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Global Business Skills


The Importance of the Three Pillars and English Skills【Part1】


In my previous article, I talked about the three pillars necessary for a global businessperson in today’s diverse business environment. Of course, being able to communicate comfortably in English is one of these three pillars. (The other two are business skills and intercultural communication skills.) And while the vast majority of Japanese businesspeople today are either ambivalent or openly hostile towards English, there is no escaping the fact that these same people recognize that they need English in their future careers. According to our latest data taken from Japanese business people in our seminars, 73.8% are either ambivalent or hostile towards English. At the same time, 94.3% say that English is (to some extent, or very) necessary for themselves and their companies.

As you can see from these data, there is a huge shift in opinions. People don’t like English, but they know that they need it. But that in itself is understandable. And it is not the fault of the seminar participants. It is the fault of the Japanese English-language education system at the time which did not help to prepare them for successfully navigating the global business world they would face as members of society in situations where they would need to use English. So it’s not surprising that many people have a kind of English allergy.

But if it were only English, Japanese companies could go to my home state of California to find Japanese kikokushijo (Japanese returning from studying abroad). They undoubtedly have excellent English, but do they have commensurate business skills to support their control of the language? Maybe some people do. And some people don’t. Simply being able to speak English is no guarantee of success in today’s global business environment. Let me relate a sad story. A few months back, we were facilitating a global meeting for a large Japanese corporation at its headquarters in Tokyo. There were meeting participants from all over the world. One of the presenters was a Japanese who had almost native control of English. (I found out later that her TOEIC score was 975 – a perfect score is 990.) Yet, her presentation was painful to watch. She had very dense PowerPoint slides, made no eye contact with the audience, used her laser pointer like the bouncing ball in a Showa-era karaoke song, and simply read the information off the screen. Many of the audience members, especially those from Europe and North America, were so frustrated with her presentation that they eventually gave up listening to her and started checking their emails on their smartphones. Just being able to speak English fluently is not enough, then. Business skills, from making effective presentations to negotiating million-dollar contracts, are also clearly necessary.

But even if you achieve the maximum TOEIC score and have a first-class technology certification (技能検定一級), if you can’t read other people’s ways of thinking, you won’t really be able to display your full ability in a global business environment. That’s why the shared commonality for the three pillars is the real target, i.e., the person who has the language ability (English, and if stationed abroad, also the local language), who has the business skill, and who also has the intercultural awareness to be able to navigate this global environment successfully.

What I have just described above represents the core philosophy of LGS. We give our participants a set of practical tools that they can use to identify any gaps in joushiki between themselves and their business partners and then to take action to close those gaps. Of course, we need some frameworks, or measuring tools, to identify and measure/quantify these gaps so that we can take steps to close the gaps. We call these frameworks “Maps.” Our program director, Gaz Monteath, has written an entire series about the LGS Maps and their relevance in global business. Please contact us if you are interested in reading them.











Robert Hilke