Aloha and your Thought’s Fingerprints

Aloha and talking story are very much connected. One of the gifts we in Hawai‘i have, is that we get the opportunity to actually talk to each other about aloha often with a bit more comfort and openness.

Believe it or not, aloha holds just as much mystique for the majority of our population here in Hawai‘i as it does for the rest of the world. It has long been something we take too much for granted. Admittedly, we can fall prey to talking about who doesn’t have aloha and when it’s lacking, much more than we do about the wonderful ways it permeates our lives —much more than the way we should talk about it.

We certainly don’t think of aloha enough as the most sensible and successful way to manage people and our businesses; that is why we at Say Leadership Coaching refer to it as a “movement” we are trying to engender. Talking Story is intended to help get out the right message. All of you in the Ho‘ohana Community are a huge help.

“There is an Aloha approach to managing that brings the very best of what people have to offer to the forefront, and this sensibility for work (and for life) is what managing with Aloha is all about.” —from our February Ho‘ohana

So let’s talk story about the good within aloha, and what it does for you.

Within Aloha is the concept of what I call mana‘o pono, when deep and certain belief drives one’s instinctual actions, actions of rightness and intellectual honesty with self.

First, Mana‘o

“Mana‘o” is a word I use fairly often here. Your mana‘o is your deeply held beliefs and convictions.

Much more than an opinion, your mana‘o is nonnegotiable for you and not up to debate. As far as you are concerned, it needs no justification, for it consists of belief that is connected to your personal values and your kaona, kaona being the hidden meaning you attach to that belief that has been born out of your life’s experiences. It is fact for you.

Your mana‘o is pretty weighty stuff: it grounds you and centers you. It becomes your personal truth. The word is derived from the word mana, which is supernatural or divine power. There can be mana in people, places, and things. In Hawai‘i we often talk about the unquestionable mana contained in the land. – [Related article in this concept: Places, Feelings and Learning.]

If you think about those concepts you think of as truisms, the ones you talk about all the time with all the self-assurance in the world, you will begin to see that they are part of your mana‘o. It’s as if there are fingerprints on your thoughts. Because people hear you talk about these concepts often, and because you can’t help but talk about them passionately, they begin to brand you. They are a sort of verbal manifestation of your values, and hence, of your inner aloha spirit.

When people hear these concepts elsewhere, they think of you.

When you speak, people recognize your authenticity by recognizing your mana‘o.

When you manage, people “read between the lines” to fully understand your expectations of them, by remembering these thought fingerprints they have branded you with, even though you have not specifically spoken them. They complete the picture for them, of what it is you want.

Now, Pono

Pono is the Hawaiian value of balance and rightness, and I talk about it in detail in the final chapter of Managing with Aloha, just before the Epilogue.

Pono is rightness and balance.

When you are Pono, you have a feeling of ccontentment, wherein all is good and all is right.

Pono teaches the attitude of positivity. Life itself excites you.

Those who are Pono are optimistic and full of hope. All they see in their future is that things can only get better.

—From Managing with Aloha, page 214

Aloha can be thought of as the fertile ground for all of the other values in the MWA work philosophy. Pono can be thought of as the spectacularly beautiful blossom that will finally bloom in celebration when all the other growing conditions are right.

Magnolia2181 [Photo credit: Robin’s award-winning magnolia]

In other words, Pono is the result, when all your values are in daily use and aligned with the values of your relationships and your work. Pono results when the use of all your values and talents emerge as the fruits of your labor —the labor of passion, purpose and intention I call your ho‘ohana.

For many, coming to Pono is a life-long journey with many twists and turns in the road. My greatest wish for Managing with Aloha is that I provide you with a better road map to use when you have chosen management and leadership as your ho‘ohana, your on-purpose work.

When you are Pono, all is right for you, and all you juggle in your life is in harmony and balance —as you define balance, not as someone else defines it for you. There is no inner conflict, and there are no outside struggles which need be brought to resolution for you. There is beautiful, satisfying contentment.

Therefore, Mana‘o Pono

Within Aloha is the concept of what I call mana‘o pono, when deep and certain belief drives one’s instinctual actions, actions of rightness and intellectual honesty with self.

Quick review: Remember that Aloha is about your individual uniqueness and your authenticity, because it is about the spirit of your ha, the breath of your life which captures your essence. Alo is your demeanor, and thus sharing Aloha is living from the inside out.

Beautiful thought isn’t it? That Aloha can be about your authentic self in values lived, and in the instinctual deep-seated thought which drives you to actions of “rightness and intellectual honesty with self.”

Living aloha, brings you to the contentment of Pono. When you manage with aloha, this is the gift you give to everyone else. Can you imagine the partnership you will achieve, when those you manage recognize this gift you so freely and sincerely give to them?

Smoothing the bumps along the way is the servant leadership we give each other in the Ho‘ohana Community mahalo nui Phil for reminding me of this phrase! My deepest thanks to all of you for that vitally important role you have, and fulfill so well in being part of the Managing with Aloha movement.

Related articles:

Ho‘omau and the Language of Intention

Aloha, the Intent of Great Managers – our February Ho‘ohana

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  1. says

    An update…
    I received a great email today related to some of what I’ve written in this post, and I asked Steve Davidson of our Ho’ohana Community if I could share it with all of you. In part, Steve wrote:
    “…I am glad to hear that you are referring to MWA as a “movement”. I definitely see that we need a cultural shift. And I think MWA certainly offers a more than viable alternative to the dominant culture, not only in terms of management relations, but in terms of “mental health”! So, I agree that a “movement” is what is called for. A movement something similar to the 60’s, but less bellicose and self-destructive!”
    Aloha for your mental health… I like that.
    Mahalo nui Steve :-)

  2. says

    I would agree with the movement idea Rosa. It’s why your book transcends the language differences some have mentioned. The language of love is the language we all understand. MWA is all about love, and more. Thanks for re-introducing it to managers like me.

  3. says

    I can introduce it Phil, but it takes managers like you – devoted to their staff, and willing to invest in their own learning and growth – to ho’o: to make it happen!
    …and as you are, committed to “making it great!” versus just settling for happenstance :-)

  4. John Keane says

    I totally agree with Steve that it’s very important that we have a movement. Keeping this in mind, perhaps you’ve already read it, but if you haven’t, you must read this manifesto called ‘Why your boss is programmed to be a dictator’ ( The manifesto makes the point that changing individual behavior is only one part of the story, because there’s one component of leadership that’s often missed out – the system that people are a part of. Without a change in the system, making large changes is impossible.

  5. says

    Aloha John, welcome to the Ho’ohana Community, and thank you for your comment! I looked over the manifesto just right now, reading about a third of it, and your recommendation was a great one, mahalo. I need to read the rest, particularly to reach the solutions he suggests.
    I do agree with the point he makes, in fact so much so that there has been a definite shift in my coaching business at SLC since MWA was published in late 2004. It has become the exception versus the norm in our business model that we do one-on-one coaching unless it is with an individual at CEO level or above who wishes to own the MWA philosophy in bringing it to his or her company.
    The mainstay of what we now do is whole-organization coaching, taking a top>>down approach so that we work with the entire organizational culture and the systems within them. We stimulate positive changes for them so that proactively chosen change (versus security-shaking crisis management from reacting to unforeseen change) is something people continually expect and welcome as part of their own learning, self-development and growth.
    There is another simultaneous bottom-up involvement we introduce with tools like D5M, our Daily Five Minutes.
    All good stuff – fun – but also designed so that no one needs feel they are going it alone with MWA and getting frustrated “bucking the system” that is on auto-pilot against their best intentions and efforts.
    Thank you again for recommending the manifesto to us: what I have read so far is very well written. And a BIG thank you too for your vote of confidence with our MWA movement!