A New Year’s Wish For Leaders

On a recent dash through Tokyo’s Narita airport, I spotted a case full of beckoning cats. They’re called Maneki Neko, and they’re a spirited Japanese tradition that goes back to the 1600’s. Cute, sure. But Maneki Neko have a quite important purpose: in the doorway of a business they beckon the owner’s wish for the future.

Right paw raised – a fortune of money.

Left paw raised – a boat load of customers.

The clerk told me that over the years, the tradition has evolved. In recent decades it’s said that the higher the paw is raised, the greater the money or customers to come.

I wondered if the business leaders of Japan’s 17th century felt the same trade-off many leaders I meet around the globe feeling today: Shall I invest in the kind of experience that brings us a fortune of profits or one that brings customers? Hundreds of years and millions of Maneki Neko later, still too many leaders feel trapped that they must make this choice.

It’s 2011. We know now that leaders who enroll everyone across the company in a shared vision of a fundamental need solved for a crisply defined set of target customers are the leaders who win both customers and profits for their organisations. We can see the link between customer experience and making money. Lucky for us!

So I’d like to offer a Maneki Neko to you. Mine has both its right and its left paw stretched high. We both wish you a 2011 where the daily decisions across your company win your organisations a wealth of the customers and financial reward most meaningful to you.

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