Preface: This is an article I had previously posted within the Value of the Month coaching program we ran for Alaka‘i Managers in 2007 and 2008. I’ve included the comments I’d received back then, and preserved its snapshot in time. We were doing an in-depth study of HA‘AHA‘A that month, practicing the value of humility. I offer it to you again as follow-up to the gatekeeping discussion posted yesterday: Tear Down Your Walls. Solutions which open the windows of sharing can start in small ways, and the humble wave is a fantastic example, universal in its welcoming appeal, and so easily accomplished:
“We decided that waving would be part of our value culture.”
It is amazing how a simple, humble wave of our hand in acknowledgment of another human being can make such a huge difference.
I have turned into a waver ever since I worked at Hualalai Resort and we decided that waving would be part of our value culture. It started back in 1996 from the moment I was employed there (the resort was still under construction then), and the habit now feels like it is set in stone with me… it was the personal, and cultural construction we built, as important as any other cornerstone.
I wave at people I know, and people I don’t know.
I wave at people the moment I sense I may catch their eye; I no longer look down or away.
I wave to trigger some magic connection to my face so I will smile within the same fraction of that moment I wave.
I wave to feel open, connected to hope, and expectant of our humanity.
I wave to feel safe. When I take my exercise runs and arrive at intersections, I don’t take another step forward unless I have waved to an approaching or stopped driver and am sure they have seen me. (They wave back, or at the very least will nod— good thing to teach your kids.)
When I travel, the culturally correct way to wave as a friendly and welcoming gesture is one of the first things I am careful to ask about (learned this when we lived in the Philippines), for there is simply no stopping my hands anymore, there is only the careful training of them.
Once, in asking that question, I had an older gentleman explain to me how to reach my hands out to animals in the right way, so I that I’d never get bitten, and so I would know if they’d allow me to pet them or not. Good information to know.
Then: Waving and the value of Ho‘okipa
Though easy to gain entrance onto the resort, and a footprint which includes a Four Seasons hotel, Hualalai is essentially a gated residential community of multi-million dollar homes. While I could work there and eventually became a corner-office exec there, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to afford living there.
There was one thing I quickly learned about the very rich. The biggest difference between them and we who feel like paupers in comparison, are not our bank accounts but the discretion we have with how we spend our time (though the argument can be made that the latter is a result of the former). In so many more ways we are quite the same, ways which are much more relevant to how we interact with each other and share our lives.
At Hualalai we referred to everyone within our resort community as part of the Hualalai ‘Ohana (family) and Ho‘okipa (hospitality) was a core organizational value for us. Therefore, once people were on the resort itself, and starting with their first sight of our greeter who manned the gate atop the hill, we wanted them to feel instantly acknowledged, totally welcomed, and warm with the feeling they belonged on the resort and had every right to be there.
We did it by waving.
Once you drove past the gate you descended into the resort taking in a spectacular view, both just outside your car window and as a vista far beyond you, and toward the distant ocean horizon. The speed limit was only 15 miles an hour, and the road meandered, but you slowed down because you wanted to versus because you had to; the beauty of the place made you want to look and take it all in. It was buzzing with activity too: As you drove along, you passed walkers and runners, landscapers and the golf course crew, residents in golf carts or electric resort cars, all sorts of people working on work, or working on life.
Back then, everyone waved at you. You’d also see them waving at each other.
It would be no more than about 5 minutes, tops, from your first turn off the highway, yet by the time you arrived at where you would park your car or deliver it to a valet, the community would have trained you to wave back. We didn’t know your name yet, only that greeter at the gate had said Aloha to you, and because of the wealth of different reasons possible, we couldn’t have even known why you had come and were there.
Still, you now belonged there. Whether visitor, vendor, prospect or stranger, we welcomed you in to stay as long as you liked.
Once you got out of your car and onto one of the pathways, the waving intensified, for there were so many more people around. People greeted you with a wave and a smile everywhere, every interaction. Frankly, it was pretty impossible not to wave back, and not to smile.
Now: Waving and the value of Ha‘aha‘a
Is it still like that at Hualalai today?
I hope so, however to be completely honest, I don’t know. Circumstances have kept me from visiting the resort for nearly two years now as I can last and best recall. So I don’t have the answer of first-hand knowledge anymore.
If they still wave at Hualalai is a question of something we talk about consistently here at Managing with Aloha Coaching: value alignment, and in this case, a matter of continuity by the new owners and their management team.
I haven’t been to Hualalai since the resort was sold to a new owner. What are their values now, as expected by their new organizational culture, and do their actions match up in alignment with those values? Do they still want to be an all-inclusive ‘Ohana as a community, or not? Is Ho‘okipa still valued, or not? Has the habit been reinforced day in and day out, or has it been allowed to fade away in favor of another? When new employees are brought on, is the talk story of waving still part of orientation as it once was, so they know why, what is expected of them, and what is to be perpetuated?
Value alignment is deliberate: You choose actions that match up to your values, you talk about them all the time, and you practice them consistently. You make them part of the culture, doing all you possibly can to make sure they stick.
I do see that these words still appear on their website:
Gentle hosts welcome all to their ‘ohana, family, with a heightened level of hospitality that is called ho‘okipa.
Welcome to Hualalai. In this serene paradise, the dream of Hawai‘i that everyone holds in their hearts is fulfilled.
They continue to make the promise.
All I can tell you for sure today, is that learning that humble wave changed my own life, because a habit was created in me that I chose not to break. I owe a lot to the ‘Ohana na Hualalai for making me a better person during those years I worked with them. They were so true to their values, and they made them so compelling and desirable, that those values became part of mine. If I already had those values in any measure whatsoever, they grew and were strengthened and fortified.
Today, and I am quite sure forever to come, I rather wave to people instead of looking down or turning away. I prefer to be open to the possibility that waving can trigger. I love the thought that waving, and then allowing your hand to train your face so your smile will surely and naturally follow, is a way to tell someone you are humble enough to know this:
No matter how complete, whole and healthy I may feel,
I grant my trust that there is an equally good reason you live on this earth with me.
I am open to welcoming you into my life if you want to step into it.
It needn’t be a major production, or even a conversation;
you can just smile and wave back.
Easy, quick, and smile-triggering natural.
Then, we both belong here,
as we share this moment, this place, and our Aloha.
No matter how good I may feel about my own life at this very moment, I still think of waving as connected to ‘Ohana, to Ho‘okipa, and to Aloha as the unconditional value of love and acceptance. However as time has gone by, and as my wave has become more personal versus organizationally expected, I now think of waving as strongly connected to Ha‘aha‘a and the value of humility, for I believe Ha‘aha‘a to be about being as open as it is possible to be, while being strong with the confidence that you are worthy enough, and capable enough of engaging well with another human being.
So try it with me, won’t you?
Let’s all practice Ha‘aha‘a by learning to be wavers this month of May. They say it takes 21 to 28 days to develop a habit, and today is the 4th of May: Shall we see what the next 27 days of waving can do for us?
We can start right now.
Here is my picture again, a bit bigger than usual: Imagine me waving at you, and smiling, and wave back!
With much aloha, and so happy you are here with me today,
It’s one of the first forms of communication that we learn as babies, isn’t it? I can still remember the first time my niece waved to me. She was sitting across from me at a table in a cafe, and every time she caught my eye, she would give me a wave. In that wave was everything that she couldn’t express verbally: engagement, joy, recognition, love. Even as children get older, they still seem to wave more often than adults do, particularly to strangers. Waving to commuters standing on the railway platform. Waving to drivers stuck in a traffic jam. Waving to other children at the playpark. Waving to the salespeople in shops.
I think we’d all do well to take a leaf out of their book. I sometimes wonder if those who are wisest on this earth are also those who arrived there most recently.
I, for one, will be taking you up on your challenge, and I will try and adopt the waving habit.
Thank you for this lovely post, Rosa :-)
— Amy Palko
And I’m waving back to you, Rosa! I ride the train quite a bit and it’s interesting how many people wave to the train as we pass by…and of course, I always wave back. That’s the only time I see people waving.
Now that I think about it, I’ve always been a waver ;) Must be the little kid in me still…
— Maria Palma
Rosa, your thoughts on waving really resonated with me. Growing up on the farm in central Minnesota, we waved. If you are working in the fields, you waved at people driving by. Usually you knew everyone but it didn’t matter.
If you saw someone out in the farm yard as you drove by, you waved. There were even people where you wouldn’t see anyone outside and you would wave anyway and wouldn’t be surprised when the farmer stuck his head and arm out the barn door to wave back. Waving was part of the culture.
Now move the clock to the present. In our surburban location, I may not always know the people that drive by but I can’t break the habit of waving. If driving, much to the embarrassment of my teenage children, I will wave at someone out for a walk, even if I don’t know the people.
I’m a waver. Your post gives it new value.
Rosa, I always appreciate your insights. I’m waving back at you.
— Don Frederiksen
You know Don, your comment gave me some very early memories. Perhaps the whole Hualalai waving campaign was really an intensifying for me as well, for as kids we all waved in our neighborhood too. And your barn-door waver reminded me of the Faria family…
We had a neighbor a street over from ours whose name was Mr. Bathwell Faria. We kids thought it was hilarious that he had two last names, and adding nicely to our insider’s joke about it, his name was printed on his mailbox as Faria, Bathwell.
One Halloween our “trick” for him was to scratch off the comma, and ever after as we’d drive by his house on the way home, we’d stick our heads out of the car window and yell “Faria Bathwell!” and wave to him madly. He was crazy about his garden and often outside, and he’d wave back and laugh in such a pleased way. That was more than enough encouragement for us to yell at his house and acknowledge his spirit even when all the cars were gone and we knew no one was home. He never bothered to paint that comma back on his box.
Mahalo for the wave Don ~ I am waving back at you!