Let’s celebrate all our good work! We’ll be having cake with our morning coffee at Say Leadership Coaching. Can you join us?
Hau‘oli lā hānau – Happy Birthday Managing with Aloha!
Today is Managing with Aloha’s 10th birthday: Its’ official publication date as registered with the Library of Congress, was November 19, 2004.
Wow… 10 years. Let’s talk story with that cake and coffee, shall we?
[Talking Story is Thriving. That’s What We Do.]
You would think I’ve had plenty of time to ease into it, but it’s rather overwhelming, this 10th year milestone. The emotion I’m steeped in, is a deep and wondrous feeling of thankfulness and gratitude. Who would’ve thought it, that a book I wrote as a possible philosophy in ‘business nonfiction’ would turn out to give so much back to me — and still does.
I am also thankful for what Managing with Aloha has done for others, as I’ve had the privilege and honor of hearing about from them directly, and in learning of their stories. At some point during these past 10 years, I stopped thinking of Managing with Aloha as ‘a book’ and of myself as its author: I too am an Alaka‘i Manager, and I’ve been the very lucky steward and champion of a philosophy connected to the Aloha Spirit, doing whatever I can in what stewards do — Mālama something in a convicted and committed way, caring for it and keeping it healthy.
And Lord knows I have not done any of this alone — no way! I wish I could hug each and every person who has bought Managing with Aloha and read it, every person who has talked about it and shared it, every person who has decided it would be required reading for their managers or graduates, and every person who has reread its pages to study their own values, willingly opening themselves up to trying some of the things those pages may suggest. There have been so many Managing with Aloha practitioners, coaches and champions along the way, all contributing more Aloha Spirit that can possibly be seen, or otherwise quantified, but oh my, that spirit of values-based Aloha in action is constantly felt!
If you’ve read this far, you’re one of those people too, aren’t you. Mahalo nui loa — thank you so much. Put your two arms around yourself right now, and give yourself that hug!
Collecting Learning, and Using it.
As brief as I can keep it, Managing with Aloha’s progression from germination to now, can be summarized as a learning journey. Please pardon the personal navel grazing as we look back and remember our steps along the way… I think this does clarify some things, and answer the question a lot of managers ask me: How did Managing with Aloha actually happen for you — how long did it take? How long will it take me?
See if you can pick out the value-verbing. These overlap in several places, but there was a definite progression.
1. Situational managing — As-taught, gut-instinct managing, working to earn my keep, mostly doing what I was told, often winging it. These were all those years obtaining my education in organizational strategy, private-sector finance and business modeling, and the other disciplines of corporate business. Don’t underestimate all you can learn while working for others: Buckle down, pay attention well, and learn it by doing it! They essentially are giving you a paycheck while giving you a free education.
2. Values-based managing — Learning more intellectually to fire up my curiosity, challenge myself and whatever team I was part of, so we would not settle. Applying that learning to slowly shaping my career on my own working terms in oodles of next-stepping, particularly with quality management (TQM), strengths management, and behavioral theory.
3. Ho‘ohana — Putting a signature on my day-to-day, in-the-trenches managing and leading, within intentional work driven by Hawaiian values as taught to me by Dr. George Kanahele, and then by other kūpuna (elders). I think of these as the ‘hands on’ years where I got significantly better faster. My ‘intellectual honesty’ was a relentless master, demanding I get very personal… no hiding under the radar.
4. Kuleana — Along the way, I got really fired up about the basic responsibility of managers and executives. Does this sound familiar? “Managing others is a profound responsibility.” It became a deliberate and resolute mantra, and The Daily 5 Minutes became my devoted practice. I started to dig into the questions of convicted belief (mana‘o) and calling.
5. Breakaway — In 2003 I said goodbye to corporate management and hello to self-employment. To be frank, I now wanted, and knew I needed, to be in total control of my own destiny, though I had no intention of leaving management behind, for I loved it too much.
6. The Book — Articulating Managing with Aloha to share it with other managers, and publishing it. My first draft was written in the still-pervasive Kuleana frenzy of number 4. in less than 3 months, but it would take another year to publish it. The smartest thing I did was surround myself with a team of people who pushed me to keep revising until I made it clearer, and produced something better.
7. Philosophy — Answering the “Now what?” question with new intention now that the book was ‘out there.’ What were the ‘deliverables’ of Managing with Aloha just as published? What could they be? I distinctly remember printing one of Goethe’s couplets on strips of paper I taped up everywhere to coach myself:
“Whatever you can do, or dream
You can begin it…
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
8. Say Leadership Coaching — Learning entrepreneurship, focusing on the vision and mission-driven work of my company. We dove into our 9 Key Concepts, articulated our 5 Core Values and Healthy Workplace Compass, and the discipline we’d come to call Business Thinking with Aloha. We committed to our Ho‘ohiki, the promises we were willing to make to each of our customers and learning managers.
9. Ho‘ohana Community — The Talking Story years and online evolution of our ‘tribe.’ These years coincided with the digital evolution of the internet, the earliest blogging of our value-of-the-month talk stories, virtual coaching platforms and the arrival of social media. Remember Managing with Aloha Coaching on TypePad, and Joyful Jubilant Learning?
10. Laboratory — Participating in culture-building via coaching and consulting, and not as the manager and leader the buck stops with. We’ve grappled with questions like, “What happens after we SLC coaches are gone? How do Managing with Aloha champions emerge, take over, and then progress? When does a philosophy, and a culture, become self-sustaining regardless of the managers in place?”
Fun stuff. Important stuff in what we would call “a sensibility for worthwhile work” and our “healthy culture building.” Sometimes frustrating in our impatience with getting it done, but altogether extremely satisfying stuff.
Mix well and repeat.
As you can see, it took me a lot of years, and publishing my book 10 years ago is halfway down the list. But that doesn’t mean that living, working, managing and leading with Aloha has to take you that long too, not at all.
For one thing, I relish being a student, and I happily take my time with it, deriving a great deal of pleasure in studying theory and playing with it, then working through it with others. Secondly, I wrote Managing with Aloha and still write this blog, to help you cut to the chase!
Many of you have heard me say it before: I don’t believe in the concept of ‘paying your dues.’ What I do believe in is this: Learn it, apply what you learn, and use it thoroughly before the freshness of your self-motivated ideas disappears. Don’t procrastinate about it, or wait for someone else’s permission, for inspiration is perishable. Make the learning which has resonated real for you, and move on to the next great thing in store for you, for there is an abundance you can’t begin to imagine.
Learning in an Ecosystem of Positive Values
As for our tribe, our Ho‘ohana Community of Alaka‘i Managers and not just me and my management journey, this is how I’d sum up the learning we’ve shared together in these past 10 years.
It did require the experiences of learning-by-doing Kākou, the detail of which can be found throughout this blog’s pages on varied topics, but I keep coming back to these 3 distinctions:
- Culture-building is done in a healthy ecosystem of human values.
- Grassroots work is where the action is, and where most accomplishment will happen.
- An abundance mentality and the positive expectancy of Hō‘imi is essential.
1. Culture is an ecosystem.
Here in these pages, we have described culture this way:
Great managers know that CULTURE is simply a group of people who share common values, and operate within those values.
Culture is learned. Culture represents a series of agreements based on value alignment, and results from honoring those agreements.
The great manager, and the great person, manages their own behavior by tapping into their values as their source of human energy. It’s the way they “lead by example” conducting themselves with ALOHA distinction, and it’s the way they inspire the culture they operate within.
— Collect stories. Dispel myths.
Let’s add ecosystem to our Language of We:
An ecosystem is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. We human beings are biological creatures too, which simply means that we are living organisms, and we definitely are interacting — we’re social, and we need to have a sense of belonging. Knowing that we thrive in each other’s company is innate knowledge that’s intuitive for us. As for our physical environment, that’s why we always have placed so much importance in Managing with Aloha culture-building on Sense of Place. We know it represents our wealth and our well-being.
We are well advised to learn from nature, and emulate it — including human nature, thus the emphasis we place on value-verbing, wherein we attach our value-drivers to consistent actions like next-stepping, problem-solving, and decision-making. The “nature or nurture?” answer for us is both. It’s Sense of Place with the values of Mālama, Nānā i ke kumu and Pono.
2. “It starts at the top” is a cop-out.
When I consult with a company, I do try to connect with owners and executives, for I recognize that having everyone “all in” makes certain dynamics easier, but believe me on this: Adoption and buy-in at the top isn’t the prerequisite to having Managing with Aloha thrive in company culture. Values-based ecosystems are much more resilient than that. When values get stronger and more confident in their organizational expression, they cannot be ignored or denied, and they will not be quieted.
I like the way Bill Nye describes this:
“If there were a day-to-day manager of nature, he or she would have a cushy gig, because he or she wouldn’t have to do anything. Nature is self-organizing. That’s another way of defining evolution: Nature builds ecosystems, in all of their complex glory, from the bottom up..”
— Bill Nye, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
Grassroots is where the action is: It’s where the germination of all growth happens, and it’s where dedicated individuals and teams of hard-working people thrill to the work of sorting out that “complex glory” Nye refers to.
That grass in our cultural ecosystem is made up of individual blades: Everything meaningful and worth going for starts with you, and with your Ho‘ohana. There can never be a revolution without the individual commitment of passionate loyalists.
In the last 10 years, I have seen brand new supervisors live, work, manage, and lead with Aloha in a way I used to think was rare and miraculous. I now know that the defining factor setting them apart from others, was buckling down and working on their Ho‘ohana in earnest. Simple but true. That, and a courageous self-confidence. They don’t question themselves as much, and they don’t waste as much time procrastinating, for they understand Ho‘ohana is a work in progress, and you have to Ho‘o – make it happen as you do it.
There’s a root cause for this: First and foremost, values are personal. Further, those values are the revving engine of your Aloha Spirit. You hold shared values organizationally and in your sense of place too, but personal values function as your trump card — they always will. If you stop yourself, believing “it has to start from the top” in your company, you are deferring to organizational values, or worse, the personal values belonging to someone else above you. We threw that kind of subservience out with serfdom.
If you truly feel a boss is your roadblock, you aren’t ready for Managing with Aloha professionally: Dig into it personally. What you need to work on first, is relationship-building through conversing and partnering.
3. Hō‘imi and positive expectancy is essential.
Do you know what the defining quality of nature is? Nature does not expect to fail.
I took the photo above just one week after a brush fire in our Waikoloa pasturelands. After every fire or weather disaster, nature adjusts and adapts, and works on surviving in earnest — it keeps on being an ecosystem extraordinaire in the doing of what it does best, and it expects to succeed. Nature’s ecosystem is the epitome of positive expectancy, and Mother Nature’s abundance mentality is what we humans must learn from nature most of all. There may be significant change, but we can adjust, and life will thrive once more.
The Hawaiian value for this is Hō‘imi, a value which will elevate ‘Imi ola (to seek your best possible life) in their value pairing. The literal translation for Hō‘imi is to “look for better and best” and Mother Nature would probably call it evolution. As a personal and very human value, Hō‘imi is about bringing a positive expectancy to all you do, and not expecting that you will fail either. You may stumble and fall, but we humans are good at picking ourselves up so we can keep going. We believe in Ka lā hiki ola, the value of hope and promise.
So here’s to our next 10 years.
On the one hand, I can’t wait to see what’s coming, and it’s fun to imagine what I’ll be writing about come 2024, describing what we’ve continued to learn. On the other, I love the actual doing of it so much — our Ho‘ohana Kākou — that I can be patient, and revel in our work together.
To each and every Alaka‘i Manager and Managing with Aloha champion out there, thank you again, and know this: I will never stop believing in you and your Aloha Spirit.
How coincidental – how very right and Pono – that our current immersion is with ‘Ike loa and Ha‘aha‘a! Here’s something I had once written of their value pairing:
‘Ike loa ~ Student, be Ready
There is always a student within us, aching to learn more, and learn it exceptionally well. We want to feel connection between our needs, our wants and our talents’ innate skill in serving those wants and needs. We are ready in spirit, and must be ready to receive. So here is my coaching for you: “Whatever it is you want to do, find the person who does it best. Then see if they will teach you.”
Ha‘aha‘a ~ Student, be Humble
Once you allow ‘Ike loa to set the course of your chosen Curriculum of Wanting be humble. Be willing to learn all there is to learn so you can make good choices (read Ho‘ohana and ‘Imi ola again!) This is what leaps off the page in my book’s chapter on this value (yes, I reread it too!): “Ha‘aha‘a teaches the how… In coaching other managers, I have discovered that grooming humility is the key difference between being tough and tough-minded… it helps them strike a balance between getting results and how they go about getting them.”