It was love that drew Masako Nemoto-Deacon to her current home, London, in 1997 but she believes that her leaving Japan had been inevitable. After spending a year living in former West Germany as a child and listening to her father’s experiences as a researcher in Europe, Australia and India, the Chiba Prefecture native had an intuitive curiosity to settle abroad.
“I had seen the world via my father’s stories and realized we weren’t living in a box but instead were all connected,” Nemoto-Deacon says. “I also knew in my gut that if I wanted to pursue a career it would be better to go somewhere outside Japan.”
Despite holding a degree in Japanese history from Japan Women’s University, Nemoto-Deacon found few career options on graduation in 1990.
“At that time most women became admin staff no matter what sort of education they had,” she says. While admitting the work pleased some and was an improvement on the options available a few decades earlier — when women could not even enter the workforce — she had the feeling that the lifestyle on offer “may not fit” with her.
Now, spurred on by the movement in her homeland to empower women, the 50-year-old is using British coaching techniques gleaned over more than 20 years in the U.K. to support other women who don’t “fit” in the traditional roles expected of them.
With a motto of “you at your best,” Nemoto-Deacon’s business, L.C.L. (Miyabi Consultant Ltd.), offers transformational coaching for organizational development. Women’s advancement and inclusive leadership are the most popular requests from her Japanese customers, which make up 70 percent of her client base.
“It’s rewarding working for these companies because I do lots of training for front-line female staff, empowering them to make the jump into management. Most of them have been so busy that, through my consulting, they are seeing themselves for the first time in a long time.” And that powerful personal awakening, she says, can be a beautiful and satisfying moment for both her and the participants.
For Nemoto-Deacon, though, it’s a satisfaction that has been hard won.
Amid targets to increase the number of women in leadership positions and thereby boost the economy, Japan Inc. is now embracing the outcomes she can deliver. However, when she set up the business in 2003, she was not warmly received. Although curious about her international approach, most companies “didn’t have any intention of paying to be taught by one woman: coaching was completely new to them and no one was listening.”
Through trial sessions, Nemoto-Deacon expanded gradually from supporting solely U.K.-based companies to her current portfolio.
“It was a life-changing period for me,” she says. “I ended my first marriage and I wanted to do this coaching for Japanese people so I thought maybe it’s time to do it.”
She describes her previous experience of working in London as a consultant for a global company as shocking and eye-opening. Its open culture allowed her to look at communication from a fresh perspective.
“Anybody could say anything to anyone — even the receptionist could chat with the CEO — which is completely unbelievable in a Japanese organization,” she says. “Everyone could exchange their thoughts but they had respect for each other. In Japan, we also respect each other but that respect sometimes prevents expression.”
Working for that company also introduced Nemoto-Deacon to coaching. By encouraging staff to take a step back, consider others’ views and approach problems from various angles, she and her fellow consultants motivated organizations to find solutions through teamwork and growth.
The change that she witnessed inspired her to launch her business but the spontaneous, individualistic reflection that her method requires can be testing for staff in Japanese organizations where collective thinking is valued.
Even when participants have different points of view, they may agree with others in case of upsetting their superiors or group harmony, for example, or there might be a culture of having meetings even though it is unclear at the end if everyone is in agreement. Having seen that decision-making is quicker in the U.K., part of her work also involves supporting people in how to make decisions effectively.
For Japanese companies that want to globalize, Nemoto-Deacon believes this kind of personal staff development is the only way forward. “Japanese companies can’t just keep looking elsewhere to fulfill their needs, but should find what they need in themselves and invest in unlocking it,” she says, pointing out that her Japanese clients tend to invest only a half day for a team-building session designed for three days.
She remains hopeful, though, that demand for her cross-cultural experiences will grow as Japanese firms embrace a global outlook while seeking to maintain their DNA.
Meanwhile, British firms are increasingly seeking mindfulness programs to boost staff productivity, prompting Nemoto-Deacon to introduce it into each of her corporate packages. It is a subject close to her heart after finding fulfillment through her life in London.
In England, she says, there is a greater variety of ways to relax, resulting in people being happier day-to-day than they are in Japan.
Asked what she misses about Japan, without hesitation she says her ancestors’ grave. She admits that her father’s death, in 2012, has had a profound effect on her life and work.
After a stroke caused his move into a nursing home, Nemoto-Deacon and his friends visited him regularly. One day he shared what he thought was the most important thing for business. Expecting to hear “knowledge” or “understanding,” Nemoto-Deacon was shocked when he answered, “love.”
“I never saw him in that way,” she says, given the busy nature of his management role after he left the research field. She has since incorporated his work ethic into her approach, explaining that “love is important because it creates generosity and passion”: human qualities needed in business as well as life.
It’s for that reason that Nemoto-Deacon embraces rather than fears the evolving technology that is making the world smaller and more connected.
“So many things can now be done by computer but only human beings can make their own team,” she says, “and that can only happen through communication — with themselves and others.”
Name: Masako Nemoto-Deacon
Key moments in career:
1997 — Moves to the U.K.; begins consulting
2003 — Sets up own business
2012 — Father passes away
Words to live by: “Everything is happening as it’s meant to be.”
Strengths: Willpower to make things happen
1997年 渡英、コンサルティングの仕事に 携わる
2003年 L.C.L. を設立