Holiday Hiatus: our Ho‘omaha.

Say Leadership Coaching was born in the heat of Hawaii’s summer, and as I worked on a plan for my new business, I literally had a Christmas in July moment.

After far too many years working like a mad woman during the holidays and having to schedule my staff to do the same thing, this was the one non-negotiable decision that would be entered onto my Business Plan: Say Leadership Coaching would be closed over the Christmas holidays, and I would never again schedule anyone to work them. To Ho‘omaha is to rest, to rejuvenate and replenish.

Therefore my Ho‘ohana Community of friends, this year, SLC will be closed starting Monday, December 20, 2004 and will reopen for business with the new year, on Monday, January 3, 2005.

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, Talking Story will continue to be here, hoping to serve you when you feel like checking in. I offer a sampling for you below, of the 24 posts that seemed to be most popular in the past few months. I’ll be back with our Ho‘ohana for January on Monday, January 3rd. Until then, my best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday season: give your Aloha in the gift of yourself to your family and loved ones. You will find that it blesses your Christmas and can last all through the new year.

I did not include the monthly Ho‘ohana in this listing: you can scroll down the left hand column to find them under their own heading below the Category List.

From my family to yours:

Mele Kalikimaka, Merry Christmas

Hauoli Makahiki Hou, and a Happy New Year

Ka la hiki ola, it is the dawning of a new day,

Make it your best one ever.

In the spirit of the season: Papa’s Shopping Angel Story.

My recent interview with Yvonne DiVita: A Story of Aloha given.

If you are looking for the Managing with Aloha Book Excerpts:

From the Chapter on ‘Ike loa: The Daily Five Minutes.

Countdown! It is time for Managing with Aloha.

November:

The Alaka‘i Nalu Mahalo Story: Appreciation is a wonderful thing.

3 Great Questions you can use to Delegate Better.

Courage versus Fear.

Let’s define Values.

On this side, Operations. On this side, Marketing.

October:

How did Ho‘ohana get to be your mantra?”

What’s the role of Human Resources?

Among young people, our hope, our challenge.

Another take on Management versus Leadership.

Human beings desperately need a sense of community.”

September:

A Myth on Work Identity to Shatter.

Why harness knowledge?

Business Cards fall under the category of:

A Haleakala Photo Album.

A Labor Day acronym for you.

August:

Customer Service is lost somewhere, please help me find it.

Why Zach wears number 4.

We Sell Things For You.

Red Flag Rising.

Summer Heroes.

Shifting organizational culture.

Coincidental, however with perfect timing for our Ho‘ohana this month on Organizational Change, Scott Hodge has started his own weblog discussion on Organizational Culture. I encourage you to click on over and take a look at his first post. He starts by saying, “I think when it really comes down to it, the goal of any organizational change or transition is really to see a shift in the culture” and he explains why it all starts with authentic leadership.

I’ve introduced you to Scott, author of the .:weebleland:. blog before.

It was back in late September with this post: Scott Hodge on Leadership. I’ve checked in with his blog ever since, finding he writes in a way that is honest, clean and clear, and from the heart, yet with great insight. I’ll be looking forward to the posts he’s promised to add on this, his latest topic.

The water’s fine: Take 5 and jump in!

[Preface: This is post 3 on the Daily Five Minutes. Catch Post 1 here, and Post 2 here.]

If I take most of your emails in these past three days and sum them up, they sound something like this:

“Okay Rosa, I’m sold on the Daily Five Minutes, so what’s the best way to start? Can I just try it, one employee at a time, or should we huddle first so they know its coming? Are there any red flags to Taking 5 just with my own crew, if I don’t get it blessed first by the guys upstairs?”

  • Start now, but only if you’re starting with good intent. As manager, you’re to have no agenda, no hidden motive. The employee talks. The manager listens and responds. Your only objectives should be ‘Ike loa: getting to know your employees better, and Mālama: creating a circle of comfort and safety in which they willingly feel they can step in, whether invited by you or not.
  • You can start one person at a time, or huddle first to introduce the concept to a group. Either way, the first conversation does have to be about what it is, why you want to do it, when and how often they can expect it. Your employees need to understand that they are the leaders in the conversation, and they have to be willing to take that lead because you’ve made it a safe, unthreatening time, with no ramifications or repercussions.
  • No red flags that I can think of, but frankly I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t tell the “guys upstairs” about it, and ask them to do it with you! I’ve practiced the Daily Five Minutes completely on my own, and as the “gal upstairs” I’ve mandated it for my entire organization. Here’s the biggest red flag: once you start it, and you tell the employees about it, you better commit to it. The only time the Daily Five Minutes goes sour, is when the employees want it and expect it, and the manager is inconsistent with actually doing it or allows it to eventually disappear.

Like any other new process or system, the Daily Five Minutes creates some new vocabulary for you, and everyone who participates in it must speak the language and understand the jargon. For instance, it’s important that the staff understands the “Daily” is for the manager, and not for them if logistically there is no way for the manager to get to everyone every single day. Don’t create expectations you can’t fulfill.

However, remember the caveat in the last bullet point above: your staff will expect regularity and consistency in whatever their timing ends up to be. Let’s say you have 10 employees, commit to doing 2 of them each day and take 2 days off every week. Each one of them will get to Take 5 with you once a work-week.

Reality check: The Daily Five Minutes is not a cure-all. Don’t start it in your company if you recognize there are some big issues that should be dealt with — deal with those things first, or you’ll open the floodgates and get nailed. Solve the problems you already know about, or you’ll end up sabotaging a good idea that has great potential. If you’re the boss, unsure about the water temperature in the company pool, wade in yourself first: don’t set your managers up for failure. If they hate their first attempts they won’t keep trying.

Like any good process, the Daily Five Minutes must maintain its integrity. It’s time when both employee and manager work on their relationship, and learn to communicate with each other better. It’s not a daily informational line-up and it’s not a pre-shift meeting. You probably need those too, but those are built on company agendas. Don’t confuse them with the goal of the Daily Five Minutes: hearing what’s on the employee’s mind.

Keep it healthy, and keep it on the clock. The Daily Five Minutes is not for sanctioned smoke breaks, and it’s not for conversation with an after-work beer.  It’s not done at lunch in the employee cafeteria, and it’s not done while operating heavy equipment. Keep it private and uninterrupted, but try to keep it out of your office (your power coats your office walls and is too stifling; that’s just life.) The Daily Five Minutes is for the Daily Five Minutes, and that’s it. That’s more than enough.

And remember that employees will bring up stuff that won’t be solved or fully addressed in the Five Minutes you are literally aiming for. It’s great when they feel safe enough to drop a bombshell on you: circle of comfort achieved! Think “Voila!” You may get to be proactive versus reactive, in-the-know versus in the dark. It’s A-okay when one of your responses must be, “I hear you, and we need more time for this: when shall we get together again so we can deal with it better?” or “I think we may need to get other people involved in this: can we work on a game-plan to tackle it?” And don’t forget to say, “Thanks for telling me.”

It’s also okay when the Daily Five Minutes is spent shooting the breeze and laughing about silly things. In fact, it’s probably a good sign. Great relationships get built one conversation at a time, and in a nutshell, that’s what the Daily Five Minutes is all about.

My last two words on the commitment thing: trust me. The Daily Five Minutes does take some work, determination and persistence when you first introduce it. You’ll start wading through muddy waters. But once the Daily Five Minutes takes hold and becomes part of your company culture, commitment turns into pleasurable anticipation. Great managers find the Daily Five Minutes has become the most enjoyable part of their day, because the biggest and sweetest rewards in management are waiting for you within your staff.

The Daily Five Minutes

I’d promised to prepare another book excerpt from Managing with Aloha for you, one on the Daily 5 Minutes. Ho‘omaka: Let’s begin on page 145.

D5Mdiscover

A short preface: The excerpt which follows is from the Chapter on ‘Ike loa, the Hawaiian value of learning, defined as to seek knowledge and wisdom. Since the time I first published this on both Talking Story and Managing with Aloha Coaching, thousands of you have reprinted these pages to introduce the practice to your workplaces without asking people to read my whole book. I’m fine with that ”“ in fact, I’m thrilled! I was sure this page was published copy-able so you could do just that.

Don’t spring the D5M on people, for they have to understand they have a role to play! This is a new conversation, and they are the designers: You are giving them a 5-minute invitation which says “If you can take five minutes with me, I am ready to listen with all of me, embracing all of you.” For you to listen well, and hear better, someone else has to be willing to do the talking.

The Daily Five Minutes

Perhaps my most valuable lesson in ‘Ike loa was the one born at Hualalai out of our desire to know our employees well. We instinctively knew we could manage better the more intimately we knew those we managed. ‘Ike loa became the birthplace of a core standard we initiated with all managers called “The Daily Five Minutes.” It started as an experiment, and it was so effective that it became non-negotiable as a habit my managers were required to cultivate and practice daily.

It is a simple habit: Each day, without fail, managers are to give five minutes of no-agenda time to at least one of their employees. They’d log the event in a simple checklist of names to ensure they didn’t miss anyone, and they’d speak to each employee in turn on a regular basis.

To be honest, my initial goal was actually to give the managers daily practice in the art of listening well, for I was trying to come up with a solution for the common complaint that “my manager doesn’t ask for my input and feedback, and if I do give it, he/she doesn’t really listen well to what I’m trying to explain to them.” I reasoned that if they had no agenda themselves with this Daily Five Minutes, they wouldn’t “half-listen” as they mentally prepared what they’d say when they could get a word in.

Now this was key: Employees were brought into the plan and openly told about the program: they were asked to prepare something, and be ready to fill the silence when a manager approached them and said, “How about a break from the action here, let’s step away and Take 5.”

In the beginning, the managers were cautioned to give themselves a good 15 to 30-minute window, for there’d likely be some pent-up stuff that had to come out. However, over time, the managers who kept up the habit discovered their Daily Five Minutes rarely stretched over 10.

This is what happened: In the process of developing this habit, they greatly improved their own approachability. They had nurtured a circle of comfort for their employees to step into and talk to them——whenever time presented itself. The Daily Five Minutes itself soon became a more personal thing. Employees started to share their lives with them——what they did over the weekend, how their kids were doing in school, how they felt about a local news story. Managers began to know their employees very well, and their employees began to relate to them more as people and not just as managers. They were practicing the art of ‘Ike loa together.

Knowing well enhances relationships

Benefits from the Daily Five Minutes piled up: Managers ceased to judge employee situations prematurely, for they had built up a relationship that demanded all be allowed to speak first——and they wanted to speak with their employees, sure they’d receive more clarity. The Daily Five Minutes became a “safe zone” where employees felt they could talk story with their manager “off the record,” and managers learned to ask, “Are you venting, or asking for help? Do I keep this in confidence, or do you expect me to take action?” It became clearer who was responsible for following up on things. Managers had less and less of those “if only I had known about this sooner” surprises.

Employees began to initiate the Daily Five Minutes themselves, both with their managers and with other employees they wanted to know better. Everyone learned to say “no” and to be more respectful of time issues, saying scripted sentences that were non-emotional: “Now is not the best time, but I promise to Take 5 with you later.” Everyone became much better at reading expressions and body language, a skill that had added benefits when they were dealing with the customers. Cultural barriers started to break down, because managers started to learn the “communication language” they needed to use to relate to each employee as an individual, and they gained better understanding of the “sense of place” of each one.

So you can see that ‘Ike loa promotes all types of knowledge. ‘Ike loa is just knowing, and knowing well. When programs like the Daily Five Minutes give it form, even spontaneous unrehearsed conversation can erase confusion, and replace wrong assumptions with the right information. Personally, I have an ongoing and passionate love affair with books and the written word, yet some of my best knowledge has simply come from talking story with my staff: They are exceptionally patient teachers.

Excerpt pau, finished.

Now you can begin!
The results of the Daily Five Minutes are amazingly quick.

Managing with Aloha was published in 2004, a year after I had left my position at the Hualalai Resort as VP of Resort Operations, and thus it was written to be recent then with more Hualalai stories. In July of 2009 I published another essay about the D5M for Joyful Jubilant Learning, sharing a bit more of the story that dates back to the earlier origins of the practice at The Ritz-Carlton, Mauna Lani, starting in 1989: Learning to Listen with The Daily Five Minutes.

We’ve had a lot of practice with D5M and it’s been a beautiful thing: We’ve celebrated a lot of people feeling they’ve grown through better listening, and others who’ve felt liberated because they learned to speak up more.

Please, if you are already a Daily Five Minutes practitioner, tell us your story too. Stories help us all learn. Mahalo.

2009 Update: A recent posting shared by Rich Griffith: Fireside Chats

Recommended Reading: