Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou: Hawaiian Values for 2009

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 January 1, 2009, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…

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Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou: Hawaiian Values for 2009

In responding to a reader’s question this past Sunday, I wrote of the Top 7 Business Themes I am hoping our Hawai‘i business leaders will embrace throughout 2009. It was a great question, one stimulating much more thought for me over the past few days, and I’d like to start the year with a follow-up.

I’m one to quickly look beyond the disappointment I’d felt in 2008. I wasn’t too happy about most business news over the past few months, and you many not have been either. We didn’t end on much of a high note beyond holiday-flavored celebrations. But I prefer the thinking that we can only go up from here, and that it’s time to get to work. Good work. Personally satisfying, professionally fulfilling, Ho‘ohana type work. I believe that pursuing good business, creatively idea-led and worked on by great managers and leaders, is very promising work and worth our effort, our study and our experimentation; essentially, that’s what Say “Alaka‘i” is all about.

If this is your first time here, I’d suggest you start by reading this: The Top 7 Business Themes on my 2009 Wish List. Today, I’ll continue the discussion started there with more on my favorite subject: Our Hawaiian values and the concept of value-alignment.

The Uncommon Common-Sense Strategy of Value-Alignment

I’m going to make a big assumption to start. Let’s say you like a few of those 7 business themes I had suggested for the coming year, and you’re wondering how to go about tackling them. I propose you concentrate on value-alignment, which simply means that you align the themes you choose with values you

a) ethically believe in at gut-level,

b) feel will engender the behavior you want to happen for your business, and

c) are fully prepared to champion with constancy.

What you will then discover, is that those values do an incredible amount of the work for you.

Everyone depends on their gut-level values to guide their actions automatically, and give them emotional grounding. Therefore, as a leader and manager, it’s important to understand that values can compete with you as well as be your allies. If you do not choose, vocalize, and then constantly champion values which are specifically aligned with your business strategies, everyone you manage, lead and partner with will fall back on their default behaviors instead. If so, you take your chances: They may be in sync with you, or they may not be.

Isn’t it better to be on the same page from the get-go?

7 Themes, 10 Hawaiian values

To save you the click back to Sunday, these were the 7 Themes I had proposed to you for 2009:

  1. Impatience for Change and New Ideas
  2. Financial Literacy
  3. The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  4. Aloha asset creation via a Ho‘okipa obsession
  5. The Role of the Manager reconstructed
  6. Talking Story Grows Up
  7. Training Becomes Learning Constant, NOT Budget Luxury

These are the Hawaiian values that I feel will best align with these initiatives.

  • Alaka‘i —the value of leadership
  • ‘Imi ola —the value of created destiny
  • Koa —the value of courage
  • Kākou —the value of inclusive communication
  • Aloha —the value of love and unconditional acceptance
  • Ho‘ohana —the value of intentional work
  • Ho‘okipa —the value of hospitality with generosity
  • ‘Ike loa —the value of learning
  • Lōkahi —the value of collaboration
  • Mālama —the value of stewardship

Here is a little bit on each with why I feel they are your strategic targets with value-alignment in 2009.

a) Alaka‘i —the value of leadership

This one should be no surprise to you: I believe in the nobility and positive capacities of both management and leadership, and they are the drivers of everything else. This is not to say that I believe the titles and positions traditionally assigned to those in management and leadership roles are necessary. I believe these two disciplines translate into the self-management and self-leadership that every single person in a business enterprise can, and must practice to make their optimal contribution to the organization.

If you are new to my writing and this blog, this article will best catch you up with our management and leadership definitions and context: Management versus Leadership: Power up your vocabulary!

b) ‘Imi ola —the value of created destiny

‘Imi ola translates to “seek your best possible life” and it is the belief and conviction that you can create your own destiny instead of letting life happen as it may by way of chance, luck and happenstance. Wishing and hoping is not a strategy, and further, they waste time in business. You must want to be a creator, an innovator, a mover and a shaker. You must seek to make things happen in the best possible way.

c) Koa —the value of courage

I firmly believe that courage may be our most crucial necessity right now. Courage understands that not everything is simple or easy, and it calls on Ho‘omau [persistence and perseverance] so we go the distance with our beliefs and our convictions bravely, harnessing our fears into a sense of urgency, and giving us clarity and focus. Determination without clarity and focus is just stubbornness.

d) Kākou —the value of inclusive communication

These statements which appeared with 2. Financial Literacy, are worth repeating:

The change we need to see happen in business requires our collective intelligence, and there best be NO leaders or managers who ever make “need to know basis” judgments or valuations of anyone else in their organizational culture, especially when it comes to the financial literacy of a company’s business model. Let people judge for themselves when your sharing is “too much information” for them; chances are they are far more intelligent than you give them credit for.

Inclusive and pervasive communication specifically comes up with number 6. Talking Story Grows Up, as well, and please know that communication is essential in all of them.

Language, vocabulary, and conversation combine as our primary tools in business communications: What we speak is fifty times more important than what we write (yes, this is coming from someone who is an author too!) The need for CLEAR, intentional, reliable and responsive communication is critical in thriving businesses. Drive communication of the right messages, and you drive momentum and worthwhile energies.

People may choose to opt out of certain conversations, but don’t you be the one to leave them out.

e) Aloha —the value of love and unconditional acceptance

g) Ho‘okipa —the value of hospitality with generosity

These two are so critical they were already called out specifically as a strategy in and of themselves. What I would add is the knowledge that they cross all boundaries and affect all stakeholders: They are not just about your business customer. Aloha and Ho‘okipa must be given freely and generously to everyone if they are to return as the character of our islands, and unquestionably color our reputation and standing as the global citizens of planet Earth.

Start within (live with Aloha and Ho‘okipa as a strong individual with integrity), then move steadily outward and inclusively (work, manage, and lead with Aloha and Ho‘okipa thereafter).

f) Ho‘ohana —the value of intentional work

Let’s break this one apart. You probably know the word hana: It is the Hawaiian word for work as a noun. Ho‘o is a prefix of causation, that on its own means to ‘make something happen.’ Thus attach it to a hawaiian noun, and it turns it into an intentional verb. Thus Ho‘ohana is the value of intentional work.

Intention. No more 9-5 attitude, no more going through the motions or sleepwalking through the work day. Deliberate, focused action steps.

Intention. No more auto-pilot, and no more sacred cows. Everything is up for reevaluation and reconstruction. Everything can become new again.

Intention. No more giving attention to the things which don’t matter or only create busy-work. Attention gets matched to intentional choices, and accomplishment results.
Intention. No more apathy, complacency or boredom, and mediocrity will NOT be tolerated. Intention embraces excellence, and excellence is never an accident: It is always intentional, and it always demands more than the norm.

And wonderful, fulfilling, gets-the-blood-pumping, satisfying work. It can feel great, and it should.

h) ‘Ike loa —the value of learning

We talked about this one with number 7. Training Becomes Learning Constant, NOT Budget Luxury. ‘Ike is the Hawaiian word for knowledge, and loa means long, extended or continuous. Learning must be highly prized in our businesses of 2009, for we have so much to figure out, so much to do and do smartly. A trend which dismays me is how so many human resources departments are no longer about the training, education, coaching and mentorship which creates and supports those ‘human resources.’ They’ve become more concerned with legal butt-covering and benefit economies. Such a shame.

The up side is that managers have a wide-open door to step in without worrying about much H.R. territorialism, and frankly, this is how it should be anyway: Managers must be the trainers, educators, coaches and mentors. That is part of the critical reconstruction of theme 5. The Role of the Manager reconstructed.

i) Lōkahi —the value of collaboration

Each and every one of the 2009 themes I have suggested will require collaboration, and a lot of it. I hold so much gratitude for KHON2 in the way they have added the value of Lōkahi [more commonly defined as harmony and unity] to our local vocabulary, community consciousness and civic responsibility. Businesses have a civic responsibility too —a huge one, for the community supports everything they do in a myriad of ways.

Pretty obvious that much teamwork will be called for within organizations, however we cannot stop there and silo ourselves; teamwork must extend outside our company boundaries too. 2009 will be a year that we cease to compete with each other, and network, partner and outsource better than we ever have before.

j) Mālama —the value of stewardship

For me, Mālama answers a very important question: All of these efforts, all of this work, is for the sake of what? Mālama is often defined as caring and empathy, but it is so much more than that. It is the combination of service and stewardship, and like Aloha and Ho‘okipa, it is extended to everyone inclusively.

I believe there is an element of tough love within Mālama too, where we don’t babysit, we enable and empower. We teach others to be stewards and caretakers too, for we understand how much they can be lifted up by being so effective, and so self-powered and capable. We enlarge other’s capacities and make synergy happen: Mālama complements Kākou, Lōkahi, ‘Ike loa and Alaka‘i in tremendously exponential ways. It is the great connector and growth generator.

You may have noticed that I used that ‘believe’ word quite a bit in composing my value list. As I said earlier, value-alignment means this:

…you align the themes you choose with values you

a) ethically believe in at gut-level,

b) feel will engender the behavior you want to happen for your business, and

c) are fully prepared to champion with constancy.

What you will then discover, is that those values do an incredible amount of the work for you.

Now the question I have for you is this: Do you believe in these values too?

And, will you help me champion them in the coming year?

Related Reading;
Here’s another recent article if you want to read more about values in the workplace;
The Holiday Gift of Workplace Values