How good (and gracious) a Receiver are you?

Is good and gracious receiving highly regarded, and thoughtfully and deliberately promoted and fostered in your organizational culture? How do you do it?

Some back-story to where I’m coming from on this:

Our Sunday Mālama feature for Managing with Aloha Coaching (MWAC) in February has to do with digital learning, and I have pointed readers there to the YouTube videos about the 21st Century Learner to help stimulate our discussion. The clips started to make the rounds last October and November: There is one focused on K-12 (now over 13,000 views) and one on college students (now over

My MWAC feature is the kick-off to an all-year learning initiative we’ll have on the site called Brave Experiments [with] Digital Learning, nicknamed Brex for short. There are 4 parts to the kick-off, one for each Sunday:

Feb. 03: Who is the Digital Learning Coach in your company?
(You DO have one, right?)
Feb. 10: A Kuleana connection:
What is required of the Digital Learner?
Feb. 17: What are the changes Digital Learning requires of your organizational culture?
Feb. 24: What are your Digital Learning goals?
(And how can the Ho‘ohana Community help?)

Today’s article starts with a basic assumption I made about communication, and it set off an early-morning email exchange for me with a good friend, a teacher who wrote,

“You know what I noticed most about those videos Rosa? How sullen and apathetic all those kids look as they stare into the camera. That was no acting stretch for them. I’ve seen that look so much in my classrooms, and I do tell myself that it is now my Kuleana [responsibility] to get rid of it, but I must tell you; they arrive in my classes with that look on day one when we haven’t even met each other yet, and it is so disheartening.”

Reading her words, I started to think about the differences I can find at my presentations too. I recently had a customer say, “Can’t wait to see you Rosa; we’re primed and ready to listen to your message,” and that was a great thing to hear. Great, but unusual.

To save you the click, this is that “basic assumption” I started my article with:

~ ~ ~ from MWAC:

You ask,
“What is required of me as the Digital Learner in 2008?”

Well, in the spirit of Kuleana, the value of responsibility we are studying this month,
we’d likely agree that the digital learner has to primarily take
personal responsibility for the way they communicate with everyone else
in the world — and take a heightened interest in doing so. That goes
for both sides of communication;

1. The GIVING side, how we initiate our messages

for others, and how we give those messages shape, clarity, and warmth.
We want to invite and engage others, not just broadcast to them,
creating unwelcome noise.

2. The RECEIVING side, how we welcome messages from others,
taking some responsibility with establishing and maintaining a good way
for them to get through to us. Sure, we want our privacy respected. On
the other hand, a hermit wouldn’t be the person you choose as a
communications coach.

~ ~ ~ and back to the topic at hand here:

Let’s focus on number 2. above, and the question I started with:

Is good and gracious receiving highly regarded, and thoughtfully and deliberately promoted and fostered in your organizational culture? How do you do it?

I mentioned a recent speaking engagement I had: In their case, “we’re primed and ready to listen to your message” meant that they give my book, Managing with Aloha to every new manager in the company, and ask them to read it. The boss, the gentleman who had called me about doing a presentation for them, has adopted a value of the month regimen, and they talk about it at the first weekly staff meeting they have each month: It is the easiest, and most effective way to get value alignment in a company. He’s given them the whole line-up of values he has chosen for the year, and so they know they need to read the corresponding chapter in my book before that staff meeting so they are ready to discuss it. (If you don’t have my book yet, each chapter is about a different workplace value through the lens of the Hawaiian culture – get one!)

As you can imagine, what a great scenario for me to step into as the book’s author! Their questions were among the best I have ever had after a presentation, and knowing they would have them, we planned extra time just for the question and dialogue part of it.

Now let’s contrast that with another presentation I did about a year ago.

I wince just thinking about it. It was the speaker’s nightmare where the person who had made all the arrangements with me was excited, but my audience wasn’t. I’ve gotten good at asking questions about my prospective audience so I know what I’ll be walking into, but this time, well, he lied to me. The sorta good news (but only for me) was that it didn’t have anything to do with me directly; the morale in the company was way, way less than good with some divisive union issues making it worse every day.

The snickering and rolling of the eyes began when the CEO took the mic to take advantage of having the general session scheduled, one of two we did for the operational logistics of it. There were about 150 people in the room, and I had gotten my early clues about the audience as I watched all the seats get taken from the very back first. It didn’t take me long to start thinking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Many of them ignored their CEO completely and just continued their own conversations. I was appalled. Even more so, when I saw that he just kept going, choosing to just ignore the fact that over half of his audience was hostile or not bothering to listen at all. I guess he didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing he noticed, but this was a no-win situation, why bother to speak at all?

It had gotten only slightly better by the time he introduced me as up to speak next. The conversations stopped, and they all looked up front to check me out, but the body language of crossed arms and wary expressions make their message for me loud and clear: Give it a shot, but we doubt we want to hear anything you have to say.

This was one of those times that my being local for a local audience, and all of a non-intimidating and petite five feet tall helped me. I always ask for a wireless mic, and so I stepped off the stage, into the center aisle where I could walk up and down and look at people directly, and started by saying something like,

“Thank you for having me here, and thank you for giving me your attention. We’re going to talk about Aloha, and I am here to give you mine, so I ask that you give me yours too, at least for right now, and for this time that we are together. What say we make the best of this?”

Then, I told them what I had planned to talk to them about, and that we’d have some rules of engagement during my talk. I told them outright that if they weren’t interested and wanted to leave they could, but to do it now before I got into it, so that the ones who decided to stay could listen in a room full of everyone who agreed to listen and give me their full attention before passing judgment on me or what I had to say.

This is no Pollyanna story: I lost about a fourth of the room.

The CEO’s talk had already been about twenty minutes long, and so I next said, “Tell you what, let’s take a five-minute break, after which I’m going to start over. Stretch your legs, and those who want to come back can, filling up the front of the room first, and those who don’t can go back to work. I’m sure the people covering for you right now will appreciate the help.”

My prepared presentation went out the window, and I went into full coaching responsiveness mode on Aloha and Aloha alone, knowing I had to start there before we could really talk about anything else.

The good news is that the second presentation I was already committed for was packed: The word got out, and some of the ones you had left the first time decided to come back, and they were respectful. What saddened me about the second one (it was held three days later) was that the CEO didn’t even bother to show up and try his speech again. At least they would have listened this time knowing I would give them the rules of engagement speech again if they didn’t. And yes, this is just the beginning of the story, for you can bet I followed up in a couple of ways on this one.

So Ho’ohana Community, let’s shift from the horror story back to the good one, and share with me, and share with each other:

Is good and gracious receiving highly regarded, and thoughtfully and deliberately promoted and fostered in YOUR COMPANY’s organizational culture? How do you do it?

I would really love to hear about what you do; comments are open!
~ Rosa

Several posts link-referenced here from my archives, so if this topic interests you you may be interested in them with the full context of their titles. These are in the same order that the links appear starting from within my teacher friend’s quote – grab the more current ones to the video clips and MWAC Digital Learning feature above if you would:

  1. Kuleana, the Value of Personal Responsibility (on MWAC)
  2. How to Capture an Expert’s Value: 12 Tips
  3. Say No to Resolutions: Choose your Values instead (on MWAC)
  4. New Resource Page: Why Choose Values? (on MWAC)
  5. The write-up of Managing with Aloha on my store at
  6. WorkHack: The Attitude of Q. & D. [Question and Dialogue as opposed to Q. & A.] (Written as a guest posting on
  7. Asking Great Questions; Art or Skill?
  8. Workplace Order Rules Part 1 and Part 2 (with a mahalo to HCer Blaine Collins), on the short and long forms of the “Rules of Engagement.”


  1. says

    More on Digital Learning, Organizational Culture, and Obsolete Skills in that Culture

    More on Digital Learning: My 3rd article is up today on the MWAC Brex feature: [Brave Experiments [with] Digital Learning]. Part 3 is called What are the changes Digital Learning requires of your organizational culture? And just for fun, there


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