Work. As HO‘OHANA, good work has become my mission:
I want people to have a legacy they’ve attained through doing great work, and nothing but. I think of Managing with Aloha as our very active Ho‘o pathway forward, in making great work happen.
HO‘OHANA is good in and of itself, and it’s rewarding.
WORK which is
thoroughly worthwhile and important, and
immensely meaningful and fulfilling.
Nothing else called ‘work’ will do.
We use the word ‘good’ quite a lot in our MWA language of intention (Key 5), because GOOD, and the state of being glowing with good, has to come before GREAT in the ways we largely think about it as ALOHA-worthy.
Good work will preface great accomplishments, and any side effects within the doing, are usually the beneficial offshoots of good. Good work is our consequential work leading up to great, happening in smaller, more achievable chunks of rightness. We tend to recognize good more easily than great, for great tends to be rare and more elusive, but it is reachable, and good gets us there. When we feel good, we know it. We also know, that we can feel good more often than we do; a lot of our limits are self-imposed ones.
“Don’t try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.”
We who are Alaka‘i Managers do what we do, because everything good about Ho‘ohana for others is our constant goal and purpose. The specifics of that goal will change as people come into our lives: We do our intentional work one person at a time. For us, the task at hand is all about that person, and about what’s best for them as they ‘IMI OLA to seek life and strengthen their faith in their present abilities and in Palena ‘ole, their future capacities (Key 9).
And work? It’s a fantastic vehicle for those future capacities. Work is our enabler, and it delivers our livelihood as we earn our keep. However…
Work can have its’ dark sides to overcome.
Not darkened, not yet. When something is darkened it’s stained, whereas a period of darkness is more like a shadow.
Hana ‘eleau is temporary, and we can replace it with Mālamalama— “the light of knowledge, and clarity of thinking or explanation; enlightenment; when all is shining, radiant, clear.”
The work of the Alaka‘i Manager, is Mālama ka po‘e— Care for one’s people. Our compassions quicken Mālamalama kākou— In the light we bring to our teams and their work.
Personal darkness will spill over until it gets solved.
We managers do pretty well with some aspects of clearing out work’s darkness. Mr. Biv is a good example: We target the dark shadows of Mistakes, Rework, Breakdowns, Inefficiencies, and Variation. We talk system and process with relative ease, even when those systems and processes are broken. We set good expectations, and we clarify vague assumptions.
In other words, we do fairly well with the dark shadows of the professional realm. The shadows we shy away from dealing with, and the shadows we often fear, hesitant to approach them at all, are those we think of as personal darkness. And we all-too-quickly justify the decision we make denying the light we have available to share: When we know someone is hurting, we’ll say things like, “I know you’re hurting and this [whatever they’re personally going through] is very tough on you, but we both know you have to leave that stuff at home; we have a job to do here.”
Saying that is not going to make it happen. The job will not get done in the way you want it to, until “that stuff” is resolved, and you know that! People don’t leave some parts of themselves at home, and bring other parts to work. Everything goes wherever they happen to be — you can bet a broken job situation affects them at home too! Everything about a person, whether personal, professional or potential, can be in-play at any time, and often will.
It’s so much better to ask a question that will encourage their confidence in you and your good intentions: “I know you’re hurting. How can I help you move past this?”
“One of life’s greatest laws is that you cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own as well.”
~ Core 21, the mana‘o of Managing with Aloha
I’m not advocating that managers solve at-home problems; we aren’t miracle workers and we can’t solve every problem our employees will have. Nor do they want us meddling in what they consider their affairs. I am advocating that we take action FULLY within our workplace: We don’t shy away from what plays out at work, and in the context of work. We increase our own effectiveness by admitting what IS about our workplace, and by being more courageous in what we’ll tackle.
We managers must step out of our own shadows, and own our circle.
Work your full circle.
Stephen R. Covey, best known for his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gives us a good framing for what we managers can do, can effect, and can work with— without fear, and without feeling we are over-stepping our bounds. He calls it our ‘circle of influence.’ Even if you don’t know Covey, think about that phrase literally: There is a circle in your workplace that maps out your territory; it circles where your work is of best influence, and where your actions are most conducive to GOOD. The only question is if you dare to tread there or not, so good will fully happen.
As Covey points out, everything within your circle of influence is within your sphere of control— you can affect it, and be effective with it.
Workaholic behaviors are a good example of Hana ‘eleau in the workplace. Workaholic behavior IS in your realm as a manager, and it’s YOUR problem to solve, for it is indeed a problem. You’re kidding yourself if you believe workaholics work as much as they do because of their passion, or strictly out of a sense of loyalty.
Workaholics need balance (or work/life integration as is currently the bizspeak of the day) — they are not enjoying an ‘IMI OLA life of the highest form, and their at-work behaviors proliferate broken situations instead of actively solving them. I often find that workaholics are hiding from something and they avoid dealing with it; they work nights, extra hours and weekends because they don’t want to be home, and they want an excuse to be away from whatever darkness lurks there. Being at work is their escape and their refuge, but make no mistake about this — it’s not their light in that particular situation; it’s not Mālamalama.
The Alaka‘i Manager WILL talk about this unhealthy avoidance with them, smack dab within the manager’s circle of influence: They will point them toward help offered in Employee Assistance Programs which are often co-sponsored by community, union, and company partnerships, and they set the expectation, “Get the help you need. Deal with the issue as you must; don’t avoid it.” They will set the expectation that work gets done in a reasonable time frame, being explicitly clear on what ‘reasonable’ is, not more, not less. They dismantle any at-work hiding place. They immediately follow up if their newly clear expectations are not met.
Identify the dark shadows of Hana ‘eleau in your own workplace. Name them as the problems they are, and solve them.
I give you another example in chapter 13 of my book, on HO‘OHANOHANO (the value of dignity and respect): It’s the dark shadow of unintentional neglect, where an employee feels they’ve turned invisible, work off all radar screens, and are no longer seen by their manager. Neglect IS visible; you can see it when you actively look for it. It’s just as visible as those workaholic behaviors, and just as mixed up in that stew of the all-in-play personal, professional and potential. Neglect is easily fixed with the goal-setting of ‘IMI OLA, and with conversational tools— are you doing your Daily 5 Minutes?
If you have more examples of working in the dark, please share them here in the comments. Know they are temporary, and in your good work as a manager, you can solve them. Let’s talk story and learn from each other — add your lights in our goal with Mālama ka po‘e— Care for our people, and Mālamalama— Care for our goodness.
I have one more request of you: Go there.
Define your own circle of influence, and own it.
Don’t listen to how others will define ‘being professional’— be driven by what you know to be necessary and right for you and the people in your charge. What is PONO for you? What will be PONO for them?
To Ho‘ohana mālama ka po‘e (wow… you know way more Hawaiian than most do!) you know your place as an Alaka‘i Manager — you know when you have to ‘go there’ and you define your own limits and boundaries professionally, because you know your ALOHA. Your Aloha Spirit makes those decisions better than anyone else can ever advise you.
Go with your gut, for you also know your people (The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Parts). Trust in your intuition, listen to your spirit, attend to your good intentions, and go there. The first step in courage is a decision for good, to not look the other way.
So name the task at hand, and name it as your task. On Monday, or on whatever the next day you go to work, what is Hana ‘eleau, and the period of darkness you will bring your light to?
Suggestions for your weekend reading and further study:
If you have a copy of Managing with Aloha, review these chapters as a means of fully identifying where Hana ‘eleau may lurk for you:
- HO‘OMAU: In this chapter on the value of perseverance and persistence, we take a look at obstacles which may exist. Obstacles, excuses, barriers, and sacred cow justifications are all shadows, and you can clear their hurdles.
- HO‘OHANOHANO: I mentioned this chapter above in regard to unintentional neglect, and you’ll find more there to prompt your thinking about it. Think of Mālamalama lights as the spotlights which bathe people in dignity and respect.
- MĀLAMA: When we Mālama, we serve and honor, protect and care for. This is the value of compassion, but also of stewardship: How are you a steward in your workplace? Define your targets, and then assess if they are truly shadow-free.