Mālama, the value of Stewardship

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine: July/August 2015 Hawai‘i Island issue.
Previously in this series: Alaka‘i, the value of leadership.


“To Mālama is to take care of.
To serve and to honor,
 to protect and care for.”

I have a client who refers to Mālama as “my take care of business value.” I love his focus with Mālama’s value alignment, and I couldn’t agree more.

To ‘take care of business’ in your culture-building with Mālama, is to constantly assess the health of your business assets — all of them collectively, and each of them in turn. Loyal customers, valuable employees, a highly-trafficked storefront, quick-replace inventory… make a list, and you will quickly see that ‘your assets’ covers a lot of ground core-critical to the very logic of the way you do business. Mālama is exceptional at helping you trouble-shoot problems and uncover opportunities in your basic business model so you can attain the best health of an ‘Ohana in Business.

You’re busy. Day to day ‘business as usual’ can be attention-grabbing, time-consuming, and grueling. The unexpected crops up in some incarnation on a near daily basis. It can sap your analytical and creative energies in the best of times, and consistent work on value alignment — in this case, on Mālama — is the better strategy of tackling ‘business as usual’ and turning it into something you feel good about.

Let’s consider an example in Mālama’s problem-solving and focus on a very important asset: Your staff. How can value-alignment on Mālama assure that whenever you say, “Our people are our most important asset” you truly mean it, and your staff enthusiastically voice their agreement? How can you be sure your customers are served by happy and productive employees who will also keep your best business interests in mind? How do you illustrate your Mālama every day in everything you do, so you retain those people as your staff, and as people who cannot imagine working anywhere else than with you?

For example, and to illustrate the direct connection to a business model, adopting and honoring the value of Mālama will guarantee that you never fall into the trap of overtime abuse, something that has become an all to common practice in the years subsequent to the 2008 recession. A hotel worker recently showed me his pay stub as explanation for why he couldn’t schedule a badly needed dentist appointment: He’d just logged a total of 123 hours in 2 weeks time — 43 more than the 80 one would expect, saying that this was his “new normal at work, ever since the Christmas rush.” Auwe!

Employers mistakenly feel there is an appreciation for overtime pay. Occasionally, maybe. As the normal way they do business? Absolutely not. What staff appreciate even more, is respect for the time off they have earned within their delivery of a reasonable work schedule — respect shown to them and to their families. Overtime should be a rare contingency, and certainly not the way a business person avoids increasing staffing pars, and paying the benefit package that should rightfully, decently, and morally accompany part-time, full-time, and salaried employment. If a business cannot afford to schedule correctly and compensate fairly, there is definitely a glitch in their business model which must be corrected, whether it calls for increasing revenues, cutting costs in other areas, or a balanced approach with both strategies. To expect employees to make up labor and equipment shortfalls with overtime or unreasonable workloads (e.g. one person expected to do the work of two) is simply wrong, and these practices would be clearly seen as the abuse they are through the value lens of Mālama.

As unbelievable as it may sound, I’ve had employers debate me on shades of right and wrong in the overtime/overwork abuse issue, yet they eventually get clear on this certainty: If you abuse your staff, they will assure you pay for that abuse in another way, be it in the faulty delivery of the service they give —“I can’t help it!”…“I don’t have the time!”— or in their disregard for, and lack of stewardship of your other assets — “We don’t have the equipment for this job; none of our repairs have been made. You know how hard I’m working, but something had to give!”

We often think of Mālama as a value that goes the extra mile, such as with additional investments given to community in Mālama ‘āina, or extra compassion demonstrated through a Ho‘oponopono session or customer focus group. However think about taking care of business in a more basic way, wherein you systematically audit the core standards of your business model. ‘Extra’ becomes a very logical opportunity for you, such as with the smart re-entry we can offer within a Light Duty program which decreases expenses in prolonged periods of layoff or due to Worker’s Compensation, while simultaneously increasing morale. Streamlining and continuous improvement guided by the value of Mālama will directly contribute to strengthening a sustainable workplace culture.

Until next time ~ Rosa Say


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

Next in this series: Mahalo, the value of thankful perspective.
The inaugural column for this series may be read here: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?”