Sense of Workplace: It’s Milk, Maslow and You

We’ve spoken about “sense of workplace” quite a bit in the last week: What do we consider the basic sensibility of this Sense of Workplace concept to include? What are the nuts and bolts we can add to our management toolbox?

That well-known ad campaign “got milk?” can give us some clues to start, and it’s a fun analogy we can all relate to. Let’s go for the sweetness of milk and Ho‘ohana honey instead of the grittiness of nuts and bolts.


Surely, you’ve got milk!

Just in case you need a reminder” think about the last time you saw a white mustache on a celebrity, and thought about your own basic nutrition, or simply about having a nice cold glass of milk for yourself. “got milk?” is one of the most recognizable and effective ad campaigns in the world. This is from the website, (I include their history as introduction given our ever-present intrigue with developing smarter business models):

“In 1993 fluid milk processors in California agreed to allocate 3-cents of each gallon sold to fund efforts to promote the consumption of milk through marketing, advertising, promotion and public relations. Thus the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) was born” The CMPB created and controls the beloved “got milk?” brand, which is also licensed to national dairy boards for their use in marketing efforts, as well as to a number of manufacturers who created “got milk?” merchandise.”

Paraphrasing Wikipedia, many credit the “got milk?” campaign with greatly increasing milk sales nationwide after a 20-year slump. In September of last year the campaign capitalized on the poor economic conditions within America and signed up financial adviser Suze Orman, who said in a press release,

“In today’s economy it’s vital to put family first. Though food costs are up, there still are ways to feed your family well for less. One thing you can’t afford to be without is milk because it’s packed with nutrients to help make you strong and healthy. Milk is one of the most nutritious investments you can make for your family in the grocery store.”

We listened, and many of us will answer, “yeah, we’ve got milk” with no argument on the nutritional goodness milk gives us. What I’d like to see next, is for us to say,

Now we’ve got our sense of workplace!

The benefits are similarly healthy: With milk it’s nutrition. With sense of workplace it’s our shot at a decent livelihood and our emotional well-being.

Sense of Workplace includes” what?

Again, what do we consider the basic sensibility of that concept to include?

I have encouraged you to think of Ho‘ohana and these three things:
1. work as bigger and better than just job
2. engagement in worthwhile work as embracing more possibility than employment
3. compensation as never underestimating monetary currency, but considering way more than simply wages.

My feeling is that a healthy sense of workplace in our changing world must understand these three distinctions, with Ho‘ohana our guiding light:

Hana ~ work
Ho‘o ~ make something happen
Ho‘ohana ~ make work happen as a Hawaiian value of living well within our sense of place
Labor Day Aloha

We are adding the dimension of work, yet we cannot forget the underlying concept we piggy-back on: Sense of Place. Sense of place is very much about creature comforts, and we are the creatures. Further, we all need to belong somewhere, and feel we are in a place (filled with people) which values us.

got Maslow?

We all need to feel we belong. To families, to working tribes, to civil and social communities. Do you remember learning about Maslow’s pyramid?

Sense of belonging is right in the middle of what Abraham Maslow called our “hierarchy of needs,” as a need which must be satisfied before we get to the goodies of self-esteem and self-actualization. Here is a great picture of the pyramid from Wikipedia:

My Managing with Aloha coaching is built upon my belief that in a thriving workplace, everyone needs to feel they can reach the top of the pyramid if they choose to reach for it. EVERYONE. Managers, employees, vendors and suppliers, customers —everyone associated with a business needs to feel that the business “lives” in those upper levels, and by association, they do (or can) too.

However here’s the deal: Maslow’s pyramid works like a ladder or staircase. You can’t reach those sections at the top until you have the wider ones beneath them to stand on as your solid ground —collectively as as your Sense of Place.

However before you get too ambitious or overwhelmed about this, start to understand your Sense of Place connection right where you live, wherever that may be.

Fall in love with your place. Discover its magic. Ask yourself why you are there, and why you stay there, and not to justify it, but to celebrate it. Here is a sample you can look at where I explored my own Nānā i ke kumu connected with my home, my Hawai‘i nei: Looking to the Source of our Hawaiian Values.

Figure out why you belong to your place, and figure out why you thrive there. Figure out why that place, as wonderfully magical as you may discover it to be, would not be the same without you, for you are the wellspring. Next, articulate the work you do best —your Ho‘ohana.

As for Sense of Workplace, we need not struggle to satisfy our pyramid of needs alone. We can do so within a better organization of our humanity and love for each other —within our Aloha.

As Karl Nitsch so wisely pointed out in our blog conversations over the last week;

“What we can do first of all is recognize that no organization ”“ governmental, business, religious, or other is going to act in our best interest. The organization acts to preserve itself ”“ to maintain its own integrity. When crunch time comes, the individuals inside and outside of it are expendable, replaceable and invisible. We are responsible for our own fate.”

If that is not a calling that managers everywhere can answer, I don’t know what else is.

Be our Alaka‘i celebrities

Celebrities have eagerly jumped on the “got milk?” bandwagon, happy to be part of the Milk Mustache Brigade. This fall, Jordin Sparks (photo above), Ryan Sheckler and Chauncey Billups are those gracing posters distributed to elementary, middle, and high schools across the U.S.

Celebrities are great attention-getters, and they’re welcome to join our Sense of Workplace Campaign too, but the champions and cheerleaders we really need are you who are managers in business. You are the ones who most immediately can open your arms and hearts and enlist more players into your workplace. As we’ve said in our previous discussions, hiring them as employees are but one option, and you are the ones to enable others.

I have gone on a sense of workplace campaign which has included four different blogs this past week, and we have talked about several connections to The Lost Generation issue which has been our focus. Thank you so very much for the comment conversation you have shared here on Talking Story! I’d like to end by repeating the part that is about you, the Alaka‘i manager.

Why is this a management post?

Regular readers know that I post on management issues each Thursday. I feel this is a perfect fit and not an exception. Our need for a healthier sense of workplace in society today, is both a leadership and management issue: We have said that leadership creates energy, and management channels it. However it is something that great management needs to make a breakthrough with, particularly in larger organizations where there is a titular distinction between the managers and the leaders.

Preferring to look at them as action verbs (as you know I do): Management makes room in existing systems and processes within a business for leadership ideas to find fertile ground in which they can seed, take root, and flourish.

Cultivating a healthier sense of workplace is an issue with which great managing must lead, opening doors to possibility, and being willing to toss out the old way in favor of the new. Many times, leaders hesitate to rock the hold management has on the boat, and that is especially true today, when many businesses have become more streamlined than they ever imagined they could be.

Come on Alaka‘i managers: Let’s do this, and rock our own boat. We’ve got milk, Maslow and our Ho‘ohana honey, with Aloha.

If you are just now getting wind of this, get up to date here:
I can’t let this one go: A Sense of Workplace Call to Action