Lexus Face

All of us are familiar with the derogatory term “two-faced.” This refers to somebody who falsely presents themselves.

A new idiom may be about to enter the lexicon. That idiom is “Lexus Face.” According to The Wall Street Journal “Lexus Face” is “a peaceful Ogasawara-style closed mouth smile said to put customers at ease.”

Ogasawara refers to the Ogasawara Ryu Reihou institute in Japan. This institute is an etiquette school which teaches samurai etiquette which has been handed down since the 1300s.

In Japan, Toyota is sending all Lexus employees for samurai etiquette training under the belief that this will help sell more cars. Besides “Lexus Face” employees are learning how to stand idly with “fingers together and thumbs interlocked” as well as how many arm lengths to stand away from the customer.

The problem with the samurai techniques is that they are mere techniques. A samurai warrior in Japan went through years and years of rigorous training. This training was not only about techniques; it taught a samurai way of being in the world.

Corporations such as Southwest Airlines, L.L. Bean, and Nordstrom that do have legendary customer service do not rely on techniques to ensure their service. They rely on hiring and training employees who have positive regard for their customers. They then give their employees the autonomy that is necessary, so that employees can demonstrate their positive regard.

A “Lexus Face” put on the face of a Lexus employee will fool nobody if either the employee does not have positive regard for their customer or the employee does not have autonomy to demonstrate their regard by the service they perform.

Let me suggest a more foolproof method to increase sales—genuine positive regard for the customers. A Course in Miracles, a modern statement of the perennial spiritual wisdom offers this advice:

When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.

Now this is a radical frame of mind to be in. It takes us far beyond the need for a one-size-fits-all smile. This reminds us that we and the customers we serve are really not separate. If we are thinking poorly of them, we are really thinking poorly of ourselves; this is hardly a combination that is going to make a sale.

It is out of a frame of mind that has a genuine desire to be of service that we go beyond the need for technique. A “Lexus Face” may be better than a scowl, but not much better; especially if the “face” is not accompanied by sincere regard and the autonomy to be of genuine service.

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13 Responses to Lexus Face

  1. Robert W. Gast, Jr. says:

    Excellent obervations! The only “technique” that, once mastered, increases customer trust in the one who has mastered the “technique” is an attribute called authenticity. Authenticity requires turning away from a canned, “one size fits all” approach to dealing with people and requires a serious understanding of a person’s self-drivers and core values.

    Those who are most comfortable in working with and dealing with the buying public will find their true calling and be in a position to thrive while those whose core values and self drivers disdain this kind of work can save themselves, and their employer, much money and time.

    True, it takes more investment in terms of time and training than a “technique.” But the belief that authenticity or the ability to embrace it is a “technique” or tape or book that can produce results without the hard work of finding one’s soul in their work (David Whyte – “A Heart Aroused”) is a false paradigm.

    Creating an org structure that enhances associate/employee ability to find meaning in their work actually enhances accountability and results.

    Interestingly, an org structure that does not imply hierarchical control on the org chart, while seeming to suggest less control than traditional command and control models actually produces more results and better control. My experience has taught me that this requires a different kind of management style in order to work and that it fits today’s workforce much better than previous management paradigms.

    I believe that one reason for this is beacuse it essentially allows employees to be authentic in their work which produces a high sense of ownership that cannot be duplicated via command and control styles. Paradoxically, this also produces a high degree of accountability. A heavier investment in training and cross-training is more than off-set in employee satisfaction which (I can site significant studies) drives customer satisfaction.

    Bob Gast, Jr.

  2. Barry Brownstein says:

    Bob,

    Very well said! Your employees/colleagues are very fortunate to be able to work with you.

  3. Rashid Ali says:

    Hello! Dr. Brownstein:
    It is amazing how far we go and how much effort we put into fakeness. What is the use of showing a “Lexus Face” when the inner soul, the true self is concealing a junk YUGO. The truth is, as you put so eloquently, that people see and can discern falsehood from a mile.

    Thanks for the great insight and wisdom; as always.

    Rashid Ali

  4. Barry Brownstein says:

    Hello Rashid,

    What is the use indeed! Taking the inner-journey and allowing our true Self to shine is far easier.

  5. Ansam says:

    Cool info.. I added a link to your page on my blog. I hope you dont mind
    Also check this: http://ansam518.blogspot.com/2007/07/go-lexus-go.html

  6. Barry Brownstein says:

    Hello Ansam,

    Thanks for your interest and the link. It is customary in the U.S. to only copy a small part of the piece and then provide a link so that your readers will go to my blog. Could you please do that? Thanks

  7. Ansam says:

    I know 🙂 I copy/pasted the article from an email I recieved earlier this week. I didnt mean to plagiarize.. and thats why I provided the link at the very beginning 🙂 I visited your blog out of curiosity after I have already posted my blogs. I did what just asked me to do. Cheers

  8. Barry Brownstein says:

    Ansam,

    I appreciate your very prompt response. Thanks!

  9. Peter Jaworski says:

    I can appreciate the comment about how much effort we often are required to invest in fakeness. Similar to another posting, I immediately thought of my actions at work as I read this topic.

    To wit: I have found that when I am authentic when dealing with an employee or a client, that it often seems to be natural and effortless. If I take care of the big things (i.e., I am genuinely concerned about their needs or problems and take time to really listen to them), I don’t need to worry about my posture, eye contact, etc. – these physical attributes will naturally take care of themselves.

    Another area of life that this concept seems to apply is in athletic performance. During a competition, athletes often go through a period where they focus more on their technique (i.e., am I holding my arms up high enough? Are my mechanics sound?) than on the competition itself. It is only when they have mastered the technique and are caught up in the moment during a competition will their actions seem to flow and seem effortless.

  10. Barry Brownstein says:

    Peter,

    You hit upon a key point when you wrote: “(If) I am genuinely concerned about their needs or problems and take time to really listen to them, I don’t need to worry about…”

    Funny thing about our egos is that it would choose to worry about the other things you mentioned rather than have “genuine concern.”

  11. Velvet says:

    I’m fascinated by your thoughts on this. My major problem with living in Washington D.C. is the lack of “genuine” people I meet in the land of dating. I feel as though I just spent a year with someone who was putting on a face the whole time, and only after spending large quantities of time together do you see the face crack and the real agenda come out. It prompted me to being telling people when they ask me what I’m looking for in a mate: “I want someone GENUINE. The good career, the honesty, the stuff on paper that most people cite as what they want mean nothing to me if it comes with a person with their own agenda.”

  12. […] Brownstein, professor of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore, has served up some criticism of Lexus Japan’s new sales techniques: A “Lexus Face” [a peaceful Ogasawara-style closed […]

  13. Barry Brownstein says:

    Velvet,

    There is a ease that comes with being around “genuine” people. The conversation is rich and the interaction is enlivening. As we interact with a “genuine” person we learn about ourselves and they bring out the best in us. These interactions can last a moment or a lifetime, but they are part of what makes life worth living.

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