Conversational Catch-up ~ with Aloha

A good finish, is a great lead-in.

January can feel like a rather odd month for me, and for my SLC coworkers and partners. It’s odd in that business wise, we’re likely to be working on a few December remainders though most everyone else is eagerly zooming into the new year. We’ve been on our holiday hiatus over the first week or two (we close up shop in mid-December, and all vacation over the holiday season, for Ho‘omaha) and the last two weeks of January are reserved for easing back in, connected to our foundational basics (like this one: Honor Your Survivors). We don’t schedule any brand new business until February. In essence, February 1st is Say Leadership Coaching’s New Year’s Day.

We do this to be PONO with our KĀKOU communications (The Language of We).

Our January focus is on finishing conversations that may have been left with any pending follow-up. We want to be sure that all of our conversational partners do not feel forgotten, neglected, or left behind, shed with the old year as we move on. So it may be odd compared to the rest of the world’s new year’s eagerness, but it’s also good. It’s very satisfying. Any conversations we may have started, or had to leave still pending when we closed over the holidays, will resume again, and they will get finished in their best possible way. At the very least, those conversations have to be clear on their next-stepping and trigger the doing, so they can continue until reaching their most satisfying conclusion.

It gets interesting for us, and we have to support each other in our follow-up efforts, because people aren’t always expecting to hear back about old stuff, unless that is, they’ve gotten to know us and participate in our working culture.

Given the choice of starting something new, or following up with something already in the works, we’ll go for the finish. We don’t like cloudy assumptions. We do like clear expectations. If we can converse, and talk story about it, we will. A good finish, and the Balance it gives us, is a great lead-in to whatever may be Next.

SLC Conversation 101

The art of conversation is a constant topic in Managing with Aloha cultures, for talking is like a tap from which human spirit-spilling will naturally flow. Conversations are like puzzle pieces in our Language of Intention [Key 5] and they come together in glorious pictures of sharing, understanding and empathy. They are the pictures of healthier workplace cultures, where confusion melts away, and clarity gets ever clearer as people get honored. They are pictures where people believe “we are better together” and they act that way.

These are the precepts of conversation at SLC — we call them “MWA Conversation 101” internally, harking back to their history in the Managing with Aloha philosophy, and we will often refer to them as “a Kākou kind of thing” in better communication practices, referring to KĀKOU as their value-driver. In our batch of 5 (our preference in any list-making), they are:

1 — Converse daily. Come up for conversational air.
2 — If you can talk about it instead of writing about it, do.
3 — Did you listen? What did you hear?
4 — Seek an agreement in each and every conversation you have.
5 — Enjoy it. Relish conversations and never dread them.

Here is a little more about each one:

1 — Converse daily. Come up for conversational air.
There is a lot of independent processing in the work we do, and this reminds us not to get too self-absorbed in solitary, nose-to-the-grindstone work. This is about staying connected to the flow of our ‘Ohana in Business [Key 6] and “Converse daily” is an addition to The Daily Five Minutes. We aim for getting additional input or feedback, for having interesting conversations, and for conversing outside the norm. We value curiosity and the seeking of Palena ‘ole pathways [Key 9].

2 — If you can talk about it instead of writing about it, do.
I’m not the only writer around here, far from it. Writing with Aloha is still alive and well, a branch of our Ho‘ohana Publishing division, and we write like we breathe! Our SLC working culture is one of “writing to learn,” journalling in morning pages or curation logs, promoting self-coaching exercises, engaging in the studious recapping of lessons-learned, and meticulous status checks on culture-building pillars. So it is far, far too easy for us to dash off an email or text instead of picking up the telephone. We want to talk about it, whatever ‘it’ is, so we can converse and not just broadcast, though sensitivity is required. (FaceTime and Skype for instance, should be expected so they aren’t intrusions.)

“If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.”  ~ David Ogilvy

3 — Did you listen? What did you hear?
‘What did you hear?’ means you have to have listened well enough to repeat it from the other person’s point of view, and not just your own processing of it. This is a constant self-coaching for everybody, and especially necessary in a culture like ours where talking story and spirit-spilling is the norm, and speaking up is not a problem! It reminds us to take in just as good as we dish out, to be ‘good receivers’ (in the vocabulary of D5Ming), and to not make lofty pronouncements (which speakers, coaches, teachers, and facilitators can easily fall into doing.)

4 — Seek an agreement in each and every conversation you have.
We’re mostly referring to next-stepping here, and not conclusive agreements. This is more about mindfulness while still within the throes of a conversation as it happens. We always ask ourselves, What will be the next step for each person participating in the conversation? and then we ask, And then what? so we will ask good questions, be diligent in considering our best possible outcomes, and be thorough about scheduling follow-up while empathizing with what is actually required of those actions. Our sights are on decision-making that will take us to the next conversation in a progressive way. (‘Conclusive agreements’ usually come together in our pilot programs.)

5 — Enjoy it. Relish conversations and never dread them.
Believe me, we have uncomfortable conversations too (skim the articles of our problem-solving tag). We don’t shy from them because we don’t like stuff swept under the rug. We make sure unpleasant conversations happen when they should, and we make sure we get past them. It’s all a matter of engaging in conversation with an attitude of positive expectancy, even if that conversation began unhappily as a confrontation of some kind. We can enjoy the triumph that emerges from a difficult conversation that happened in the spirit of ALOHA and HO‘OHANOHANO respectfulness, just as much as we enjoy the light-hearted nonsensical ones where we nalu it and goof off together.

In that pregnant pause, when silence is golden:

SLC’s Conversation 101 came to be as a result of one of our pilot projects. When you look at your cultural conversations as a possible project, and you’re willing to work on the quality of those conversations during a no-holds-barred/let’s-have-fun-with-this pilot, there can be wonderful side effects.

One of ours for example, is that we’re now so comfortable with pregnant pauses, and those moments of silence in a conversation where no one is talking, and people sit or stand quietly to think about what was just said. We can think about it while still in each other’s company, without rushing to fill those valuable moments of quiet reflection with needless noise, reflecting together instead. What this Circle of Comfort does for us is improve our listening abilities: We need not think about something while another person is still talking, missing out on hearing them completely, for we know there will be time within the conversation for both hearing and thinking, with our responses being the better for it.

A Conversational Culture encourages best practices.

We’re very good at encouraging and sharing conversations at SLC. During January in particular, we’re often talking story about conversations we’ve just had with others — customers and clients, network partnerships, even social media conversations. LinkedIn for example, is a place where we are often still in that getting-to-know-each-other phase. We share those good surprises we have had within those conversations to encourage each other to have more of them.

As for any pending business, where we have reopened an older conversation, we have to be sensitive to when people have in fact, moved on without us, anxious to turn their calendar page to a new year, both literally and figuratively. Making those phone calls can be tough when it’s so much easier to justify it with, “They probably don’t feel it’s as necessary as we do.” so it helps that we’re all doing it as January’s normal-for-us m.o. in getting back to work.

But you know what? An overwhelming majority of people are happy and pleased we didn’t just let things drop, and that we didn’t assume, “it’s probably too late for this.” We asked, and we let the other person decide if it was too late or not, and we don’t aggressively pursue whatever they wish to drop. We followed up, brave enough to check in, open old messes if we should, and apologize if we have to.

Know your cultural habits, and build better practices of your own.

That sub-heading just above our 5-batch of practices, was SLC Conversation 101 and not ‘MWA’ Conversation 101, to convey that we have culturally adapted the tenets of Managing with Aloha into our company-specific conversational precepts. Think of them as a conversational drill-down to those Rules of Engagement we recently revisited, precise to who we are as writers and publishers, coaches and teachers, speakers, facilitators and consultants.

Might you need an ALOHA or KĀKOU batching of conversation’s best practices pertaining to what you do too? Doing so can launch you on a leadership journey within your industry, where you are setting a higher standard for the conversations of your profession, and inspiring fresh energies for 2014 and beyond.

How do you converse, and how might you get better at it?

How can you make conversation your happy place? Pursuing the enjoyment of each conversation is a magnificent place to start.

[A review on batching: Managerial Batching: 1, 2, 5 and 7 and on Rules of Engagement.]

IMG_2132 Yellow Plumeria by Rosa Say

To archive dive on the art of Managing with Aloha conversation here at MWA Central:

Start here: Managing with Aloha’s Lexicon Morphology
VerbING Tag Links: Conversing, Talking Story, Good Questioning, Asking for Help, Speaking up, Partnering.
Category Link: Key 5 on Language of Intention

About Rosa Say

Rosa is the author of Managing with Aloha. She’s a writer and photo-taker, a workplace culture coach, and a zealous advocate of managers everywhere. She’s a wife and mom, sister and daughter, manager, leader and worker bee, living the best life she can, just like you. Learn more about Rosa at