“Do you know what I remember most?”

2010 Update: I made the decision to bring Say “Alaka‘i” here to Talking Story in late May of 2010 when the Honolulu Advertiser, where the blog previously appeared, was merged with the Star Bulletin (Read more at Say “Alaka‘i” is Returning to the Mothership).

Therefore, the post appearing below is a copy of the one which had originally appeared there on December 4, 2008, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…


“Do you know what I remember most?”

I had coffee earlier this week with a young man who used to work for me at one of our island resorts. I had not seen him for nearly five years, and during that time he bought and began to operate his own business. He’s now preparing to open his second: His goal is to have three different businesses by the time he is thirty-five years old.

With six more years to work on his third business idea, I have no doubt he’ll easily make his goal, and most of the time we spent talking about some dreams he has which are much bigger.

It was the kind of conversation which left me thoroughly enchanted and excited about what our younger generations have in mind for our communities and for our Hawai‘i. They aren’t dreams of just wealth, but of service, and of legacy.

At one point of the conversation, he said to me, “Do you know what I remember most about the time that you were the boss?”

“No, what do you remember?”

“You knew all our names. After you left, none of the ‘big bosses’ ever did, and by that time I’d been promoted and even sat on conference tables with them.”

I think it was Dale Carnegie who said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I lose count of the times I have been reminded how true that is.

Why do we neglect the simplest things?

I am often asked to do acculturation classes in our islands, aiming at getting managers new to the islands accustomed to our local ways. We talk about different cultural practices like talking story, however those are fine points: We need to do some very basic universally smart practices first, and I cannot think of a single thing more basic than taking Mr. Carnegie’s advice to heart:

When you become a manager or a leader in any new company, no matter where you are on the organizational chart, learn everyone’s name. They’ll want to hear that from you before they listen to anything else.

And years later, they still remember.

You never know… Just as it had happened for me, the tables may even be turned, where they become the ones to hire you.