Learning and Weaving: The absorption benefit of your Personal Philosophy


You see, hear, and read a lot each day.
You discover goodness, and learn all sorts of things.
And if that’s not enough, you share in what I write about here, or find and clip on Ho‘ohana Aloha.
How do you apply what’s most useful to you and retain it?

I’ll ask the question in another way: What is the Personal Philosophy you weave it into?


As a Talking Story reader, you know that my weave is Managing with Aloha, the value-verbing philosophy I’ve based on 19 values and 9 key concepts. Managing with Aloha has been an extraordinary gift in my life, serving me in several ways. I don’t pretend nor profess it to be the ‘be-all and end-all‘ — in fact, it’s somewhat the opposite: What it does for me, is absorb additional learning so I can quickly use it and retain it.

Here is an example of how I did this yesterday, as my commentary on The Five Universal Themes of Business as compiled by Todd Sattersten:

1. Clarity of Purpose:
MWA Key 3 – Value Alignment, and
Key 8 – Sense of Place

2. Wisdom in Decision Making:
MWA ӬKey 3 РValue Alignment, and
Key 9 – Palena ‘ole (Growing within your full capacity)

3. Bias for Action:
MWA Key 2 – Ho‘ohana (worthwhile, intentional work), and
Key 7 – Strengths Management

4. Openness to Change:
MWA Key 4 – Role of the Manager, reconstructed, and
Key 6 – ‘Ohana in Business (strategic form/function)

5. Giving and Getting Feedback:
MWA ӬKey 1 РAloha (as the foundational rootstock it is), and
Key 5 – Language of Intention (our communication key)

Creating a culture is creative, romantic, dreamy. But then you’ve got to give it teeth, and get it to actually happen. Third, you have to Ho‘omau, and persist in stewarding that culture so it will sustain itself and live beyond you or any single manager.

You can use MWA in this way too if you wish, or you could use another philosophy: Before Managing with Aloha came together for me, I used Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for nearly a decade, a philosophy which I would discover he’d based on the timeless principle called the Law of the Harvest:

We tend to reap what we sow.   “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,” the maxim goes.

Scout Orchid

Usefulness is about Fit

When you learn something new, and you want to keep it close, and make it optimally useful to you, ask yourself, “Where does this fit in my personal philosophy?”

Ask, “How could this grow me?”

Push your thinking toward the value alignment (or concept alignment) that is evolving into what you truly believe, and increasingly will stand for.

Focus on your Deliberate Inputs. Don’t be too quick to move on and gather more. Dwell on what you just learned, and take more time to savor it. Think on it more deeply, and question it. Discard the clutter, and weave in the keepers. Take action in some way to satisfy your sense of urgency. (This is a good suggestion: Recreate whatever inspires you.)

One glorious day you’ll have Ka lā hiki ola, that ‘dawning of a new day’ where you realize you have your very own version of Living, Working, Managing, and Leading with Aloha. It’s your brand and your Personal Philosophy. It’s become your weave, for you’ll never stop learning, and that’s a good thing.

Palena ‘ole

You have way more capacity than you’re aware of at this moment, whether physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. Weave it into tangible being.

Learning (the value of ‘Ike loa) is a fabulous thing; weave in your ‘loose ends’ and see what you can create.

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

What’s been your Maker’s learning sweet spot?

Shannon asked me, “What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned since starting your own business?”

That’s a hard question. It’s easy to make a list, but to narrow it down to just one thing as the most useful on the list? That’s difficult, and I’m still thinking about it.

But then she got impatient, waiting for me to answer, and added, “And you can’t say blogging.”

Immensely useful as it has been to me, I don’t think I would’ve said blogging anyway, but the suggestive power of her mentioning it took my thoughts elsewhere instantly. Yes, I enjoy it, and LOVE what blogging platforms have done for our human expression, but blogging is too big and inclusive an answer for me — it’s not specific enough. So because she pressed me, “Come on, give me an answer without over-thinking it: What’s come to mind? I can see the wheels turning”” my answer for her was, “HTML.”

Learning HTML (HyperText Markup Language) was getting to see some of the inner works of blogging and website design, and it allowed me to venture out of ‘template’ land. Best of all, I could now fix simple code when WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and so-called ‘rich text formatting’ looked screwed up and stayed wrong no matter what else I tried to do in those modes. Today, knowing HTML is essential in the ebook publishing I do on Kindle and Smashwords, and I look for the HTML tab in every software program I consider using.

It wasn’t the answer Shannon expected — or wanted, for the key part of her question was entrepreneurial, and she wanted to quiz me on my start-up lessons learned after I left the corporate world to do my own thing. We eventually had that conversation, but I keep thinking about, and appreciating, that I learned HTML, for it’s been a very significant learning for me. I’d certainly list it as one of the core competencies I needed when I was managing editor of our community group blog, Joyful Jubilant Learning.

There is so much more I could learn about web design, but I hire others to help me with whatever the “much more” entails. Up to now, HTML as been my sweet spot, that learning which was enough to cure my frustrations, and make me feel that I was “in the know” enough for what I needed — and so that I could create, and invent online, for so much of my coaching is now virtual and digital.

A couple of posts back, I shared some thoughts about “making” with you:

“What if we tweaked the [worker contribution] conversation slightly, to “What do you make?”

And what if we said that Alaka‘i Managers grow the makers?

I wonder what would change.

At the very least, I think the conversation as we work could change.

More here: To buy Local, buy from the Maker — if you can

This notion, about finding the learning sweet spot, is a big part of how Alaka‘i Managers grow their makers. Try giving it some thought within your own context: Mine was web design in this example, but I’m thinking about it too, with the other work my team does. Here’s the practical application:

  1. We have a virtual huddle scheduled this week, and I’ll ask them to read this post first, and then bring their own example of at least one learning sweet spot connected to one of our team’s core competencies. It will be a different kind of brainstorm, where we can share learning, and offer to coach each other.
  2. Then I’ll ask them for more one-on-one conversation about what they came up with in the next Daily Five Minutes together. I want to milk their thinking about it, beyond what time can be allotted in our virtual huddle, and just in case they have more to say to my audience of one for them.

Mahalo nui loa Shannon! Your question has been so helpful.

What about you? What’s been your learning sweet spot in recent years? Can you share an answer with us specifically connected to the making you do?

Related reading in the Talking Story archives:

  1. The Alaka‘i Manager as Job Maker
  2. “What’s in it for me?” is a Self-Leadership Question
  3. Hiding from the Web is Foolish: 5 Steps to Smarter
  4. Seven Ways to Assess Your Personal Brand Assets Beyond A Job
  5. Manager’s Skill: Separate Signal from Noise

Value Alignment for 2011

A question came up in one of your email responses to my wayfinding post yesterday;

“No monthly values for 2011 Rosa? Now that you’re blogging again, will your ‘Value Your Month to Value Your Life’ program return too?”

I’ll share my answer here on Talking Story too just in case others are wondering.

Yes and no”
Yes, I’ll be blogging here again. I’ve missed it a lot — and I’ve missed all of you! Writing is one of those ‘better habits’ in my wayfinding intentions, and blogging figures prominently in the writing I eagerly am choosing to do.

No, my ‘Value Your Month to Value Your Life’ program will not be resurrected in 2011, at least not in the same way as before — but don’t let that stop any of you! Adopt and adapt the program for your own work team: Getting started is easy. Here’s the Take 5:

  1. There are 19 values covered in Managing with Aloha, including Ka lā hiki ola in the Epilogue. Choose the 12 you feel would benefit your work team most in the coming year, and assign them to the months you think they will align with best seasonally, or per the demands of your business. For narrower, but more extensive focus, choose just 4 — 1 per quarter.
  2. Then very important, make your intentions known to your team. Get everyone involved in some way. Tell them why you want to “value the month” and ask them how they’d like to participate. Say yes to every idea which comes up and ask people to be that idea’s leader: As the Alaka‘i Manager you’re facilitating this, and you can’t do it all (nor should you” grow your team.) Teams I have coached in the past have found great success in assigning values as the steering for specific projects. (More on that tomorrow: now posted ~ Value Alignment for Projects)
  3. Stick with it, and go the distance. Use that value to theme everything you can think of within that alignment period of time you’ve chosen. EVERYTHING. You’re going for value immersion. You’ll be surprised how much you can do. Here is a good article Joanna Young wrote for Joyful Jubilant Learning on Why I Write to a Theme.
  4. Be sure to incorporate the value you choose into your language, for it’s powerful (Review Key Concept 5; Language of Intention). You’ll start to hear where you’re effective, and you’ll miss hearing where you aren’t, and need to engage more.
  5. Reach out to me, or to others in our Ho‘ohana Community (link to our LinkedIn Group) anytime you have questions or need help, especially when you feel energies waning, for remember: Leading is about generating energy as your greatest resource, and Managing is about channeling it. (Review: 3 Ways Managers Create Energetic Workplaces.)

Value alignment is the best ‘channeler’ I know of! Which, continuing on, brings me to another Yes”

Yes, I’ll be working on value alignment too! Try and stop me” As our 3rd Key Concept for Managing with Aloha I’m on automatic pilot with it in my life, and that’s a habit which has been a really, really great thing. Each year I challenge myself to evolve with it though, and so in 2011 my value alignment will set sail in the spirit of the wayfinding I wrote of yesterday. We’ll see where the journey takes us!

Two of my “best clues” (a reference to yesterday’s post, if you missed it) are Abundance and Context.

  • Abundance is connected to (aligned with!) Palena ‘ole — our MWA 9th Key Concept of Unlimited Capacity. One of the reasons I no longer choose only 12 values for my blog-writing is that they can be too limiting in my contexts here — opposite of how they will give a specific work team laser-like focus in the Take 5 above. Yesterday for example, we aligned wayfinding with three different values; Ka lā hiki ola, Ho‘ohanohano, and Alaka‘i. When I dig deeper, I can surely align wayfinding with every value in some way, and so can you; sometimes minimally, sometimes significantly, and then
  • Context moves me toward choice and action. Thinking about all of this can be mind-blowing, but you don’t want it drive you crazy either! So take aim and pull the trigger… Within all the Palena ‘ole/9th Key thinking you did, what will you take action on quickest and best? Why, and with who? You will become more decisive, and your value alignment will be directed toward the specific relationships or projects you have in mind. Practical and useful.

So consider the possibilities with value alignment, then choose your best habit this year, and take action.

How will value alignment work for you in 2011?

Go back to yesterday’s post if it helps: Do you already have clarity on specific goals, or is the wayfinding more attractive to you too? Your answer is the right answer.

A Hula Honeys Makeover

More value alignment; I Aloha-tweaked my cigar box of index cards I use as a perpetual calendar as my New Years Eve day project yesterday :)
Visuals alone can add so much, and index cards rock.

Postscript: If you are reading this via RSS or email, take a moment to click in and review the right-side column of the blog. I have a bit of updating I still need to do there, but I’ll be sure to leave the links parked there for you to find the 9 Key Concepts easily each time you return. You’ll see the value index links there too.

Postscript 2: I had the link for my free ebook on becoming an Alaka‘i Manager in the Take 5 above, but then I decided to drop it down here, for I don’t want you to feel you have to go through that whole 5-week program first and not start NOW with your value alignment. Go for it!

Failure isn’t cool. Neither is weakness

“Failure is not a great well of lessons. ”¨Don’t think it’s a prerequisite for success.”
Jason Fried

I listened to a short riff by Jason Fried of 37signals recently (the podcast is available here) in which he says, “Failure is not cool. Don’t get into it.”

He asks why we will insist on thinking of failure as character-building, when what we really aim to build up are our successes, not our failures. If you make failure out to be “cool” and you concentrate on learning from your mistakes, you’re only learning what not to do next time. Isn’t it way better, he asks, to learn from your successes instead, and continue to parlay on what went right?

Makes sense to me. It’s not a good idea to keep catch-phrases like “fail early and often” in the language of your work culture when failure isn’t what you actually want. In Managing with Aloha we will say that “mistakes are cool” to recognize that mistakes are part of the learning process, but we do stop short of being okay with repeated mistakes, and with failure, because truth is, we’re not!

Fried later wrote, in a follow-up article on Signal vs. Noise:

“I don’t understand the cultural fascination with failure being the source of great lessons to be learned. What did you learn? You learned what didn’t work. Now you won’t make the same mistake twice, but you’re just as likely to make a different mistake next time. You might know what won’t work, but you still don’t know what will work. That’s not much of a lesson.”

“There’s a significant difference between ‘now I know what to do again’ and ‘don’t do that again’” It’s true: Everything is a learning experience. Good and bad, there’s something to be learned. But all learning isn’t equal.”

I think this reasoning applies to strengths and weaknesses as well.

When doing performance assessments, managers continue to operate within a misplaced focus on weaknesses, when strength-building is what will get them far better results.

Relevance, and setting expectations

I will never, ever forget something an employee once said to me in an annual performance review, as we both sat in that dreaded annual appraisal meeting mandated by our employer, with the company’s check-off-the-standard-box form on the table between us. Thankfully this happened pretty early in my management career, and I did catch my mistake before repeating it into a dismal failure.

We had been talking about something the employee had screwed up, and he reached out both his hands to lie them flat on the review form and cover it up as a way to make me look up at him, stop talking, and listen.

“Got it already Rosa, can we change the subject and get through this faster? Believe me, when I make a mistake, I know it, and I don’t need you to remind me about it. What I need you to help me with, is seeing when I do something right, and I haven’t yet figured out that you like it, and it’s something I need to keep doing.”

“My screw-up sucked. But you know what really sucks? I’m still not sure I know exactly what I should do next time. Tell me what you want, and let’s  move on.”

What a lightbulb moment! He was telling me that he dreaded another mistake happening way more than I did, my harping on the mistake was like rubbing salt into his wound, and I wasn’t doing a damn thing to help him make sure the mistake didn’t happen again as failure just waiting to happen.

That conversation became a lesson we’ve now woven into our Managing with Aloha coaching for managers as,

“People catch their own weaknesses.
Your job, is to catch and encourage their strengths,
and those strengths aren’t usually clear.”

See here’s the thing: RELEVANCE. Contextual relevance, with the context being your workplace. Similar to failure and success, weakness and strength is either relevant to what you need, or irrelevant. Just as Fried says, “all learning isn’t equal,” neither are strengths, for honestly? Nobody cares about a strength you have unless it is useful to them too.

This creates a perfect opportunity for managers to manage better. Managers help their staff best, when they clearly define the workplace relevance where strength-associated activities matter, and count in better performance results. What we normally refer to this as, is “setting expectations” but we stop short of making the expectations crystal clear.

For instance, an employee can feel they are good with numbers, and they will call it a strength in analytical thinking, but “numbers” and the mathematical application of numerology is a pretty huge arena of possibility: Are you looking for strength with measurement? With statistics? With numerical classification of asset inventory? With pattern and sequence? With rounding-off calculation out in the field? Or with macro wizardry in an Excel spreadsheet?

Here’s another common strength self-assessment you will usually hear in a job interview, one which really doesn’t tell you very much at all: “I’m good with people.” Which people? Customers and comfort with the welcoming process and art of the sale, or co-workers where you rely on an insider’s language and peer-to-peer coaching?

Let’s connect our Alaka‘i lessons-learned:

Here’s a self-coaching plan for you, the Alaka‘i manager, using the free resources this blog offers:

Step 1— M/L 70-30: Reduce your Leadership to a Part-time Gig in 2010. Use The 30-70 Rule in Leading and Managing, for reviewing it can help you think about this in both a practical and intentional way. Besides the productivity slant of it, the articles cover the intentions we bring to leading (and creating workplace energies) and managing (to channel those newly available energies).

Step 2— Leading in 30: Post before this one, we spoke of the difference between acceptable behavior and accomplished behavior in moving performance forward in a better, stronger way. Accomplished behavior is the way you can better identify the strengths you need in your own workplace: Feeling good isn’t the same as feeling strong. Define your contextual differences.

Step 3— Managing in 70: Is the 70% you must devote to your day-to-day efforts, and it is what today’s article is all about. Kick “failure is cool” out of your language of intention, for success is what’s cool. Then get this to be real in your managing: “People catch their own weaknesses. Your job, is to catch and encourage their strengths, and those strengths aren’t usually clear.” Help them get clear, and be successful.

Photo Credit: Pipe Cleaner Muscle Man by Bob.Fornal on Flickr