Part 2 of our interview with Kimberly Wiefling, President of Wiefling Consulting, and Executive Editor of the Scrappy GuidesTM and Author of “Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces”, continues below.
Japan-US Business News: What are the most demanding conflicts you face?
Kimberly Wiefling: Conservatism mainly. Some companies are too conservative to overcome their resistance to change. On the individual level—fear of failure, shame, and aversion to making mistakes hampers the professional growth of global business leaders. My teaching definitely involves a ‘reframing’ of the Japanese way of thinking to encourage people to embrace mistakes and failure as stepping stones to success. We teach that when you feel uncomfortable, it is a good thing because it means that you are changing. That means you are getting your money’s worth from our programs!
In group situations involving people from different countries, we need to overcome assumptions, beliefs and stereotypes about others - Americans think this way, or the Japanese think that way. In stereotypical fashion, for example, Japanese think Americans are all cowboys; European thinks Japanese are too conformist. We cannot use stereotypical generalizations to judge the individual. In the groups I teach, I ask them to look at each person individually and they will often be very surprised to see that an American can be conformist and a Japanese can be the lone cowboy in the room.
Changing mindsets is always difficult. At the organizational level—it is sometimes hard to find a sponsor to support these types of efforts - one who knows the value in truly creating global leaders and is willing to make that investment. It is a huge investment yes, and it is an ongoing process that requires support from managers and long term accountability. But it is invaluable. When our workshop participants return to their regular jobs they need the support of a sponsor and their managers to sustain the changes we help them achieve.
Japan-US Business News: What things do you find personally rewarding and satisfying?
Kimberly Wiefling: I get a feeling of elation when I see people’s face change when they realize that they are capable of achieving more than they ever thought possible, that they can do the impossible. They realize that they have the power to achieve, make their dreams come through. To see the businessmen and women in my programs blossom and throw off self-imposed limits, and create, dream, fly, thrive is a real thrill for me. When I see that change, I sometimes cannot even believe it is the same person. I am a part of unleashing people to their greatest potential. Now THAT is EXCITING!
Japan-US Business News: What have been the rewards and trade-offs?
Kimberly Wiefling: Of course there are trade-offs as there are in any business really. I travel a lot—I am in Japan about 1 – 3 weeks a month. I sometimes do not have enough time to spend with family and friends etc. I’m in hotel most of the time, and sometimes it does get a bit lonely even with all of the Facebook, Skype and Twitter action.
But there are great rewards and that gives me balance. Being a part of Japanese society and learning about this amazing culture and its people has been quite an education. Traveling, learning a bit of the Japanese language, getting to know people by visiting their homes—being a part of this society that is so wonderful has been a real treat for me!
Japan-US Business News: Do you think you path is conventional or very different than the route that a woman usually takes to achieve success?
Kimberly Wiefling: Yes, of course my path was different. Over the course of my career, I have entered into many unusual areas such as physics, engineering, and now working with Japanese businessmen (mostly men). In Japan I am not considered a woman, actually, but more like an alien. The biggest compliment that anyone has ever paid me is that I am a "force of nature." Actually, I'm not sure they meant it in a positive way—they certainly could have been referring to destructive forces like hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and the like. Nevertheless, Mother Nature is one of my favorite gal pals, and I'm pleased to be associated with her in this way.
" I am a glass of water searching for thirsty people”
Neither of us (me or my Japanese colleagues) completely understands the other so we are in this process of working toward transformation together, sometimes groping our way forward, lurching fitfully in the direction of our goals and dreams. Here I am, a blonde wild wacky women working with Japanese leaders, managers and executives! It’s unthinkable in a way, but it just works.
Why? Because what they want is change, and they cannot get if from traditional management consultants who have been doing the same thing, the same way forever. If it ever worked, it doesn’t now. And it’s tough for Japanese speaking Japanese consultants to create the radical change we are creating within the Japanese cultural framework. My team and I are free to be wildly creative in the service of our clients.
The world has changed. Certain top companies have not evolved as they need to in order to survive and thrive. But crisis builds consensus, and there are more and more companies out there that want to enter into new territory, apply new approaches, those are the people and companies, the new thinkers that I am there to help.
Japan-US Business News: What do you want to see happen for women in Japan? In Japanese business and in the global business arena?
Kimberly Wiefling: I want to see Japan make use of the talented people they have available regardless of gender. Women are very underrepresented in corporations at mid-high level. With a projected 22% plus shortage of labor looming over the coming years, women should have the opportunity to step at corporations as they have never been able to before.
Japan-US Business News: Is there Mentorship in Japan? Among women?
Kimberly Wiefling: Oh yes and it shouldn’t stop there. Both male and females with wisdom and experience should be mentoring. Every businessperson needs a mentor. I’ve had many and they’ve helped me tremendously over the years.
Japan-US Business News: What do you want to say to the world about Japanese women and their business acumen?
Kimberly Wiefling: The women I have encountered are extraordinary, brilliant, courageous, creative, and they have done what they needed to do to be successful, often against great odds and with tremendous opposition. They have an “unstoppable spirit”
Japan-US Business News: What is the one thing that Japan needs to do that it isn’t doing to truly be the global powerhouse that its status as the third largest economy demand?
Kimberly Wiefling: The economic center of the world is shifting to Asia. I want to see Japan step into its economic leadership role in Asia fully. If there is ever to be an Asian Union like in Europe, Japan needs to help lead that from dream into reality.
I would like to thank Kimberly Wiefling for sharing her story with Japan-US Business News and its readers ---Yvonne Burton
Kimberly Wiefling is Founder and President of Wiefling Consulting, and Executive Editor of the Scrappy GuidesTM, and the Author of “Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces”, growing in popularity around the world and published in Japanese by Nikkei Business Press. Scrappy Women in Business: Living Proof That Bending the Rules Isn’t Breaking the Law, a compilation of a dozen women’s stories, was published this past summer. Kimberly can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org