Community Insights: Leadership Through Crisis – Multi-Generational Views

This article is part of a series of insights and op-eds from members in our community. If you would like to be featured in an article, please click here.

Insights from USJC Board Member Norman Nakasone (SVP, Small Business Market Manager, Central Pacific Bank) and USJC Associate Kimberly Haruki (TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ’16; ELP ’17; VP, Community & Market Development Manager, Central Pacific Bank)

Representing different generations of leadership, Norman and Kim respond to three questions focused on leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic – a theme which will be further explored at USJC’s Bilateral Boardroom virtual event on September 16.

How have lessons from prior crises informed your leadership during the current pandemic?

Norman: For me, personally, key leadership principles that rose to the surface during this crisis include: 1) Decisiveness – acting with prudent speed and agility 2) Communicating the “why” behind the “what” 3) Transparency with, and appreciation for, our employees and volunteers for nonprofit organizations like USJC and 4) Servant Leadership. 

Kim: I’ve never faced, professionally, a crisis of this global scale so I’ve taken cues from Central Pacific Bank’s (CPB) senior management and relied on fundamentals – transparent and frequent communications, being able to navigate ambiguity, and acting with speed and agility. I’m also big on the people component – keeping our employees, customers, and community our priority, and remembering that wellness and mental health matter.

What have the past six months been like, and what was your role in responding to COVID-19?

Norman:  The pandemic has devastated the Hawaii business community in ways that many could, and would, not have imagined a year ago. I marvel at the resilience demonstrated by many of these businesses as they work to pivot and reinvent themselves to not only survive the current situation, but in striving to succeed in the future under what will become the new normal.

It gives me great pride to work for an organization like Central Pacific Bank that played a significant role in our community to help local businesses weather the beginning of the storm by participating in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan program. A recent article in Yahoo! Finance recognized CPB as the most popular PPP lender in Hawaii, with the highest market share of any bank in any state in the U.S.

I had the privilege of serving as the Bank’s PPP Hotline lead during its first 45 days and heard, first hand, the challenges and issues small businesses faced and their words of heartfelt appreciation as we were able to do our part in helping them survive at least the early days of this crisis.

Kim: The pandemic presented us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the community, helping with immediate relief and to define a path to a brighter future in the new normal. In my work for the CPB Foundation – a significant contribution would be leading the program, #KeepHawaiiCooking powered by CPB Foundation. In its first phase, our Foundation “split the bill” 50% with local families who patronized restaurants with takeout and delivery orders. After sharing 10,000 meals with the community and injecting over $600,000 into the economy, we also provided $50,000 in grants to restaurants who would in turn prepare “mahalo meals” to refuel and thank Hawaii’s frontline heroes with sponsored meals. I liken the experience of standing up a program within weeks, working around the clock, having emotional highs and lows, and importantly, running on pure passion, to being in a startup environment. To know that we helped with food security and kept doors open for many beloved eateries, makes it entirely worth it.

In what ways have Nisei values influenced your leadership?

Norman: As I think about Nisei values, I can’t help but think about CPB’s own roots and the perseverance and resilience demonstrated by its founders, a small group of Nisei WWII veterans, including the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. The Bank was formed to provide more equitable service to all communities in Hawaii, especially in the small business market. 66 years later, it is the gratitude we feel for the local community and small businesses who helped us with our own fight for survival back in 2010 that drives our desire to help them through this pandemic. And it’s exciting to see CPB doing its part in laying the foundation for consumers and small businesses to prepare themselves for what will soon become the new normal.

Kim: More than particular values passed down by our Nisei ancestors, I immediately think back to CPB’s founding fathers, decorated WWII heroes, including the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, and what they achieved – creating a financial institution to serve all of Hawaii’s people, in the face of rampant prejudice and inequities. Being the difference, and helping people in need thrive, are both our legacy and our future. It’s the pioneering and steadfast spirit of Nisei that I hope my leadership embodies.

If you don’t know Norman and Kim personally through their involvement with USJC – we reveal that Norman is a baby boomer having worked more than 30 years with Central Pacific Bank, and Kim is a millennial, having joined the company less than 3 years ago. Although diverse in their experiences, our dialogue revealed many commonalities in their values and insights on leadership.

You may also recognize the connection to Paul Yonamine, Chair-elect of USJC’s Board of Directors and Executive Chairman of Central Pacific Bank, who will be speaking at our upcoming Bilateral Boardroom event on September 16. Hear from key decision-makers from business, government and the civil sector in the United States and Japan, where we will facilitate additional conversations around the theme of “Leadership Through Crisis, Lessons Learned.”