‘Ike loa, the value of learning

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine: November/December 2014 Hawai‘i island issue.
Previously in this series: Kuleana, the value of personal responsibility.
The column introduction may be read here: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?”

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New knowledge is food for mind, heart and soul. Without it, you deny yourself vital nourishment for overall well-being. We grow as we learn, and as we seek to know, and know well.

Seeking knowledge is not a passive affair. Learning is extremely active, and wonderfully energizing. Consider reading: Every person who has settled into the comfort of their couch to read a good book, has had that enlivening moment where they jump up to capture an idea, or have a conversation that will not wait, because they were compelled by something within that book’s pages — fresh learning, and a tidbit of knowledge that lit up their brainwaves, causing them to act immediately.

As a businessperson, you’re guaranteed learning’s ample availability in all partnerships. Every human being on the planet has the capacity to learn; it’s the survival instinct of our species. The more we engage with our learning, the more it demands that we make our newfound knowledge useful, and in the process, make our lives more interesting. Fascinating creatures that we are, mere survival is not enough for us to enjoy a fulfilling life, or be satisfied with a ‘decent job.’ We want to know so much, and we want to know it well.

You want this life-enhancing rejuvenation for yourself, and you want it for everyone around you. The value of ‘Ike loa is your guarantee too, assuring that lifelong learning is a value-based choice you intentionally make. Value drivers make our chosen endeavors conscious and constant: To choose ‘Ike loa, is to decide that learning is a basic necessity for you, and not an occasional luxury.

A manager of people must be a learner, and they must dedicate themselves to non-stop, sequential and consequential learning. Sequential in that it builds upon previous lessons learned, and it takes you through a process where you question instruction and do not always accept what you are taught at face value; you polish it like a gem in your mind until it rings true for you. Consequential in that it is worthwhile; it makes a difference for you, and you aren’t simply collecting lessons on some scorecard. There’s personal take-away in it for you, a keeper. Now that you know it, you’re going to use it.

To a business, knowledge is the asset of intellectual capital, and the activities of highly engaged learning are priceless experience. Alaka‘i managers have intellectual capital in good supply, because they intentionally work at gaining it through active, engaging experiences. Knowing too, that they have an abundance of knowledge readily available within others, they work at challenging and inspiring their team, keeping knowledge updated, refreshed by newly workable pathways, and in constant Kākou / Lōkahi circulation.

‘Ike loa naturally comes to mind whenever I consider Kuleana and one’s personal sense of responsibility. As Jan Carlzon, former CEO of Scandinavian Airlines Systems would say, “an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.” I’ve experienced this consistently within my own career and in coaching others, and it became a co-ownership strategy for me as a manager, helping me treat my direct reports as true partners more readily. When a manager fosters learning they are not just passing out information, they are teaching people how to think, and encouraging them to do so more independently, so they may share their sequential and consequential results, doing so confidently and courageously.

At a client’s request, I once interviewed a gentleman with years of experience in his field, who was candidate for an executive opening in their company. He had been associated with organizations I recognized as firms known for their quality standards and highly ethical reputations. He was professional, articulate and charming. Early in our conversation, I could tell his personality would assure him quick acceptance with my client’s staff and with their customers, and he revealed substantial character when he spoke about the values he believed in. However, the interview was over for me when I asked him, “What have you read, or learned of lately?” and he responded, “Oh, I don’t read much. Just the occasional golf or travel magazine.”

Was that single-minded of me? The position this gentleman was applying for required that he exhibit rousing leadership; he would lead other managers and his operation needed to consistently deal with new variables that had emerged in the marketplace within which my client competed. I could not fathom how he would possibly conjure up leadership that would inspire others to follow if he was not linked into learning habits that would inspire him. Energy begets energy, and when people are not up for work on any given day, it is the manager who must be the catalyst that energizes them. That’s a hefty requirement, and one we need to continually replenish.

Until next time ~ Rosa Say

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

Next in this series: Ha‘aha‘a the value of humility, as published in the January/February 2015 issue of Ke Ola Magazine.