The Mind of Putting Others First

Japan is known as a very polite society. People bow to show respect and to greet one another with a measure of humility and respect. Drivers are very patient with each other and with pedestrians and will quietly wait for others. Sometimes while waiting for a red light drivers will turn off their headlights to avoid shining their lights into the eyes of others. Vending machines are places in all sorts of places and they are left alone—I’ve never seen any of them vandalized in any way. When using an escalator everyone lines up behind one another on the left side leaving room for anyone who might want to walk up more quickly.


The best way to show others how important they are to you is by putting them first. Giving your friend the biggest piece of cake, your relative the most comfortable seat in the restaurant, your guest the center position in the photo, or baking a cake and sharing it with your neighbors are all part of everyday life in Japan.

Focusing on our own needs can protect us from burnout and other negative consequences. However, in the leadership world, this focus often crosses into a decidedly more selfish territory. In today’s complicated workplace, if you don’t put other’s needs before your own, you will lose in the long-term. If losing in the long-term isn’t big enough, when you put the needs of others before your own as a leader you do two big things.

The biggest investment you can make in your people is your time. Your team wants to spend time with you. Giving your time is a surefire way to let them know how much you care. Spending quality time with your team will impact their job performance directly and will, therefore, have great impacts on your bottom line. Spend time connecting with them as often as you can. Talk to them about non-work related topics and show genuine interest in them as a person. You’d be surprised how much this will mean to your team.

A final thought

So, whilst you might be a very integral cog within your team, you are a lot less integral without the people beneath you. Pay them heed by showing them you understand that it’s not all about you and that business success is dependent on them as much as it is you.

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