Grandpa Joe, the Soldier

This Memorial Day, I am able to look upon a picture we found just a few months ago, of my grandfather as a solder. It was taken at Ft. Shafter on July 14, 1919, the day he was discharged from the U.S. Army. World War I was over, and he was 23 years old. It was time to return to the rest of his life.

Imagine: He was born and raised on the island of Maui, and he became an American soldier “of the Territory” more than forty years before Hawai‘i became a state.

Holidays like this one help us reflect on our ancestry, and on the values which have made us the people we are. I think about my grandfather, my father, who had served in the Korean War and Viet Nam, and my brother, who recently retired from a career in Army after serving in Iraq. This is from an email he had sent my family while he was there:

I had to laugh when you guys write about how hot it is in HI and AZ. This place is hot 115-120 degrees and climbing, that is outside and not the oven temp. 100 degree days we consider as cool, add in the finest dust you can imagine and then add in the smell of sewage and you might get the picture.

I tell everyone imagine the hottest day ever in HI add 10 degrees then stand with a blower dryer on high hot in your face then throw dust in your face while in a outhouse and you got Iraq. Don’t forget to wear long sleeves, boots and carry 40 pounds of junk around with you. That’s hot, then take a cool shower (when you have one) and feel good for 2 minutes then walk back to your room (when you have one) to get sweaty and dirty by the time you reach there. By the way do this everyday with no days off. I can’t wait to come home for some rest. It really is so bad, sometimes. When you see smiling Iraqi people’s faces and the letters from people supporting us all that grumbling is forgotten.

I would like to thank all of you for your support to me, my family and my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. I hope to see you soon.

No matter what we may think of our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war, Jeff reminds us that this is a day to be thankful for where we live, and for the values that America strives to be true to. It is truly a day to understand sacrifice, patriotism, and the gift of freedom.

I newly understand how incredibly fortunate I am when I think about these things.


Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the American military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

I think it fitting that we stretch that a bit to honor other sacrifices as well, such as those now endured daily by all in our armed forces “alive and well” though in conditions as Jeff described, and in harms way for us.

This event also comes to mind for me, as a strong memory this past winter during a trip to Washington D.C.:

The Pentagon Memorial, located just southwest of The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, is a permanent outdoor memorial to the 184 people killed in the building and on American Airlines Flight 77 in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Pentagon Memorial at night, Arlington, Virginia.

With help from Wikipedia:
“To honor the 184 victims, 184 illuminated benches have been arranged according to the victim’s ages, from 3 to 71, in a landscaped 1.93-acre (7,800 m2) plot. Each bench is engraved with the name of a victim. The benches representing the victims that were inside the Pentagon are arranged so those reading the names will face the Pentagon’s south facade, where the plane hit; benches dedicated to victims aboard the plane are arranged so that those reading the engraved name will be facing skyward along the path the plane traveled.”

We had driven into Arlington for dinner, and stopped here after our meal, eager to stretch our legs after eating way too much. I love this picture. I imagine it looks remarkably different during the day with sunlit details revealed, but it seemed very appropriate to me that we first saw the memorial this way in the dark mysteries of the night, for it is unimaginable what feelings that plane was charged with, filled with people about to make such a sacrifice.

On this Memorial Day, take a few minutes to think about your own ancestors, and how they served their countries and communities. You are who you are because of them and the decisions they made.

Update: If you are reading this via RSS, do click in for some Memorial Day additions I have collected in the comments this morning (links to other sites), revisiting this with my coffee.

Say “Alaka‘i” is Returning to the Mothership

Aloha Ho‘ohana Community,

The time has come to say goodbye to Say “Alaka‘i” at its present home with The Honolulu Advertiser. A copy of what I posted there this morning follows so you are also in-the-know. One of our recent conversations here on Talking Story was Embrace your Systems Thinker and if you remain interested in that, or would like to see a bit more of how I came to my decision, writing to think as I do, you can take a look at these posts on my Tumblr:

  1. Say “Alaka‘i” and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Yes or no?
  2. Mothershipping” Drinking my own Koolaid
  3. And one as Archive Aloha: Decision Making: How do you do it?

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From Thank you, and Aloha ~ ‘Imi ola kākou at Say “Alaka‘i” (About Page)

Aloha dear readers,
The time has come to say goodbye to Say “Alaka‘i” at its present home with The Honolulu Advertiser.

Cyberspace is a big place, with change happening rapidly, and so for any who may not know, these blog pages will soon appear under a different masthead. I did receive an invitation to continue writing Say “Alaka‘i” for the new paper, however I’ve decided that it’s time I move on, and start a new chapter.

You who have read this blog, and who know the Managing with Aloha beliefs which guide me, are aware of what I mean by “Ho‘o it” —Make something happen. For some of us that means we’ll seek new energy, for another fire starts to burn brightly. For others it might mean the calm contentment we call ma‘alahi, which also can burn with simmering intensity, though it comes from a “Less is More” focus. Either way, change will usually present us with choices, and I for one, like jumping into the choosing. It affords me that opportunity to “Ho‘o it” —to practice what I preach deliberately, constantly bringing value-alignment to my life via decisions big and small.

I will often choose new and different once a chapter ends, and I find I’m pulled that way this time too.

‘Imi ola: To seek best life

I do believe that the daily newspaper can play an important role in any community: Jay Fidell has explained it well most recently in his article, “How to survive in a one newspaper town.” Therefore I sincerely wish the new Honolulu Star Advertiser much success, and truly hope to support them in other ways: As you probably are, I am very eager to see what will happen here in coming weeks, and have high expectations.

However when I take into account the information presently available to me, I do not feel the newspaper blogging model will be the best place for me to personally continue my own work, not with the “sense of workplace” which is optimally representative of the ‘Ohana in Business model I hold dear, and teach within the MWA vision at Say Leadership Coaching.

Golden Plumeria and Buds

As you know, I stand for Managing with Aloha, a philosophy about how we live the values of our Hawaiian culture, aligning them with the work we choose today. To be true to my mission and Ho‘ohana (intentionally chosen work), I must shape my work with the values, systems and process of MWA value-alignment and nothing less. That includes the writing and publishing I do, so The Healthy Workplace Compass of ‘Imi ola became my decision process with the future of Say “Alaka‘i”. I did explore the possibility of continuing here, however I believe I can serve you much better on my own home on the web, where blogging is an Alaka‘i focus for Ho‘ohana voice, and not a sideline.

Please know my decision is not a prejudgement on the prospects of the emerging newspaper, (or the other bloggers here, who may have other goals), for I don’t have enough information to make such a presumptuous determination. Further, I do believe they can be very successful despite the well-publicized challenges of the newspaper industry —there’s HUGE opportunity for someone to start leading a vibrant, dynamic reinvention in journalism! Why not here? In fact, were they able to speak in collected voice, the values of our island communities would argue it should be here in our Hawai‘i.

This is a decision to return to my home base and focus my efforts there, continuing Say “Alaka‘i” at my own blog, Talking Story. That said, please don’t feel I am leaving you behind!

For more of Say “Alaka‘i” there’s Talking Story

My life is fully invested in the vision of Managing of Aloha, both personally and professionally. I will continue to write on the subject matter of Say “Alaka‘i” for I have done so within my wish to give back to our community in the way I feel I can best do so. I remain deeply committed to Alaka‘i Managers and the mission we have had here to bring the value of Alaka‘i (Hawai‘i-inspired leadership) to the workplace, and we ho‘omau (continue to press on). Most of the articles published here (now 170 of them!) have been archived at Talking Story for our future reference: They remain a resource for you.

I invite you to join me there, keeping a place for the new home of Say “Alaka‘i” in your feed reader: Talking Story is now well into its 6th year as the home of our extended Ho‘ohana Community. In honor of the publishing routine we have had here, Talking Story will blend in the same Tuesday/Thursday pattern we’ve been working with:

  • Each Tuesday I write on Alaka‘i Leadership, i.e. including self-leadership, and “Leading as a verb” creating human energy as our greatest resource.
  • Each Thursday I write on Alaka‘i Management, i.e. including self-management, and “Managing as a verb” channeling human energy in the most productive and fruitful way possible.

I’ll update Talking Story at least three times a week, sometimes more, with Mondays dedicated to Managing with Aloha. We stay on-point in weekday discussions with our learning of the Hawaiian values and advocacy in support of Alaka‘i Managers, and anything goes on the weekends— we explore as life happens, or I quiet down and refresh so you can too. Visit the Talking Story About Page for info on your free subscription options.

Thank you so much to all of you who have read my articles, doing your very best to practice the Ho‘ohana of Alaka‘i and Aloha in your own workplaces: It makes a difference! In particular, a very warm mahalo nui loa to those of you who commented for me here, keeping me going with your encouragement and affirmation.

I hope to see all of you at Talking Story!
With much aloha, a hui hou,

Rosa Say 2009


Rosa Say | Workplace Culture Coach | Say Leadership Coaching
Author | Managing with Aloha | Business Thinking with Aloha

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Rapid Fire Learning | Take 5 from May, 2010

Aloha Ho‘ohana Community and learners one and all!

If you are newly joining us, Rapid Fire Learning is another way we “take 5” here at Talking Story: It happens on the last weekend of the month. Jump right in! If you’re one who likes learning of the backstory, you can catch up with a fuller explanation of what it’s all about here: Rapid Fire Learning Returns to Talking Story. Click on the tags near the post footer to skim through previous month editions.

I’ll go first, and I invite you to join in. Use the comments here, or send me a trackback from your own site. Tumble something, or tweet yours one-by-one in the Twitter 140 if you like!

My RFLs for Mei ~ May, 2010:

These are top-of-mind for me:

  1. Helping people isn’t as easy as you might think. If they aren’t self-motivated to help themselves, shift or change in some way, what you offer them is like blowing in the wind.
  2. We rely on computers way too much today, both in working and in the  living of our day to day lives. I’m part of the problem, for I definitely have come to rely on computers excessively: Now that I have a mac I never shut it down unless I’m about to get on an airplane. Thing is, I’ve also learned this won’t stop for me, and what I must do is reallocate some of my usage.
  3. That simple, one-word question “Why?” sent me on a variety of different explorations this month. I learned to revisit it thanks to learning about Simon Sinek, and his Golden Circle (TED Video here).
  4. Endings create voids which are the spaces in your life for new possibilities. It’s good when you are ready to fill them, and quite unnerving when they’re empty for too long, so I’m learning to be better prepared (i.e. more proactive, with projects waiting in the wings).
  5. I am, and have always been more impatient than 99.9% of the other people in my life. As long as that’s been true for me, my learning to deal with it continues, especially because I actually like the impatience of discontent, very much so.

My Ho‘ohana Take 5: This is what I have given my ‘Ike loa focus to in May:

I have become such an RFL addict that I now do it twice: Above in the stream-of-consciousness way, and this second time, for the Hawaiian value of Mahalo: “Living in thankfulness for the elements of life which make it most precious to us.” My thankfulness in this next set is for Talking Story as my “mothership” for this blog has become very important to me, as a HUGE factor in my monthly learning.

You can do your Take 5 in Learning with ‘Ike loa (the Hawaiian value of knowledge seeking) however you wish: No Rules, keep it useful for YOU.

Or you can share in my approach with this Ho‘ohana Community immersion! These are my top 5 take-aways particular to 5 of the Talking Story conversations we have had in recent weeks. Did you gain different impressions here? I would love to hear about them!

  1. From: Monday is for Managing with Aloha
    I wrote two new ebooks in recent months, and ironically, what that writing process revealed to me was that I personally need more of Managing with Aloha back in my own concentrated focus more than ever. This decision, to dedicate Mondays to MWA on our Talking Story editorial calendar going forward, feels very, very good!
  2. From: Beautiful Confidence
    Funny how photo-blogging can be so very provocative. This was my shortest post in May, and it generated the most off-the-blog discussion for me with managers: We all seem to feel confidence is essential in management, but it is maddeningly elusive no matter how much we are actually “in charge.”
  3. From: Speaking. I LOVE it. That’s why I charge for it
    This post returned me to some of the business model discussions we had back in April, for it talks about how incorporating “free” into your business offerings can backfire on you despite the best of intentions. Money has a lot of baggage, but it does add respect and credibility to the work we do, giving it more tangible worth. Be okay with getting paid; you deserve it!
  4. From: PÅ«‘olo Mea Maika‘i: Playlists
    PÅ«‘olo mea maika‘i is ‘a bundle of good things’ you return home with. Things you feel are gifts. I had connected the Hawaiian kaona of this to honoring my now substantial blogging archives, and the process of working with them anew is proving very fruitful, helping me make some new decisions with the subtle coaching of older perspectives I’d best not forget.
  5. From: The Real Problem with Leadership
    How fascinating this has been, and continues to be! I wrote it as a plea for self-leadership, for I so tire of the blame game that happens, and yet when people talk about this post with me, they still want to talk about other people!

Your turn! RFL-ing and Taking 5 is way easier than you think

This month-end weekend posting will always look like a long one, appearing to be very ambitious, but it really isn’t —it’s a recap of my keepers, and so it actually gets written very quickly. Once you get into your own RFL/ Take 5 habit you will begin to experience that too. As with most learning, you’ll be slower in the beginning, but you pick up speed!

So jump in. What have you learned during this month of May?
We learn so much from each other when we share it!

We Ho‘ohana together, Kākou,

Added help to that RFL of looking up from the computer and into real life… This is the time of year that strangers will bravely knock on our door to ask if they can pick the plumeria which spills from our trees in the front yard. So many graduation or wedding lei to be strung in May and June, or to adorn the resting places of loved ones this Memorial Day Weekend, and we, and the trees, are happy to help in the celebrations. A joy to be in the yard now, for the scent is so fragrant, and the sunny day is still Spring gentle instead of Summer strong.

Turn up the Volume and Manage Loudly

This is a communication follow-up to this: The Real Problem with Leadership

Dear Alaka‘i Manager,

You’re practicing the Daily 5 Minutes, and working on your listening skills, and on being more approachable, right?

I’m sure you do tell your people that you want them to speak up, that you sincerely value their initiative, and that you are completely willing to support them whenever they feel their own stirrings of self-leadership bloom.

Thank you, for doing all those things.

Question: Are you getting better results because of those efforts?

If not, do you understand what might be missing? So many good messages… why might they not be getting through?

Repeat, repeat, repeat

I don’t want you to give up too soon, or get frustrated when results don’t happen as quickly as you hope they will.

People need prodding; we all do. Whether we admit it or not, we like repeated attention, especially encouragement. A manager’s constant reassurance is a kind of refueling in the workplace, keeping progress humming along. You can’t allow your voicing of support to falter or stop: Constancy and repetition is important in fulfilling some basic needs of our human nature.

So be a broken record. You know you mean what you say the first time, or you wouldn’t have said it at all. However you can say that too, and still be doubted. People need to hear things from you over and over again so they believe them. We all ‘hear’ sincerity in those statements that our managers repeat constantly because then we’re convinced you really mean it, and aren’t just saying it because you think you should, or because it’s the company line. We believe it when we feel you do.

So you repeat what’s most important, and you get people to believe you. Now if you want them to take action, turn up the volume and be more lively.

Animation invigorates everyone

It’s become crystal clear to me that of all the presentations I do, the ones people pay attention to most are the ones in which I’m the most animated, and seem to have taken a theatrical pill of some kind: I become the message of Managing with Aloha on steroids. These are the talks people will learn something from, allowing my message to impact them positively, and be a source of energy for them.

It’s not acting, and it’s easy for me to do because I’m passionate about it, for Managing with Aloha does evoke definite emotion in me. The same thing has to happen with the messages you convey to your people as a manager: If you want results, you have to connect what you believe in, to some very visible emotional volume.

We hear emotion. Messages accompanied by emotion are the ones we take to heart. Everything else, if it captures our attention at all, is merely interesting. The Ho‘ohana work managers want to inspire is beyond “merely interesting” — it moves people.

Whatever it may be about, it’s not enough for your message to be accurate, insightful, and oh-so-right. If it’s to inspire, and spark another person’s motivations, it has to be ‘emotionally loud.’ It must create an energy that reverberates in the workplace.

For “it” to achieve those things, YOU have to. You have the message, now BE the messenger. If you want others to be passionate about their work, you have to be passionate about yours as their manager.

Results will trump any embarrassment

Where this post comes from, is that I’ve watched you in your meetings, and frankly, you have to be less boring. You’re smart and you’re talented (or you wouldn’t be the manager or the boss) but you need to become more passionate and intense about the work you lead, for intensity is hard to ignore. You’ve got to be willing to speak repeatedly, and with more pizzazz.

I’ll give this coaching to managers I’ve observed in action, and they will say, (“yeah, but”” alert!) “That’s not me; I’m a calmer person, and more animation doesn’t come naturally to me.”

Well guess what? It doesn’t come naturally to me either. I learned to get animated because it works. If your message doesn’t wake up the troops, all your other efforts to equip them won’t be worth much, no matter how detailed or involved they are, and you’ll continue to wonder why not.

Chances are, your people want you to be different: Normal is unexciting. This next link goes to a resource article which illuminates what “being unnatural” can do for you. It’s written by voice coach Janet Dowd. In part…

To become a natural presenter you must behave unnaturally

Activities such as giving presentations, delivering conference papers, facilitating seminars, running workshops, passing on information to others in any communal way are not natural. They are contrivances devised since time immemorial as the means by which the information that one person owns can best be disseminated to as many and as varied listeners as possible.

The discomfort of trial and error is part of the deal you must make with yourself to get to a position where other people attending your sessions are not made uncomfortable by your ineptness as you put across the knowledge you own.

We presenters must be prepared to put ourselves through the pain and discomfort of feeling extra-ordinary and silly in order to gain access to the comfort zone in which elements of stance, rhythm, flow, tune, pitch and vocal volume can express ideas openly and clearly. Our tongues must learn a multiplicity of percussive tricks and manipulate the space behind the face to produce the varied tonal qualities that will entice or command other people’s comprehension. Our memories must incorporate unusual words with specific meaning into our vocabularies and our bodies know how best to support us as we perform to inform.

Start small, and then Go Big!

I know that speaking in front of groups can be scary, yet great managers learn to do it, and learn to do it well. They have to.

Start small. Start to turn up the emotional volume in your one-on-one conversations, for in those situations the other person feels a responsibility with making you feel more comfortable, and with responding to you immediately: You will be creating a positive feedback loop. Follow-up conversations are great times to convey more emotion because your follow-up is so welcomed.

Then you can progress to team huddles, and to those meetings with larger groups: Bring Back the Staff Meeting!

You’ll be speaking one day without being to help yourself, because your Ho‘ohana passion has taken over and there’s no turning back. You don’t want to!

Photo Credit: Another volume by MikeLao26 on Flickr

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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.