Ho‘okipa, the Value of Complete Giving

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine: January/February 2014 Hawai‘i island issue.
Previously in this series: Kūlia i ka nu‘u, the Value of Achievement

5 Essentials Employees Need to Learn — From You
Several years ago, I walked into a drugstore with my boss, and was able to witness his conversation with the store clerk. He handed over his business card at the end of their chat, shook the clerk’s hand, and said, “If you ever become unhappy here, please call me, for I’ll have a job waiting for you.” He wrote the clerk’s name on the store receipt, tucking it into his pocket. As we walked out, I asked, “What do you see in him?” for lively as it was, their conversation had nothing interview-conventional about it, and he said, “He’s Mea Ho‘okipa through and through, and that means we need him more than he’ll ever need any job.”

The clerk took him up on the offer a few months later and became a magnetic force with our guests. Everyone loved working on shift with him, and he was the teacher my boss knew he would be, teaching by merit of his good example. So deeply is his behavior rooted in his values that he couldn’t do otherwise, even if he tried (not that he would).

Ho‘okipa is widely known as the value of service and hospitality in our Hawai‘i, and admirably so, for it has much to teach us within that framing. In the Managing with Aloha philosophy, we’ve described it as ‘the hospitality of complete giving,’ because we ask Alaka‘i Managers to dig deeper, and to take the lead of those we call Mea Ho‘okipa, wherever they happen to occupy the company’s org chart. Mea Ho‘okipa is a recognition of character, and of self-expression rooted firmly in Aloha, sharing one’s value-driven breath of life.

From chapter 6: “If you were called Mea Ho‘okipa in old Hawai‘i, it was a compliment of the highest possible order. It meant that the person who accorded you that recognition felt that you embodied a nature of absolute unselfishness… The Mea Ho‘okipa were those who seemed to radiate well-being, having an inner peace and joy that came from the total satisfaction they received from their acts of giving.”

This radiance of well-being, is what we on the receiving end of great service, think of as experiencing our server’s genuine sincerity. It is a highly competent service experience without anything scripted or staged about it. It is the service of Aloha intention in all the personal purity of Lokomaika‘i — the ‘generosity of good heart.’ Just writing those words makes me sigh with pleasure! To be on the receiving end of this kind of service, this Ho‘okipa, well, it just doesn’t get better than that, does it.

The question then, for all of us who are business owners and managers, is very clear: How do we ensure the Ho‘okipa experience happens for all our customers? Even better, how do we ensure the Ho‘okipa experience happens for every single person our business endeavor touches and will affect?

Some say they see age or tenure connections to exemplary service, and that true Ho‘okipa is a value we grow toward. Yet stories abound telling of how the very young serve others, setting magnificent examples for all who are supposedly older and wiser. To serve as the Mea Ho‘okipa do, is simply another calling, one more pressing to a person’s values than other callings may be, and that person is in their sweet spot of readiness for it. Growth’s wisdom can certainly enhance capability, but service in the art of Ho‘okipa is not something any business can afford to wait for: You must attain it now, and you can. Groom your readiness now.

When I ask my how-to question of the experts, the Mea Ho‘okipa themselves, a common theme I hear in their responses is, “Don’t over complicate it.” They do feel competence is important, and they appreciate all the training a manager ever invested in them, but what they appreciate most, is that their managers turned them loose, letting them fly and soar on their own once the training was done. They could make service personal. Competence was their launching pad, but it was also a kind of spigot which turned on the expressions of Ho‘okipa they already had inside them, waiting for the right opportunities to get released, and get applied. Job descriptions functioned like a car’s starter, but the Mea Ho‘okipa were the engine, fueled by their Aloha-rooted values and raring to go.

So this issue, I ask you: How can you make Ho‘okipa happen without overly complicating it? Identify your Mea Ho‘okipa, employ them well — so they radiate their joy — and allow them to teach you. Getting Ho‘okipa to happen in your workplace world of business will be the best way to celebrate 2014 as Ka lā hiki ola — the dawning of a whole new day.

Until next time ~ Rosa Say

5 Essentials Employees Need to Learn — From You

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

Next in this series: ‘Ohana, the value of family Aloha.