Kākou, the value of inclusiveness and the ‘Language of We’

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine: July/August 2014 Hawai‘i island issue.
Previously in this series: Lōkahi, the Value of Harmony and Unity


“All of us.” These are the words, the empowering force, and the strength of mind of Kākou. Kākou affirms the unity you were able to achieve in your efforts with Lōkahi, and it feels good.

Kākou is about inclusiveness, a state of belonging people thrive in. At its elemental core, the spirit of Kākou acknowledges that we are not on this Earth alone, and as the human race we will survive better in each other’s company, sharing the ups and downs of our day-to-day existence.

Kākou is less intimate than ‘Ohana, for it applies to everyone who surrounds you in the consciousness of some particular striving or effort or task, yet it is just as warm and inviting. For instance, when I address a group of people, large or small, I normally start with the words “Aloha mai kākou,” to convey that I offer my Aloha to everyone there. Mai kākou includes me as the speaker, and it’s my way of asking permission to be included in their conversation, and in their attentions.

Kākou promotes sharing, and making conscious effort to elevate the well-being that is felt with inclusiveness. When we teach the value of Kākou to our ‘Ohana in Business, we coach them to involve and include their peers in all they do, promoting Lōkahi and the team harmony that comes from intentional togetherness.

In the Managing with Aloha work culture, we consider Kākou to be our value of communication, for it teaches us to use the language of “we.”  The language of we stimulates ownership and personal responsibility in the all-encompassing initiatives of a company. If you hear your employees talk about “our company” versus “the company” you know you’re on the right track. They feel they have a stake in what you do, and they take actions they believe are important and worthwhile. They are your partners, and these words of inclusiveness imply that they feel their voices and opinions are considered carefully in the decisions you make. The language of we is one of collaboration and partnership, and it also implies agreement and support of your vision.

Every manager in Hawai‘i is well advised to respect the needs of our host culture by figuring out how to use the word Kākou in their own language, and in the sentences they say to their staff every day. For the beauty of Kākou is that it includes that manager and leader in whatever is being said. The message is explicitly clear that you are in it —whatever it is —with them. There is no me versus you, no us versus them, it’s all we and us. You may be the boss, but you are one of them. In a company you are all employees, you are all business partners, you are all on a mission. Your staff needs to hear this from you, and they can never hear it enough.

Let language lead to action: When you incorporate something into your language, into the words that people hear you speak often, you then have to walk your talk to keep your credibility and your integrity. The surest way to change your own behavior for the better is to speak the words that will force you to make it so. And the brave soul who will say to his or her staff with humility and sincerity, “I need you to help me with this,” often becomes their Kākou champion.

In our everyday work, Kākou will be activated in meetings, in group forums, and in individual conversations, wherein all communications aim for inclusiveness with a significant bonus: When you seek to create a forum for the collective brainpower of your staff to be voiced, you also gain this marvelous realization you can let go more as a leader. There is tremendous relief knowing you don’t have to be responsible for all which occurs, and be expected to know everything. You may never feasibly achieve as much on your own as you will with your ‘Ohana in Business, and not only is that okay, it’s better. You have harnessed the additional punch of accumulated experience and knowledge.

Management is situational, and as an art it can take some improvisation. To encourage and support each other through the situations that occur we need to talk to each other, constantly practicing improvements in what we say, and how we communicate. We can best do this by learning the language of we that Kākou teaches us to employ, creating forums for collaboration. The more we collaborate, the more we increase the probability of creating novel alternatives which are often the best way to proceed.

Until next time ~ Rosa Say


For more on Kākou, I invite you to visit my Kākou index archived on www.ManagingWithAloha.com

Next in this series: Kuleana the value of personal responsibility.