#143-Leadership Lessons From My Trip To Taiwan
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I am John Laurito, your host back feeling refreshed from a great trip to Hawaii. Maui. Unbelievable. If you’ve never gotten the chance to go there, I highly, highly recommend it. It was an unbelievably fabulous week. I went with my kids, Nick and Sky, just the three of us, and we just had a great balance between Beach in it and chilling out and going on excursions and all kinds of stuff. And it was a ton of fun, great, great quality time. So I hope you are feeling refreshed. Hopefully, you got a chance to get away somewhere during spring break.
John: So today I want to share a story about travel. I want to talk about a story about a trip that I took to Taiwan and some of the really cool leadership stuff that I learned I didn’t expect to learn, but that I learned through my experiences in this trip to Taiwan. So this goes back, I think two or three years ago, I was asked to speak at a conference there through Gammer, and it was to speak on leadership to a group of, I’m going to say, 1500 or 2000 people and to do the main stage presentation and then also a breakout session. So each of those was going to be 45 minutes to an hour.
John: So it was two presentations I’d prepare. I was honored, thrilled. It was a really cool opportunity. It was my first experience speaking internationally. And so I had put in a ton of prep for this. And by the way, if you go to my LinkedIn profile and you look at the background picture, you will see that’s me on the stage presenting to the group. And it’s a picture taken behind me and looking out at this group. It was one of the most amazing theaters, auditoriums because the seats went up. You’ll see in the picture, it’s like stadium seating. And it was a pretty steep grade and it went all the way up. And it was just a really cool vantage point. So it’s kind of a cool picture if you get a chance to take a look at it.
John: But so I had been invited, you know, obviously had a lot of prep time, made sure I was ready to go. I had my presentations all set, you know, picked out my outfits, is going to wear a suit, you know, to kind of a formal environment here and wanted to obviously make sure I look my best. So I invited my twin sister Julie to come with me. So we had an absolute blast that was so much fun. So the flight out to Taiwan is not an easy one. I think we had to connect. I think we connected in New York and then from New York, we took a direct flight. But the direct flight from there, I’m going to say, was 17, maybe 18 hours. It was the longest flight I have ever been on. By far, for those who have ever been on a flight like that, you know what I’m talking about? It is crazy. Long time. I mean, it’s you’re on a plane for almost a day.
John: So needless to say, you know, you dress comfortably. I want to make sure that, you know, I can relax and be comfortable on this 18-hour trip. So I’m in like a T-shirt and shorts
and flip flops, and we finally get there, my sister and I, and we get to the luggage area and I, I had I’m waiting for my luggage, waiting, waiting, waiting. Nothing’s coming. And I finally see a sign on the luggage rack and the luggage rack has this little tent card sign that says, John Loredo, please see the service desk. And I’m thinking, OK, that’s not good. That’s not a very good sign. So needless to say, I take the sign, I go over to them and they say there’s been a
little bit of a problem. We don’t have your luggage. I said, OK, I didn’t get too crazy worked up at that point. I said, OK, well, what flight is that on and when’s it coming? They said, well, we’ve figured it out.
John: We found it. It is actually still in Boston. Now, at that point, in my presentation, I was speaking at like 2:00 in the morning Eastern Time. It was 2:00 in the afternoon Taiwan time. So, you know, with nothing else but everything going perfect, that that would be a challenge because you’ve got to get yourself revved up. But I’m looking at the clock and I’m like, OK, my presentation is in less than 24 hours and it took 24 hours total to get from Boston. So even if I got on a plane right then it would not reach me in time. Now keep in mind I have no clothes with me other than what I’m wearing, which is a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. All of my stuff, my suits, everything like that is in this luggage. Now, I’ve since learned a very valuable lesson. Don’t do that. If you’re doing a presentation, bring a suit on the plane. I now do that.
John: But the realization at that point, very crazy, a real moment of panic of saying, OK, I don’t have and I won’t have my luggage and my suits for this presentation I’m about to do in front of two thousand people. And all I have is a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. So with that realization, my sister and I are going to look at each other and said, OK, well, we’re going to have to do some shopping. And which was fine, which we did. And at the same point, though, not realizing that you know, I am 6’3, 240 there are not a lot of 6’3, 240 guys running around Taiwan. And to find a suit that fit me was turning out to be an unbelievably difficult task. We went from a store, to store, to store, to store. Now at first, the tone was like this was fun, you know, blah, blah, blah. And we’re tasting different stuff from Taiwan and going through the streets, kind of our own little adventure.
John: And I’m totally at ease thinking, OK, there’s obviously going to be a place that is going to have a suit that I can wear. It doesn’t have to look perfect, but at least something. And I quickly realized this was going to be really difficult. Every store was saying, you know, now we don’t have anything even close to something in your size. Or they would say they’d be excited. They say, oh, yeah, they run to the back. They bring out a jacket that I couldn’t even get my arms into. So needless to say, this slowly elevated to panic. And I’m starting to think and I start to go into stores and I’d say, do you have anything? It doesn’t even have to be a suit. Just something, just a shirt, something that looks better than what I’m wearing right now. It was no, no, no, no, no. All the way through the end of the day.
John: And it was probably four o’clock in the afternoon, we finally stumbled on a store that happened to have one suit that ended up phenomenon and actually worked out OK. I got the shirt. I got the tie. I got the suit, I got the belt, I got the pants, everything. And I’m thinking, OK, fine, now I need to get shoes. Now, this store did not have shoes. Well, I’ve got a size 14 feet and again, size 14 feet to find shoes. I usually don’t. I can’t go to a store in the States here and find shoes or size 14. I’ve always got to order them. So to be able to walk into a store in Taiwan where there probably aren’t a lot of people, a size 14 feet still was now this remaining challenge. So here I now envision myself in a suit and just sandals. OK, how’s that
going to look? Well, needless to say, we finally at about maybe five o’clock right before stores, we’re going to close and find a store that has size 14 shoe.
John: So it’s just this unbelievable thing that came together. The presentation was fantastic. I actually told the story on stage now and got a great response and a lot of laughter from it. That was my very panicked 24 hours of time, and what I realized then is, you know, part of me is like, OK, I at one point resigned to the fact that I may be doing this presentation in my shorts and t-shirt and flip flops. And I would just have this great story to tell and people would remember that presentation. So part of me actually thinks, you know, do we sometimes get overworked about stuff in reality? Had that happened, had I had had I literally had no choice and people would understand and I had no choice and had to do that, it would have made for a really interesting story. And I don’t know, maybe it would have been a more memorable presentation than I did. Who knows?
John: But the bottom line is sometimes we get overly worked up about stuff and in reality, things still work out no matter what. I still would have done the presentation. It still would have been great. Yes, it might have looked a little funny, but who knows? Again, maybe there would have been more people talking about it, more people sharing videos of it, more memories of it. So in any event, that was one crazy story. Two of the things I learned there, though, one of the things that were fascinating about Taiwan is that it was one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever seen. There was no trash through the city anywhere, and which was in and of itself an accomplishment. But what made it more of a fascinating concept is the fact that there were no trash cans anywhere.
John: Now, when I say no trash cans, I don’t mean just there were no trash cans on the street. There were no trash cans in restaurants in Starbucks. Didn’t even matter. There were no trash cans anywhere. So I’m like, I don’t get it. I don’t understand where the trash goes? Like, I mean, it’s one thing if they’re a clean city, but they’ve got all these trash receptacles, so at least you have a place to put it. My sister and I got coffee and we’re like, what do we do with our empty cups? And we finally ask somebody, we got a ride in a cab. We asked the guy, you know, what’s the deal with? You know, first of all, how do you keep the city so clean? But why are there no trash cans? And he said, well, the country actually asked its citizens to mind their own trash, which basically means that each person carries around their own little bag that they put their trash on and then they bring it home.
John: So when he said that I finally took notice and I’m like, yeah, everybody’s got a little bag that they’re walking around with. It’s not stuff that they bought in the store. It’s their trash. They take care of their own trash. That was just the expectation that they put out there. And the expectation that the president put out and the leaders of Taiwan is that listen, we are going to be an immaculate city. We’re going to be a very clean city. Here’s the way that we’re going to do it. We’re not going to put our trash cans. You are responsible for your own trash. And we’re relying on each of you to uphold that, not just to yourselves, but also with each other. So when you see other people not abiding by this, we expect you to hold them accountable and to say something to them. And sure enough, the whole country did. It was unbelievable.
John: So I found that pretty fascinating and just a really cool leadership lesson that when you share so many leaders don’t ask their teams, their people, their organization to do the
things that they want them to do. They don’t share the vision, the culture, and what the expectations should be. And then they wonder why, you know, there’s so much trash on the streets or why people aren’t treating people the way that they want them to. We’re communicating enough for sharing ideas and best practices as well as the leader. Have you said that? Have you said it enough and loudly enough and repeated it enough? So that was the first lesson. It was interesting what you can accomplish by just asking people and telling them what you expect. That was interesting.
John: The second takeaway was crime rates in Taiwan are incredibly low, unbelievably low is one of the safest cities and is one of the safest cities in the world. And I asked and the interesting thing is we saw no police cars, none on our entire trip. We did not see a single policeman, policewoman, or police vehicle at all the entire trip. Yet crime was incredibly low. And again, I asked somebody, well, how is that? Why do they do that? And I don’t know if this is the full answer, but this was part of it. They said, you know, we have adopted just a culture of crime that just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t exist. And it started because I think the punishments were so severe. I mean, like ridiculously severe. If you were caught with a knife or any kind of weapon, it was no question asked. You were automatically convicted and jail time was significant. It wasn’t like you went through a trial process. You were convicted.
John: So it was harsh for sure. But wow that did the trick. I mean, there were literally no concerns. We walk through the entire city at all, different times of day and night without a concern in the world, I can’t say that for many cities, there’s usually spots that you wouldn’t want to go in different times or whatnot. This was totally different and it was the culture, the culture. The leader owns the culture, and it starts with defining what it is. What do you want? What do you want your people to do? What do you want this to look like and feel like? So as the leader of your organization, whatever organization you lead, are you talking about that enough? Are you sharing with the team what this looks like when this culture is operating the way that you wanted to? When this organization is really operating at its peak level and the point of arrival, what does it look like and feel like? What’s happening like what do you see and hear and observe? What do you experience and what a client’s experiences and what are they observing? The leader cannot do that critical stuff.
John: So anyway, so I thought that was kind of fun. A few stories from my trip to Taiwan, I think I’m going to say it was maybe three years ago, but great, great life lessons and leadership lessons I thought I’d pass on to you. So a couple of funny ones there. So in any event, as always, share this like this subscribe to make sure you give me comments and thoughts to suggestions on other topics or guests for this show. And stay tuned. I’ve got my book, Tomorrow’s Leader coming out in a matter of weeks. I’m extremely excited about it. Stay tuned. I’ll tell you more about how you can get advanced copies of it and you’ll see it on social media, all kinds of stuff. So in the meantime, thanks for joining. I will look forward to seeing you next time.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at email@example.com Once again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! Lead on!