Let’s Define Values

This is the first sentence you’ll see on the inside jacket flap of Managing with Aloha’s hardcover edition:

“Values” may be the most frequently spoken word in business today.

Try to Google “values” and you’ll see for yourself just how frequently it comes up. Last time I checked, there were 45 million entries searchers could choose from! People know there is some secret sauce to the personal values we hold near and dear to our hearts, and they sense those values do more than define what we believe in: Exactly what is that more all about?

Well, “Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business” is more than a publishing byline for my book too: I feel I should share what I mean by values, talking about them as much as I do, and having made them the core drivers of the Managing with Aloha philosophy. Here’s why I consider values to be so vitally important— and so incredibly useful.

Values essentially do two things for us: They define our WHY and they give us a HOW-TO.

Those two things don’t always go together, and when they do, the result is very, very powerful. To start with your WHY is to begin all efforts with your personal truth about something, to start with its “good sense.” To proceed, and take action with a HOW-TO connected to your WHY, is to honor your personal truth.

Isn’t that what personal integrity is all about, acting with authenticity and honor so that other people feel they can trust you? As we say in Hawai‘i, it’s Pono (it’s right, and it’s good). Well, you can trust in yourself too, because of your values.

Values are the personal way your soul talks to you, urging you to take action. The values you possess light your path with a certain moral clarity; they give you certainty, nourishment and strength.

Values are an inseparable part of the fabric of the human race, they are indeed our secret sauce. Short and sweet, the values you possess will determine the way you behave.

“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies.
It happens when society adopts new behaviors.”
— Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

We have all grown up being shaped by values that are woven into our geographical cultures, for values drive the quality of our experiences. These values are layered with the nuances of our parents’ life experiences, and those of their parents. I believe we inherit them as surely as we inherit the color of our eyes and the curl in our hair. When you were younger, you’d learn about them more explicitly when you misbehaved, for parents universally have this innate certainty that values = goodness = better behavior. Most people do not consider values to be morally neutral.

That being said, when it comes to our behavior, we all have the power to choose. The “universal” values I have written about in Managing with Aloha are universally discernible ones: by “discernible” I mean “perceptible by the senses or intellect.” They are concrete enough, tangible enough, to be real tools, and they help us choose our most productive behavior. Their universal nature also makes it quite easy for us to share them with others, and align in partnerships.

Our values drive our beliefs—in Hawaii we call this our mana‘o—and our beliefs give our thoughts clarity. When we are true to what we believe in, the decisions we make come to us easily and naturally, especially when we have a cause, an objective, or a mission in mind. We become convicted about those beliefs.

There are more values within the Hawaiian culture than there are within the pages of Managing with Aloha and this site; mine is not an all-inclusive listing. The values I have written of, are specifically aimed at exploring and improving management practices, the Ho‘ohana (worthwhile work) of those of us in business, and our working lives as a whole. In my book, I present them to you as modern everyday applications for what I have experienced and still see as today’s challenges in business.

Therefore, I hope all the “moral values” noise you’ll hear (especially during our political elections) will not make you cringe at the word. Values-centered management is still desperately needed in business enterprise, and in the WHY-driven life. We need action, and we need to act with confidence, and with hope for what is better. And action taken, true to clear beliefs that have been borne from good values, will give us our integrity. Acting with integrity makes things right for us; it feeds our hunger to be intelligent, ethical and morally just.

Your values tap into an inner source of profound knowledge and strength: Your Aloha Spirit

I do believe that Hawai‘i is optimally suited to lead the world in modeling values-centered, profitable business, for we in Hawai‘i live daily with something good and right by its very nature: Aloha and all it embraces. We’re inspired by Aloha, and it comforts us. The values of Managing with Aloha are uniquely alive in the culture we work in. When we bring our good values to a business environment, we position them as tools we can use to bring tangible benefits to those we manage and work with, and to the health of our businesses’ bottom line. Managing with Aloha (the book) shares stories where this has happened, bringing extraordinary experiences into my life.

Now Hawai‘i isn’t perfect! We have our challenges in Hawai‘i too, and we can improve. We work on getting better daily, knowing it is good work to be dedicated to.

Shall we do so together? You have Aloha too.

Let’s grab our responsibility for great management, and for imaginative leadership. And let’s be trustworthy leaders, by managing ourselves well first and foremost. We all have good values to draw from. We can to this kākou, together.

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 www.RosaSay.com


  1. Ryan Epp says:

    I am very happy to what I have learn from a great post like this which I could relate with. In return, I would like to share my comment – The simplest way for you to discover that focus and clarity on your life is to enable yourself to devote to finding out your core values. Essential core value coaching philosophy is based on the concept that by gradually working against discovering the values that inspire you essentially the most, you will be ready to tap into the core values which might be most important to you and discover how they can be most favourable to you. No journey could be travelled without the need of a road map – and no existence will be lived effectively with out clarity about one’s Principles and Values. Principles and Values will be the principles of life that we choose to abide with. They give us a feeling of course, meaning and an inspiring reason to stay for.

    • Rosa Say says:

      Thank you for adding your encouragement Ryan. I do think that getting this focus and clarity from our values is far simpler than most people think it is. We already have our values, and just aren’t used to making them practical. The key is self-trust, and feeling we can trust what we want our life to be.

  2. Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier says:

    Aloha e Ms. Say,

    Mahalo nui for your book, it’s truly inspiring. I’m writing to make a correction about your use of the word “kākou”. This word is the pronoun “we, us” including the person who is listening, as opposed to ” måkou” which is the pronoun used to express “we, us” excluding the listener. “Kākou” does not mean “together”, so when you say, ” we can do this kākou, you’re saying ” we can do this we/us. Perhaps if you had said “Kākou can do this”, your mana’o would’ve been closer to what you meant. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me, I am more than happy to kōkua.

    • Rosa Say says:

      Aloha e Ekela,
      Thank you for your comment, and for reading Managing with Aloha.

      You have chosen the perfect post here on the site for this conversation, for you are indeed correct in noting the grammatical translation of kākou as a pronoun (as are lākou [they/them, more than 2] and mākou [we/us, exclusive rather than inclusive]). I was aware of these differences, which do add their credence to the inclusive nature of Kākou. However in my mana‘o, and thus, in the offering of Managing with Aloha, I have chosen to use Kākou as a value, i.e. a word which acknowledges its origins, but is of deeper kaona, and specific intention which drives our behavior. As I wrote above,

      Values essentially do two things for us: They define our WHY and they give us a HOW-TO.

      In its Kākou-as-value context, togetherness and inclusivity become aligned, where we aren’t simply together in locational or vocational placement, but in intention as well.

      As you may be aware of, the Hawaiian language is one which often cannot be taken literally because of kaona, and because of the ‘succession of talk’ in our mo‘o ‘ōlelo chronicling, something which often frustrates new learners. Yet for me it is liberating that way, especially in getting our Language of Intention composed for the workplace: We can truly speak with the “Language of We” as a working-for-us-today culture. In a way, the non-literal nature of spoken Hawaiian forces the issue of our understanding each other: We must hear each other out — ‘out’ of the words which all must be said — so that our first reply to each other can be, “Yes, I accept your words as given to me, and I believe I understand you now.”

      Mahalo nui for your offer of kōkua Ekela, for I do consider myself a lifelong learner of our island culture, and truly welcome the opportunity to learn more from you.