Ho‘omau and your Language of Intention

In our January Ho‘ohana I introduced a phrase you will read often here on the blog. All about the Big C, Communication, it is crucially important; and it is enormously helpful to us as we manage with aloha. It is about how we communicate at work, using vocabulary and language in a Language of Intention leading us to positive, deliberate and proactive actions.

— Understand the Language of Intention, harness it and practice it, and honoring your own good word will be a hallmark of your reputation. No one at work will ever say you do not “walk the talk” again.

— Create a common Language of Intention for your ‘ohana in business, and the power of words will connect to shared knowledge, the sense of belonging, cohesive thought, empowerment, and the greater perception by the customer of staff initiative.

I’ve started to write essays about the Language of Intention a few times, but they never made it past my drafts to Talking Story as one of our monthly ho‘ohana themes. I could always sense that a month’s time wouldn’t be enough to contain the depth and importance of the concept.

Thus about halfway into 2005, I decided our Language of Intention would simmer for a while, that it was destined to be the theme of our entire year, a theme we can revisit and capture with every one of our values each new month.

Ka lā hiki ola

Those who have been receiving my Ho‘ohana e-letters for a while know that Ka lā hiki ola
comes to mind for me with every new year, or any new beginning at all, for the kaona of the phrase (the hidden meaning within the literal translation) means “it is the dawning of a new day.” It urges you to seize the day and capture the moment, to start over and start fresh, and allow yourself to be renewed. It means to look forward with the memory of all that was good in your past propelling you forward with a revitalized energy.

One Hawaiian phrase, 54 English words to explain it. Ka lā hiki ola is so much easier!

The Language of Intention is a tool you can harness in any language, not just with Hawaiian or another foreign language — it works in English too! It works when you string together a collection of words into a mantra, and whenever that mantra is spoken people are catapulted into intentional, directional, on-target-to-mission thought and action.

Consider how effective slogans are, like Nike’s “Just Do It” and Avis’ “We Try Harder.” Raising the bar on exactly what trying harder means, effectively reinvented customer service and redefined staff productivity for Avis in a way that no other training program could before.

The Language of Intention works with single words and the vocabulary you use in your company, once you have taken the time to “campaign them.” Communication is simply the effect of mutual understanding when words and language are used; “learning the ropes” in a company includes learning the jargon and vocabulary.

Goals versus Objectives

For instance, in my own business work culture, we all know that the word “objective” refers to the major initiatives of our Strategic Plan, the biggies we have our sights on collectively as an ‘Ohana in business. When we say “goal” we mean the personal goals we individually have which are in alignment with those initiatives, and as connected to our personal ho‘ohana. The phrase “goals and objectives” has now become short-talk for a collection of 51 words which explain them.

When the words you choose to talk about often are values, you really get the bang for the buck.

This month’s ho‘ohana theme is a perfect study of the Language of Intention, for Ho‘omau so wonderfully illustrates the power certain words have to invoke intentional meaning. Ho‘omau is completely woven into the emotional intelligence of desirable, action-inducing behavior.

Fewer words, more meaning.

As a manager, I found that the beauty of speaking the Hawaiian values was their promise of more meaning with far less words. Values are textured with hidden meanings for different people, yet these varied and unique interpretations will always circle back to the good intent at the very heart of the value in mind.

When you incorporate the language of values into your own management culture, the unspoken message you give your employees is that you have the faith and belief they will come up with the interpretation meaning the most to them. You imply the confidence you have that they will then choose the best path to take moving forward. In doing so, you’ve taken another step forward yourself toward building trust between you.

Ho‘omau is perhaps the best example of this, for in saying Ho‘omau you encourage others to continue, to persevere, often without even mentioning what it may be you want them to do. What they hear, yet what you need not say, is “You know what to do” and “You are doing well so far—continue.” The implication is that you trust them with figuring out the what and the how, and you have faith that their decisions will be sound ones. You are encouraging them to simply continue on course, to never give up. For that employee to feel that you—their manager—have confidence, trust and faith in them is powerful stuff.

To Ho‘omau on a personal level, employees possess vision that is supportive of the company’s vision. This is what their self-talk sounds like: “I am talented. I am needed. I am valued. I am recognized. I am growing. I am learning. I am rewarded. I am really enjoying this!”

So ask yourself, if you could hear the self-talk of your employees, are those the things you would hear?

— From Managing with Aloha

I am talking about 2006 Campaigns with many of my clients right now, coaching them to turn their Strategic Plans for the year into communication campaigns which will keep the pulse of January’s energy surging through the lifeblood of their companies all year long. It’s exciting stuff, and the Language of Intention is a powerful, powerful tool — for everyone. Leaders cannot inspire unless they themselves are inspired, and connecting business initiatives to vocabulary and language intention really gets the creative juices flowing.

If you have your own copy of MWA, I encourage you to revisit Chapter 4 on Ho‘omau and read it one more time, but with this reading, focus on the power of intention loaded within it. There is much more to persistence and perseverance (the quick and easy definition of this value) than at first glance.

January Ho‘ohana; Ho‘omau; Cause the Good to Last
Ka lā hiki ola; The dawning of a new day.

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  1. says

    This was a powerful post on intention. I love the word intention. I feel it is often something that resides within and needs help in coming out and being expressed.
    As a counselor educator I worked at teaching my counseling students to listen for content, emotion, and intention. I would often encourage them to find the intention embedded in the emotion and I like how when you drop the e of emotion of you have motion.
    I look forward to this year of intention for you and your readers.

  2. says

    Aloha e David,
    Such good words, mahalo nui! And thank you for your fantastic imagery, that “when you drop the e of emotion of you have motion” — I really like that too!
    I hope I did portray enough of my own e—motion here that intention is one of my favorite words as well, for Intention begs consciousness of thought and full awareness. The fact that we all can gather up our purposeful intention means we can’t escape our responsibilities.
    Intention effectively connects our emotional intelligence with our actions, and there is such abundance in the thought that our emotions are the result of our history, our intuition and the aloha spirit which gives us the “breath of life.”
    So much more to come as we explore further! Thank you for chiming in David.

  3. says

    Rosa, I am most struck how the use of Ho‘omau as a form of artful coaching – it elicits ideas and strengths from the other person, without the need to “tell” them. Fewer words, with the right intention, packs as much punch as the form of Haiku does to poetry. Thanks!

  4. says

    Aloha Debbie, mahalo nui for stopping by! You have so precisely nailed this concept with your comment!
    The beauty of Ho‘omau is the way it reveals the inner strength people have within them, strength which is waiting to emerge in all its glory because the respectful manager has laid out the welcome mat.

  5. says

    Ho‘omau: Reveal Strengths and Talents

    Our ho‘ohana on Ho‘omau; causing the good to last wouldn’t be complete this month without thinking about strengths, for there is so much vacuum-packed goodness in them. You proactively and intentionally cause the good to last in your strengths By

  6. says

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