D5M: The Daily Five Minutes

“We learn best from other people… you cannot replace the interchange that happens between human beings when you ‘ōlelo and talk story with each other. Learning is as much about the questioning, and the requests for clarification and complete understanding… Know well. Grab your opportunity to learn from each other and to know all you wish to know.
Managing with Aloha, chapter 11: ‘Ike loa

“We learn best from other people” is the core belief of the Daily 5 Minutes, a workplace practice which is the nucleus of action within the Managing with Aloha philosophy. It is a tool turned habit, in which conversation with others rules supreme.

Conversation allows us to get into each other’s heads in a way that is natural to us as human beings, for mind reading isn’t a skill we possess. When we have the good intention of learning the whole value of what’s there, within another person’s mindfulness, we can more fully discover and honor the abundance and wonder of someone’s Aloha Spirit, and conversation isn’t intrusive: It becomes time to learn from each other with respect, and with Aloha.

People surround us, waiting for us to interview them, and ask them questions about what is most important to them, and why. They have the potential to be the best teachers we have ever had, and ever will have, for people are open books, written with the wealth of their experiences yet reading far beyond the past tense. They continue to be vibrantly alive, perpetually thinking, and willing to share their thoughts with us, wrapped in both the simplicity and complexity of that beautiful weaving of belief, conviction and spirit we in Hawai‘i call their mana‘o.

All we have to do is ask.

But do we? Sincerely, and genuinely ready to listen as patiently and completely as need be?

Alaka‘i Managers value Conversation

As the author of Managing with Aloha, I have high expectations of the manager who aspires to be a model of the philosophy, and this is one of the biggest ones:

If you’re not giving your staff the gift of the Daily Five Minutes, you’re NOT “Managing with Aloha” — that’s how critical the practice of daily, “keeping it real” conversation is in a healthy workplace.

Managers will push back at first, and say, “But I talk to my people every day!”

Do you? Is that what they’ll tell me too? What do you talk about?

I know it seems awfully presumptuous at first, that I want to teach you how to newly converse with your people — and teach them to speak up, open up, and converse with you. So give me a few minutes, and read more on what D5M is all about, and decide for yourself: What value can you gain in trying it?

Here is an excerpt taken directly from the pages of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. It covers two sections within ‘Ike loa, the chapter on the Hawaiian value of learning. If you prefer, you can read the entire chapter here.

The Daily Five Minutes

Perhaps my most valuable lesson in ‘Ike loa was the one born at Hualalai out of our desire to know our employees well. We instinctively knew we could manage better the more intimately we knew those we managed. ‘Ike loa became the birthplace of a core standard we initiated with all managers called “The Daily Five Minutes.” It started as an experiment, and it was so effective that it became non-negotiable as a habit my managers were required to cultivate and practice daily.

It is a simple habit: Each day, without fail, managers are to give five minutes of no-agenda time to at least one of their employees. They’d log the event in a simple checklist of names to ensure they didn’t miss anyone, and they’d speak to each employee in turn on a regular basis.

To be honest, my initial goal was actually to give the managers daily practice in the art of listening well, for I was trying to come up with a solution for the common complaint that “my manager doesn’t ask for my input and feedback, and if I do give it, he/she doesn’t really listen well to what I’m trying to explain to them.” I reasoned that if they had no agenda themselves with this Daily Five Minutes, they wouldn’t half-listen as they mentally prepared what they’d say when they could get a word in. Employees were brought into the plan and openly told about the program: They were asked to prepare something, and be ready to fill the silence when a manager approached them and said, “How about a break from the action here, let’s step away and Take 5.”

In the beginning, the managers were cautioned to give themselves a good 15 to 30-minute window, for there’d likely be some pent-up stuff that had to come out. However, over time, the managers who kept up the habit discovered their Daily Five Minutes rarely stretched over 10. This is what happened: In the process of developing this habit, they greatly improved their own approachability. They had nurtured a circle of comfort for their employees to step into and talk to them —whenever time presented itself. The Daily Five Minutes itself soon became a more personal thing. Employees started to share their lives with them —what they did over the weekend, how their kids were doing in school, how they felt about a local news story. Managers began to know their employees very well, and their employees began to relate to them more as people and not just as managers. They were practicing the art of ‘Ike loa together.

Knowing well enhances relationships

Benefits from the Daily Five Minutes piled up: Managers ceased to judge employee situations prematurely, for they had built up a relationship that demanded all be allowed to speak first —and they wanted to speak with their employees, sure they’d receive more clarity. The Daily Five Minutes became a safe zone where employees felt they could talk story with their manager “off the record,” and managers learned to ask, “Are you venting, or asking for help? Do I keep this in confidence, or do you expect me to take action?” It became clearer who was responsible for following up on things. Managers had less and less of those “If only I had known about this sooner” surprises.

Employees began to initiate the Daily Five Minutes themselves, both with their managers and with other employees they wanted to know better. Everyone learned to say “no” and to be more respectful of time issues, saying scripted sentences that were non-emotional: “Now is not the best time, but I promise to Take 5 with you later.” Everyone became much better at reading expressions and body language, a skill that had added benefits when they were dealing with the customers. Cultural barriers started to break down, because managers started to learn the “communication language” they needed to use to relate to each employee as an individual, and they gained better understanding of the “sense of place” of each one.

So you see, ‘Ike loa promotes all types of knowledge, and it is just knowing, and knowing well. When programs like the Daily Five Minutes give it form, even spontaneous unrehearsed conversation can erase confusion, and replace wrong assumptions with the right information. Personally, I have an ongoing and passionate love affair with books and the written word, yet some of my best knowledge has simply come from talking story with my staff: They are exceptionally patient teachers.

The D5M Workshop: The Daily 5 Minutes: 3 Values, 9 Questions

To give managers the best overall view of the D5M in a workshop setting, I have a teaching model I use with 3 Values, 9 Questions. These are the 9 questions which cover our Daily 5 Minutes basics:

  1. What is it?
  2. Why must it become my habit?
  3. What’s the benefit to me, as a manager?
  4. What’s the benefit for my staff?
  5. How do I get started?
  6. Who should I start with?
  7. How do I give The Daily 5 Minutes?
  8. How do I receive The Daily 5 Minutes if it’s offered to me?
  9. How do I end the conversation, and end it well?

To frame this practical how-to, we also cover three of the values in Managing with Aloha that align with The Daily Five Minutes in healthy culture building:

Humility — Ha‘aha‘a

The value of humility helps us be open to what we can receive from others, being willing to have them connect with us, and affect us in a transformational way. It’s an important, and extremely helpful part of preparing to trust, where we’re preparing for a slightly different relationship within a newly stretched Circle of Comfort. There is also this amazing aha! moment awaiting you in learning more about humility: Being humble is never lowly; it actually lifts us up in a higher expectation, for humility is the act of appreciating and accepting good from others, from a place of strength and confidence in one’s self-esteem. Therefore, to learn more humility is also to strengthen one’s sense of belonging. Modesty is valued because it strikes such a perfect balance with ego (or so we think, and believing that it does serves a good purpose.) I love how the Hawaiian word for humility, Ha‘aha‘a visually reminds us we can even laugh at ourselves!

Inclusiveness — Kākou

In a healthy workplace culture, inclusiveness promotes ‘all in’ togetherness without harmful cult-like obedience — the best following is not a passive activity, for people are working on their own value alignment constantly while participating in culture-building. This is a value which smartly assumes everyone has a contribution to make, with differences representing vested interestingness rather than variation. When inclusiveness is a shared value within a team, the ‘language of we’ will be spoken more often than not, for ‘we’ is an agreement-seeking word by nature (as is Kākou in the Hawaiian language). Thus we think of inclusiveness as the value of complete, and effective communication because it is all-encompassing while open to the healthy debate sparked by curiosity and inquisitiveness. Inclusive communication embraces diversity and independent, creative thinking along with a desire for cooperation and synergy; there’s stretch in play. Inclusiveness connects everyone in an organization with this merriment of dotted lines, so that all on a workplace team feel they’ll be “in the know” when big-picture awareness becomes most necessary. Everyone is conversing, aware of conversation’s vital importance, which potentially means that everyone is being heard.

Learning — ‘Ike loa

The value of learning is already attractive to most people, however it can be overwhelming too, for the more you learn the more you realize how much you don’t yet know! Thus people approach learning in different ways: Some consider it more strength than value, depending on which they feel the need to concentrate on. Each of these strategies have merit, and we can work on them simultaneously as we converse. Within D5M we focus on the knowledge we gain by specifically learning from other people — we value what we come to know on a human level, functioning as human beings do, and we both become stronger in sharing that experiential knowledge with each other more deliberately than we have in the past: We turbo charge learning’s positive feedback loop. Once Circle of Comfort kicks in well, everything becomes fair game in D5M conversations because there is no reason to hold back: As manager, you learn of your partner’s actual work activities, i.e. what they do versus what you think they do, and without having to micro manage them to find out. You will discover the knowledge which resides in other people as a result of actual practice (we repeat what works well, and discard what doesn’t), and in the workplace, that’s significant — the asset of human experience need never be lost or forgotten because it always remains in play.

A test run of The Daily Five Minutes, tailored for your workplace culture, will be a pilot project all participants are assigned to complete as workshop follow-up. It is a pilot designed for personal habit building.

Your time is one of the most precious resources you have, and to give it as a gift to someone in the form of the Daily 5 Minutes just may be one of the best workplace expressions of unconditional Aloha there is.

Trust in your good intentions: Getting into the D5M is not about the structure or circumstances being just right, it is about our intention to give a gift of time and personal attention to someone else. That’s the heart and soul of it, and where the goodness comes back to you. Start today.

The D5M Workshop is a full-day class, and can also be done as 2 half-day workshops. Participants need not have read Managing with Aloha as a prerequisite of this class.

Is your workplace ready for The Daily Five Minutes?

Here are two related essays on Managing with Aloha which will give you food for further thought:

1. Speak up, I’m listening.

These may be the most powerful words a manager can say. “Speak up, I’m listening.”

Those words frame an invitation, and they make a promise. To tell someone “I’m listening” is to tell them “I want to know what you’re thinking, and hear what you have to say.”

2. Revisiting the Daily 5 Minutes: Lessons Learned.

For best results, let’s seed fertile ground.
Managers can be wary, and rightfully so: They fear that initiating a D5M practice will mean they’ll bite off more than they can chew, and it’s better not to open that can of worms! My case history (in coaching across various industries) has proven to me that every time D5M didn’t take hold in a company those apprehensive managers were right — they weren’t ready.”