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Toyota CEO Jim Lentz considers Plano his most daring achievement

Toyota Motor North America Chief Executive Officer, Jim Lentz, addresses a group of 75 special guests and local media. Lentz lays out the automotive companys plan for building a new sustainable corporate campus set to be completed in late 2016 or early 2017 on January 20, 2015 in Plano, Texas. CEO

Toyota Motor North America Chief Executive Officer, Jim Lentz, at the new headquarters in Plano, Texas. Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Toyota.

He’s the driving force behind Plano’s most famous corporate relocation. One of his favorite things about his new corporate headquarters is a 100-year-old oak tree. Meet Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America.

Favorite motivational quote?  Two that come to mind are: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela. We also have a corporate messaging that ties-in to our sponsorship of the Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympics. We say, “Start Your Impossible.”

Something no one knows about you? When I was younger, I sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door and also re-strung tennis rackets.

Life-changing moment? Early in my career at Toyota, I learned a lesson about staying true to my values. Our district sales manager called everyone together, we thought, to congratulate us for meeting our monthly sales goal. But instead, he hammered us to step it up for the following month. As we were all leaving the meeting, he pulled me aside and said I was too soft on people. He wanted me to change my style and to motivate people with an iron fist. He gave me an ultimatum, and the weekend to think about it. On Monday, I would have to commit to making the change or find a new job. Long story short, on Monday morning, I told my manager I had to be who I was and I couldn’t change that, nor would I commit to his demand. He gave me two weeks to find another job, which I did at our corporate headquarters in California. It was a demotion and I took a pay cut, but in the end, I made the right choice. The point of this story is that to succeed in your career—or as a company—you have to stay true to yourself and your foundational values.

To succeed in your career—or as a company—you have to stay true to yourself and your foundational values.
— Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America.

Favorite spot to relax in DFW?  The driving range at my local golf course.

Read more- Inside One Toyota: A look at the campus and the culture

Self-driving car or flying car? Self-driving car.

If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be?  Leonardo da Vinci because he was, in my opinion, one of the greatest human beings ever to live. He was artistic, scientific and futuristic. He had it all.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  I knew I always wanted children, so I wanted to be a good parent. I also had times in my life when I wanted to be a professional athlete—either hockey or golf.

What’s your most daring achievement? Making the decision to move our North America headquarters and team members from around the country to Plano, Texas. Another daring achievement, in my opinion, was when I played with professional golfers in the AT&T Pro Am tournament.

Secret to success? Be a problem solver, not a critic.

Favorite thing about Plano?  The people.

Biggest pet peeve? People need to be punctual.

Guilty pleasure? Chardonnay

Read more: Toyota GVP Julia Wada on collaborative leadership 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?  One of my old bosses told me to be a student of the business. I’ll always remember that. My father also told me to always follow my North Star and stay true to my core values.

My father also told me to always follow my North Star and stay true to my core values.
— Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America.

What talent do you wish you had? I always wanted to play the guitar.

What’s on your desk? I keep it pretty clean. Just a monitor, computer, printer and my iPad.

Originally published in Plano Profile‘s March 2018 issue.

 

Rebecca Silvestri
Executive Editor
Rebecca Silvestri is the executive editor at Plano Profile. She is also the wife of Philip Silvestri, Publisher of Plano Profile.

In a previous life, Rebecca was a math teacher (in London and the Dominican Republic).

Philip and Rebecca have a little boy named Theo and are expecting a baby girl this July.

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