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.


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:


  1. says

    The Daily Five Minutes.

    About four months ago, Rosa posted an excerpt from her book “Managing with Aloha”. In it she outlines a simple yet valuable exercise that teaches managers to listen to their employees.
    Perhaps my most valuable lesson in Ike loa was the one …

  2. says

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  5. says

    5 Minutes Daily = Work Life Reinvention

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    The Daily Five Minutes is coming up a lot in my conversations with people lately, and I couldn’t be happier. People are trying it and they are loving it. They are discovering how quickly it works its magic.

  6. says

    What team sizes are we talking here? If I did a daily Five with my entire team, I’d only see everyone once every two months…(which might be better than none at all, I suppose)…but if I just do direct reports, then we’re down to just a handful.

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