The Transforming Power of Ho‘okipa in Business

Danny Meyer’s book has sat on my desk since I’d written yesterday’s post (Are we seeking Hospitalitarians?) and I’ve been enjoying reviewing it: In fact, I’ve been adding to my 1st-reading annotations in a very wonderful three-years-later-way.

When I read the book in 2007 I wrote two blog postings for Joyful Jubilant Learning; first a book review, and then an interview with Danny. His book had spoken to me in such a strong voice, and I felt compelled to reach out to him, and did.

With the weekend coming up (goodbye to April and Aloha to May!) I decided to bring a combination of both postings here, to a new publication of them for Talking Story, giving them a second home-spot here on the mothership. This will therefore be much longer than usual, offered up to you for your leisurely weekend pleasure.

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Danny Meyer has been called “America’s Most Innovative Restaurateur” and that’s the tagline his publisher has grabbed for his book cover. Whether he likes it or not, today he is more CEO than restaurateur, yet Meyer lives up to this billing within the pages of his book, as he shares his stories on why and how he successfully did innovate with each of the restaurants he’s opened. As he says about Shake Shack, “the burger, hot dog, and frozen custard stand we created in 2004 for Madison Square Park,”

“As always with our new ventures, the idea was to draw on the best elements of the classic, make it authentic for its present context, and then try to execute it with excellence.”
—Setting the Table, page 131

That one sentence says a lot about this book; within it Meyer explains what “the classic” is in his view, what authenticity means both historically and in terms of his next innovation for restaurants, and then most importantly about how “to execute it with excellence” means understanding the difference between service and “the transforming hospitality in business.”

Though an ex-restaurant person myself, reading through Meyer’s writing about ‘the classic’ was the least interesting part of the book for me (other than my usual glee with learning how a person’s Ho‘ohana comes to be). I can see where he may have felt it necessary to establish his credibility outside of his New York renown with scoops of his life-shaping industry knowledge. It may also have been that he was sensitive to giving those who influenced him credit where credit was due, but it bordered on tedious name-dropping and insider’s foodie talk which dished up the sections of the book I was more apt to skim through.

However I only share this to encourage you to persist through this less than compelling first impression if you’re struck by it as I was, for the rest of Setting the Table (i.e. the greater majority of its 320 pages, from chapters 4 through 13) is truly terrific reading, and a very satisfying meal for anyone who studies management and leadership.

The book was initially attractive to me for the promise of explaining Meyer’s well-known philosophy on service versus hospitality, and to that end, he delivered magnificently, covering his Virtuous Cycle of Enlightened Hospitality, and adding an extra ingredient he calls the “charitable assumption.” (page 206) There are abundant bonuses: The management and leadership lessons he shares were like starting with extra desserts before having to eat the meal.

Meyer is a big believer in emotional intelligence. He lives by it and looks to surround himself with it in the partnerships he selects, eagerly collecting mentors and savoring their wisdom— yet another way in which their classics become his innovation. Self-awareness and integrity are often mentioned as traits he values; they are the common threads running through his five core emotional skills” sought in the hiring of a staff he refers to as his “51 percenters” (skills divided 51-49 between emotional hospitality and technical excellence) and through a list of nine specific traits he believes define the mind-set and character of his critically important managers.
Meyer describes himself as a “high touch leader” and a “bottom-up manager who subscribes to the concept of servant leadership” and he says, “I believe that leadership is not measured just by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by how other people you depend on feel in the process of accomplishing things.” (page 217)

The management philosophy Meyer speaks of is a kinesthetic buffet of terms like “constant, gentle pressure” (he explicitly describes the gravity of each of those words) and he is a master of the metaphor. Several are sprinkled through his book, giving it a stickiness this reader is sure to remember. In particular I loved his explanation of why those new to management have to understand the instant appearance of megaphones, binoculars, and fire. In explaining fire, Meyer masterfully illustrates that a high touch, servant leader who understands that ultimately, all employees “are volunteers,” is no wishy-washy softie.

“With each year I’ve spent as a leader, I’ve grown more and more convinced that my team ”“ any team ”“ thirsts for someone with authority, and power, to tell them consistently where they’re going, how they’re doing, and how they could do their job even better. And all the team asks is that the same rules apply to everyone.”
—Danny Meyer in Setting the Table, page 198

Danny Meyer may be one of the most humble yet savvy businessmen around; he tells his story in an almost self-depreciating way, and is extremely open about his fumbles ”“ one terrific chapter is called, The Road to Success is Paved with Mistakes Well Handled, and it could’ve easily been another tagline for his book. Yet don’t let the word “humble” mislead you. In my view, Meyer is one smart cookie. A chapter he calls Broadcasting the Message, Tuning in the Feedback on how he’s handled and learned from the press is exceptional, a glimpse that this is not a man to underestimate. “My only choice then, is to hop on the back of the shark and ride with exceptional care and skill, or I’m lunch.”

Judge for yourself. If you are in business, a manager and a leader, I’d recommend you consider Danny Meyer as one of the mentors you collect, for there is great advice generously given within the pages of his book. On bookshelves full of the newest business books written by academics, journalists and theorists, look for Meyer’s Setting the Table in the company of stories from the trenches. From those trenches have emerged his very successful world class team, and you can read how it happens.

Visit Amazon.com to purchase the book, or to read more reviews.

Related posts: These were written on Talking Story in preparation for this review, and you will see how my feelings grew ever more favorable the more I read!

Union Square Cafe by Zagat Buzz on Flickr

What makes a person a Joyful and Jubilant Learner?

The answers are sure to be found in most of the successful people we know.

Jubilant Learners Speak Up!

One of the things I believe, is that we learn best from other people. When we started this series for Joyful Jubilant Learning, we had the goal of bringing the voices of learning coaches to you. Some of the people who immediately came to mind for us may not think of themselves as learning coaches, but we certainly do!

As we talked about the series, I put together a “silent list” of those people I would truly love to have us interview one day; silent in that I hadn’t shared it with the rest of my JJL team —yet, and silent in that these were people I thought of as my learning coaches even though the one thing they had in common was that I didn’t know them personally —yet. They are people I would love to know better because they have coached me through their writing or speaking, and I am intent on meeting them one day so I can let them know how much I appreciate what they have already taught me.

The very first name on my list was Danny Meyer. I had received his book as a Christmas present from my husband who bought it for me based on the subtitle alone, “the transforming power of hospitality in business.” As I peeled away the gift-wrapping, he said, “It sounded like he’s as nuts as you are about hospitality and what businesses are capable of should they choose to be.”

That was when a man I hadn’t yet heard of became one of my heroes. I have since written about Danny’s book, Setting the Table several times, and we’ll add those links at the end of this article, but first, we are very honored to introduce Danny to you within the transforming power of his own words. Meet Danny Meyer, “America’s most innovative restaurateur.”

In October 1985, at age twenty-seven, Danny Meyer, with a good idea and scant experience, opened what would become one of New York City’s most revered restaurants—Union Square Café. Little more than twenty years later, Danny is the CEO of one of the world’s most dynamic restaurant organizations, which includes eleven unique dining establishments, each at the top of its game.

From Setting the Table (page 11);
“Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple propositions —for and to— express it all.”
— Danny Meyer

Rosa: First Danny, I must say thank you. Thank you for writing a book that I have come to think of as a must-read primer for any business person learning about hospitality, a value we must elevate and allow to inspire in so many of our professions. You have added to my own coaching arsenal magnificently; I want to help you sell millions of them! For those of our readers who have not yet read your book, would you first tell us what that “good idea” you had was back when you were twenty-seven?

Danny: Like so many entrepreneurs, it wasn’t so much that I had a good idea, as it was that I had an “itch” I had no choice but to scratch. That itch was to create the restaurant that I would most want to go to being a food lover and wanting to be treated well.

Rosa: In your book’s introduction, you write, “Along the way, I’ve learned powerful lessons and language that have allowed me to lead with intention rather than by intuition.” I tend to think of both intention and intuition as powerful; why not lead harnessing both?

Danny: I do lead with both. But like many intuitive leaders, I am not naturally analytical. The discipline it took for me to sit down and write Setting the Table forced me to give language and words to those ideas which had always been obvious to me, but maybe not as evident to others. Telling stories and drawing conclusions has allowed me to do a much, much better job of teaching and not expecting my colleagues to be mind readers!

Rosa: As a workplace coach, I very much appreciated how your stories opened up possibilities for readers to step into. In capturing those ideas and conclusions you had expressed, you invited us to live our own stories of hospitality at work, leading us in a very inspirational way. Do you make a distinction between management and leadership?

Danny: Absolutely. I think of management as a way to keep things on track; to make sure all is safe and sound and functioning well ”“ an important facet of any successful business. Leadership is the act of imagining where to go, providing people with an uplifting, yet realistic idea of what the journey might be like, setting priorities, embodying what success looks like, letting people know how they’re doing, and supporting peoples’ success all along the way, saying thank you a lot.

Rosa: Danny, you have used language phrasings within Setting the Table that I love, making your stories and concepts so easy for me to recall and think back on. Examples jump out with chapter names like “The 51 Percent Solution” and “Constant, Gentle Pressure,” and another that drew comments here within my book review for you this past March was about the new managers’ “gift of fire.” Would you tell us more about “charitable assumption” (found on page 206)?

Danny: I believe that most people truly want to do their best and to succeed. Too often, especially in a highly competitive arena, colleagues (not unlike siblings!) are quick to assume someone else was acting out of ill-intent. Encouraging colleagues to sustain a charitable assumption ”“looking for the best in people ”“ dramatically increases the odds that a team will thrive together.

Rosa: When you say “a team will thrive together” and I think about restaurants, managers are the ones who instantly come to mind for me as needing to find their place in that team. My husband, son and I had dinner out just last night, and I noticed a manager walking the floor with that Pigpen-like cloud I see in far too many restaurants around far too many managers, where it seems they just don’t belong, or are redundant. They seem to be just pacing, checking up on everything, and not knowing how to intercept their staff processes, much less a dialogue with a customer; it’s painful for a guest to even watch! What do you teach your managers about their role in the dialogue of hospitality? What would you suggest to all those restaurant managers out there so they can immediately make a change on their next shift?

Danny: Nobody wants to be in the near proximity of a skunk, and certainly nobody wants to work with or for one! For me it’s simple: a manager should be constantly looking for opportunities to do thoughtful things for someone. His or her first priority is to provide support ”“ both technical and emotional ”“ to staff members; next he or she should look, listen, and feel for ways to do thoughtful things for guests.

Rosa: As someone who earned her own server’s stripes in different restaurants, there were so many parts of your book where I cheered for you as the champion of servers everywhere! It was so refreshing and encouraging to read that hospitality is extended to everyone for you. However you seem to believe that only certain people are meant to be ‘hospitalitarians,’ for you say, “A special type of personality thrives on providing hospitality, and it’s crucial to our success that we attract people who possess it. (page 146)” So similar to the question often asked about leadership, are hospitalitarians born or made in your view?

Danny: In the same way as we are each born with a certain IQ that doesn’t much change over the years , I believe that we are each born (and to some degree raised) with a certain HQ ”“ or hospitality quotient. That HQ determines the degree to which we naturally derive pleasure from providing pleasure. I wrote about a number of emotional skills that are typically at a high level in people with a high HQ. I don’t believe they can be taught, but I do believe managers can be taught to identify and hire people with these skills.

Rosa: Now that you have written it, is Setting the Table used as a textbook for your training programs? I certainly would be! It has been said that great leaders draw from their personal stories, and you are a wonderful story-teller, with the added bonus that your book shares the values of your company told within the history of your company. In addition to hospitality, what are the core values you speak of most with your staff?

Danny: Yes, we use Setting the Table as a learning tool for our staff, and we refer to it frequently as a way to describe what works, and also what doesn’t. I really wrote it as a case study in what was working. By understanding what we do when we’re really on our game, we can be far more purposeful about doing it with greater frequency and consistency.

If I were to distill my job down to just two tasks they would be to make sure we were always fully stocked with hospitalitarians, and to hold them accountable for the degree of hospitality ”“ respect and trust ”“ they accorded one another. At that point, we’d be capable of accomplishing almost anything!

Rosa: Those two tasks do accomplish so much; I think you give would-be leaders terrific insight on where their focus should be. Going back for a moment to that HQ factor, you said you don’t believe some basic emotional skills can be taught, and you hire for them. Having selected the right people, what do you expect they will learn once they begin to work within your company? If you were to jot down a short list of learning expectations for your hospitalitarians, what kind of things would be on your list?

Danny: It’s a hard thing to trust that you can achieve more by mastering your emotions and putting others first ”“ especially in a high pressure setting of a restaurant. But I think people learn to trust that you get more when you first give more. They learn that the best way to get a hug, is first to give one. They master all kinds of technical skills specific to our business, and they gain like minded friends for life.

Located in the Gramercy Park Hotel, Maialino serves traditional Italian dishes. Photo from Zagat Buzz on Flickr.

Rosa: Learning is often connected to the word your publisher used in your tagline: innovation. What kind of innovation do you believe needs to happen within your business, or in business as a whole?

Danny: It’s a tired cliché ”“ but it’s true: unless a business is moving forward, it will atrophy and die. Staff members need to be challenged with new opportunities to perform at their peaks. And while guests do return in part to repeat experiences they’ve loved, they too expect you to constantly find new ways of doing things.

Rosa: Having accomplished what you have, and knowing how universal your lessons-learned are, do you have any desire to tackle another field, or will there always be another restaurant waiting for you to open it somewhere? Are there other professions you’d love to learn about?

Danny: I’ve been fortunate to be able to continuously grow within my chosen field, and I’ve had the privilege of using restaurants to further explore a lot of my own personal interests ”“ like art, music, cooking, wine, antiques, travel, meeting people, community investment, philanthropy and even politics. What more could I want?!

Rosa: There is another quote I pulled from your book Danny, choosing it for the scrolling marquee when my laptop is on power save; “The courage to grow demands the courage to let go.” You explained this well in chapter 13, however bring us up to date since that writing; what are you letting go of now to continue in your own personal growth?

Danny: Each day my job is to ask myself whether any task I am doing is truly my best and highest use. I must also ask that of every other colleague on my team. A byproduct of our growth as a company is that we’ve continuously surrounded ourselves with talented colleagues with high HQ’s ”“ many of whom are far better at what they know how to than I ever would or could be. This allows me to spend more time thinking of ways to push the envelopes of hospitality and excellence, rather than being the guy who’s pushing them!

Rosa: Danny the core mission we have here at Joyful Jubilant Learning is to share lessons-learned that everyone can personally apply to their own learning. What would you say are those lessons-learned that have had the most impact in your life?

Danny: That nothing else rises to the level of hospitality ”“ making people know you are on their side ”“ in terms of distinguishing one organization from another. Not performance, not anything. Long after people forget what you served them, they’ll remember how you made them feel.

Rosa: What’s next for you Danny, and how shall we all keep learning from you, and with you?

Danny: My Union Square Hospitality Group (www.ushgnyc.com) colleagues and I are in the process of improving all of our restaurants, and meanwhile building our catering company, Hudson Yards Catering. We’re interested in seeing if we can add anything to the dialogue on dining while at sports stadiums. And one of these days, we’d like to have the experience of replicating something we’ve already done ”“ like Shake Shack, (www.shakeshack.com) Blue Smoke (www.bluesmoke.com), or Tabla (www.tablany.com).

Rosa: Mahalo nui loa Danny, thank you so much for being my guest on Jubilant Learners Speak Up!

Shake Shack, the burger, hot dog, and frozen custard stand Meyer created in 2004 for Madison Square Park. Photo by Biskuit on Flickr.

Who might be one of your learning coaches? I hope my talk with Danny encourages you to seek them out too.

~ Rosa Say

Are we seeking Hospitalitarians?

That word is a mouthful. I think I like our Hawaiian words for host and hostess better: Are we seeking Mea ho‘okipa?

As a leading business owner, are you creating work opportunity for our Mea ho‘okipa?

We’re in a time where so many business rules are changing: Jobs of the future are being newly explored and created. While I’ll be quick to jump on the innovation bandwagon too (and I have), I’d suggest to everyone showing so much interest in the idea, that we can stage the comeback of some timelessly crucial roles in business. We needn’t newly create as much as newly invest in what we already know to be good and true, and highly desirable. One such role is that of the Mea ho‘okipa.

Ho‘okipa, our Hawaiian value of hospitality, is a part of our shout-out for more Aloha in every effort we make in 2010:
A — Aloha… We need a comeback of better service, person to person, with human graciousness experienced in every single encounter we have with each other. They are encounters where Ho‘okipa (unconditional hospitality), Lokomaika‘i (generosity of good heart) and Aloha (as an expectation of good spirit, even in strangers) combine, mix virtuously and nourish us.
— from the Archives: For 2010, with Aloha

Politicians running for office right now might want to give this some thought too, for the character of mea ho‘okipa as the true hospitalitarians they are, can lend much richness to leadership. Mea ho‘okipa are tireless advocates of their guests and visitors (they hesitate to call them clients or customers). Mea ho‘okipa are exceptional civic and social builders of community (think constituency, and here’s an idea: serving them versus serving one’s agenda or platform.) Mea ho‘okipa advocate and build, as they complete a “selfish act.”

You read that right. Selfish, not selfless.

Mohammed with his wonderful fruit juices, the best in the world, by Charles Fred on Flickr

I hold Mea Ho‘okipa in very high esteem, for I greatly admire their capacity palena ‘ole (capacity without limits) in giving ”“ in LIVING ”“ the art of hospitality. I wish I could be more like them.

I believe that Mea Ho‘okipa are born that way;

Personally, I do not believe that you can teach someone to be Mea Ho‘okipa: Either they are or they aren’t. You can’t fake a genuine sincerity for giving that you simply don’t have in you. The good news is that many people have it.

Learn to interview in a way that reveals those naturally born Mea Ho‘okipa. Hire them on the spot. You can then better devote your time toward creating the best possible environment for them to deliver their art of Ho‘okipa without shackles, boundaries, or inhibitions. You discard any rules that get in the way of them doing what they feel the guest needs—not always what that customer may think they want, but what they really need to be satisfied. When it comes to their guest—your customer—Mea Ho‘okipa are extremely intuitive: They inherently possess the instinct to know the difference and they proceed accordingly, giving them perfect delivery of service. Mea Ho‘okipa are dripping with caring, that marvelous ability to instinctively know what their guest needs to be happy; they can feel it.
~ from Managing with Aloha, page 82

The good news? We have Mea Ho‘okipa is abundance here in our Hawai‘i nei: You have them wherever you are too, I guarantee it! All we need to do is create a great place for them to work: Share your Sense of [Work] Place.

Are you Mea Ho‘okipa? Do you have that instinct that I believe to be “extremely intuitive?”

I was skimming through another book recently, one I have now referred to several times. It’s one which should be required reading for anyone who aspires to have a winning business or servant leadership style, for it certainly is a primer on ho‘okipa and hospitality. The book is Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table, The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.

Meyer is the one who calls our Mea Ho‘okipa hospitalitarians. However whether you call them Mea Ho‘okipa or hospitalitarian, Meyer and I agree about how special a person this is.

“It may seem implicit in the philosophy of enlightened hospitality that the employee is constantly setting aside personal needs and selflessly taking care of others. But the real secret of its success is to hire people to whom caring for others is, in fact, a selfish act. I call these people hospitalitarians. A special type of personality thrives on providing hospitality, and it’s crucial to our success that we attract people who possess it. Their source of energy is rarely depleted. In fact, the more opportunities hospitalitarians have to care for other people, the better they feel.”
~ Danny Meyer, in Setting the Table (page 146 if you have it)

[An FYI: I notice the book is only $8.24 on Amazon.com as of this writing (link to get to my store)…the publisher must be having some sort of stockroom fire sale.]

Yes indeed. Being selfish can be a good thing, one where you and your customer come together at last to the great delight of a prospective employer. You feed off each other’s Aloha in an exchange of human energy, creating a source that is “rarely depleted.” But this is quite different than the way we conventionally think of selfishness. The difference is the presence of giving as the taking.

The play on words might be a stretch, and selflessness is a great word to keep within our understanding, for it means much the same thing: “being one who is concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own needs.”

Mea ho‘okipa do not experience their inner peace and joy unless they have given to another person. Their spirit is conveyed through the equation of warm and beneficial human interaction. To a customer, Ho‘okipa is unparalleled service —it is the epitome of service! —for it was given to them completely unconditionally, something that is exceptionally rare. What they are actually feeling, and experiencing, is ho‘okipa, the art of hospitality in the good hands of a master at providing it.

As said so succinctly in one of my all-time favorite quotes, “One of life’s greatest laws is that you cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own as well.”

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Archive Aloha along this train of thought:

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sayalakai_rosasayMy mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Thursday I write a management posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at Hawai‘i’s newspaper The Honolulu Advertiser. If this is the first you have caught sight of my Say “Alaka‘i” tagline, you can learn more on this Talking Story page: About Say “Alaka‘i”. There are some differences in this Talking Story version, most notably that all links will keep you here on this blog.

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“Free” never is, so don’t ask

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 April 27, 2010, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…

Hibiscus

“Free” never is, so don’t ask

A reader emailed, asking my opinion of this compromise proposed by governor Linda Lingle:

Hawaii governor asks teachers to return
Lingle will release $57.2M, wants educators to work 3 furlough days at no pay.

Gov. Linda Lingle last night asked all public school teachers and principals to volunteer to return to the classrooms without pay for the remaining three furlough days of the school year as a “gesture to heal our community.”

And if lawmakers approve a plan on Wednesday, Lingle also said she will release up to $57.2 million from the state’s Hurricane Relief Fund to restore 11 teacher furlough days next year.

First, let me preface my response by saying it’s a general one — all purpose, for I think the different viewpoints of this particular Hawai‘i Friday furlough issue are irrelevant to my answer. I’d respond the same way no matter the situation variables.

In short, I don’t think anyone should work for free, because I believe in valuing Ho‘ohana as I do (the value of worthwhile work).

“Hawaiians believed that only through work can a man fulfill his social and spiritual purpose.”
— Dr. George Kanahele

I very strongly believe that the work we do should be better valued by other people instead of them asking us to “give from the kindness of our hearts.” It’s awkward, for no one wants to be a jerk, put in a position of being the bad guy (or girl) who says no. So please, don’t put others in that position by asking.

It’s more than that though: I believe we all need to get better at appreciating the work others do for us. I have high regard for the value of work, and I believe that value should be rightfully dignified and honored. No one should ask another person to work for free no matter the circumstances: We need to be better receivers than that, and affirm what others do for us, not negate it.

“Free” never comes without cost to someone (often more than can be readily seen), and “paying” for a product, or for goods and services rendered should be a no-brainer.

You may have heard this story before: This version is from Tall Tim, The naked entrepreneur:

It reminds me of a story, supposedly true, I heard some time ago about Picasso, whose reputation was already secure at the time.

Picasso was apparently meeting someone for a drink in a tapas bar in Barcelona. His companion was running late and whilst he was waiting for him to arrive Picasso began doodling on his napkin. As he put his pen down one of the other patrons in the bar, who had recognised Picasso, boldly approached and proffered – “Maestro, I couldn’t help but notice your doodling on the napkin. I would be very happy to purchase the napkin from you.” “Certainly,” replied Picasso, “the price will be US$10,000.”

“How could you possibly charge $10,000?” blustered the would-be buyer, “I watched you and it took but a few minutes of your time to create.”

“Yes,” said Picasso, “But I AM Picasso and it has taken me 40 years to arrive at the point where I can create a work of art, worthy of bearing my name, in a matter of minutes.”

Whereupon one of the other patrons in the bar who had been observing the exchange leapt to his feet and said “Picasso, I’ll give you $12,000 for the napkin if you’ll just sign it.”

Good for Picasso!

When people ask me to speak or deliver workshops pro bono (without charge, and “for the public good”) I may, in that I’ll fulfill their request and not bill them in dollars, but I do step into the coaching opportunity they give me, and I’ll ask how they’re planning to reciprocate in kind. I’m ready to give them some pretty creative ideas if I need to.

There are several ways they can do so, for money is but one type of transactional currency, and a problem-riddled one at that. Unfortunately, compensation practices are as big a mess as you’ll find, with union rules and taxation complicating it even more (case in point).

Yes, I realize that even barter is subject to taxation, and most CPAs will advise you to report all transactions to the Internal Revenue Service in equivalent-dollars as cash sales, but so be it: The point is that we need to honor each other in the work we do.

Dignify your own work too: Value it, assessing it fairly, and let people know how they can compensate you if they ask. For instance, in the case of Hawai‘i’s Friday furloughs, I personally would love to hear from more teachers or school administrators, instead of union representatives and our legislators. If there simply aren’t the dollars available to compensate them monetarily, what would they suggest? It is far easier to be a good giver when we know what we can give.

“[In Hawai‘i of old] the general principle underlying all gift giving was reciprocity, a concept which permeated virtually all Hawaiian behavior” Economically, reciprocity has a narrower meaning, although the principle is the same: one should repay each gift with something at least equivalent to what one has received. But if the equivalent is enough, giving more is better” an important feature of reciprocal gift giving was the spirit of noblesse oblige.”
— Dr. George Kanahele

Noblesse oblige, “nobility obliges.” A wonderful concept, don’t you think?

The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:
“Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly. One must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position, and with the reputation that one has earned.”
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the term “suggests noble ancestry constrains to honourable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility.”
Wikipedia

Let’s seek to give, and give exceptionally before asking. Wouldn’t you want the same courtesy and affirmation of your worth?

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From the archives:
Set your price, charge it, and stand behind it

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Update: The saga continues in this morning’s paper: Hawaii governor’s furlough plan derided

While my posting makes it pretty clear I think the governor could have come up with a better suggestion (don’t go for adversarial compromise or even consensus and cooperation: Go for collaboration), it is alarming to me that so many who say “think of the children” and/or “what about the teachers?” are listing excuses and justifications why our teachers can’t work. Heaven forbid that we now are anti-volunteering, and that people are restricted from working to serve others if they want to. Why are we going there?

To be clear, I’m not saying they shouldn’t work within my posting, not at all! Do get back to work, and do make it work.

I still want to hear from more teachers, and not the BOE, unions, or legislators… why allow others to speak for you? Be heard.

Embrace your Systems Thinker

I do too. Really!

Had a terrific conversation with a manager working his way through Managing with Aloha for the first time, using my new ebook, Become an Alaka‘i Manager in 5 Weeks. At one point he asked me,

Can we talk story more about processes? I’ve always thought of myself as a big systems and processes guy up to now, and honestly Rosa? I’ve invested so much into them that I want to keep feeling good about that.”

He helped me understand how I might be giving you the wrong impression of my feelings with systems and processes, or a mixed message, for on the one hand I’ll promote them, like this: Hō‘imi your Trusted System, and this: Learn a 5-Step Weekly Review, and Make it your Habit.

On the other, I’ll write a message like this one within the Role of the Manager Reconstructed:

  • People can fix broken processes.
  • Processes cannot fix broken-in-spirit people.
  • Break the spirit of your managers, and you fall even farther behind.

First of all, yes, DO feel good about being a systems thinker, and someone who understands that processes are important, for they make business move. There is no such thing as a good business without great processes!

This is the way my friend Timothy Johnson, certified PMP (project management professional) and author of SWAT, Seize the Accomplishment, describes your passion (SWAT stands for “systems working all together”) in his Ho‘ohana:

“At heart, I am, have always been, and shall always be, a “process guy.” I like to dissect EVERYTHING in terms of a process. What comes before what? What actions create what consequences? When can certain inputs be introduced into the system? How many inputs can be transformed into outputs? What are the hand-offs? Are they happening effectively and efficiently? These are the questions that haunt and taunt me. They are the lens through which I see my world. And they are the reason for my success” as a consultant, as a professor, as a parent” you name it. But the question that permeates everything, the one that really triggers every fiber in my mind and soul: “What accomplishments need to be created and how do we get there?”

Those are great questions to be invested in, for they drive so much, exploring how work actually will happen (or not happen.)

Timothy had helped us understand this better here on Talking Story a while back in the context of decision-making:

Like with most things in life, I view decision-making like another system (there is no wing at the Betty Ford clinic for systems thinking addicts, by the way).
The inputs are the decision variables, including the need for making a decision in the first place and the data available.
The throughput (or transformation process) is our decision-making process, or how we convert those variables into”
The output (the decision itself), the outcome of our thought process.
The feedback loop of our decision-management (follow-through on this decision as well as other related decisions) helps lead to other decisions’ inputs.
~ Timothy Johnson
Read more at his blog: Decision Incision

Great stuff. I truly value and appreciate systems thinking; it’s the drool-over-it detail stuff of the stellar projects that dynamic workplace teams prosper within. And as you can probably tell, Timothy has a knack for making this fun; if you’re a self-proclaimed systems thinker or process person in the way you describe your Ho‘ohana Timothy will be your hero: Subscribe to his blog.

My Ho‘ohana as a workplace culture coach with Managing with Aloha on the brain simply zeroes in on a specific, connected question: How do these systems and processes affect the people involved with them?

People are the ‘input’ and the ‘transformed output’ I get most interested in, and I believe that has to be a heightened interest of all who wish to be Alaka‘i Managers. Especially today, as struggling businesses seek to move the “people cost” out of the equation as we spoke of last week: An Erosion of Trust.

My challenge to you who are “systems thinkers and process people” is this: Embrace our grey in your black and white. Admittedly it can seem stormy, however it’s quite beautiful too. We can be helping each other.

Keawe Storm

Here is the bit which appears in the ebook, with a bounty of added links to related writings I have done. Hover your mouse or curser over the links to see their titles.

Lessen your work with systems and processes

You’ll be amazed at just how much you can accomplish when you have more workplace conversations (not meetings, conversations). One of the things Aloha does is help make talking to each other more enjoyable so we don’t avoid things and sweep them under the rug. We appreciate learning from each other.

Generally speaking, we managers work with three things: Systems, processes, and people. The goal of MWA is shifting your work away from task-related systems and processes in favor of your more rewarding work with people as much as possible. The finishing well conversation for mutual agreements which we just covered is but one example.

Your best work is to be done in cultivating the relationships in which you’ll teach or train, and then coach others toward their stress-free high performance: This is the way that Alaka‘i Managers serve others, by helping them grow into their greater potential. Great managers create more leaders, not work drones, and not more followers. They facilitate partnerships, treating employees as business partners. You can’t do those things when swallowed up in task work.