Sixth in Series Two on Managing with Aloha
There are three different Hawaiian words used for the value of excellence and achievement in Hawai‘i today: Kela, Po‘okela, and Kūlia i ka nu‘u. It’s a very good example of how kaona, the hidden meanings often employed in ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, our language, affects what we do, by extension of what we actually mean when Speaking with Aloha, our 3rd Aloha Intention.
Kaona, however, can be tricky. Good business takes fewer chances.
Alaka‘i Managers prefer the deliberate and well-defined Language of Intention in communication, Managing with Aloha’s 5th key business concept. They understand how important a leader’s choice of vocabulary can be. We ‘walk our talk’ by having clearly understood talk to begin with. We marry implicit to explicit.
According to the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, Kela is “excelling, exceeding, projecting beyond, reaching high above” and in kaona can imply the ho‘okela of “outdo… show off… show preference… superior, vain.” This is quite different from Managing with Aloha’s relationship coaching within Kūlia i ka nu‘u’s value aligned practices, wherein “comparison and competition serves no purpose if its only goal is to leave someone else behind… strive to be your best, not just better than someone else.”
Pukui and Elbert define Po‘okela as “foremost, best, superior, prime, outstanding, greatest, supreme, utmost, superlative,” referring to achievement in its past tense more than its current effort. In kaona, po‘o is more about one’s head, and is directed toward intellectual pursuits and mental effort.
In comparison, we’ve chosen Kūlia i ka nu‘u for the Managing with Aloha philosophy, on mission with “bringing Hawai‘i’s universal values to the art of business,” to be a value of accomplishment through effort—through kūlia striving, and the exertion of physical and mental effort which strengthens one’s Ho‘ohana, one’s intention for worthwhile work. Emotional and spiritual efforts round out our essential capacities, and often come into play as well.
Values are connected to good intentions; they are the principles, beliefs and convictions which drive our better behaviors and our best decision-making. Therefore, I would suppose those who prefer to choose Kela or Po‘okela as their value, have those good intentions as well—both choices are certainly shorter, easier to say and remember than Kūlia i ka nu‘u!
In my mana‘o, as career manager, and the author and coach of Managing with Aloha, Kūlia i ka nu‘u was far more complete and comprehensive. As Kūlia i ka nu‘u’s inherent analogy to mountain climbing, “strive to reach the summit” became a highly useful visualization for coaching Ho‘ohana within workplace culture. In this analogy, Alaka‘i Managers are encouraged to kūlia sequentially and consequentially.
For example, project work could be outlined as;
1st peak to climb: Why and What—Design a good plan.
2nd peak: Who and How—Work on your communication, relationship and partnership with co-climbers.
3rd peak: When and How—Transition your plan and co-working readiness into managed with Aloha actions on-target with mission.
4th peak: Where and How—In all choices and decisions, be true to your values as you work and strive. Align well, and you enjoy the climb.
Be specific in every endeavor you take on: Name your peaks, and describe them for your own visual and tactical purposes. We’ve done this with our “Aloha Intentions” in this Ke Ola Magazine series as;
Peak 1: Living with Aloha
Peak 2: Working with Aloha
Peak 3: Speaking with Aloha
Peak 4: Managing with Aloha
Peak 5: Leading with Aloha
Kūlia i ka nu‘u was chosen for our Language of Intention because it encompasses Ha‘aha‘a as well, the value of humility.
Ha‘aha‘a teaches us to groom our character as good leaders and better managers with “a humility stemming from the utmost respect for others. There is nothing noble in being superior to someone else; true nobility is in being superior to your previous self, modestly and humbly open to growth learned from others… no individual can satisfy every need, and all in a ‘Ohana in Business are needed.”
Yet Kūlia i ka nu‘u also recognizes that individuals must work at being their best, and at contributing excellence to Kākou-Lōkahi teams which then benefit from positive contagiousness, where excellence permeates everything a team will do.
Kūlia i ka nu‘u is a value employing and directing the great abundance within human capacity. It trusts that we are always able to strengthen our capacity through acts of striving. Choose Kūlia i ka nu‘u as your value of excellence and achievement, and you choose human possibility.
Next issue: We revisit Ho‘okipa, the value of hospitality and service.