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

The Aloha “of great value” which is February 14th

Preface: I originally posted this on February 14, 2005, my first Valentines Day blogging, and I now reread it each year, for I need reminders as much as anyone else; I too need those gentle helps which keep me growing into a better person. The trace on my digital calendar is linked to this page, and says, “Be good to your family, and read this again – read it EARLY!” for my favorite on the list is the morning rebooting one, which says, “Close your eyes, and wake up all over again – in a great mood.”

We don’t need to buy anything for Valentines Day (sorry retailers, but even you know it’s true)… we need to be a Valentine. As Henry David Thoreau so keenly observed, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a human being to elevate their life by conscious endeavor.”

If a flower were a firecracker

Happy Valentines Day!

In my humble opinion, this is a day we take too much for granted, or just let slip by us. I’ve been the guiltiest of us all in this, and I’m trying my best to make up for lost time.

In Hawaii, there is a phrase which you will often hear in songs and chants:

He waiwai nui ke aloha, ‘o ka‘u nō ia e pÅ«lama nei.
Love is of great value, it is what I do cherish.

On this Valentines Day, I’d urge you to think of everyone you love and care for, and not just the one you may be romantically involved with. Those you love, and who love you, don’t need chocolate or flowers from you, they want the simpler things which are very easy for you to give — things that will do wonders for you too, for there’s only one way to pull off the suggestions on this list: You must tap into the goodness of your Aloha Spirit.

Close your eyes, and wake up all over again – in a great mood.
Choose to wear something they gave you for Christmas, or your last birthday. Display that funky gift on your desk.
Don’t rush, be patient. For today, let it be okay to interrupt you, and be interested, be curious and intrigued.
Let them go first.
Let them go last.
Give a sincere compliment about how they look today. Better yet, notice what they do.
Admire something they said, and share a comment which elevates it.
Ask for their advice.
Talk about a good memory you have of another time spent with them. Say thank you for it, again.
Call your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your son, your daughter, your best friend.
Make a date to spend more time with them next week. Clear your calendar so there will be no way to miss it or forget it.
Do a chore for them when it’s not your turn, but theirs, with no word said to call attention to it.
Keep a promise
you’ve made. Make another one you know is important to them.
Hug them.
Smile at them, laugh with them.
Kiss their cheek. Hold their hand.
Apologize.
Share a dream or secret just with them.
Let them know its okay to be silly, or make a mistake, because you’ll be there for them.
Write a few mushy words of caring somewhere they are sure to see it.
Go home on time. Better yet, get home before they do.
Be completely present and open to possibility. No screens: Skip the idle channel, web, and dial surfing and turn off your phone.
Watch whatever they want to watch, listen to whatever they want to listen to, and stay in the same room with them.
Cook for them, clean for them.
Sing to them.
Read to them and tuck them in.
Do not allow a single negative, unkind or uncaring word to escape your lips.
Give them your permission before they have to ask you for it.
Radiate your joy, and be fun to be around. Be happy because that’s how the people who love you will love seeing you.

Don’t expect anything in return, and enjoy being someone who loves, wanting nothing but the chance to set that example.

“Managing with Aloha” is not enough today: Live with Aloha.

I know it’s a weekday, however I’d guess that the normal intensity you bring to work can wait for tomorrow. If the people you work with think differently, be a leader and consider this: they want someone braver than they are to show them the way; they need your good example. Today is Valentines Day, and it only happens once a year. You have the best excuse today for wearing your heart on your sleeve.

He waiwai nui ke aloha, ‘o ka‘u nō ia e pÅ«lama nei.
Me ke aloha pumehana,
Rosa

Weeping Bottle BrushFrom 2011:
A Valentine of Aloha ~
Love can be a hard concept to wrap your arms around at work, but respect isn’t.

From 2010:
Valentines Day is Aloha Blooming ~
See the comments: Anne asked, “How do you say Happy Valentines Day in Hawaiian?”

And for ALL of 2012:
An Aloha Business for 2012 ~
Allow the “Aloha attitude” of Valentines Day to forge your commitment to year-long value alignment.

Ho‘omau, as nature teaches us to do

The value which gets highlighted the most in Managing with Aloha (by Kindle readers, enabling me to notice it) isn’t Aloha or Ho‘ohana: It’s Ho‘omau, the value of persistence, perseverance, tenacity and resilience.

“Renew. Anything worth having is worth working for. Persistence is often the defining quality between those who fail and those who succeed” There is never much satisfaction in giving up, and Ho‘omau is the value that will cause you to continue, to persevere in your efforts, and to perpetuate those that have worked.”
Managing with Aloha, Chapter 4

Ultimately, the quality of life is what’s “worth having” and “worth working for” and these days I’m seeing fabulous examples of that thanks to Mother Nature.

Budding promises

Our story…

We took a 10-day holiday this past Christmas, and we shut off the irrigation system we have for our garden when we left. We expected rain while we were gone, and to leave it on during Hawai‘i’s December would be far too wasteful and irresponsible.

Well, it didn’t rain. Not at all.

We came back home to find that much of our garden was dead.

Trying my best

Or was it?

Sometimes, it’s good to strip away the pain quickly, and start over.
[Like when there’s fire: Your Edge comes from your Inconvenience]

At other times, you pray a lot, and you figure out what else you can do, especially when precious trees are involved, trees which have fruited for you abundantly, and faithfully marked your seasons in a number of life-inspiring ways.

Surinam Cherry

You figure out how to Ho‘omau.

The happy part of my story, is that all most of my garden needed was my hand watering just before sunrise each morning to moisten without rotting, coupled with as much patience as I could muster.

Happy to see your blues

To be outside each morning now (still hand watering) is such an exquisite pleasure, for there are more flowers now than usual for January: My garden’s survivors are making their own season. Even the mango tree is going for a second blooming, as if to tell me, “Okay, I’ll try again too. I don’t want to be left out of this party!”

Kula reliability

Did anything die? Yes, most notably one of my puakenikeni trees, but there’s another one, the one which had always been the healthier of the two, even when sharing its root space with the plumeria.

Now that the trees are back, it’s time to learn by their example. It’s my turn to Ho‘omau in the human way.

How about you? How will you Ho‘omau in your season, and not let go?

Stevia Tenacity

An Aloha Business for 2012

Last post, we talked about an approach for the January overwhelm that can appear this time of year, and our talk story about it slanted toward the personal. Let’s talk about your workplace today.

If you are a business owner, or an Alaka‘i Manager — one with Kuleana (a sense of personal responsibility, and personal accountability) within your circle of influence, whatever its scope, AND you have the Ho‘ohana intention to manage with Aloha — this post is for you.

An Aloha Business for 2012

What will the Aloha business look like and feel like? Why will it be the best kind of business to tackle the coming year’s challenges with the greatest prospects of success? What will it take, so it truly thrives and prospers?

Here are my suggestions for you.

STEP 1: Allow your people to design their own work schedules, both where and when, and how much.

If you’re a manager who maintains control of a schedule, it’s time to let it go. To be frank, you should’ve let it go a long, long time ago. If you have a group who works to obey their assigned time on the clock versus the demands and mission of the business, you still have a ‘staff’ and not a ‘tribe’ who will rally around a common cause with the vibrant energy an Aloha-valued business thrives on.

Even businesses with operating hours can successfully put their work schedules in the hands of their people, and should do so. You replace the schedule the manager has controlled (and refereed, yuck) with an agreement: Allow your emerging tribe to self-organize around necessary coverage first, and then self-direct, filling in the blanks with the rest of the work. Those ‘blanks’ are the opportunities to go above and beyond mere coverage, illustrating for you the work they choose to do because it is most important, either to them, or to your customer, and aren’t those the two groups of people who count most in the workplace equation to begin with?

You’ll be in for a might-be-rocky adjustment at first, but I promise you, the self-sorting, self-directing, tribe-loving work of your people will begin to reveal its treasures. They will surprise you, delight you, and fill you with pride.

If you’re arguing with me in your head with this, insisting that, “well fine, it doesn’t have to be me, but I’ll probably need a lead,” that lead will emerge — your people will elect their most trusted peer. Let it happen and stay out of it, for you have other things to do (read on!)

A related read in the archives, about giving permission: When Managers Say the Right Things. To be an Alaka‘i Manager, work on this deliberately: Speak with those two critical intentions of giving permission and sharing your appreciation.

STEP 2: Value-align your Customer Service with a value-mapping 12×12.

Imagine what it will do for your business — your profits, your cause, your reputation, your standing in the community — if you improve your customer service x12 in 2012! This is how you get there:

Begin a value of the month program which will focus on work-aligning the answers to just one crucial question month after month, a two-fold one: a) What does this value mean to us, and b) How do we share this value with our customer?

Sometimes the answers will have to do with changing what you allow a customer to do or not do: The answers which emerge as the month goes by won’t only be about you and your tribe. That’s good: Get rid of your sacred cows, reinvent and innovate, move forward and get better.

Start with the values which are most important to you, and work your program with the 12th of each month as day 1: Keep that x12 number in mind every way you can, and have this program take you through next year’s holidays to January 11th, 2013. For instance:

January 12-February 11: Ho‘okipa, the value of service in generosity.
February 12-March 11: Mālama, the value of caring, compassion, and stewardship.
March 12-April 11: Kākou, the value of communication, and inclusivity.
April 12-May 11: Lōkahi, the value of teamwork, cooperation and collaboration.
And so on.

What you will begin to discover — and it will surprise you how quickly this happens — is that your self-directed tribe will apply this value alignment to everything else too: That’s the magic of value immersion. You, as Alaka‘i Manager, take the lead with inspiring the charge for the customer, because they won’t always speak for themselves with the same “me too!” urgency that your tribe will. In fact, think about bringing favorite repeat customers into the program as well: Ask them to be your mentor of the month!

STEP 3: Realign your own Ho‘ohana as an Alaka‘i Manager.

If you tackle my first two suggestions with full commitment, you will be able to redesign your own day-to-day work as a manager — and as an emerging leader — because of the natural replacement of tasks that happens for you.

It won’t all be peaches and cream at first, for you have to get through the crucible of change that leads to the good stuff. For instance, you may discover that some people leave the tribe (or are forced out) because their comfort zones erode and they can’t evade the radar any longer — ultimately a good thing. Taking care of your tribe will always be Job One of the Alaka‘i Manager, but you are progressing magnificently, and growing as your people grow in their own self-direction. Keep your eye on the prize!

Eventually, there will be two game changers you can concentrate on from now on, because you have brought them into the realm of your “adjacent possible” (see footnote):

  1. The development of your people: How can you mentor their growth? Start here: Are you doing the Daily Five Minutes yet? then review this: Annual Appraisals, and then key in to ‘Ike loa, the value of lifelong learning (Review chapter 11 in Managing with Aloha.)
  2. Your business model: Re-sort out the financial common sense and innovative sense of your business model — compensation, profit-sharing, reinvestment, community philanthropy, all of it. Become the leader you haven’t had the time to become up to now, for that time is here.

I know you can do this, for you are an Alaka‘i Manager.

I won’t be posting again until January 12th or later, so you have the time to plan this, have your group meetings necessary, invite customer mentors and get started. Do write me if you have a question, or encounter a speed bump and we’ll talk story about it.

We ho‘ohana kākou, and always with Aloha!
Rosa

… if you ache for something fresh to read between now and my next posting, remember that you can always click over to my Tumblr, Ho‘ohana Aloha, and see what finds are getting added there.

Footnote: “Adjacent possible” is an environmental condition I learned about in Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. “The phrase captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation… the adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself” — if you, as manager, are willing to take that leap into a better future, bringing your workplace with you.

Irresistible

Are you just catching up with our Ho‘ohana Community now? Here are links for our most recent talk stories this week:
January 1: What do you know to be sure? Hō‘imi ola.

Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou — Happy New Year!
I sincerely hope that 2011 ended with ma‘alahi joy for you (contentment), as it did for me. I am flush with the lush generosity of Mahalo (an elemental gratitude) as I sit and write this for you. Good endings help us create good beginnings…

January 2: Value Verbing: Theme 2012 with your Aloha Spirit

In my Makahiki letter, I’d said that I love this time of year because it is Ka lā hiki ola (the dawning of a new day) at its most pervasive moment: We human beings collaborate in self-care, and in our Ho‘ohana intentions. The whole world seems to be in sync, as we collectively look back to assess what we’ve come to know. We corral our confidences and our strengths, and then we look forward, expectantly, and with hopeful optimism knowing those confidences and strengths are packable and adjustable: They’ll remain with us, and they’ll remain useful.
What’s not to love? In a word, the overwhelm.

Written for January of 2010, and a good read to review: The ALOHA Point of View

Purchase Managing with Aloha at Amazon.com in hardcover, or in the Kindle Store.