Message from the President Aug.2007

a monthly magazine for our employee Aug.2007

“Kyoji”: Taking Pride as a Professional

In August each year, I write on a topic befitting summer vacation that prompts all Meitec employees to think about their career plans and life plans. This year, I’ve taken up the theme of “profession,” a major foundation pillar of career and life plans.

2.“Kyoji”: Taking Pride in Oneself
“Kyoji” is one of my favorite words. Although not widely used today, it’s a word that always comes to mind when it’s necessary for me to make a major decision. The dictionary defines “kyoji” as “the pride stemming from a belief in one’s capabilities.” But to me the word has a broader definition, so I understand it as “something about which a person won’t compromise under any circumstances, in order to remain true to oneself.” Here, we could replace “oneself” with numerous other words, depending on the situation: “a member of society,” “a worker,” “a member of an organization,” “a member of the family,” “the self relative to friends,” and “the self one wants to be,” to name just a few.

Because I’m highly aware of being an executive member, it follows naturally that I often find myself thinking about “my professional pride as an executive.” For instance, when I speak to any employee, client or shareholder, I consider whether what I’m going to say is based on my personal belief as an executive officer. At the end of each day, while soaking in the bathtub, I ask myself how successful I’ve been that day in maintaining professional pride as an executive. There are still many days when I feel a sense of inadequacy or have regrets. So I start over again every day.

3.Work that Gives a Refreshing Feeling to Others
I consider “pride as a worker” synonymous with “pride as a professional.” Whatever the profession, the work performed by a person who has professional pride gives a refreshing feeling to others.

I love playing golf, and play a round of golf about once a month. My scores, of course, depend on my personal condition but are also influenced by the caddie. In other words, my golf score depends on whether or not the caddie is professional-minded. In my personal opinion, a professional-minded caddie pays close attention not only to where the ball lands but also to the player, and is devoted completely to helping the golfer have a pleasant playing experience. For example, some players seek advice from the caddie on every shot, while others don’t. The point’s that the assistance must match the golfer’s playing style. Otherwise, advice that’s useful to one player becomes nothing but “noise” to another player. Watching a caddie who’s aware of this and provides personalized assistance matching the style of each player gives me a refreshing feeling. Then I can play with a feeling of exhilaration and finish with a good score.

On the other hand, there are some caddies who force their working style on me. In a situation like that, my immediate reaction--before even considering whether the style suggested works for me--would be to question whether imposing one’s own style on a player is appropriate at all for a professional caddie. Then my scores would start to deteriorate. When I holed out, I’d try to take comfort in the fact that while playing golf I could learn a lesson about how a professional should act. Humbled by mental “immaturity,” I’d discreetly get rid of my scorecard. It’s my understanding that golf caddies with professional pride know their job is to “help the golfer enjoy playing golf.” Those who lack this pride think their job is to “accompany players and ensure they won’t hold up the game.” I wonder which working style allows caddies to take pleasure in their work as well as feel proud of their job.

A little while ago, I developed lower back pain and since then have been taking acupuncture treatment every so often. My acupuncturist engages me in small talk, in the course of which he finds out--without my knowing it--how I spend my daily life and identifies the cause of my trouble. Before performing the actual treatment, he explains fully what my trouble is and how he’s going to address it. In other words, he exercises accountability to patients while reassuring them at the same time. I recognize professional pride in his attitude. When I meet someone engaged in a profession, I judge whether I want to work with that person. I base my decision on whether that person takes pride in his or her work. It’s not that I demand the person deliver a high level of performance. I’m convinced you can devote all your energies to your work, as long as you feel proud of your occupation, whatever it may be. And as you become more skilled in your work, you’d be able to remain humble. I believe that even when you face a difficult situation, professional pride enables you to carry out naturally what you’ve judged needs to be done, unflinchingly, calmly and without demeaning yourself. Isn’t it true that work performed in this way will give the people you’re partnered with a refreshing feeling and make them want to have more opportunities to work with you?

4. The “Kyoji” of a Professional Engineer
In a conversation with Meitec engineers, I often recognize their professional pride.

When an engineer says to me, “I’m very sorry, but I can’t divulge this even to the president, because it’s the client’s classified information,” I recognize the professional’s pride: “The client has entrusted the job to me as a professional engineer, and I can’t betray that trust.”

When a client makes the request, “We’d like to get Mr. A again, whose contract expired two years ago,” then I know Mr. A has professional pride, because he’s made the client feel he’s indispensable to their work.

When a client says, “Although Mr. B’s a Meitec engineer, he’s delegated by us to handle the new graduates from Meitec,” then I find professional pride in Mr. B, who’s earned the client’s confidence in all three of the key elements necessary in work: cost, quality and speed.

When a Meitec employee says, “I had to work all night long, but managed to meet the deadline. Engineers at the client company and I congratulated each other, which made me feel immensely happy,” again, I see professional pride.

“I felt a sense of achievement when the manager at the client company thanked me in person.” That’s professional pride talking.

Those Meitec engineers who resolve to “observe the dress code more thoroughly than do the employees of the client company” and conduct themselves accordingly demonstrate professional pride.

I recognized the pride of a professional engineer when an engineer who rejoined Meitec through the Come Back System told me, “The experience of working at a different company has made me realize that being an engineer is the occupation for me. That’s why I returned to Meitec.”

The list goes on and on. Professional pride found in each of the 6,000 Meitec engineers constitutes not only the company’s DNA but also the source of the “industry’s No. 1 brand.” Meitec is a group of people who share professional pride. That’s why it succeeds in functioning as a team when members stimulate each other and grow together.

5. The Difference between an Amateur and a Professional
If you play golf the way I do, you’ll never become a professional golfer. What I mean is, leaving your golf skills aside, you won’t do well as a pro if you let your score be affected by the behavior of caddies or by the play of other golfers on your team. Every now and then, amateur players like me can hit a superb shot. If you look at just that particular shot, then there seems to be very little difference between an amateur and a professional player. In fact, I think the biggest difference lies in the high degree of “reproducibility.” One of the things that makes a professional golfer, it seems to me, is having it: the ability to keep hitting the same good shots--not just by accident when you’re in good condition--as you do during practice, in any situation or mental condition.

This feature doesn’t apply only to golf; we can say the same thing about work. In your work, sometimes you get lucky and things go well by accident. But unless you truly have ability, you won’t be able to produce good results consistently. And conversely, unless you can turn in a good performance continuously, you won’t win the esteem given to professionals. You must transform good results arrived at by chance (a coincidence) into reproducible results (something inevitable). That’s the boundary separating the amateur from the professional. And it’s professional pride, or taking pride in your work, that makes it possible for you to cross this border.

August, 2007