A Creative Mindset: The Key to Success in a Post-Pandemic Economy with Ruth Marie Jarman
By Keri Cromb
As June 2020 marked the beginning of post COVID-19, FEW Japan welcomed long term resident Ruth Marie Jarman to give her insights on how we can mentally prepare ourselves for a new economic reality. We had a record sign up for this online event. Ruth as an entrepreneur, author, active member and director of various organizations along with a popular media presence, delivered several key messages.
Ruth began by sharing her favourite kanji, or the Chinese originating symbol for laugh (笑). This positive energy as part of her mindset, is the driving force Ruth uses to connect with others, approach new ventures even in times of great uncertainty. During the spring months of working remotely, many of us may have been able to live in the moment more, noticed the joys of work, family, partners and community. Due to the “Stay at Home” measures here in Japan, the value of all those little things (often unnoticed during our busy pre COVID-19 world) should have been magnified.
Women definitely have an advantage in dealing with remote work imposed by this pandemic. Ruth stressed that women’s flexibility and creativity will outmatch the highly structured workflow that Japanese men have only known. This is accented even further as Japan is still frozen into traditional roles with the majority of women being homemakers.
As everyone was completely unprepared for what the year 2020 would bring, adaptation was essential. Working at home has meant less fixed work spaces, less fixed time and a greater need to focus. The use of Zoom and online meetings have forced our way of communication out of the assumption zone. When talking to managers, employees, clients and customers, clear and direct communication is pivotal. With top managers taking note of how remote sales cost, rental fees etc. are considerably reduced, the sacrifice will be the tangible and personalized connections between work colleagues and customers. Online work has deleted many of society’s natural face to face cues for reading employee and customer satisfaction.
Ruth generously advised on this sudden critical need for more direct communication. She suggested we “say it with words” when expressing ideas and thoughts over digital means. Ruth emphasised the leadership traits of being clear when defining your steps and priorities. She advocated for us to be grateful for our connections and show our gratitude at every opportunity. For starters, sticky notes with a handwritten message included on physical mailings do take appreciation the extra distance.
Maintaining and expanding a network in post COVID-19 is requiring more creativity to ensure increased visibility. Posting on social media such as LinkedIn should focus on the positives and highlight our contributions. The last half of 2020 should have more emphasis on sustainability. The nature of marketing will change as well. This will lead into new areas of business opportunities and Ruth highlighted that women’s creativity is well situated to harness these times.
Ruth continued to emphasize having a result based mindset- not only to your managers, associates, and customers but extending that to your family, neighbours and your friends. Your network is much larger than your immediate work, according to a popular theory known as the ‘6 Degrees of Separation’. “Everyone is a customer!” Ruth stated. In that network sphere where everyone is a customer, always show your gratification—give gifts no matter how small. Life will be easier Ruth assures us, as this positive energy will return to us one way or another.
By illustrating with her own personal experiences, Ruth tells us that she continues to give gifts to her children to explain the concept of results. “Mommy works hard so she can afford to purchase gifts for you!”. She advised to talk to your kids as if they are your customer. “Give as much weight to your client on a Zoom meeting as you would cheering at your child’s soccer game.” advises Ruth.
There is a silver lining resulting from this remote work. Ruth reveals that there is no more denying to coworkers, associates and clients that one is a caregiver. For decades, Japan has been frozen in such a structural image of itself and reinforcing such societal expectations. Workers haven’t been putting family affairs first but now parents are forced to.
Ruth urges working mothers and fathers to directly say, “When the baby sleeps, I will phone back!”. This is totally acceptable especially with babies. Two pieces of encouraging advice are given by Ruth to working mothers with little children at home:
- When you say something, you must follow through. This sets realistic expectations that can be met.
- Be kind, compassionate and understanding to others and to ourselves. If “no” is given as an answer, we must still appreciate it.
With or without children at home, we all have to be compassionate and understanding. “If we are unproductive between 3-5pm, we need to take a break.” Ruth encourages. There is also a need to reduce distractions and maintain focus to be result driven. It is a challenge to structure one’s mindset and daily lives for post COVID-19 but with compassionate understanding, a lot of change is bound to happen for the best. Also, don’t forget about laughter! (笑)
Impressively Ruth was able to offer something to everyone in the audience, we could all take away invaluable advice and encouragement. FEW Japan would like to express gratitude for Ruth’s time and commitment in continuing to support and inspire our members and guests.