Keeping Small Businesses Competitive through Sharing Best Practices of Global Leaders

Wayne K. Johnson, Educational Consultant, Former Dean of Workforce Development at MassBay Community College, Director of Community Education at Bunker Hill Community College, and Professor of Intercultural Communication, Ryukoku University (Kyoto,Japan)

Wayne K. Johnson’s BIO

Wayne K. Johnson—

I was born in Albany, New York. I have lived and worked in various places around the globe. In college, I studied at the State University of New York as well as at Brunel University in London, England. My graduate degree is in Education from The School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. I lived and worked in Yosemite National Park, CA for 10 summers—living in a tent. I was a visiting professor in Katowice Poland before the Berlin Wall fell. I went through the Berlin Wall 25 times—something I will never forget. I also have traveled and lived in Western and Eastern Europe and also lived in Asia for 14 years, spending most of my time conducting research and teaching at several universities in Japan and Thailand.

Before moving back to the US, I was a tenured professor at the Faculty of Intercultural Communication, at Ryukoku University—the oldest university in Japan. Along with writing two English and cultural text-books, I co-authored and edited three text-books for teaching culture and language approved by the Ministry of Education in Japan. I also have written over 30 publications in international academic journals and conducted many presentations at international conferences concerning education, learning, and intercultural communication.

I moved back to the US to work as a curriculum developer and training manager at American Power Conversion and then became the Director of Training and Development at Equity National in Rhode Island. I was also  the Director of  Community Education at Bunker Hill Community College and the Assistant Director of the Center for Business and Industry at Bristol Community College, in Fall River, Massachusetts. I also served as the Dean of Corporate and Community Education at MassBay Community College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

I enjoy cooking various types of cuisines, playing guitar, playing with my children, was a high school wrestling coach and still follow the sport, and like bike riding.


In the Spotlight Interview

1. Tell us about your role as an Instructional Systems Designer (ISD) / Curriculum Development Project Manager / Training Program Coordinator and your formal role at Bunker Hill Community College and in the Massachusetts Community College system.

Wayne: Currently, I am an Instructional Systems Designer (ISD) / Curriculum Development Project Manager / Training Program Coordinator who helps to design programs for the Defense Language Institute (DLI) for Foreign Area Officers (FAO) who are stationed around the world in various U.S. embassies. We focus on top level language and intercultural training, in order to increase the linguistic and cultural awareness of the FAO’s. At AAC, we believe that human interactions are filled with cultural nuances that can impact all levels of communication. Therefore, successful businesses almost always seek to improve the communication skills of their employees as required in the form of interpersonal and intercultural competencies. While effective communication is always imperative, it is particularly so when individuals are interacting in a cross-cultural milieu like the Foreign Area Officers. In the broader sense, when individuals in a cross-cultural environment share and communicate clearly and effectively, the quality of the cross-cultural communication improves as measured by factors such as historical efficiency, demographic effectiveness and geographical wellness. At AAC, we are very appreciative of global cultural diversity, and utilize the Triangulation of Cultural Intelligence™ as a practical method to help people to understand how and why their counterparts act and behave in the way they do. By gaining this cross-cultural intelligence, AAC customers can devise strategies and tactics to establish good working relations and cross-cultural rapport.

As the Director of Community Education at Bunker Hill Community College I was working with the Office of Workforce Development in Boston. As Director, my primary responsibilities were to provide leadership and supervision for the College’s workforce and continuing education programs. At any given time, there are approximately 2000 learners in the continuing education programs at BHCC. While there, I supervised over 120 English language classes a year with students representing 90 countries. Aside from supervising the continuing education, non-credit, online, and English programs, I also directed our Communities of Intercultural Learning study abroad program, which brings students to the U.S. for an intensive academic and cultural learning experience. I managed the English language learning, study abroad, and continuing education programs, while also collaborating and interacting with academic departments and administrative offices which included: Assessment Center, Career Center, Communications, Community Service, faculty from all academic departments, Homestay Programs, International Education, Institutional Research, Registrar Office, Student Internships, and the Web Design team.


2. There is no typical day in the life of a business leader. Please share with us a sample of
your day, start to finish.

Wayne: You are correct—there is no “typical” day that I could define. Currently, I help to design and develop instructional material for United States Department of Defense (DoD) Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) and AAC training courses promoting linguistic and intercultural competencies. To date we have worked on Arabic, Chinese, French, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Hindi, Russian, Vietnamese, and Farsi (Persian) cultures and languages. Every day my tasks are multifaceted and complex. For example, typically we try to come up with original concepts and activities that will benefit the Foreign Area Officer programs. Daily there is a need, in some capacity, to mobilize critical resources to resolve issues. Key areas focus around curriculum development, increasing global awareness, intercultural communication, instructional design, managing interdepartmental relations, creating program evaluations, scheduling, strategic planning, and exploring web-based training. At times, I also analyze, develop, implement, and evaluate instructional systems, distance education, and professional development strategies, initiatives, policies, plans, procedures and evaluations. For a great deal of time I need to work with linguists / subject-matter-experts from numerous cultures. This keeps me pretty busy.


3. What are your “can’t live without” software applications?

Wayne: Of course, all of the Microsoft Office products. I especially find the Outlook Calendar to be a very powerful, yet, underrated tool. I also develop training resources, instructional products, curricula, and assessments using the Adobe Captivate authoring tool, and the Adobe Dreamweaver development tool. These are very powerful. The iPhone is also an amazing device that has revolutionized work for many around the world.


4. What are your tricks for time management?

Wayne: The simple answer is to attempt to avoid, at all costs, situations that waste people’s time. If I schedule a meeting, which I rarely try to do, I like to keep the meeting short, about 30 minutes. Our team working with the Defense Language Institute is excellent at this. I truly believe that if you are prepared and resolute, very few meetings require more time. The amount of time, and money squandered in meetings, is, in my opinion, beyond significant.

Regarding my personal time-management, I also try to live by the philosophy that focuses on: “What did I do that was productive and beneficial in the last 40 minutes?” I literally sit at my desk completing a task and ask myself if I am actually being valuable. If I have not done anything constructive or useful in the last 40 minutes, I am not managing my time well and need to adjust what I am doing to execute more effectively. It is also tremendously important to focus on what I am doing in the “moment”. I sense the importance of being attentive to what I am working on, and if something unforeseen arises, accept the circumstance, pay attention to it, and get back to the task at hand. To efficiently handle time-management it is necessary to quickly improvise when challenges occur, do what needs to be done, and delegate responsibility and swing back to the critical project at hand.

5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?

Wayne:  There are a few areas of best advice I have welcomed. Embrace leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence. Those are the leaders who have the ability to be aware of, control, and express themselves empathetically. At AAC, and our partner organizations, I find that everyone I work with have particularly elevated levels of emotional intelligence. Simply put, empathy is essential for all great leaders. We need to welcome those who have emotional intelligence skills when negotiating with other people—especially in a global economy. “Your emotional intelligence is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them,” says Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist. He cites the following concepts as essential to being a great leader.

Self-control. Managing disruptive impulses.
Trustworthiness. Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity.
Conscientiousness. Taking responsibility for your own performance.
Adaptability. Handling change with flexibility.
Innovation. Being open to new ideas.

Those with high emotional intelligence realize what they know, and what they do not know, and are completely secure in not knowing everything. I could not agree more with this practice. I have found that almost all of the CEOs, President’s and high-level leaders I have met are tremendously secure and have an abnormally high level of emotional intelligence.

One-way empathy helps us address conflict in the workplace is that we can view disruptive behavior sympathetically. In contrast to leaders with a high emotional intelligence are those who are insecure. This is the elephant in the room regarding workplace relations that is seldom discussed. These discouraging individuals are the exception rather than the rule, but nevertheless, it is important for young employees to be cognizant of these personalities. Often, people at work tend to encounter problems and conflicts for no apparent reason. Frequently these obstructions stem from the other person’s insecurities, not your incompetence. This is especially important advice for younger workers. Under the surface, deep down, a percentage in authoritative positions essentially lack confidence, and are, as a consequence, vulnerable. Due to their anxieties these unexceptional “leaders” often need to boast their egos to elevate their persona by putting other workers down, especially employees fresh to the organization. For those joining the workforce, it is vital to realize that when people are unconstructive, disrespectful and unprofessional in the job setting their behavior is merely highlighting their lack of confidence—it is not about “you” not being effective but more accurately, it is about “them” being insecure. This is a common quandary for young recruits to navigate. So, to guide emergent employees successfully in their careers they need to be aware of this. Being “aware” of unjustifiable conduct by co-workers is quite different from “accepting” their behavior. As an assured and confident person, one must independently decide how to react to these situations, to let the antagonistic actions go or to confront the issue—all which may have consequences. When interacting with erratic and insecure co-workers it is imperative to realize that there is a time to speak, and a time to listen. I have found that everyone I work with on Defense Language Institute projects is exceedingly secure and have high levels of emotional intelligence. The common decency of everyone on our teams makes projects run exceptionally well despite incredible challenges. This cannot happen when people are insecure.

Work is a verb and not a noun.

Corresponding to the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) philosophy, work is not where you are, it is what you do. Work should never be judged by the chatter within the organization about “what time did Kari come in and leave”, but rather work should be evaluated by results. In 2018, positive outcomes may be achieved by physically being in the office, or not. Being “there,” sitting at your desk and doing “work” is an excruciatingly superficial and one-dimensional way to evaluate results.

I have a sign that says: “People who do things get things done.” That advice came from my friend Joe C. many years ago in Japan. It is a very straightforward yet powerful message. Focusing on being productive yourself, and not centering on what your co-worker is or is not doing is essential for maximizing everyone’s time.

“Hire good people and leave them alone”—3M President, sometime in the 1940’s stated this.

If you cannot trust someone to do a good job you should not hire them, period. When you believe in people they will work harder for you. Micro-managing and keeping an eye on employees is a short-sighted and ineffective way to get people to open up, be creative and enjoy coming to work. No one will be productive in the long term if they are not permitted to originate fresh ideas in the workplace.


6. What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished academic leader?

Wayne: One important success has to be working with such wonderful people at AAC, our partners, and the Defense Language Institute (DLI) helping Foreign Area Officers (FAO) around the world in various U.S. embassies. I am very proud of the work we have done and the people we work with. I find it refreshing how we wish to increase the amount of engagement of all participants. I also found that in the past, teaching business people about intercultural communication, and then, meeting them in a grocery store, and they tell me that when they traveled overseas it was the most useful course they had ever taken. It not only helped in their business, in some cases it literally saved their lives. Recently, I published a paper in Japan about “Intercultural English” with the Japan expert Craig Sower and Dr. Jana Silver. The concept is to help Japanese students and business people to be more successful in intercultural encounters around the globe. Sower has been a mentor of mine for over three decade years and is the author of the book, Living in Japan. He knows his subject well.


7. How do you achieve balance in your life?

Wayne: Very delicately. I find that as a widower with two children (daughter 17, son 20 and severely autistic) I must think about both my family life and professional life simultaneously. In order to support my children, I require a steady income. I need to assess every day what is necessary to do in order to be productive and achieve results and also be there for my children. Also, it takes a great deal of support from an excellent group of care-givers and autism specialists, friends and loved ones to help achieve that balance.


8. What are Your top 3 book recommendations?

Wayne: All books written by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. Both of these women are the founders of CultureRx and creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). According to Ressler and Thompson, a Results-Only Work Environment goes beyond telework. It is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results—increasing the organization’s performance while cultivating the right environment for people to manage all the demands in their lives…including work.

Drive, by Daniel Pink. Pink believe:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements:
1. Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives.
2. Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
3. Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I could not agree more with Pink’s concepts. It would be groundbreaking if all leaders could and would embrace these ideas.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, is a 1984 postmodern novel about two women, two men, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history in 1968. As I lived in Poland before the Berlin Wall fell, I feel that the book (and also the movie) best portrays what life was like in Soviet controlled Eastern Europe. The Berlin Wall was a scar on the face of the planet. Something we should all not forget.


9. What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?

Wayne: My son is severely autistic. So I try, whenever possible, to support anything related to autism. The conundrum is that raising an autistic child often does not lend itself to outside charity work. First and foremost, my autistic son is my primary focus. Working in concentric circles, I involve myself with the autistic community on the local, state and national level.


10. Who has influenced your career the most?

Wayne: This is a very difficult question, but most likely I would have to say it was my high school wrestling coach, Mr. Walter Teike (assistant Olympic coach and New York State and USA Olympic Hall of Fame) and now, Robert (Bob) Mathis. Mr. Teike was not so much a coach, but rather a philosophical-life-mentor who focused on reflecting in the moment about what we were doing in the practice room and on the wrestling mat under the lights. He taught us about competition, to never give up, while concurrently displaying that having fun in the particular instant was actually a function of the learning experience. I have found this to be very powerful in life. Often employees think that work cannot be entertaining and filled with amusement. Coach Tieke instilled in me the opposite. From his teachings I have adapted the philosophy of: “I like to have fun and get things done” in the workplace. When I speak with managers who express that employees should not have fun in the workplace, this shows me that they have a limited view of work and productivity. If there is one way to obliterate passion for one’s job, it is to not allow fun to be part of the equation. Coach Tieke and I are still in contact today.

I also feel that Robert Mathis, a partner with our company, and the principal project manager for the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Area Officer programs has an extremely effective management style that creates situations for people to work meticulously and methodically, while successfully meeting deadlines. Mr. Mathis has worked at the highest levels of government and national security, and has a unique power to motivate his staff to work vigorously using a minimalist approach. Bob has showed me that an ability to delegate is key to making all projects successful. He has taught everyone on his teams the value of having and maintaining a project-plan and production schedule, creating a realist milestone timetable, and if possible, adhering to these. At the same time, I have learned that a schedule should not be so tight that if a milestone is missed that recovery is not probable, one simply adjusts and moves forward. Bob is extremely secure with himself, and has demonstrated effective methods of communicating with the customer, realizing that at times it should not always be the leader who should interface with clients 100% of the time. That is the sign of a truly confident person. In our DLI projects, he further displays this support by trusting his employees, which de facto makes everyone more productive. Both Bob and I were in Eastern Europe at the same time before the Berlin Wall came down, but we did not know each other then.


11. What is your advice for someone interested in choosing a career in academia?

Wayne: The Oxymoronic Scenario: If you choose to dive into academia, the most essential concept to realize is that in order to become employed it is necessary to actually acquire a job at a college. Your first position is often the most difficult to land. Once you are in a college, especially in administration, you will be able to progress based on how well you do your job, but more importantly, the connections you make in the field will be a tremendous asset. Getting and holding that first job is often seen as a testing ground where you are able to prove yourself. Academia is much like the outside world—who you know is just as critical as what you know and what degrees you have earned. So, my advice is to land a position as soon as possible, prove yourself, do an exceptional job, and progress from there.

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