When Fish Fly | John Yokoyama

Summary of: When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace from the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market
By: John Yokoyama


Imagine a world where workplaces brim with vitality, engagement, and the passion to make a difference. ‘When Fish Fly’ by John Yokoyama unveils the secrets behind such a transformation, using his own journey at the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market as the archetype. This summary will walk you through the dramatic changes in leadership, mindset, and communication that transpired at the market, catapulting it to worldwide fame. Get ready to learn the power of letting go of preconceived notions, fostering a safe environment for open communication, and coaching employees to reach their full potential.

The Pathway to a Great Business

To create a successful business venture, the first step is to change yourself and your mindset. Don’t let preconceived notions and misconceptions hinder your growth. Avoid believing that your way is the best and be open to suggestions. To live in the present and the future, generate a big idea and stay receptive to the input of others. Everyone has something to offer, and by developing a mighty idea, you can accomplish great things with your firm that can make a difference in the world.

The Power of Changing Perspectives

John Yokoyama’s success story of transforming his business by changing his perspective towards his employees

In 1960, John Yokoyama acquired the struggling Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington, using his entire savings. He spent two decades running the business, but without much success. It wasn’t until he realized that he was treating his employees as collateral rather than human beings that he began to see things differently. He wanted to make a world-famous difference by positively impacting each person who entered his store. Yokoyama then hired a consultant, Jim Bergquist, who helped him understand how his thoughts, attitudes, and actions were holding back the store’s growth and his employees’ potential. Together, they transformed the store’s atmosphere by breaking down communication barriers and implementing peer coaching, creating a safe environment for employees to express themselves openly and honestly. Yokoyama’s perspective shift was transformative, as he realized the impact he could make in the lives of his staff and customers went far beyond selling fish. To reflect their new mission, they renamed the store the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market. John Yokoyama’s story emphasizes the power of changing perspectives in business, thus boosting growth and success.

Yokoyama’s transformation journey

The journey of Yokoyama, a leader who learned the importance of active listening, respect, support, and commitment towards his employees and how it led to the rise of his successful venture.

Yokoyama’s leadership journey taught him significant lessons that transformed his style of management. He realized the need to let go of his preconceived notions about his employees, actively listen to their ideas, and treat them with respect as individuals. He shifted his approach from finding flaws to figuring out how things could work by looking for the good in their suggestions. Furthermore, being committed to employees’ growth was critical, and he worked on building their commitment to him, the customers, and making a difference to everyone they met on the job and off.

Yokoyama’s transformational philosophy extended to Market’s employees, leading them to become immersed in his approach, resulting in almost no attrition. With training, coaching, and persistence, the team became committed to supporting, encouraging, and coaching one another. The result was a phenomenal success, building an ability to help others. Yokoyama’s story teaches the significance of active listening, respect, support, and commitment towards employees, leading to a vibrant and energized workplace.

Transforming Your Workplace

Transforming your workplace involves dropping any preconceived ideas, determining your business’s purpose, creating a safe environment for communication, becoming a change agent, and introducing coaching and attitude choice. To achieve this transformation, leaders must assume that their employees want to learn and excel, determine their business’s purpose beyond profit, and create an environment where communication is encouraged. By actively living the new vision, coaching each other, and choosing attitudes, employees can turn challenges into breakthroughs. Some may resist the transformation, but those who embrace it will thrive in the new work environment.

A Unique Approach to Hiring

At the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market, new employees are not hired, but invited to join for a three-month paid pre-employment period. During this time, both the candidate and the team get to know each other and assess if they are a good fit for the company’s vision. The candidates experience the company’s culture, attend meetings, and learn specific tasks while being coached by the team. After the initial period, candidates decide if they want to commit to the company’s vision and make a personal declaration of their commitment in front of the team. The employer-employee relationship is not one-sided, as the company promises to help employees become all they can, listen to them, and help them create their own futures. The company’s approach is to immerse employees in the culture, allowing them to learn through experience how the company works, how its values are acted upon, and how employees interact.

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