D5M-ing your Decisions: See with your ears

In our language of intention, D5M-ing is a listening verb.
D5M-ing your Decisions means to blend the Daily 5 Minutes practice of better listening with your decision-making.

Can you see with your ears?

It’s a phrase my dad taught me when I was a very young manager, asking me to keep it in mind now that I was a boss. He asked it in the way that dads will ‘ask’ you to do something.

The lesson was about Ha‘aha‘a, the Hawaiian value of humility. My dad was thoroughly convinced that if I learned about humility I’d know all I needed to know, for it would teach me everything else.

Dad knew I was fiercely independent and horrendously stubborn when I was a young manager. He felt partly responsible that I was, for he had taught me to rule my siblings with the toughest love possible while he and my mom were at work and my brothers and sister were left in my charge. I’m the eldest of five children, and my three brothers were as wild and unpredictable as boys could be. Dad felt it important that I stood by my decisions with them for consistency’s sake, and so I would be more confident, believing in myself when no adults were around (which was the rule and not the exception).

The humility lesson he taught me went something like this; I am paraphrasing, though all these years later I can still hear his voice. He said the words slowly to be sure I heard him clearly.

“Rosa, managers who are humble are the ones other people will work hard for. A humble manager listens really well. She asks the people reporting to her what they think, and why, and what they would do about things.

You don’t need to have all the answers; your job is to find them. And people who can’t learn to be humble have a hard time learning where to look for those answers. Sometimes things are right there in front of them, and they don’t even see.

Humble managers see with their ears, not with their eyes.”

He would patiently explain that it had been different between me and my brothers; that the people I managed had to be treated like adults, and not like children, even when they were resisting being adults. My dad believed that the workplace was an adult place, and it needed to have a grown-up dignity to it. He believed that the workplace could, and should be where we learned from each other.

My dad was right.

We don’t have all the answers; we find them.
We also find stories.

If I did anything right at all during my early years as a manager, I obeyed my dad: I asked people what they thought, and I listened as they gave me the answers I needed to find, or newly create together with them.

Over the years, my employees willingly became my living laboratory for the evolution of Managing with Aloha as a values-based sculptor of healthy workplace cultures. They gave me their complete trust during times I had not even earned it yet, mostly because I would listen to them, and learn what I needed to know. My workplace coaching and cultural reinventions today, and my unshakable belief that we CAN turn work into a labor of joy simply would not have taken shape without all my staff had taught me, starting with their willingness to talk to me openly and honestly when I simply invited them to, an invitation which would become known as The Daily 5 Minutes.

I also discovered that people didn’t just have the answers I needed; they had entire stories about them. As a good manager ”“ as a decently considerate human being ”“ I had to arrive at my best decisions having seen and having heard the whole story. Their whole story.

People surround us, waiting for us to interview them, and ask them questions about what is most important to them, and why. Their stories give us context, and more importantly, their stories give us the experiences and emotion that will contribute to better decisions. “Emotional intelligence” gives us intellectual honesty.

The people around us have the potential to be the best teachers we have ever had. They are open books which are not just past tense, written with the wealth of their past experiences; they continue to be vibrantly alive, perpetually thinking, and willing to share their thinking with us, wrapped in both the simplicity and complexity of that beautiful weaving of belief and conviction we in Hawai‘i call their mana‘o. All we have to do is ask.

But do we? Sincerely, and genuinely ready to listen as patiently and completely as need be?

That is what the Daily 5 Minutes helps us do. And that is why it is the best communication habit we can have.


My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
We are celebrating a week dedicated to The Daily 5 Minutes in wrapping up our annual October initiative, Sweet Closure, and in preparation for an exciting new program which starts November 2nd. If you are newly arriving at Talking Story, you can catch up here:

  1. The Daily 5 Minutes: An exciting alpha test!
  2. So, you think you’re approachable huh?
  3. The Daily 5 Minutes: Your Talking Story Resource Page.


Take 5 Listening ChallengeOur 1st Ruzuku alpha is now complete! Read about our results, and get up to date with the news about our next two challenges:
The D5M Ruzuku Report (and 2 New Challenges!)

The next one will begin on Monday, November 30th and remains free of charge only during this period of alpha testing.

Photo Credit: What did you say??? by law keven on Flickr


  1. says

    Rosa, what a wonderful and important post! I would have been a far better manager if I had learned this very important concept much sooner. What your dad lovingly taught you, I eventually learned through the school of hard knocks. A dose of emotional intelligence along with a wise mentor would have made things a lot easier for me and those that I managed. I applaud you for the phrase, “as a values-based sculptor of healthy workplace cultures” and for The D5M Challenge to manifest empathic leadership.


  1. “We do not see with our eyes. We see with our brains” What we see is only what our brain tells us we see, and it’s not 100 percent accurate.” — John Medina, Brain Rules — and my Dad, a coupla decades earlier: Can you see with your ears? And we feel wha…