YKK Stories

2017-09-11 Issue 14 Fundamental Behavior 13 – Be A Team Player

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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I love it when guests who have visited different YKK companies in the NCA region tell me that there is something about the people in our companies from Canada to Colombia that is very similar, even though the businesses, the languages, and the cultures are different. After a little discussion with them, it’s clear to me that they have observed important aspects of our corporate culture and how we work together as a team. Our guests notice that you give credit to your team rather than take credit yourselves.

We have many stars on our teams, but in every instance our stars work closely with their teammates because they know they can accomplish very little by themselves. And maybe what makes those individual high achievers is their ability to make others on the team feel like stars, too, usually by publically giving them the credit they have earned.

What does being a team player mean? Of course, as in all companies, the immediate objective is to solve the problem or simply to get the job done. Is this more easily done by a team or by an individual? In most situations, a team effort will triumph as long as the team is comprised of team players. Team players focus together on achieving the shared goal.

We have learned a lot over the past 40+ years in the NCA region. In the early days, in many instances we recruited individuals onto our YKK team who were doomed to fail. These were the individuals who looked imminently qualified on paper but were not team players. Their approach was, “tell me what to do and then leave me alone.” I remember how Mr. Kitano would insist that all new sales people spend a week or two working with our manufacturing team in Macon who would produce the products the salesperson would ultimately sell. The salespersons who did not understand how the time in Macon could benefit them usually were the ones whose careers at YKK were very short-lived.

I remember one young salesperson flew into Macon eager to show us his big orders for zipper products we didn’t actually make. Rather than celebrate his victory, Mr. Kitano scolded him for acting independently, asking, “Okay, you have the orders, now how are you going to make those zippers?” Initially the salesman was angry, but his anger quickly turned to contrition as he learned the value of teamwork.

One example of a team functioning at its best is in brainstorming sessions. When faced with a problem or a challenge, it’s usually beneficial to have a team approach at coming up with a solution. In a brainstorming session, everyone’s ideas are welcomed, and no one is allowed to criticize any idea. The theory is that you might suggest something that stimulates an idea in someone else. Usually, at the end of a successful brainstorming session, no one can remember the exact path to the solution. Usually, it really is a team effort and no one person should get all the credit.

Good teams point out one another’s strengths and weaknesses, always in the spirit of positive improvement. They know that individuals have their ups and downs, and they know how to motivate one another during the down times, especially. They prepare in advance for the challenges they will face. And when faced with these challenges, they know how to assess their resources and they don’t hesitate to seek outside support when needed. Team players sincerely care about one another. They know when their teammates are affected by problems at home or with their health or many other factors, and they respond with empathy and understanding.

Achieving a common, shared goal gives a person a sense of accomplishment that I believe cannot be matched by individual success. I see pro golfers, for example, compete each weekend as individuals. They celebrate their victories, of course, but they don’t seem all that sad for their losses (they still have their millions in endorsements). But watch those same golfers compete for zero prize money as part of a team such as for the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup, or the Olympic Games. When they play poorly for their team, they often break down and cry for having let the team down. And when they win as a team (even if they lost in their particular match), their celebration shows a degree of happiness seldom seen after an individual victory.

Please recognize your team and be proud to be part of that team. Collectively, we are all part of the YKK and YKK AP. We are part of a global company that is helping people around the world. YKK employs more than 42,000 people around the world, and almost 3,000 in our North and Central America Group. And never forget the Cycle of Goodness, “No one prospers without rendering benefit to others.”


Alex Gregory
Chairman and CEO
YKK Corporation of America