Good numbers begin and end with effective workplace relationships

Miyuki Suzuki is a remarkable woman. Raised in Japan, Australia and the UK and educated in the UK, she has worked in a variety of roles in both Western and traditional Japanese organisations in Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, the Middle East, New Zealand, North America and Singapore.

Now running Jetstar in Japan, she and her 100 staff have notched up remarkable successes, culminating in Jetstar’s inaugural flight taking off five and a half months ahead of schedule.

Suzuki delivers a weekly message to all her staff in both English and Japanese, updating them on what has been happening in the company and employee achievements, complete with photos. Her underlying message is ‘I am watching. I am recognising all your hard work.’

To rally her staff and ensure they’re all pointing in the same direction, Suzuki pays attention to people, their aspirations and what motivates them, and keeps an eye on group dynamics. ‘It takes a bit of time to do that’, she says. ‘Once you get that sorted out, team building is much easier.’

She also works out who shares the same values as her own; when you do that, you know who will support you and help you meet your goals. She also works out who will be her detractors so she can turn them into supporters.

‘Relationships make business success possible. If you ignore relationships and focus on the numbers, you won’t get anywhere.’ When you get the relationships right, you get to take off five and a half months early.

Source: Damon Kitney, ‘Taking Flight’, the deal, The Australian newspaper, July 2012.

Discussion questions

‘Look after the people and the numbers look after themselves’ is a common catch cry. How true is it, in your experience? Do your communications send the message ‘I am watching and recognising all your hard work’? Do you know what motivates your team members, which of team members, peers and senior managers share your values and who your potential detractors are?