Kevin Reynolds, Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant for Globalinx Corp Photo: Michael Claxton
executive impact

Globalinx: Developing organizational capabilities for global business

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By Chris Betros

Globalinx specializes in providing training, consulting, and coaching services to companies with a global outlook. The company helps organizations to compete globally by specializing in leadership development, management training, business communication skills and global project management training.

Kevin Reynolds, who is Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant for Globalinx, first worked with the company from 1991 to 2000 and then rejoined the company this year. From London, Reynolds has been in Japan for 29 years. He originally came with a rucksack on his back, intending to stay a while as an English teacher before traveling around Asia.

He has over 20 years experience in human resource management and people development for Japanese, American and European organizations in Japan, and has gone through several acquisitions and restructuring, which together with attending thousands of business meetings and presentations have given him valuable insights and experience in understanding the need for clear leadership and communication at all levels in the organization.

Reynolds is also co-author of the first series of business communication skill books published in Japanese and Chinese. When he is not working, he pursues his life dream of becoming a successful sci-fi screenwriter.

What brought you back to Globalinx after 18 years?

I wanted to go out and deliver our “Global Leadership” program to organizations in Japan. Actually, I had written and developed the program over a number of years, along with my colleagues Phil Deane and Brent Conkle of BAC, because I saw several gaps in leadership programs that I had rolled out as a training manager and later as HR (Human Resource) director.

As I developed the program I realized that this is my “calling”, i.e., to help people and organizations be the best that they can be. Of course, I could have done that to some extent as training manager or HR director, but I feel most at home when I am in a classroom or coaching people to find solutions to problems that they face. Plus, I’ve had my own share of ups and downs, failures and successes, so I have a range of experiences that I can bring into most situations.

Please describe your daily role with the company?

My main focus is creating and delivering our Global Leadership development program. That includes designing workshops, writing and developing seminar workbooks, designing 360 survey tools and Employee Engagement tools, conducting one-on-one coaching, and supporting the team to develop related sales and marketing materials.

I also act as a consultant on HR issues for our clients. This work includes writing and reviewing job descriptions and helping clients develop their competency matrixes. I am currently developing an HR Business Partner Strategy workshop, designed to help HRBPs (Human Resource Business Partners) move from transactional/administrative thinking to develop a more business-strategic mind-set.

How do Globalinx methods differ from those of your competitors?

Our programs are developed here in Japan by global HR professionals, leadership coaches and business skill trainers with many years of experience resolving leadership and related business communication challenges. Having this business and cultural experience is extremely valuable to provide context and real-life experiences.

Our Global Leadership Program uses a structured framework that can be replicated throughout the whole organization providing consistent processes and methodologies. We also provide measurable results through leadership profiling and 360 degree feedback tools and Employee Engagement Surveys. That’s one of the issues I had with other leadership programs when I was working in HR: I didn’t have a way of directly measuring the impact of training, so I developed one! You can see some examples on our website.

Because we develop almost everything in-house, we incorporate both local and international practices and ways of thinking, rather than simply translating a program developed outside of the region. Although we do also localize clients' in-house training for delivery in Japan.

Although you provide customized training solutions for each client, what are the core concepts that all your training methods have in common?

We focus on helping our seminar participants learn step-by-step processes and methodologies that they can apply to almost any situation that they encounter. We also take a "learn-by-doing" approach; participants develop their skills and practice the processes and methodologies through case studies, simulations and role-plays with native speakers. This enables the participants to develop their skills and techniques in a realistic and supportive environment.

We make full use of video technology to support the participants learning and engage them in the learning process. All the simulations, together with the instructor’s feedback and comments from other participants, are recorded on video for participants to review and learn. The participants keep a copy of their video to help them remember their experience and learning.

We also use online pre-study materials, e-books, interactive forms and e-mail correspondence with the instructors to ensure the participants are fully engaged and well-prepared for their training.

What percentage of your clients are multinational companies and what percent are Japanese companies?

Approximately 50% of our clients are foreign capital companies. However, 80% of our income is from Japanese clients as the contract size tends to be much larger given the number of employees that need training here in Japan.

Compared to when you started in human resource management 20 years ago, have the fundamentals of developing employee and organizational capabilities within companies changed with the advent of technology such as the internet, AI and so forth, or have they remained the same no matter what technology we use in business?

One of the biggest changes on the administrative side has been the implementation of “self-service” HR. With this, employees can ask an agent, essentially an AI tool, standard questions relating to salary, benefits, work rules, training programs, etc. If the tool cannot answer the questions, then the employee is referred to someone in HR. For Japan-based international companies, that HR person is often at a shared service-center in some other part of Asia. But, frankly, not all employees like that change, as some feel HR has lost the personal touch and become a kind of automated response machine. Some HR folk don’t like it either, for similar reasons. But, it seems to be the way forward.

For people and organizational development, there has been a great deal of work done on creating online learning tools for self-directed learning, sometimes blending these with classroom sessions. Managers, too, have tools where they can review the learning history of their staff and assign them to seminars or take online classes, or participate in development needs and capability assessments.

Some of those tools are very good and helpful, but I think some managers and their HRBPs neglect to look at the bigger picture and sometimes fail to evaluate the overall development needs of the organization – i.e., assessing the skills and capabilities that are needed to help the company implement its strategy and achieve its business goals. That said, it’s good to see a growing number of our clients are now trying to do things differently, with more focus on training people on innovative thinking, for example.

What areas do you think Japanese companies need the most help in order to function in a global arena? What about in reverse? What do foreign companies hoping to make inroads in the Japanese market need to focus on in terms of management?

I’d like to see both business leaders and HR teams focus on creating highly-engaged and high performing organizations that achieve extraordinary results. They can do this through leadership development, HR business partnering and fostering innovative thinking.

For leadership development, leaders in Japanese companies should work on becoming more open and more visible to their employees, and start leading their organizations at the right level. I’ve seen too many managers acting like individual contributors by trying to solve daily operational problems in their business groups rather than focusing on truly leading their organizations. I’ve also seen senior leaders speak at all-employee meetings and say, “There are no questions allowed here today.” That’s not a very good way of promoting an open dialogue, and will surely lead to resentment among employees. So, please begin to lead at the right level.

For HR business partnering, I’d like to see Japanese HR change from a very transactional way of doing things to a far more strategic mindset, with a focus on aligning the HR strategy to the business strategy. We call it “6R”, meaning: “The Right Organization with the Right Person in the Right Position at the Right Time, with the Right Capability and the Right Mindset – which is why I’m developing that HRBP Strategy program.

For innovative thinking, to “think out of the box,” you have to “get out of the box.” That means doing things differently and creating systems and processes to get ideas out of peoples’ heads and into business plans. As an example, a few years ago, one of my colleagues made a presentation on innovative thinking to the senior leadership of a very well-known global Japanese company. The response was, “That’s very interesting, but it’s difficult for us to do that here, it’s too hard for us to change.” That kind of mindset makes me very concerned about the future of that organization!

For foreign companies here in Japan, especially those just starting, you need to hire the right people. Well, that goes without saying, but the key hires are the local CEO/GM and the local HR director. If you can find those people with the right mindset, with a willingness to change the status quo and to lead their organizations in the right way with a strategic viewpoint of creating a high-performing organization, then you can be very successful.

Your company focuses on leadership development and communication skills. But I’ve always wondered can you really teach those skills or is it something you either have or not have? Have you seen a transformation take place in people who take your training?

Yes, we have definitely seen transformations in a workshop or as a result of training and one-on-one coaching. For example, one of our students in a presentation class made a highly technical presentation about a new chip he was designing. None of the participants understood a thing, and they were all engineers too. The instructor spoke to the student during the rewriting session and found out that if this chip could get moved to a higher production priority at the factory, then the customer would place a $50 million order. Nothing like that was even mentioned in the first presentation. So, the student rewrote the presentation to focus on his actual key message, then went to the U.S. HQ and got the result he wanted.

We’ve also seen people change their ways following negative input on their 360 survey. The shock at how other people saw them, combined with a coaching intervention, helped them to drastically change their approach with their staff. Actually, something like that once happened to me personally, and I had to think deeply and change what I was doing.

Where does Globalinx get its consultants from?

We hire locally. Our consultants and coaches are experienced international businesspeople, with a minimum of 10 years corporate training experience in Japan, and at least 10 years experience living and working in Japan.

How do you train them?

We only work with experienced instructors, so our training focuses on course content and methods rather than skills needed to be an instructor.

What is a typical day for you? What time do you come to the office? Are you in all day or do you visit clients? If nothing crazy is going on, what time do you try to leave?

I usually get up early and plan the day, using our own 4W productivity method: What, Why, When and Where. If I’m leading a workshop or seminar, I head out about 6:30 a.m., because I live way out in west Tokyo. For client visits, which we do often, I’ll head out according to the meeting timing.

If there are no programs that day, I work on the development of existing and/ or new programs. Alternatively, I might be working on a 360 survey for a client, which includes building the survey in the survey tool and then creating the reports using Tableau.

We don’t have a fixed time to be in the Globalinx office, so I do a lot of work at home or sometimes in a coffee shop if I’m between client visits. I’m terrible at working on the shinkansen. It gives me a headache, so I tend not to do that unless there is no alternative.

How do you manage work-life balance? Do you avoid weekend work?

Working mainly from home helps a lot with work-life balance. That said, I usually work at the weekends, too, where I’m typically working on a screenplay. One of these days I’ll get around to finishing my novel. But, that’s my personal goal (to be a successful writer), as well as being a successful leadership instructor.

Name one way Japan has changed for the better since you first came 29 years ago and one-way Japan has changed for the worst (if applicable)?

One positive change is the move to online banking, which has made things a lot easier and cheaper, too. Plus, credit cards are more widely accepted. When I first came, you couldn’t use credit cards for taxis, even when going to and from Narita (take the train, it’s cheaper anyway).

On a professional basis, there has been a mindset change from, “I want to go overseas and study an MBA,” whereas now the mindset seems to be, “I want to stay here in Japan and study online.” So, we see TOEIC scores and qualifications going up, but communication skills seem to be static, and even going down. People are not getting that practical learning experience, so when they go overseas, they are not ready for it, despite having studied on line.

On a personal note, one positive change is the number of foreign players in Japanese baseball teams. As a Brit I’m supposed to prefer cricket (I still do, actually), but my whole family are Yokohama BayStars fans and we loved watching Soto hitting all those home runs this season.

How is your sci-fi screenwriting going? What are your 5 favorite sci-fi films of all time?

Well, I have only written 3 screenplays so far, one of which was a finalist in a screenplay competition, It’s called "The Girl Who Fell Through Time,”  https://www.stage32.com/blog/Sci-Fi-and-Fantasy-Screenwriting-Contest-Winner-Announced. I have a lot more in my head, so I need to get those ideas down on paper.

As for my favorite sci-fi movies:

"Capricorn One" (not really sci-fi, but close)

"Aliens" (i.e., "Alien II")

"Predator I"

"Red Planet"

"Star Trek" (first of the new series with Chris Pine)

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