so tune into it regularly. Check out the topics, blog articles, and my tweets to keep you abreast of global issues, MBA news, and articles to help you succeed in your MBA plans and leadership quest.

The greatest reward to us at Interface is to see the growth of our clients and to have played a role in the MBA consulting and professional coaching that helped them. We work as a close team at Interface, and I’m very proud to say that our Japanese staff are so highly educated and experienced that each of them qualifies as a professional consultant in this industry.

This April marked the 23rd year that I have been engaged in MBA consulting, as satisfying as any work that I have ever done in my career.

During those years I have been gratified and moved to see so many Interface ‘alums’ advance into senior leadership positions in their organizations and contribute to Japan, the country that is my home. Like them, you too will reap the rich harvest of the MBA or other graduate studies overseas to develop your leadership potential and serve Japan in its internationalization and continued competitiveness in global economy.

I relish the opportunity to incorporate coaching techniques and methods in MBA consulting. I was certified as a professional coach in the most rigorous and enriching program available, in a program at Columbia University sponsored by Columbia Business School and Teachers College. As part of those graduate studies, I proposed, developed, presented and defended a model geared to develop next generation global leadership through coaching, helping my clients to enhance skills in cross-cultural negotiation, critical reasoning, work-life balance, decisiveness, and time management.

As you embark upon the pursuit of MBA studies, count on Interface to consult and coach you through what will be the most challenging and value-laden experience most of you have faced to date. In coming weeks, I will be blogging several articles designed to assist you.

This will be my pleasure. Stay tuned.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier



©2011 Warren J. Devalier


Impact of Earthquake: Challenge & Opportunity

April 4th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Leadership

A resilient spirit

Today I attended a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan on the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan. Three expert panelists addressed the topic: Kathy Matsui, co-head of Economics, Commodities and Strategy Research in Asia for Goldman Sachs, Kyohei Morita, Chief Economist of Barclay’s Capital Limited Japan, and none other than “Mr. Yen” himself, Professor Eisuke Sakakibara, formerly Vice-Minister of Finance for International Affairs, Ministry of Finance.

True to form, Sakakibara accurately had forecast the appreciation of the yen immediately following the March 11 shock, reflecting repatriation of funds to Japan. He now foresees gradual weakening from the current level of 83.84 ¥/$ spot to 85 rather quickly, and to 90/91 over the next several months.

Morita focused on macroeconomic impacts of the earthquake and tsunami, which he said are difficult to grasp because they go beyond the immediate property damage and lifeline disruptions, including planned blackouts (described as not so well-planned, and therefore unsettling, as manufacturers cannot adjust production schedules to shifting targets). After the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, production turned up quickly but this time the downward pressure on production could be more prolonged, he reported. Morita forecast an uptick in Japan’s GDP of 0.8% for the FY 2011. Sakakibara was more optimistic in general, foreseeing 1% growth in 2011. The views of all three panelists are not inconsistent with the view of the World Bank, which predicted GDP to pick up in the 2nd half of 2011 reflecting reconstruction efforts.

Matsui believes, as do I, that as horrific is the tragedy of March 11, there is a silver lining in the dark cloud of the earthquake. Challenge and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. The people of Japan are united in their resolve to reconstruct Japan. She said that this is the time to look forward, not backward, seizing the moment to enact needed reforms in tax and immigration policy and to promote her favorite theme —“womenomics” —making better use of underutilized (if not unutilized) female resources to counter looming worker shortages in Japan.

She also believes  that a positive impact of the quake will be to stimulate Japan out of its deflationary trap, the bête noire of the economy in the aftermath of the “bubble” collapse. Pressures in this direction were already being felt in the commodity inflation evident in much of Asia.

And Matsui believes that the government should embark on an aggressive PR campaign to boost consumer sentiment and quell some of the sensationalist hype in the press about the crisis, particularly regarding the “radiation shock.” She commented that the radiation level in Tokyo is lower than in Hong Kong and is just slightly higher than in London and New York at this time, as reported by Bloomberg: http://bloom.bg/dMtAaj.

With his inimitable dry wit, “Mr. Yen” took exception to the government’s urging of Japanese people to exercise self-restraint. As a metaphor, he suggested that Japanese should be encouraged to have more (ohanami) parties. A classic Keynesian economist, he believes that the government should pass a 20 trillion yen supplemental budget, which he believes is manageable, as Japan’s public debt to GDP, while high, is mostly owed to Japanese households and not to foreign governments. Given the enormity of the crisis, all panelists favored a supplemental “reconstruction” budget of several trillion yen.

Professor Sakakibara emphasized that a key in Japan’s reconstruction and recovery is leadership, in particular focusing his comments on politics. He felt the government could and should do a much better job of utilizing the technical skills of ministry bureaucrats. He was optimistic that with Japan’s perseverant national characteristic and experience in reacting to “shocks” that the long-term impact of the quake will be positive.

Leadership is always the key. And that is where you come in. Everyone, no matter at what level or in what capacity, can pitch in and demonstrate the collaborative leadership needed to harvest benefit for Japan and manage this crisis. Without a doubt.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier



©2011 Warren J. Devalier


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