“Kuleana is one’s personal sense of responsibility. ‘I accept my responsibilities, and I will be held accountable.’” Eleventh in Series Two on Managing with Aloha
By Rosa Say
All coaches fall back on a stable of self-coaching phrases they’ve learned to trust in over time; short, pithy maxims expressing a general truth or rule of conduct. These serve as mantras, affirmations, and reliable catch phrases which people can recall to remember useful principles which will continue to encourage and guide them once their coaching programs are over.
One of mine as a workplace culture coach, is “motivation is an inside job.” I talk to my coaching clients about why self-motivation is really the only type of motivation there is. We talk about how motivation works, to better understand where they come in as managers who support another’s Ho‘ohana (the intention of worthwhile work) and Kuleana.
Practically speaking, in the language of Managing with Aloha: Ho‘ohana + Kuleana = Self-Motivation.
No matter how good Alaka‘i Managers aspire to be, they cannot get someone to do anything that person does not want to do—at least not decently well. Coerced, obedient work is not good work. Job performance without Ho‘ohana is without heart or soul, and it’s rarely worth doing at all. Routine work, where someone goes through the motions of it methodically, is boring work which breeds mediocrity and drains a person’s energy, squandering the most precious workplace resource you both have; you’d achieve better by automating, outsourcing, or eliminating that job altogether.
The job itself may be necessary to a business, but not all jobs contribute to healthy culture-building, whereas “Working with Aloha” is the match made in Kuleana heaven. It happens when the right person is matched to performing that job—it intersects with their Ho‘ohana and helps them accomplish it. Recognizing this, that person decides the job will be part of their Kuleana, their personal and professional responsibility.
They don’t just accept it; they have a sense of urgency which compels them to grab onto it and jump in wholeheartedly—that’s when you know they are self-motivated. That’s when you know they will also be self-directed, and as their manager, you must figure out how you will support them without any drag or interference. They are their own engine. You are their energy booster whenever needed. You help by aligning their focus with precise, meaningful actions.
Kuleana helps explain mana‘o (personal belief) by articulating the responsibility a person wants to take, and is completely willing to be held accountable for. Through Kuleana’s self-expression, we understand how taking responsibility shapes who we are, and who we are capable of being. We’re self-motivated because we know that a significant part of a “job well done” is that we become well done too.
Kuleana is jam-packed with the workplace deliverables managers hope for within exceptional job performance. Personal responsibility. Easily engaged initiative. Self-assured empowerment. Explored opportunity. Thorough investigation and inventive experimentation. Complete ownership, and hence, blameless accountability. Compared to the “Language of We” in Lōkahi and Kākou, Kuleana is the “Language of Mine.”
Jobs are not chores (and managers are not parents). We were assigned chores when we were children, and we accepted responsibility for them as our family obligation. Our parents also assigned chores to us with free-wheeling experimentation and would change it up when we had siblings or aged, reshuffling those assignments to see who’d latch on to the chore best, and when. They did this to teach us Kuleana, however being ‘all grown up’ means you’re the one self-assigning your work and eventually, your Ho‘ohana: Did you learn the lessons your parents hoped to teach you about valuing responsibility in yourself, and with Mahalo for the contributions of others?
Kuleana is now something you deliberately choose because you are self-motivated to do so; it is a choice you commit yourself to beyond simply accepting it, and for your self-expression of possibility.
Why would a manager want anything else, but a staff of people—their business partners in an ‘Ohana in Business—who are passionately self-motivated to excel through their chosen work, and thus, become better versions of themselves?
Why would you want anything else for yourself? Self-coaching in Kuleana is also a fantastic way to “be the change you want to see” in your work, in your life, and in our world. ❖
Next issue: We revisit ‘Ike loa, the value of learning.
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