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2017-11-27 Issue 25 Fundamental Behavior 24 – Be An Ambassador
As we approach the last two of our Fundamental Behaviors, I hope everyone can see how related all 25 are to each other. Yesterday I saw the preliminary results of the recent survey where we asked some of you which of the Behaviors is your favorite. Thus far, the favorite is #1, “Do the right thing, always.” As we thought and hoped, #1 really says everything we need to say about creating the corporate culture in which we all desire to work. So your responses were very reasonable and extremely helpful as we move forward with our Fundamental Behaviors initiative. I would like to thank those who responded.
We can say something similar about this week’s Behavior, #24, “Be an ambassador.” I’m sure everyone has an idea of what being an ambassador entails, but I wanted to know the dictionary definition. I looked up “ambassador” and found an interesting distinction between being an official Ambassador, such as the “Ambassador to the United Nations,” and being an unofficial ambassador, such as we mean in Fundamental Behavior #24. According to the dictionary, an official Ambassador is “a diplomat who is sent by her/his country as an official representative”; an unofficial ambassador is “a person who acts as a representative of a specified organization.”
So as we go through life, we unofficially serve as an ambassador for our family, our town, our country, and our company. If we travel overseas, we are an unofficial ambassador from our native country. We hear stereotypes about people from various countries, so one thing we can do is try our best not to let these often-negative stereotypes describe our behavior. In many countries, for example, we hear about the “noisy Americans.” I regret to admit that when I’m in a hotel lobby or on a train in Japan, sometimes it is very easy to spot a group of Americans … by the volume of the noise they are generating. So in those crowded circumstances, I try to be quiet and respectful to the people around me. I want to be a good ambassador for my country so that the stereotype might be improved.
And when we are away from work, we represent YKK and/or YKK AP by the way we look and the way we act, and therefore we definitely are ambassadors for our company. When we were talking about taking pride in our appearance (FB #22), we discussed my hope that everyone would be proud to work for YKK and YKK AP, and would want to look and act our very best. In other words, we were talking about being an ambassador for our company, about being proud to tell friends and strangers about the wonderful people with whom we work every day, and about our working environment that is safe and clean — because we make it so! Ideally, we will take pride in our appearance and we will seek opportunities to say good things about YKK. Some people would say that we are brand ambassadors when we are in public. And we are culture ambassadors inside the company, when we are leading discussions about the Fundamental Behaviors or about safety or the quality of the products we are making. These discussions will lead us right into next week’s Behavior, our last one, which is Behavior #25, “Be positive.”
One time I was on the train from Kurobe to Tokyo and was sitting next to an older gentleman. I was reaching for a book to read when I decided that I was going to talk with the gentleman, instead of read. My Japanese languages skills are weak, but somehow we were able to communicate. He was very friendly and explained that he lives in Kurobe, but travels frequently to Tokyo for cancer treatment. He and his wife had rented an apartment in Tokyo so they could rest there after he receives his treatment. We talked for about two hours and I was sad to say good-bye to him when we reached Tokyo station. I assumed that was the end of it, but about two months later I received word that the gentleman was a friend of Mr. Yoshinori Kitano who had been our first incredible plant manager in YKK Macon. Mr. Kitano retired from YKK Japan about ten years ago, but he sent word to me that he was so happy I had met and spoken with the gentleman from Kurobe. When I took time to engage the gentleman in a conversation, I didn’t consider myself to be an ambassador and I had no idea that the gentleman knew anyone at YKK, I just wanted to speak with him. But it turned out that the gentleman was very pleased to have met someone from YKK in the United States and he went to the trouble of telling Mr. Kitano.
As an official YKK or YKK AP Ambassador, I hope you will develop a 2 or 3-minute “elevator speech” so that you can quickly explain to someone about all the different products we make for so many different industries and the type company we are in terms of corporate culture. I hope some of your discussions this week will include how you would describe our company to someone who had never visited us. I can assure you that if someone has not visited one of our manufacturing plants, she or he will have no idea of how complex our business is. At the most, they know we make zippers for jeans or jackets because they have seen “YKK” on their garments.
They do not know about our work in the automotive, safety, marine, government, commercial building, and home construction industries, among many others. The topic of one speech I like to make is “YKK: Zippers and so much more; adapting through innovation.” I carefully chose each word in that title because a) the general public has no idea of the thousands of fastening and architectural products we make in addition to zippers, and b) they cannot comprehend the challenges we have overcome to keep our business strong and growing through all the changes that have taken place in our economy over the past forty years. It’s a great story, so I hope you’ll think about it and be prepared to fill the role of ambassador the next time someone asks, “What do you do?” Please look for opportunities to be a YKK Ambassador and please take pride in your company!
Chairman and CEO
YKK Corporation of America