Aloha: you get what you first decide to give.

I’m home again, after the launch of Managing with Aloha, and my November book-signings. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve taken the time to come to one of the past two week’s events and see me. It’s been absolutely wonderful meeting people at my book signings and hearing of their own experiences, even more affirmation to this certainty: if you are a manager, you have a profound effect on those you manage. I hear their stories all the time.

And as with any long trip, it’s good to come home. My mahalo to Bobby Command for the write-up of Managing with Aloha in West Hawaii Today this morning, my own local newspaper:

Tips for the Manager
Former Hualalai VP pens book

I’m very grateful, for unlike those who suffer gut-wrenching bad reviews at the hands of critics, those I have received from Managing with Aloha have been very favorable. My heart goes out to Joey Tribiani every time I watch those Friends re-runs! And remember that episode where the friends buy up every newspaper in sight before Monica can see what’s been written about her new restaurant?

As someone who loves to write, I will admit that it’s a self-indulgent treat reading how others write about what I may have written or said. Bobby was very creative in his review this morning:

“Johnny Paycheck and Dolly Parton probably had the wrong manager. The employees in the songs, “Take this Job and Shove It,” and “Working 9-to5” never had bosses who managed with aloha.” (I added the link to a past post.)

He also reminded me of several conversations I’ve had lately. In autographing my books thus far, I am writing in the name of someone’s boss much more often than not. The sentence I hear the most from people is “I think my boss could really use this.”

Then yesterday I got an email from a woman wanting to let me know that she’d be back to see me at a December signing to talk story a little more: She’d decided to read Managing with Aloha for herself first, having purchased the book in ample time before needing to wrap it up for her boss as a Christmas gift. Being an avid reader, she read it through once pretty quickly, but she kept stopping to write her thoughts down in a notebook, all the while wishing she had her own copy to write in and highlight for her own reasons.

I’m very anxious to see her again, and learn more about what her “own reasons” are. In my response I encouraged her to please visit with us here, and talk story with the rest of our Ho‘ohana Community too. However from her email I could already tell that aloha is warming her spirit, and she has a new resolve to take the creation of a better relationship with her boss in her own hands. Bravo! Aloha is both the outpouring and receiving of the spirit. To wish for someone else to have the aloha spirit, you normally will find you want to share it and explore it yourself too.

In his article this morning, I love that Bobby picked out these sentences I’d written in the book:

“I realized that aloha was a statement of personal truths for me, my own source to look inward to. When I released it, aloha made my job easier and it made me more effective in delivering the results that were expected of me.”

Book Excerpt: Chapter One on Aloha.

Well, it was also easier—quicker and better—when in turn, aloha was shared with me by my employees: in so many ways it is absolutely true that you get what you first decide to give.

I believe that we all have aloha within us. How close it bubbles to the surface is a choice we individually have to make.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing:
It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

French author, humanist, rationalist, and satirist (1694-1778)

I shared the following story of the Alaka‘i Nalu in my Ho‘ohana newsletter in its pre-web, pre-Talking Story days, on November 1st of 2003. I’m posting it again today because it is so appropriate for Thanksgiving. It remains my most commented-on Ho‘ohana message written.

However even more satisfying to me and to the Alaka‘i Nalu are the new stories that this one has generated. The simple, easy-to-start practice of “giving mahalos” has become the favorite management tool of many I coach, bringing the harmony and unity of Lōkahi to their teams. Their transformational stories are inspiring. Try it with your team or your family, and see what it will do for you.

Aloha kaua,

There is much to be thankful for, and I love that November comes around to remind us to say “mahalo” to those who need to hear the words come from us. Each year November seems to come at the perfect time for me: August through October have been hectic, and I need the time to focus on the really basic stuff I should be grateful for before the Christmas holidays hit me square between the eyes.

It’s hard to be a pessimist if we are focused on gratitude instead. Hard to be stressed; the stressful stuff fails to be important. Hard to be angry. Hard to be sullen, even hard to be confused. Pretty cool how that works.

About a year before I’d left Hualalai Resort, I’d taken on the management of the Alaka’i Nalu, the "Leaders of the waves": they are the ones who take care of the ocean sports programs there. There was some pilikia (troubles) among the ranks at the time, and it was clear we had to ho’oponopono (make things right). So we started a practice of "sharing our mahalos" at the end of each weekly meeting.

For several weeks, the only real homework the Alaka’i Nalu had for the week was to catch someone else on the team doing a favor for them. They were to say thank you then and there, but they were also to share their mahalo at the next weekly meeting in front of the entire group, adding a few words on why the favor given meant something to them.

One of the first things I discovered was that they didn’t know how to graciously accept it when someone said thank you: it was hard for them to just say "You’re welcome" and leave it at that. Far easier to crack a joke or even look at someone else and say, "yeah brah, you should do some of that too sometimes." In those early weeks I’d ask them to just listen quietly and not respond at all, other than to nod their head in acknowledgement of the words being spoken.

There were more groundrules that would get added as we went, such as picking a different person each week to break down the buddy-to-buddy game playing. With each wisecrack I’d have to say, "Either you start being sincere, or I add another rule you gotta remember."

Then I learned to start modeling the behavior I wanted, ending the meeting with my own mahalos for each of them, "Mahea, thank you for starting early today: Hui Wa’a (our Friday paddle) was easier for all of us because you took the time to reassign last night’s late sign-ups. Daniel, thank you for taking care of those kids that got badly sunburned at King’s Pond on Tuesday: I got a call from their parents about how thoughtful and patient you were, and your actions add to the reputation of the entire team." … and on for each one in turn.

They caught on, and I’d have to say less and less each week. One week we went overtime on other business, and I nearly got a revolt when I tried to adjourn without giving them the time to speak they expected: sharing their mahalos had become genuine, generous, and thought-provoking. It became the best part of the meeting by far.

They loved it when someone new joined the group or I’d invited a guest – they wanted to show off! But here’s the thing: they didn’t want to show off that they did it, they wanted more people to hear about how terrific their peers were. It amazed me how articulate they were when a newcomer was in the room.

They also started to show me how perceptive they were – they caught everything. They learned more about each other because they were learning about what someone else appreciated – it differed for them individually (anyone who knows the Alaka’i Nalu knows they are a very unique group). Over time, the depth of the actions taken were incredible – it was trivial to have someone say thank you for something minor. They tried so hard: I was really proud of them.

Yup, just saying thank you can be pretty cool. Try it this month in a different way than you usually do, and I promise you’ll have a great month.

This one is from me to you: Mahalo nui loa for being part of my ‘Ohana and Ho’ohana network. You are helping me keep connected, active, and infused with energy in this new life I’m learning to craft for myself – and your being there means a lot to me.

Have a good Thanksgiving. I hope you will be surrounded by family, friends, and Aloha as you silently say thank you for those taste buds!

Gobble gobble … a hui hou,


‘Tis the season for the value of Mahalo.

In Hawaii we say “mahalo” to say “thank you.” As a value, mahalo is thankfulness as a way of living our lives.

Peter Davidson has a good post up at Be Connected, where he relates how saying mahalo to your customers right now can help with your “customer intuition”:

“Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US. I am reminded that the coming holidays are an excellent time to grow your customer intuition. More than an opportunity to send another tin of popcorn, the holiday season is an opportunity to connect personally with your customers.” Peter Davidson

Read the rest of Peter’s article, Six Questions to Ask Customers, here.

He makes a great point, however his post got me thinking about the ways I should be saying mahalo to my own customers right now just to say it, and let them know I do appreciate them ”“ period. Don’t let the opportunity of this Thanksgiving season pass you by.

*If you have a copy of Managing with Aloha (thank you!) Mahalo as a Hawaiian value is covered in Chapter 16.

Employees or Business Partners?

What are your employees to you?

In Sunday’s post I’d promised this Hana hou (follow-up):

This “work is personal” mana‘o (attitude) is not a one-way street in an organization managed and run with aloha. Employees have responsibilities that are professional and personal too, and they work best when they consider themselves partners in your business.

In other words, savvy business leaders get everyone to have a vested interest in the success of their business. Savvy business leaders work Kākou, inclusively, encouraging staff to work on the business they share, not just in it.

When your staff feels they are your business partners, they act that way; they rise to the expectation with an eagerness that may surprise you. Their professionalism rises to the top like the cream in butter, because you have made them feel like it is their rightful place.

We won’t go into the operational details of this (at least not right now); we’ll start at the beginning. For employees to consider themselves a certain way, the owner and visionary of that business must think that way first.

You can’t fake this; you have to genuinely believe in it. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. I have found that the successful business owners are those who consider their staff to be their partners: they know them, they trust them and they count on them. These things have been made possible by the vision and values they share. For remember, your values drive your behavior.

I chose the word partners deliberately: in a successful business, all employees are treated as your business partners. They are treated as the stake-holders they are.

This is the epigraph you’ll find across the dedication page of Managing with Aloha:

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I chose Goethe’s quote because I feel that this is what great managers who choose to manage with aloha do. They accept the responsibility they have to engage with their staff in a way that creates business-based partnerships. They take immense pleasure in seeing the involvement of those they manage grow. They count their successes by counting the number of people who have “become what they are capable of being.”

If you share these beliefs, you believe in your people: The Calling of Management: The 10 Beliefs of Great Managers.