“I left no time to dwell on promises I had no way of keeping.”
~ Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
I’m not a fan of most reality shows, but one I do enjoy watching is The Voice, NBC’s effort to reinvent Fox’s American Idol. A significant part of NBC’s reinvention is giving the audience an amusing view of the playful yet highly competitive relationship between celebrity coaches, and a fairly intimate look at the relationships which unfold between the singing contestants and the celebrity judge who is coaching them.
The Voice follows the weekly elimination format now familiar to television audiences, to ultimately crown a seasonal winner, and those eliminations can be emotional. On one of this season’s episodes, both camera and audio zoomed in on investigative alert as an eliminated contestant welcomed his coach’s consoling hug. We could hear his coach say, “This doesn’t end here; you’ll be part of my life forever.”
Whoa. Quite a promise to make!
It got me thinking about the promises we as managers make to the people we will coach, and about how careful we must be in making those promises. I know that I could never make a ‘forever’ promise to anyone, with the possible exception of forever loving my two children and their father.
A promise is not a bad thing; I’m not advising you to stay away from making them altogether. I’m advocating Mālama-valued care and Kuleana-valued accountability when you make them, with full intentions of upholding a promise made as the special commitment it is.
Upholding a promise takes a lot of work, and you’ve got to be willing to do that work, no matter what. Upholding a promise takes memory, and you’ve got to prepare for constancy, and for longevity. Upholding a promise takes unselfish compassion, and you’ve got to be ready for the rejection when the person you’ve made your promise to simply wants to be left alone ‘this time.’
Kinda heavy? Yeah, it is.
The Manager’s Oath
Yet promises come in different shapes and sizes, don’t they. Promises are made in context, and the person making his or her promise is wise to frame it well, opting for best timing, while being sensitive to caveats which seem to negate their good intentions.
The case can be well made for promises which are wonderful to make, and magnificent in their keeping, for they mark significant beginnings where, “The best is yet to come.”
Management is one of those cases, as managing meant.
A promise helps make management a partnership rather than a directive.
Here is a sampling of promises every Alaka‘i Manager can challenge themselves to make. Collectively, I think of them as a manager’s oath, and a manager’s growth.
- I promise to be clear, and to tell the truth, even when it is difficult to do so.
- I promise to listen to you with positive expectancy, even when you’re feeling negative.
- I promise to be your coach, and to be your partner. I promise to be a good boss.
- I promise to provide you with the resources you need from me, and help you find others.
- I promise to make work safe for you, both physically and emotionally.
- I promise to learn with you, and innovate with you, keeping our work interesting, joyful and worthwhile.
- I promise to converse with you regularly, and help you find growth in our partnership.
- I promise to answer your concerns, and to follow up when I say I will. I promise to keep my word.
- I promise to believe in you, and be your mentor and champion even when you don’t believe in yourself.
- I promise I will question you when I should be smart enough, and brave enough to do so.
- I promise I will challenge you to be better, and to fill your capacities, helping you banish boredom and complacency, replacing those ills with curiosity and wonder.
- I promise I will constantly encourage you, talking you through your mistakes, and helping you ‘fail forward’ whenever setbacks happen.
- I promise I will never, ever, take you for granted.
- I promise to be trustworthy, so you always feel you can confide in me.
- I promise to behave well, aspiring to consistently be the person you can admire and look up to.
The kaona of Ho‘ohiki:
Hiki means ‘Can do.’ Ability is present, and it awaits intention and/or opportunity.
To Ho‘o is to ‘Make happen.’
Thus Ho‘ohiki is to deliver, and to deliver fully.
— On Ho‘ohiki: Keeping your promises
What other promises would you add to a manager’s oath?
It very well may be that coach on The Voice did not make that promise lightly, but with full intention, commitment, and sweet anticipation for the relationship promising to unfold. I hope so. The Voice does seem to have those prospects for magnificent mentoring, where a seasoned celebrity can teach, support, and continually encourage a new artist — prospects as held by every workplace, and every boss / manager / employee / partner relationship within it.
And you, as an Alaka‘i Manager?
Alaka‘i — you can lead the way by merit of your initiative and good example. Be courageous in your working partnerships. Lead with your initiative, in making the promises of A Manager’s Oath, weaving them into your Ho‘ohana. Lead with your good example, by demonstrating how good promises play out in healthy workplaces.
No one will expect this complete oath from you overnight, and we know the role of the manager may need reconstruction. Be patient, and grow into each promise, enjoying the partnerships which result for you.
An excerpt from — A Manager’s Calling, the The 10 Beliefs of Great Managers:
2. Great managers believe they do not work ON or FOR their people, they work WITH them as peers; they enable and empower them.
7. Great managers believe the people they manage are more than capable of creating a better future, and will when given that chance. They hold great faith and trust in the four-fold human capacities of physical ability, intellect, emotion, and spirit.
9. Great managers believe it’s their job to remove barriers, obstacles, and excuses, so people can attain the level of greatness they are destined for. They believe that “I can’t” is a temporary state of affairs, and they’ll be intent on flushing out the “won’t” within that “can’t.”
10. Great managers believe that their own legacy will be in the other people they have helped achieve worthwhile and meaningful goals. They believe their personal success is measured in those people who thrive and prosper within their care.