Re-examining Rules For Success

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.

As countries reopen and work on restarting their economies, we find ourselves in a new world — one where there is much debate about the right way forward.

Will we ever return to the way things used to be? Or is the world forever changed? And if so, what is the new normal? We don’t yet have the answers to those questions, but we can start by thinking about how the ground rules might have shifted.

I have long been a proponent of rules: as a guide for connecting people across an organization; as a way to define clear principles for behavior and shared values. If we can agree on these basics, we can do our jobs with confidence. It was this thinking that lead me to codify the Five Principles for Success for Rakuten and then later to collect a more complete list of rules in my book, Business-Do.

Now, of course, much has changed and may continue to change in the coming months. So I’m starting my working list of new rules today.

Cultivate your work community

At heart, a company is a community. It’s made up of individuals with shared goals and social connections. We must remember the importance of cultivating those social connections between people at work. That’s key to a healthy company culture. It can be harder to create and cultivate that common culture when a lot of interaction is online. I believe a hybrid of online and offline interaction will be crucial, because of that essential need for a healthy, vibrant and dynamic work community.

Set mini goals

Even as some offices open, many of us will still be working from home. To maintain productivity while working remotely, set micro KPIs. At Rakuten, we frequently set KPIs to ensure we stay on track and meet our goals. I recommend shrinking this process down to help you stay engaged while apart from colleagues. Instead of just quarterly and weekly goals, set daily, even hourly goals. This will help to keep you focused even when faced with the inevitable distractions that come with working from home. It’s hard to put chores such as housework out of our minds when we are staring them right in the face all day. KPIs can help us all stay focused on work during work hours.

Use video conferencing creatively

Most of us are frequent users of video conferencing platforms for meetings. I suggest looking for additional ways to make the technology helpful during periods of dislocation. Some of our teams have been staying connected via teleconferencing tools all day, so that the discussion and camaraderie we derive from teamwork can extend into our home offices.

Set transparent goals

If you are a manager or team leader, there has never been a more critical time for transparent goals. Be sure to communicate your goals frequently. Remember that there is no casual office water cooler chatter to help spread your intentions.

Pay attention to your energy in meetings

This has been a challenge for me. I find I have to work harder and communicate more in virtual meetings than I did when we could all sit around a conference table. In fact, with less time between meetings for moving from room to room or another location, days of continuous meetings can require intense sustained concentration, so be careful you’re not burning out! When you’re in the digital room, though, make the extra effort to project yourself and bring positive energy to the table.

Don’t wait for business travel to come back

It’s likely someday that we will be able to travel as we used to, but right now, we have to proceed as if that travel isn’t happening. Instead of waiting for conferences and other business travel opportunities to return, create new ways to connect with faraway clients and customers. I’ve taken part in more webinars and online conferences over the past months than ever before. When you’re talking with a very large audience, they may be even more effective than in-person meetings.

That’s my list so far, but I am sure there will be more as we make our way through this next phase of a turbulent time.

What are your new rules for success? Let’s grow this list together so we can all benefit from each other’s experiences.

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