Preparedness Pays!

Dear Talking Story subscribers,

You may recall that I wrote a twice-weekly column for Hawai‘i’s daily newspaper The Honolulu Advertiser from November 2008 through May 2010, when the paper was sold, and became The Star Advertiser. I was invited to continue writing Say “Alaka‘i” but declined, deciding it was a good time to return here to our Talking Story mothership instead.

Impressive start

As of August 3rd, The Star Advertiser decided to add paid online subscriptions to its business model:

With this step, the Star-Advertiser joins scores of other daily newspapers in communities large and small across the country, from The New York Times and Dallas Morning News to the Albuquerque Journal and The Citizen in Key West, Fla., that charge to view their online content, said Star-Advertiser publisher Dennis Francis.

“Our next-generation products such as our premium content, e-editions, apps for notebooks and tablets, e-readers and PDAs will all play an important part of our future,” Francis said. “We will deliver the news and information to readers when they want it, where they want it and, most importantly, how they want it.”

Yes and no… The Star Advertiser was very gracious in keeping the Say “Alaka‘i” archives accessible up to now, but with this change you will find that you can no longer read them there.

I can’t get to those archives via my old Honolulu Advertiser dashboard either. However…

Preparedness Pays!

The good news is that I had always retained full publishing rights to my old columns, and you can access them here on Talking Story. To do so, scroll down the right column of the blog to the drop-down menu titled “Search Talking Story by Category” and select the 3rd option: Columns: Say “Alaka‘i.” Here’s a link if you prefer to bookmark it in your browser.

Try it now, and see what oldies but goodies you find :)

The still-challenging part, is that I have an awful lot of links to be corrected here within the Talking Story pages too, though mostly in the older postings archived.

So meanwhile, the quickest do-it-yourself-trick, is with the magic of search: Copy the title of the post you’re looking for into the blog search box (in the right column, directly below that category drop-down) anytime you get to a broken link. Do it here and your results will be here, and not web-wide. Remember to put quotation marks around the complete title for a more focused search, and you should be able to get to the right page pretty quickly. If not, send me a note and I’ll very happily find the article for you.

Mahalo for your patience, and thank you for reading, and for continuing to be here.

We Ho‘ohana kākou, together, and with Aloha,

Have you caught the curve ball?

I threw it to you this past Tuesday: The State of our Learning and the Demand for Curation

In throwing that curve ball, I did it to you just as your boss does. I did it to you just as many who lead will do, to many who manage with them: I threw a new initiative at you, launching into a new theme whether or not you’re ready for it, and now, you just have to deal with it.

Dealing with Decisions

Such is life, isn’t it. Some of us catch well, and some of us don’t. There are some who will just walk off the field, hoping that the coach or a teammate will notice and call them back: They haven’t the resilience, tenacity and fortitude to keep trying on their own.

So am I back-pedaling to give you a breather, and let you catch up in your own way? Not a chance. (Does your boss?) You may recall that I recently wrote of a new tough-love resolve I have (it was called “Helping Without Hurting”).

Let’s just talk about catching curve balls today, on this, our “managing Thursday.” A new initiative has come down from the top: What do you do now?

First, you Catch Well

Catching well (‘well’ meaning that the next play you make is the best possible one) is a hard thing to learn for all managers. You think —you hope —that it will get easier the higher up the ranks you move, but take it from me (been there) it doesn’t. It gets harder, because you have fewer places to hide: The higher up you go, the more visibility you have, and the more people throw their ‘should-ing’ expectations at you. Others assume you have more information at your fingertips and you’re in-the-know of some inner circle.

What you know to be the raw truth of the matter, is that unless you reach that pinnacle of being Numero Uno, you answer to someone — ask any CEO how it goes with his shareholders or Board of Directors. In fact even then, up there in godlike status you’ll answer to someone: You’ve begun to understand that everyone in your organization is a volunteer no matter what you pay them. Org charts are, and always have been, irrelevant.

I don’t write this to depress you, but to save you from an unrealistic expectation. In the same way we speak of Alaka‘i, the value of managing and leading well, “catching well” has nothing to do with title or position of perceived influence. Catching well has everything to do with you, and how you decide you’ll react. And as with much in life, practice helps make perfect — or at least easier, and progressive, in that mistakes don’t get repeated. Your objective is not rank, it’s effectiveness. Or better, mastery.

Within organizational politics, you’re advised to react with ownership, and with the “buck stops with me” attitude, and it’s good advice. The more of something you own, the more you can control or better influence all the variables associated with it. The trick to ownership is not to be a victim about it, and truly catch the ball and run with it.

That last one is a loaded sentence, I know, and some will look for coaching, to get the help they need in navigating the political landscape peculiar to their own organizational variables. Indeed, it is one of the things I get hired for. Here on Talking Story, let’s bring the focus back to our work here as a “for example” we can apply to the balls thrown your way, for the strategies are very similiar to what you need to do in your own workplace as well.

So first you catch well…

Then, you make your Next Play

Your ownership starts the moment that ball is in your hands.

One sec, I take that back: Your reaction starts the moment that ball is in your hands. Every coach will tell you that your best ownership prospects happen before that: You’re one of those players who is watching the earlier plays thinking, “I’m ready: Bat that ball this way.” or “Come on! Throw it to me!” or you’re one of those players feeling you’re not ready, and hoping that the coming play doesn’t happen on your patch of grass in the field.

One is leaping ahead to the future, creating their best destiny in true ‘Imi ola fashion (they are visionary). The other is content right where they are, and a bit too comfortable, maybe even scared (they are complacent).

(Big clue there Alaka‘i Managers-who-coach, about your players: Which are thinking, for they already feel strong, and which are still feeling out the different emotions of their play/no play options?)

So which are you? It’s something you need to understand before you make your next play, because the next play causes the next outcome. In those two scenarios there are different outcomes, aren’t there.

There’s a third and fourth scenario too. They are happening with the players who are currently bench-warming. In the third scenario they are watching the game intently, imagining they are on the field in a certain position, and the ball is definitely coming their way. They’re ready to catch well and they aren’t even on the field yet!

Fourth scenario they’ve been on that bench a while, and they became the ones who bring all those sunflower seeds to the dugout. All that spit… yuck.

At this point, you may be thinking, “I thought we were talking about how I catch well here at Talking Story?”

We are.

An added word about our Value Themes

I touched on this when introducing our “learning curation” theme this past Tuesday, but it’s worth tying into this discussion again, for I packed a lot into that posting.

Let’s use our metaphor. Think of themes this way: Are you playing the game in full sun or in rain? Is it a home game, or are you on the road?

We managers, and managers-who-coach love themes because they help us focus on a certain set of options instead of all of them. You don’t apply most rainy day playbooks to anything but a rainy day. When you’re on the road, you know that your team will require more from you than they do when you play at home, and that they’ll also have to rely on each other more (or differently).

So Managing with Aloha, the game I ask you to play with me, is like a collection of playbooks for our Ho‘ohana Community. I like to think of the current theme we work with as our sunny day. Talking Story is when we play at home. Definitely.

Let’s Ho‘ohana, and play ball.

Postscript: I had this post in mind as a necessary follow-up back when I was drafting The State of our Learning and the Demand for Curation as the theme which would take us into this mid-year period. This “curve ball” metaphor was then inspired by what Sports Columnist Ferd Lewis called a “Sparkling day on diamonds for UH.” In part, he wrote:

For the University of Hawai’i, [May 30, 2010] will be remembered as the day that Cinderella danced twice. Some 1,500 remarkable miles apart.

First, in dramatic fashion before a stunned-to-silence overflow crowd in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the Rainbow Wahine softball team punched its historic ticket to the Women’s College World Series with Jenna Rodriguez’s two-run, seventh-inning, walk-off home run that beat Alabama, 5-4.

And, then, hours later, when the Rainbow baseball team tenaciously held on in Mesa, Ariz., to beat nemesis Fresno State, 9-6, for the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title and an NCAA Regional berth.

In one pinch-me day of hope, persistence and triumph, the Rainbow Wahine earned the school’s inaugural trip to Oklahoma City, site of the World Series, and the Rainbows got their first WAC tourney title in 18 years and first regional spot since 2006.

As an Alaka‘i Manager, you can coach your own team to this kind of feeling: I know you have it in you, and that they have it in them. (Another suggested read from the archives, if you have the reading time: Feeling Good Isn’t the Same as Feeling Strong.)

Hawai‘i’s Jenna Rodriguez, right, is greeted at home plate after her second homer of the game beat Alabama.

Photo Credits, in the order in which they appear: Vintage Baseball by AdWriter and Softball by Dave Elmore, both on Flickr, and Jenna Rodriguez by Marion R. Walding, Special to The Honolulu Advertiser

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

Read my current articles on
Central hub for all my web media is

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.