Our April Ho‘ohana: Mālama

What is Caring in business and at work?

As we live our lives in the day-to-day rigor of work, we can greatly underestimate how important it is in business to care, and to be cared for.

That underestimation is not something we can allow to happen in our Ho‘ohana Community. Never would I suggest that we might do so intentionally, however sometimes it is the simplest concepts which slip below our radar, for in a learning community (as we most certainly are), we do not hesitate to reach for more complex concepts; we enjoy the mental gymnastics of learning about new things, or new twists on old things.

Therefore, I am pleased to present Mālama, ‘to care for,’ as our value for the month of April, and as our ‘language of intention’ for the next thirty days.

In the last thirty-one days we have worked so hard on KÅ«lia i ka nu‘u. Our efforts to banish mediocrity and complacency have been very worthwhile, and very satisfying; it feels magnificent to strive higher and reach for excellence and higher levels of achievement.

However I now find I yearn to change it up, bringing some ‘softer’ concepts, warmth, and the purity of goodness into our April focus and our work days. We will be talking story about things such as caring and empathy, compassion and humanity, protection and stewardship, acts of kindness and goodwill, honor and servant leadership.

Shall we Mālama?


To take care of.

To serve and to honor, to protect and care for.

To Mālama
, is to take care of.

A manager is a steward of assets and caretaker of people.

Mālama calls upon us to serve, to honor and to protect.

Acts of caring drive us to high performance levels in our work with others. We give and become unselfish. We accept responsibility unconditionally.

Mālama is warm, and Mālama is personal. It comes from heart, and it comes from soul.

When we Mālama, we are better.

From Managing with Aloha, Chapter 15

That we can care, and care deeply at work is one of those things which just seems natural and right to me.

I feel I was very blessed to work in the hotel business for as long as I did, particularly in the Catering & Conference Services part of it, for it is such an intimate business in so many ways. It is a business where you truly must care about customers to serve them in such a personal manner, normally for an extended time. You cannot take shortcuts and be expedient, for you will see them again; you will get to know a lot about them, and they about you. Personality and character quickly emerge through professional facades, and in fact, the more you know about each other, the better everything becomes. People quickly transcend from paying customers to being your personal guests. You find that you genuinely do care about their feelings toward you and the service you are providing to them, and you genuinely do care about how they feel while in your ho‘okipa, your spirit of hospitality given.

The hotel business is one where you also must care deeply for those you work with. You are always in a family of employees, and there are many times when you are together 24/7. On the one hand, you feel you are on stage, especially for the guest, however it is a relentless business where you can only remain ‘on stage’ for so long. Your vulnerabilities will eventually reveal themselves, and when they do, you are most likely to be in the circle of aloha created by your co-workers. After you let your guard down for the first time, you don’t feel as vulnerable, and it will happen more and more often. In fact, you allow it to happen almost as a survival tactic, trusting those within your aloha circle to catch you before you go too far with any tendency toward reactivity.

Yet all of this is perfectly fine, for the hotel business thrives on Mālama and acts of caring. There is really no other way it can prosper.

I don’t have as much personal proof of it, however I believe what I have just described is not at all unique to the hotel business. Mālama crosses industry as a value which can greatly add to the character, heart, and soul of any business when caring, protection, honor and stewardship are the subject of deliberate focus. I see this very simply: To care for something or someone is to make that something or someone matter to you. And in the process of caring we ourselves become better.

So in this month, where we traditionally lay out a welcome mat and say hello to the coming of Spring, we also open the door to Mālama and acts of caring in our work. This is a value we can all use much more of in our lives and in our work. I will be asking you to help me answer this question:

What is Caring in business and at work?

We, in our Ho‘ohana Community will be challenging managers and leaders in workplaces everywhere to find the rightful place in which Mālama belongs in their own organizations, and in their own behavior.

Let’s Talk Story.


  1. says

    To me, caring is the key.
    Our work is an expression of caring.
    When we stop caring we become careless.
    Listening to others has to be careful – full of care and slow and deliberate.
    I believe it was Bernie Siegel who coined the term care-frontation. I like this so much more than confrontation. In carefrontation, we engage in difficult conversations and conflicts with others not by confronting them but out of a stance of caring we put things in front of them. In this instance, caring is not just namby pamby — it can be tough yet with a caring focus on the other.
    And caring is not just limited to others we need to care for ourselves.
    For over 15 years I have worked with a model I developed called: The Circle of Caring. There is a circle for the self, a circle for the other, and a circle that encircles both the self and other. We begin with our strengths, make a transition into caring for others, and our strengths often become our best expressions of caring for others. When the encounter or relationship ends we make a transition out of the relationship by bringing the caring back to us. This model is based on being where you are and it reduces heavy amounts of stress by dwelling in the present moment. When we are at work we are at work and when we are at home we are home! As one person said, carrying your cares to bed is like sleeping with a pack on your back. If you really care for your work it will be there waiting for you when you return the next day.
    Whoops. This was a long comment but it speaks to my love of caring. I look forward to a month focused on caring.
    Thanks Rosa

  2. says

    Don’t just care…let them know you care!

    Over at Talking Story with Rosa Say, the focus this month is on the Hawaiin value Mālama. Translated, the value is Caring.Rosa shares in this month’s kick-off post: To care for something or someone is to make that something or someone matter to you. An…

  3. says

    This is an area where I think it’s virtually impossible to “fake it ’til you make it.”
    I think it also relates to your Who/How/Why discussion – and it’s critical to hire people in business who care about what your business requires. Without that, it’s hard for people to exude the kind of caring for your customers that creates a real bond.
    But then, I bet you know that already Rosa – from your time in the hospitality industry that it takes a certain kind of outlook to really make customers feel like you’re on their side (isn’t it cool that hospitality starts with ‘hospital’?)
    Thanks for provoking the thoughts.

  4. says

    Caring is sharing, and Rosa, you are one caring individual. Thank you for making this the month of Mālama; I can’t wait to read your insights this month on how we can care more and show our care more to those we serve.

  5. says

    David, your comment is so full of wisdom. I love the thought of how your Circle of Caring model relates to our Circle of Influence too, as Stephen Covey teaches it. And you are so right that caring is not “just namby pamby” – you’ll see I have a post coming up in MWA Jumpstart this month on tough love: for a preview, go to page 186 of MWA.
    Dwayne, our Who/How/What – and yes, Why? discussion is one of those that will stay with me; it is already jelling in my coaching.

  6. Rick Fuqua says

    I would like to throw in that caring can be expressed out of respect and teamwork. Those that don’t care don’t make good team mates. In my world, I sometimes even see how caring applies to inanimate objects like computers and networks – and it works.
    I despise (or at least get irritated with) clock punchers and bottom feeders that seem to be going through the motions at work, but don’t care about what they are doing or who they are doing it with…
    …I am energized by people who care about their work, their co-workers and customers.
    I don’t expect alot of hugging and emotions, but I do expect caring and appreciation.