Back to the Basics of Managing with Aloha

I recently sat with a college counselor who wanted “the 411″ on Managing with Aloha from my perspective as the book’s author. She’s new in her role with a local college which has used my book in their MBA program for several years now, and she called me for an interview when she began to read it. Our conversation was wonderful in taking me back to the basics, so much so that I re-wrote a FAQ page for www.ManagingWithAloha.com recalling her questions, and the highlights of our conversation.

We’ve been at this — our Talking Story conversation surrounding MWA — for nearly eight years now, a long time as the world of online conversation goes, and I thought you might like to review this with me: Is there any way that you’d like to return to the basics of your MWA foundation?

What if I’m not a manager?

You are welcome to join us in the Managing with Aloha movement regardless of your role in the workplace, and I hope you will. Think about managing as a verb rather than as that noun of position or title: you manage more than you may be aware of.

At the heart of it all, Managing with Aloha is about learning to honor your personal values. The best way to learn about the MWA philosophy is as a person of Aloha first (which you are), and a person who’ll get called upon to manage and lead second. Managing others is a calling you may or may not have, and if you aren’t sure, MWA will help you discover the answer.

As for my book, I did write Managing with Aloha with the manager in mind, for my goal was to create a practical and useful workplace resource for those who have made that career choice. Managing others is a profound responsibility, and I feel managers must approach it with that understanding. However a manager is a person too, one who must reckon with their personal values first and foremost, just as we all must do. That reckoning is what you will learn about in Managing with Aloha, whether you answer the calling for managing others as well, or decide on a different career direction.

Can I use Managing with Aloha on my own, or must my entire workplace organization buy-in?

On your own is the best way to start. We’ve found that those who get the very most out of Managing with Aloha have done just that: They learn and practice the philosophy within their immediate work teams first, so they can concentrate on strengthening those vitally important partnerships and get quick results in their everyday work. Workplace teams greatly underestimate what they are capable of when they collaborate in value-alignment. Employing one’s values, and doing so in the company of those you work with most, is the reason Managing with Aloha has often been called a “sensibility for worthwhile work.”

The MWA practice strengthens you. Once your values are working for you, your newly examined work gives you greater confidence, better focus, and a positive expectancy going forward. Managing with Aloha becomes contagious; it will eventually attract and welcome in the people who surround you in your extended networks. Co-working is often a better way to share all ideas and initiatives compared to top-down mandated adoption. People like proof: they have to see you “walk the talk” before they jump in and join you. That’s becomes the best buy-in of all. Not only has your own practice of Aloha has grounded you in valuable experience, it has given you credibility and a good reputation with self-management.

You’ve said that MWA is a Hawaiian story in regard to Sense of Place, but it’s about universal values at work: How much Hawaiian must I learn to understand your book and this philosophy?

You will learn some, but as word associations for universal values you start to see in a brand new light — for that work reexamination we just spoke of. Managing with Aloha is written in English, and it uses Hawaiian labels to teach value concepts. You will not learn to speak Hawaiian (which ironically, is a western word), and you will not need to have a Hawaiian dictionary handy.

One of the key concepts woven into the MWA philosophy is something we call “language of intention.” Language is critical in our communication with each other as human beings, and we do more than speak it: we author it as we employ it. We choose our words carefully, or try to, knowing that doing so helps us be more effective in sharing our beliefs with others, and our intentions connected to those beliefs. We need to understand each other, and we want to. The vocabulary we choose, and use regularly, begins to label that shared, and desired understanding. This is how we use Hawaiian in MWA: to label our shared learning, and keep talking about it with an insiders’ language of intention. It becomes our “Language of We.”

By the way, I didn’t invent the values in Managing with Aloha and neither did the ancient Hawaiians: The 19 values my book covers all stem from timeless laws and principles which have become our universal values across the globe. What I did, was group them as a philosophy for self-reliant and worthwhile work.

So what’s the connection with Sense of Place?

Every workplace has Sense of Place as a kind of cultural rooting, and place gives the parent business of that workplace its sense of community. Sense of Place becomes a sense of belonging, something which is a very basic need we share as human beings. Culture can be complex, but every culture is driven by a value system, and place will often sort our values out in a relatable, highly relevant way. When we talk about the good health of a workplace culture, Sense of Place figures into that health in a critically important manner, and people feel it tangibly.

My book shares my own story as a manager as a way of illustrating the Managing with Aloha philosophy, and Hawai‘i gave me my primary Sense of Place. It would have been impossible for me to separate the two, and I wouldn’t have tried to do so, any more than I’d ask you to put aside your work history: like it or not, your Sense of Place defined you in your past experience too. To like it, and to better appreciate it as the influence it has been, and continues to be, is a wise approach. This was another goal of my book — to help the reader map out their own Sense of Place sources, using their own values.

You write prolifically, and publish coaching essays online very generously: Do I still have to read the book too?

I must say I love the honesty of this question! I’m sincerely happy about whatever way people arrive at Managing with Aloha so we can start the conversation — I noodle around author’s websites first too! But like any actively useful philosophy, to know MWA, is to more fully explore and adopt it. I do think that everything is much clearer when you read the book, for I’m a coach: my book was written with a specific learning progression in mind, and as a comprehensive work, whereas people find my writing on the web in a much more random and serendipitous way. In the world of public domain and today’s digital ease with cut-and-paste, backstory and context isn’t always clear. I believe the book format will always survive as a form conducive to independent, self-directed learning, no matter what our reading preferences will be, electronic and otherwise. This is certainly the case with Managing with Aloha: Readers come to clarity about their values-driven work faster when they’ve read the book — that’s what it was designed to do.

Each chapter in Managing with Aloha was constructed as a self-contained primer per value, 19 in all, so that the book can continue to serve you well once you make the choice to manage with Aloha for yourself. While reading you’ll discover that the values build upon each other: what you have read in previous chapters will frame the concepts you are learning in each new one. The book presents as a story-illustrated source of inspiration, but my intention was to have it be more long-lasting, serving as the reader’s ongoing reference, resource and learning record. If you’re a manager, my hope is that the book becomes your filing cabinet.

Then what? How does Managing with Aloha stick with me, and not end up with the rest of the books I have read, then left behind to collect dust on my bookshelf?

No book is a magic pill. We humans have decisions to make about the life we want, and then we have to do the work required in making things happen the way we want them to. No book, no philosophy, can live our lives for us. Coaches like me will keep publishing books and websites to encourage you, to share current highlights, and to introduce you to a community of like-minded practitioners, but taking personally effective action is all on you.

This is why I stress active verbs in my values coaching: live, work, manage and lead with Aloha. You’re extraordinary: Human-propelled energy is our most valuable resource, for it creates all our other resources, such as physical, intellectual, and financial assets. Human energy is the result of self-motivation — that’s the only kind of motivation that truly counts.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and lose sight of your personal values, and what they do for you: Your values are what you believe in, and what you trust. They give you your character and your personality. As they play out, your values will define you for the rest of the world. Your values will give you your confidence, your courage and your tenacity, and as such, they’re the best place to begin.

Even if Managing with Aloha doesn’t gel for you as a comprehensive workplace philosophy, my hope is that it positively affects your lifestyle, by giving you the conviction, comfort and strength of your values.

Tab it and mark it up!

Aloha! Just joining us?

Talking Story is the blog home of those who are learning to be Alaka‘i Managers — those committed to managing and leading with Aloha. Read a preview of the book which inspired this movement, and visit our About Page. Purchase Managing with Aloha at Amazon.com in hardcover, or in the Kindle Store.

Talking Story with Rosa Say