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Blog

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February 10, 2014
I don’t think any of the experts realized that the Seattle Seahawks would dominate the Denver Broncos like they did in the recent Super Bowl game. All predictions were for a close game, but it turned into a 43-8 whipping. I think three things led to the Seahawks dominance - Confidence, Focus and Execution. And they were operating on all cylinders (offensively, defensively, special teams). Additionally head coach Pete Carroll worked hard to develop an appreciation for individual differences among the players. But this doesn’t apply only to the football field. Any of us in leadership could transform our places of work if we were to operate with Confidence, Focus and Execution. So I’m laying down a challenge … are you ready to be a CFE leader?

December 6 2013
Yesterday the news was filled with stories about the passing of Nelson Mandela. More importantly is what was said about the impact he had on the world. From my perspective two things stand out about this incredible human; his resolve to promote reconciliation and his forgiveness after having been in prison for twenty-seven years. I also look for connections about how to incorporate his life into the fabric of what we are attempting to accomplish in my life both personally and professionally. Most of us will not have the global impact as Mandela, but within the confines of the lives we touch we must continually evaluate how well our work aligns with concepts like inclusive leadership, building harmony and promoting the welfare for all human kind.

November 7, 2013
Hurts and injuries in the workplace
When I was a little boy I used to listen to the Friday night fights either on the radio or television. In those days, boxing was a big sport. Names like Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore, Floyd Patterson and later Joe Frasier, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman were some of the headliners. However, due in part to corruption in the profession and serious injuries resulting in brain damage boxing is not the “big sport” is once was. I wonder if football is headed for that same decline in national popularity.

The National Football League just paid a huge settlement to former players now suffering from brain injuries as a result of repeated concussions. It seems that lately there are more serious injuries happening in the games – torn ACLs, fractured collar bones, dislocated elbows, injured necks and concussions, just to name a few. The NFL is now reviewing kick-off return plays because of the intense impact of tackles as players are running down the field. It is hard to know how much football will be changing in the near future. Even amateur athletes are trained to “play hurt.” But “hurts” can lead to more serious and sometimes permanent injuries.

Likewise in the workplace many people are walking around with hurts not inflicted by physical tackles but by words and innuendos, both intentional and unintentional. And just like repeated head injuries, recurring word wounds can lead to more permanent damage. We need to be more sensitive to the impact of our language.

I don’t know where the game of football is heading, maybe down the same path as boxing. But I would hope that our personal interactions have a better chance of building others up, rather than tearing them down.

October 31, 2013
From last to first
If you live in Boston or the greater New England area, the chances are that you are celebrating the fact that the Boston Red sox are now victors of baseball’s most coveted event, the World Series. As in any team sport sometimes the focus is on one or two players who do outstanding things in their craft. David Ortiz, commonly referred to as “Big Poppy” was voted most valuable player of the series. True enough he was incredible. In the midst of all that, Ortiz, would be the first to tell you that it was a team effort. For those of us in the field of diversity, inclusion and inter-cultural communications, we would also tell you that a large part to team success begins from the front office (executives, like the owner, general manager and field manager are crucial to team success). Last year the Boston Red Sox finished last, only winning 69 out of 162 games. This year, they won over 90 games. The new manager, John Farrell, set a climate in which each person was shown that they are valued and respected for their individual skill sets. The second thing the front office did to help the team be successful was to off load some players who though very good as athletes, their attitude just be in it for themselves, was not enough to help them capitalize on winning a championship. In their place, management brought in other players who not only had different skills, but also possessed a team mindset rather then a “me” way of thinking. The end result was becoming champions of baseball, uplifting the city of Boston after the tragedy in April. There was and is in this year’s team a real connection to the community. Accomplishments are short lived in the minds of most and by this time in March, they will be forgotten as the Sox will have to return to defend their championship accolades. What aspect of championship-like behaviors do you or your team possesses that can be a contribution to others?

October 25, 2013
When sports converge on each other
Ever since I can remember sports has had a profound impact on society. Earlier in my life it was a big deal when there was a wrestling match, football, basketball or baseball game. Players would dress up in shirts and ties to come to school which signaled to teachers and other students that there must be a game or match that day. Even for the non-sports fan, smaller communities would rally around whatever event was taking place, especially on a Friday night. And with all the technological advances and medical breakthroughs, sports still seems to be ever present, both on college campuses, as well as in the professional ranks. I am blown away with the impact media money has on sports and how programming is affected. Right now baseball, football and basketball are all converging on each other. There are only two teams left in the World Series, and within a week or so either the Boston Red Sox or the St. Louis Cardinals will be crowned champions of baseball. Like society sports has seen some darker moments with many violations and lots of drug and DUII charges which taints what used to be a much worshiped and privileged status to hold. Role models are dropping, but I’m also glad to say we still have some. Hang on to those and continue to develop yourself into a positive being. A quarterback from the University of Oregon by the name of Marcus Mariota is rapidly becoming noticed not only for his play on the grid iron, but also for his character as a leader. We all need to focus on those positive role models out there and to the extent possible, strive to be a positive role model with those who are in your sphere of influence.

October 14, 2013
Out of the mouths of babes
Today we are in day fourteen of what the USA is calling “government shut down.” With the passing of each day we continue to learn about how this shut down is affecting regular citizens. Families of fallen soldiers are not receiving death benefits, until a private organization stepped in to help. Our border patrols, as well as countless others are working without pay. National parks are closed which affects local economies. And the list goes on. Outrage is pouring in all across the country. Our local news station interviewed some elementary school students whose field trip to a government run location was cancelled. One child said, “Stop fighting!” Wow, it’s usually the adults giving the children that message. The inability of our politicians to reach agreement on matters is a symptom of a larger problem. First, there seems to be a deep seated bias against each other and secondly there is an unwillingness to work together, but I think underlying the problem is fear. Fear of being perceived as incompetent, fear of losing one’s place in the political domain, and finally an overriding prejudice the two parties have of each other. The outcry by the general public is Grow up! Get in touch with the real people! Eventually something will happen to get the government re-opened, but for now, take a lesson from the children and stop fighting!

October 12, 2013
Blindness is not a tragedy: just inconvenient
This morning while riding the stationary bike I was watching ESPN. They were doing a story about one of the halfbacks from the University of Washington and his blind grandfather. The commentator kept talking about how this grandfather could only see his grandson play in his mind. The grandfather later received a cornea transplant which made it possible for him to see his grandson play against the University of Stanford. While this was a good thing, I was struck by how the media portrayed this situation to be such a tragedy. It was almost as if the grandfather had no life. It made me wonder if this is how others see people with disabilities. Is this why the unemployment rate is so low, because we can’t get the tragedy mindset out of our system? Yes, it is true, one would rather not have a disability, but at some point you are able to come to grips with it and life goes on. I remember being asked if I could change anything in the world what it would be. My response was that I would wish for peace in the world and that people from different walks of life could get along. The individual who asked me that question was surprised that my first answer wasn’t that I wished I could see. My main message here is that life doesn’t have to be tragic if there are things missing. It is definitely inconvenient at times and there are lots of things that would be easier if I could see, but I have family, employment, friends, a purpose to fulfill and that is what’s truly important.

August 28, 2013
50 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I have a dream” speech and today there are ceremonies commemorating that speech and its content. As I look back on that day I was a mere nineteen years old, preparing for my journey from Southern California to a small Baptist college in McMinnville, Oregon. I was sitting in my living room at home watching that speech and as I listened chills came over me. I was enveloped by the power with which Dr. King spoke. The content was full of hope, possibility and encouragement to embrace who we are as a nation. King charged us to judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.

So, how well have we done? On this day, August 28, 2013 there are more African Americans making their way in the corporate domain but there are still many who are in the projects; all still experience profiling. We have made progress in the area of globalization but still struggle with issues of immigration, especially for Latinos. People with disabilities were not even included in the original civil rights act.

In spite of the challenges yet facing us, I think today is a day to pause, reflect and re-commit to continuing the journey to create opportunities for hope and possibility for all people. Some would say that the diversity effort is sometimes diluted because of continual change in vocabulary. We use words like “inclusion,” “equity,” and most recently “talent management” to reflect diversity efforts. We must in fact be mindful of progress that has been made, but also keep our eyes on forward movement for all people to have an opportunity to experience success in all aspects of life.

July 19, 2013
Today he was a role model
I devote a lot of time focusing on how I can be a role model to others. I do this from the frame work of being an Asian male, a blind person and as a leader in the arenas in which I work and live. On this day, July 19, 2013, President Obama stepped forward as a racial role model in a way that no US President has done before - he spoke from his own personal experience of the challenges facing young African American men.

What do we need to do moving forward? First engage in dialogue with others. Look for teachable moments. Exercise good listening behaviors when someone’s opinion is different from yours then speak your perspective with respect, not malice. The goal is to teach and learn.

The Trayvon Martin story highlights the reality that within the United States, race is still the number one diversity challenge for us to address. I don’t mean to discount the importance of gender, sexual orientation, disability and class, but we must be willing and able to engage in conversation in small groups with our families and friends who may not grasp the real concerns of African American parents.

It is important to understand that all of us are affected either as victims or perpetrators. I know there will be opposition to what the President did today. Sometimes as a leader you need to do what you believe in and then treat all people (nay-sayers and supporters alike) with respect.

Way to go Mr. President!

July 9, 2013
I am just about ready to teach a three day class on disability as a culture. In this class we will look at the challenges and opportunities we face in bringing the disability conversation into more of an alignment with other intercultural groups. I will be using the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity by Milton J. Bennett, M.D. as one of the teaching platforms. The model gives us six things to think about as we explore the journey to embracing cultural differences:
1. Denial of Difference
2. Defense against Difference
3. Minimization of Difference
4. Acceptance of Difference
5. Adaptation to Difference
6. Integration of Difference
It is so good to feel empowered to be who I am and not have to apologize for any aspect of my being. I hope to pass this feeling along to others and am ever grateful for the power of differences.

June 20, 2013
I can finally be who I am.
It is my hope that most of you will be able to determine how to be yourself sooner than I did. For so long I worked to assimilate into main stream society, but not only to assimilate but to be successful. Now I’m in a totally different place. I can truly be me. I am finally comfortable with who I am. I know my strengths and gifts, am aware of my many weaknesses and have learned how to utilize all of these attributes into the fabric of life. And I have learned that significance is even more important than being successful. You know you make a difference, you know you matter to others, and you are aware of both strengths and limitations.

In early years I think assimilation was designed to be the tool for what it meant to be included. Today inclusion means to belong to, to be a part of, not to be discounted. Our individual and collective differences are to be prized and not thwarted. Now the work is about integrating these differences into a harmonious atmosphere, both at home and on the job.

In future blogs I want to write about the impact of sports on my overall development as well as its impact on how economic decisions influence people of color and their rise to success.

June 3, 2013
Since the passing of Dr. Roosevelt Thomas I’ve been thinking about the evolution of diversity, especially as it relates to my journey. When Roosevelt was sharing some of his experiences with me of growing up in a segregated society it made me think about the areas of segregation I experienced both as a Japanese American and as a blind person. Because I was away at a residential school for the blind from the time I was 4½ years old I was isolated from other Japanese people so cherished the brief opportunities I had when home on school vacations.

Unlike today where diversity and inclusion are being promoted, the goal for Japanese Americans when I was growing up was to assimilate, to be more “American” (white). Likewise, the goal as a blind student was to be or act sighted. Only later did I realize I would never be white or sighted! However due to social pressures and acts of hate and discrimination many of us either withdrew or attempted to deny who we were in order to fit in. I am not even sure we did this consciously; it was the norm for many of us. Those who oppose diversity and inclusion today are probably wishing that assimilation was still normative.

As Dr. Thomas so aptly put it, diversity is a collective mixture of our similarities and differences … not assimilation. He emphasized competencies as a common denominator from which we can begin to work together.

I’ll talk more about assimilation and other dynamics which make it hard to be a part of the diversity and inclusion conversation in future blogs.

May 22 2013
We at Hanamura Consulting are excited about our new web site where we have unveiled some new speech offerings and finally have the opportunity to begin writing blogs.  Learning twenty-first century technology is not an easy for some of us but hopefully this will help us to have more of a presence in the business conversation.

For our first entry though, we were sad to learn of the untimely death of one of our diversity pillars, Dr. Roosevelt Thomas. Dr. Thomas was not only a good colleague of ours, but he also became a dear friend.   Professionally Dr. Thomas authored six books and numerous articles in several different journals.  He truly was a gentle giant who was always forward thinking when it came to developing diversity concepts.  He often challenged us to think of things outside of our norms.  He will be dearly missed.

In future blogs you can look for us to comment on diversity and inclusion as it relates not only to the business world, but also in terms of sports and society at large.