Olympic Torchbearers: Who do they run for?


Introducing a new series of Toyota Times articles to feature five Toyota employee runners who care for someone other than themselves.


To Toyota Times readers,

Originally, this series of articles was scheduled to kick-off coinciding with the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay, on March 26, 2020. The series is designed to introduce the Toyota employees selected to serve as torchbearers.

These torchbearers have expressed a desire to share that they are not running for themselves, but that they are running "for someone else."

Unfortunately, with the postponement of Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay has also been postponed.

For the Toyota torchbearers, however, while not able to run right now, there is no reason to delay highlighting their reasons for running. Therefore, this series will continue as scheduled, and it is hoped that readers will come to understand the desires and expectations the torchbearers have placed on their involvement in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run.

Olympic Torchbearers: Who do they run for?

In recent Toyota internal meetings, a key phrase, “Leadership with a human touch,” has come up repeatedly.

[ Mitsuru Kawai, Executive Vice President ]

“We should remind ourselves that we are blessed to be treated well, and at the same time, I believe we should constantly be asking ourselves if we are applying appropriate ‘leadership with a human touch' and an ‘ability to get things done.’.

I would like all employees to ask themselves, ‘Am I a Toyota person worthy of being supported by all of our partner companies?”

(The above quote was translated for the reader’s reference from the following article - Japanese only: トヨタ春交渉2020 第2 「ボスになるな リーダーになれ」)

Willingly or not, company personnel evaluations tend to reach conclusions based on easy-to-see results and performance outcomes related to accomplished tasks. However, it is also essential to focus attention on aspects that are not so readily apparent, including discerning human nature by asking questions to determine whether or not “that person’s disposition is such that they will truly gain the support of others.”

Akio Toyoda talks about human resources and the type of human nature expected for Toyota's next generation of students who have graduated from Toyota Technical Skills Academy this spring.

[Akio Toyoda, TMC President]

Nowadays, people say judgment is performance-based or individual-based or something like that. The starting point [for your personal evaluation] should instead be “as I work, how can I become a person who is needed by my colleagues?” It is not possible to provide answers for things yet to be seen. However, what I believe we need is, in lieu of theories, at least the kind of humanity that allows human curiosity and a feeling that we don’t want to lose.

(The above quote was translated for the reader’s reference from the following article - Japanese only: 香川編集長トヨタ工業学園取材 「人づくりこそがトヨタの強み」)

In addition, Akio often says “I want us to be a compassionate and caring company where ‘people always support and watch out for each other.’"

[Akio Toyoda, TMC President]

Which means, when every single person working at Toyota thinks about and cares for someone other than themselves, you become an ‘Otento-sama’. I believe that when we do this, it will be the first time we can truly say that we are a compassionate and caring company where ‘people always support and watch out for each other.”

On other occasions, this same message has been expressed as he emphasized that all people working at Toyota need "to think about and care for someone other than one's self" and how this idea is central to becoming both a generous and compassionate company.

(The above quote was translated for the reader’s reference from the following article - Japanese only: 秋の交渉のゆくえ トヨタ労使は「共通の基盤」に立てるのか?)

Implied in his statement is that even if you do not call attention to your own accomplishments, by working hard “for the benefit of someone other than yourself,” then someone around you will always recognize your efforts. In order to realize a workplace based on such a philosophy, Akio is saying that it is crucial for managers to go visit actual worksites and factory floors, and identify those who are “working hard for others.”

In 2015, Toyota became a Worldwide Partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. One of its rights as a presenting partner of the Olympic Torch Relay has been recruiting torchbearers, which it started from last year.

When asked ‘What kind of person within the company would make a suitable torchbearer?’, Akio replied in an expected way, saying: ‘Those who support and watch out for others.’

[Akio Toyoda, TMC President]
“It’s good to shine the spotlight on those who are working hard in the shadows. All the employees I have met up until now have their own special story. I would like us to select people like this who are working hard and doing their best so that a lot of other people can see them.”

Toyota Times will therefore publish a series of articles that will focus on five torchbearers who are especially passionate and “working hard for others.” The articles will introduce their backgrounds and the stories behind the reasons they wanted to run.