How to Fill up by Spilling

I’ve finished reading How We Decide, and the book I’m reading now is An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. It’s one of those books that aren’t to be denied (nor should you). Rave reviews kept turning up across the world of my web browsing, seeming to ask me, “How about now? Are you ready for me yet?”

Go get a copy of your own. This book is a gem, and I recommend it highly. I’ll be buying it by the case so I can gift it to everyone I know.

The book feeds your soul as much as your tummy, probably more so. It’s a well-seasoned weaving of “philosophy and instruction into approachable lessons on instinctive cooking.” — that comes from the book jacket, and it’s a good description. The book appeals to those who aren’t chefs, but want to come to a good partnership with cooking because they like good food and want to eat it without too much fuss and bother. Respectfully and knowledgeably, yes. Professionally and elaborately, no.

That’s me, through and through. I know my kitchen intimately mostly because of keeping it clean; from a culinary perspective it feels like a foreign land even though I somehow raised a healthy family with its help.

But before I go too far down that rabbit hole, this post isn’t about cooking, or even learning to.

How to Build A Ship

Author Tamar Adler writes;

“There are times when I can’t bear to think about cooking. Food is what I love, and how I communicate love, and how I calm myself. But sometimes, without my knowing why, it is drained of all that. Then cooking becomes just another one of hunger’s jagged edges. So I have ways to take hold of this thing and wrest it from the jaws of resentment, and settle it back among the things that are mine.”

The chapter that begins with this paragraph is called “How to Build a Ship” and it’s about how Adler gets her inspiration back when it has momentarily slipped away.

As a quick but helpful aside, Adler says she has two loves: food and words. Her chapters are evocative in their announcements: “How to Light a Room” is about how herbs perk up food. “How to Live Well” is about understanding how wonderful the lowly bean can be. “How to Make Peace” is about how rice and ground corn (grits in the South, and polenta in Europe) are pacifists, because they “fill bellies and cracks in our meals, and they fill the cultural divisions in our appetites, which really, in the end, are the same.” This chapter got its name from a quote attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

So Adler takes his advice, and does just that for us, as her readers and hopeful voyagers. She explains how she gets her love of cooking back when she needs to, and guess what? It’s the shortest chapter in the book (at least as far as I’ve read). It’s because love has a way of sticking around, staying close to you.

How to Weave Cloth Without Thread

For me, weaving is about making learning relevant and useful; a beautiful cloth can be anything you want it to be, and mine is Managing with Aloha.
[We talked story about it here: Learning and Weaving: The absorption benefit of your Personal Philosophy]

When I read Adler’s “How to Build a Ship” I couldn’t help but think about those of us who are managers, and how often — much, much too often — we’ll “drum up people to collect wood” or “assign them tasks and work” when we should be teaching them “to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

I think Adler is right about her hunch that we have to fall in love again:

“My answer is to anchor food to somewhere deep inside you, or deep in your past, or deep in the wonders of what you love… I say: Let yourself love what you love, and see if it doesn’t lead you back to what you ate when you loved it.”

For her, it’s about the eating experience as much as the cooking experience. It’s about being where food has made everything surrounding her more vibrant and alive.

The question I have for you then, is this: Exactly what is the managemeant experience that will continually refresh your own inspiration, always helping you get your mojo back?

To put it more simply: When are you completely, and beautifully, in love with being a manager?

If you rewrote Adler’s chapter for the work you do as an Alaka‘i Manager — for your Ho‘ohana — what would you call it?

How to Fill Up By Spilling

My choice would be “How to fill yourself up by spilling” because of the spirit-spilling of Aloha. Spirit-spilling is what the beliefs I hold within my Alaka‘i calling are all about: Alaka‘i Managers are those who help people work from their inside out.

When I have been able to do that for someone, I feel full. I’m tremendously full, feeling nourished and satisfied. I feel healthy, and as alive as I have ever felt.

If my day falters in some way, I’ll usually get my inspiration by learning from people, willing to accept whatever they choose to share with me. It’s my quickest way, and it’s virtually guaranteed.
I get my continued energy in creating partnerships with them, or some other weaving (making the learning personal, relevant, and useful).

I count my successes as the people I’ve left behind better than I found them. To see them grow, or irrevocably identify their own strengths, knowing that I helped in some way, is extremely rewarding to me.

Recalling my ‘how to’ (to relight the fires of inspiration) gets easy for me to do, because all I have to remember are names. Faces, and the little details of people’s stories will come flooding back into my consciousness, and I begin to smile, I just can’t help it.

Then The Craving ever-beneath The Calling begins all over again. I want to be part of more stories, and so I get on with my ‘ship building.’

Loving this book!

I’ll leave you to think more about your own ‘how to’ with a final quote from Adler;

“So I listen hard. I listen with the purpose of remembering. And this digging into sounds and into days I have heard and felt roots future meals in the unchangeable truths of past ones.”

“Let smells in. Let the smell of hot tarmac in the summer remind you of a meal you ate the first time you landed in a hot place, when the ground smelled like it was melting. Let the smell of salt remind you of a paper basket of fried clams you ate once, squeezing them with lemon as you walked on a boardwalk. Let it reach your deeper interest. When you smell the sea, and remember the basket of hot fried clams, and the sound of skee-balls knocking against each other, let it help you love what food can do, which is to tie this moment to that one.”

When has being a manager been its very best and most beautiful for you?
What do you remember about it?

How will you do it again?

Culture-Building: First, understand what Management can be

When are you expected to work with your manager?

Where does individual ownership give way to partnership, and to the team dynamic?

Over and above the day-to-day focus within the work which is done, what are the visionary, mission-driven possibilities elevated in the near future?

How do mavericks grow in your company? How do your best ideas gain support, and then attain traction and velocity there?

These are the kinds of questions which every healthy workplace culture should have definitive answers for, answers which are aligned with the values that company stands for.

Management can then be managemeant.

Culture building needs a solid foundation that serves as fertile ground. We know values are critical. So are their champions.

Those champions should be your managers.

When organizations choose to adopt Managing with Aloha as part of their culture, they’ve done their homework; they usually know about the Core 21, the 19 Values listed on the blog sidebar, the 10 Beliefs, and the 9 Key Concepts. It’s a lot to take in at first, and it’s highly weaveable, but usually 1 Question trumps them all in the eager minds of those anxious to begin:

Where do we start?

My answer is always the same: Reconstruct the role of your managers.
(article, and coaching category) Understand the true cultural work your managers can perform for you when they are liberated and motivated to do so.

Work With Your GiftsThe evidence is clear: Managers create culture. Ignore them (i.e. devalue them), and they can destroy it. My core purpose in writing MWA was to help prevent that sad, damaging downslide from happening, because I know what a positive force great managemeant can be.

In most of the organizations I visit, there is quite a distance to bridge between managers and their staff; they’re operating in totally separate orbits and worse, they’re content to “leave well enough alone.”

Problem is, “well enough” for them isn’t delivering much well being to the workplace culture.

To Do: Today

Help your people understand what a partnership with an Alaka‘i Manager can be about. Help them see why that partnership is so useful, and how enjoyable it can be.

If you do nothing else, get your own perspective in check, and create a healthier relationship with your own manager; set a good example as you flourish in that new partnership.

Go back to the questions at the beginning of my posting: Answering them, and engineering the change which is necessary (with value-alignment) will get you much closer to the well being which will vastly improve the health of your culture.

Comfort Station, Hughes Company 1915, via Baltimore City Life Museum Collection, Maryland Historical Society

Postscript/Weaving: Role versus Practice

If you are a long-time Talking Story reader, you know that I am very insistent on having Alaka‘i Managers adopt and practice D5M, the Daily 5 Minutes, writing things like this:

“I need to be crystal clear about something:
If you’re not giving your staff the gift of the Daily Five Minutes ®
you’re not Managing with Aloha „¢”

~ So you want a MWA jumpstart. Do the Daily Five Minutes.

Adopting D5M gives Alaka‘i Managers a great tool for making everything else happen (‘everything’ being the full spirit-spilling, work-sensible philosophy of Managing with Aloha).

What the D5M does, is collect timely inputs (the talk story) from an ongoing partnership, so the two people involved will always agree on what they should be working on next, working on it Kākou, together.

Before that actually happens, D5M concentrates on the foundational stuff of getting a good partnership in place, so it can be a functioning partnership. There must be comfort between people first: Then, and only then, can they work together to achieve greater things.

This is why there must be Managing with Aloha champions within a culture; they are the braver, more vocal ones who foster better health, and push through any obstacles, just like Ricky does in her workplace culture as a teacher.

Bottom line here, is that I write Talking Story to help you make your way toward being one of those champions. Write me when you have questions; you’re not alone.


Musical Managemeant: Adele 101 for Managers

[Not a typo. Read about managemeant here: What’s the meant in Management?]

“I don’t think anybody who’s vaguely conscious has not heard Adele’s songs.”
— Anderson Cooper (Video Clip)

Well Mr. Cooper, that would be me!

I’m what my family calls musically challenged. I appreciate good music when I happen to hear it, and I love to dance, but my music interests aren’t really enough to articulate; they’re sort of a mild, disengaged background awareness at best. I don’t have any playlists in my iTunes library; just podcasts and audio books. I played the piano when I was younger, and I can still do so by reading sheet music, but I never had an ear for it; there didn’t seem to be any talent inside me to uncover and develop. What I’ve always loved and preferred, is soothing quiet, and the natural sounds of my Hawaiian outdoors. Luckily for me, I’ve had other talents which thrive in the quiet.

So as unbelievable as it may sound to some of you, I just learned about Adele Adkins’ story this past Sunday. And not from watching the Grammy Awards, but by catching a commercial about her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, and then Googling “Rolling in the Deep” on YouTube for the aha moment of recognition; “Oh yeah, okay, I think I’ve heard this somewhere before””

I caught up quickly, for much has been in the media about her winning that prestigious Grammy trifecta of record, song and album of the year, and of 2012’s Grammy night as her comeback arrival from vocal cord surgery. What I’m mostly hearing, is about her story, and how her music poured out of the heartbreak of a failed relationship, one she can now look back on and be happy that it wasn’t meant to be; she has a new love, and she says it’s a much, much better one for her.

And Adele is extremely likeable, relatable. As Anderson Cooper gushed;

“What makes Adele’s success so extraordinary is that she’s unlike most other contemporary female pop singers. She doesn’t have runway model looks, doesn’t dress provocatively, and has no gimmicks added to her music.”

It’s all about her story is something I keep hearing about her, over and over again, and that her songs are so intensely personal to her. It’s easy for her fans to make those songs personal to them too.

That’s always the ‘it factor’ isn’t it. Whether for music or for science, for most anything work-worthy and meaningful, it has to be intensely personal. I doubt that Adele Adkins would call her writing, her music, and her singing her ‘job.’ We don’t hear her music as much as we receive it, and make it our own.

This goes for management too. Especially for managemeant. Pretty simple, really. If you want to manage better, you’ve got to make it personal.

Do you know what truly defines an Alaka‘i Manager? Not knowing everything or most everything about Managing with Aloha, but standing for something in the workplace culture you want to Mālama, and be a fiercely courageous steward of. Value alignment and Ho‘ohana managemeant has got to be intensely personal for you.

Like Adele, standing for the good-health breakthroughs in your workplace culture will make you different, and very, very likeable. It will make you successful. You will be a manager like no other. You will be the boss everyone wants to work for.

Adele isn’t the only one with a self-management story, you have one too. Call it your own Adele-ity if you want to, but do identify your own calling. Be willing to shout it from the rooftops, and sing about it in your own way, and like Adele, know that no gimmicks are necessary. You’ve got your Aloha.

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.

Talking Story with Rosa Say

What’s the meant in Management?

When I look around me I notice: Management is everywhere.

It’s in a President deciding if he should go on vacation as scheduled, or keep working.
It’s in a European country deciding if it can handle bailing out another country.
It’s in a father and mother thinking about becoming car-less and walking more, moving their family where jobs may pay more (or be found at all).
It’s in a shopper wanting to celebrate the holidays with gift-giving, yet hesitating with the realization that ever-deepening debt is the real price paid… She’ll try to make something instead, using her own two hands.
And it’s in a high-school graduate who wonders how society can declare he is now an ‘adult’ when he should know better than anyone else if that’s true or not.

Management is something we all do, for we all need to.
We get drawn to it in spite of ourselves.
Sometimes we’ll plunge into it, sometimes we’ll fall into it, but we always find ourselves there, a place where we ask ourselves, “Now what?”

We manage by thinking, by weighing our options, and by making a myriad of daily decisions, big and small.
We manage by looking outside, by feeling inside, and then mixing the two, whether they mix like oil and water, like red blood cells and white ones, or in layers — like paint and primer.

Curbside Paint

The whole process can get fairly messy, but the time will come where we decide, and we do something (or we don’t, a “nope” word which isn’t really a “stop” word, for it has its own results as well).

Funny word, ‘management’ in the starchy formality of it.
You’d think we’d personalize it more than we do, as steeped into it as we are, and as pervasive as it is.
We talk about a whole plethora of what we manage: Work, budgets, resources, causes, values, ideas, and yes, others, when fact is, all those things are grouped under one umbrella — the one we know as our own life. All that other stuff make up a life and its moving parts.
It’s a case where the smaller moving parts constantly seem bigger than the whole because they are seen as more tangible. Weird.

Which is why we have to find (or figure out) those last four letters of management, the ‘ment’ part, somehow getting them to stop dangling there as an after thought, and get in front for a change.

I think, the ‘ment’ part has to do with intention — with our why, and the journey we each take to discover it, or to magnify it.
Our why is the part which ultimately, will make everything else (what, where, how and who) make sense, make worth, make good, make right.

Our why is what makes us feel everything else matters. When we feel our why is good and right for us, plugged into our spirit, we feel like decent human beings.
Our humanity is something we need.

Far as everyone else is concerned, they believe our why makes us more trustworthy: They want our why to get trumpeted louder, for they like when it’s clear — shiny and more transparent.

So I have a small fix to help: It can help in a big way.

Forget management in the old starchy formality of it, and begin to think of it as managemeant; managing meant that something connected to your why.

Give all those decisions you’ll be making your white magic.
Make managing meaning-full, and get self-managing to be self-managing meant something personally wonderful.
You can even plug managemeant into the auto-correct of your word processing, and have today’s digital wizardry help you, keeping you on track.

Turning management into managemeant will help you keep your managing intentional.

We’ll always just do the manage part, whether deliberately or instinctively.
We kinda have to, in the way we keep going with life.
However, it’s the meant part which will keep us human, and make us happier.

Plumbago skyward

If you feel you’re ready to do even more, tackle this with me.