Ho‘ohana as our Work Ethic

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine, September/October 2016 Hawai‘i Island issue.
Links are additions made expressly for the readers of this site and ManagingWithAloha.com.
Previously in this series: Aloha ~ “for real.” (Second in Series 2)

Ho‘ohana as our Work Ethic

Ho‘ohana is the value of worthwhile work.
Work with purpose, and full intention.
Work so it matters, and becomes fulfilling.

Aloha mai kākou,

Ho‘ohana values the work ethic we most admire. I’m constantly able to observe work ethic within my client work and partnerships, and I notice: Work ethic is more than professionalism in the Aloha Intention we call “Working with Aloha.”

We think of good work ethic as a desirable character trait, because we value usefulness, and we admire noble effort in worthwhile productivity. We acknowledge hard work as work ethic, equating it with discipline, diligence, and even with moral character or civic virtue.

We recognize that there are extremes, such as workaholic behaviors, and nose-to-the-grindstone habits at the polar opposite of big-picture thinking and all-team awareness. Overall, we live in times where we ache for work ethic’s comfortable middle ground, where notable, team-conducive and mission-reliable work habits dwell in workplace culture, yet those habits won’t drain us—we can have the lifestyle of living with Aloha too.

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In Hawai‘i’s ‘Ōlelo, hana is the Hawaiian word for work, and hana is quite the four-letter gem, for it packages ha, the breath of life, and na to imply intrinsic belonging. Thus hana, is work belonging to the breath of our life’s expression of who we are, what we can do, and what we are meant to do. The work of hana celebrates our identity, and to Ho‘ohana is to identify with our work purposefully and intentionally, so all the work we do matters, and feels worthwhile to us.

Universally, we consider ‘ethic’ quite a gem as well, and not just in business. We think of a person’s ethic as being connected to their dignity and integrity. Our ethics are what we stand up for as our standards’ bearers, our convictions; they are our moral principles.

When we think of work ethic, we associate it with people individually as their human brand, and their brand is what we hope for as our guarantee of the quality of their work.

Most of us don’t differentiate between a person’s values and their moral principles. In hiring and partnering, we’ve selected someone expecting we’ll get both. We expect their values and moral principles will indeed be reflected in the work they’ll do for us, with work ethic the result.

Therefore, in performance appraisals, we often rate work ethic as the first thing we associate with job performance. We aren’t really rating the particulars of a person’s ethics, because we assume everyone wants to be branded with good ones; we rate whether or not a person has been delivering on their work ethic, or hasn’t adequately bothered to do so. As we say in Managing with Aloha, has it been intentional enough, to matter to that person, and to factor into our business.

Oddly, we will usually sidestep the integrity part of work ethic in those appraisals though, uncomfortable with challenging it. We focus instead, on the specifics of job quality, and a person’s emphasis on that quality: Have they taken personal responsibility for assuring work quality? Have they been diligent about it, dedicated to it, and disciplined with it?

When we rate that person on teamwork, we’re rating if they’ve been collaborative in their job performance, so their work ethic becomes desirably contagious, getting magnified in partnering and group endeavor as well.

If you visit me at ManagingWithAloha.com this is what you’ll read on my site’s About Page:

“We work on work here. In my mana‘o (feelings driving one’s beliefs) people are too big for jobs and always have been. We don’t fit into them completely enough. Jobs tend to be about specialization, and while there’s merit in expertise, we humans are magnificent generalists. Work however, can be a whole different matter, for work as Ho‘ohana is a values-driven concept of abundance and growth, and it allows us more freedom to explore and experiment: We can be curious without apology. We can be more imaginative.”

Imagination is a funny thing within the workplace though. We usually don’t allow for imagination immediately, not until a person has proven themselves with quality baseline work, delivered with exceptional work ethic.

Let’s speed that up. Let’s not assign an unreasonable time frame to perfunctory ‘baseline expectations.’ Allow for imagination and creativity sooner. Let’s be sure we Ho‘ohana as our value, and celebrate intrinsic, breath-of-Aloha work each and every day.

When we talk about culture-building by managing with Aloha as philosophy, we’re really talking about creating an environment for work expression to happen, making it easy, natural, and rewarding for people to work in an exemplary way natural to their Aloha Spirit, and imbued with work ethic of the highest caliber.

Next issue: We revisit ‘Imi ola, the value of mission and vision.

Rosa Say is a workplace culture coach, a zealous advocate of the Alaka‘i Manager, and the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. Contact Rosa at www.RosaSay.com, and discover more about the Managing with Aloha philosophy at www.ManagingWithAloha.com.


Postscript: Ke Ola is published 6 times a year, and distributed in print on Hawai‘i Island and by subscription. I have therefore made a practice of archiving the articles on RosaSay.com for any within our Ho‘ohana Community who may want to read them.

You can access all 20 articles I had written for Series 1 via this index. The inaugural column for Series 1 may be read here: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?” and here for Series 2: Aloha Intentions.