WE, Not Me: LATEST Guest SPEAKER Shares value of leading with a Relationship Mindset

As part of the “All I Know So Far” series, Toyota Industries Commercial Finance (TICF) welcomed Cesar Jimenez, Director of Product Planning, Quality Assurance, and Technical Services for Toyota Material Handling, Inc., who shared how he shaped his career by developing meaningful relationships, intentionally connecting with others, and leading with a “we” mindset.

Cesar admits his career is not what he once thought it would be. Originally planning to be a math teacher, Cesar’s path changed when he was awarded the Toyota National Hispanic Scholarship Fund to attend the University of Southern California. The scholarship included an internship at Toyota Motor Sales, where Cesar first proved his dedication to being a valuable individual contributor.

“Make connections, consciously, purposely, and routinely.”

Cesar explains that he was never driven by promotions or special titles, recalling, “my main goal when I started working was just to work hard on a daily basis, knowing that if I perform well, good things will come my way, and I will be able to provide for my family.” Twenty-five years later, his hard work is still part of what makes him a great leader at Toyota Material Handling.

He accredits much of his career growth to his own previous leaders, who acted as mentors providing guidance and direction. Looking back, he realizes that he would not be where he is today without those relationships. He strives to continue making connections, “consciously, purposely, and routinely” now that he is in a leadership role himself.

Cesar recognizes the immense benefits of a relationship mindset when it comes to leading a team. Getting to know people on a personal level allows him to understand their opportunities, capitalize on their strengths, and collectively accomplish goals.

“A ‘we,’ not ‘me’ attitude is the key to productive teams.”

A “we, not me” attitude, Cesar says, is the key to creating a productive team. “You have to know how to get things done through your team and through your people.” He explains that increased trust among team members leads to mutual success, which starts with making connections.

He offers a key piece of advice for those who want to improve their relationship-building skills: ask questions. Questions are engaging and often naturally progress the conversation, so even those who are not naturally social can benefit from this strategy. He recommends starting with work-related questions, making a connection, then gradually establishing a personal relationship as you become more comfortable. 

In a world full of competition, Cesar’s story reveals how making intentional connections at one company and adopting a relationship mindset can lead to a meaningful and successful career. He says, “If I had one thing to do all over again earlier on in my career, it would be to build relationships with as many people as I can.”