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"Your own belief that the people you manage are innately good is the single most important prerequisite to your own success as their manager."

Rosa Say
Author, "Managing with Aloha"


The boss, island style

A former tourism executive
has written a book about what
made a difference in her career

IAM CONVINCED that good management must start with good intent. There simply is no other way.

Managers who feel that people inherently need to be worked on and reshaped to their own design are dangerous. They shouldn't be in any aspect of management that affects people at all.

Get an Autographed Copy

Rosa Say will be signing copies of "Managing with Aloha" at the following locations:

» Dec. 21, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Best Sellers Book Store, Bishop Square
» Dec. 23, 6 to 7 p.m., Borders Express, Kahala Mall

To be a great manager is to share the intent of Aloha. You must believe that your staff is innately good, worthy of the faith you place in them, and capable of great things.

Without this core belief to start with, everything else will just be too difficult, and you will fight battles you cannot win.

You cannot win as a manager if your employees cannot succeed working for you because you lack faith and trust in them.

Luckily for me, this understanding was one created in my own value system very early in my management career when I was a restaurant manager at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

IT WAS IN THE LATE 1970s of flower power, free love and the open experimentation with hallucinatory drugs. Most managers during this time became very good at diagnosing those employees who reported to work high and giddily happy or deeply brooding.

One afternoon I had a case of both collide in my restaurant kitchen, when a deeply brooding cook got into an argument with a giddily happy busboy and threw a knife at him. Thankfully, he missed, because the groggy busboy didn't have the instinct or reflexes to duck out of harm's way.

At the time, I was too green a manager to know I couldn't -- or shouldn't -- do so, and I fired both on the spot.

I then left the restaurant in the hands of my hostess, grabbed another manager for help, and drove both employees home so they could "come down," delivering them safely to their families, and explaining why.

Later my human resources department would have to clean up the legalities for me, conducting the process of investigation, documentation and decision by committee that normally precedes actually terminating someone. For my part, I was too obsessed with the question of what these guys would do now, knowing they both needed the jobs I'd so quickly and impulsively stripped away from them. And I'd met their families; wasn't there more they expected me to do?

Over the weeks that followed, I ended up checking them both into a rehab program with the agreement that the hotel would pay for it, a commitment well outside the realm of my own authority. Further, I promised they'd get their jobs back if they graduated clean, a promise I had no right to make.

My own boss went nuts when he learned I was still involved. He wouldn't tell the HR director what I did -- I still don't know who paid the rehab bill -- and he made me promise I wouldn't tell her either.

Fortunately, he still wanted to keep me around in spite of his feeling that I'd suffered some serious lapses in judgment dealing with the entire episode. I believed I'd done the right thing. However, my boss didn't expect them to make it, and he was both amazed and outraged I'd accepted more responsibility for them.

My boss underestimated them: Both would graduate the rehab program.

My reward came the day I got a phone call from one of their mothers. She wanted to say thank you; she felt that my firing her son was the best thing that could have happened to him and for her family. I've never forgotten her words: "We are so blessed that you gave him your Aloha, even on the day you fired him and brought him home to us. That was what he needed most of all, because we didn't know he had this problem. He is fine today only because you gave him your Aloha; you knew he wasn't just some terrible person."

He was a good person who had made a bad mistake, a mistake Aloha allowed me to see beyond so he could get the help he needed.

TO BE A GREAT MANAGER is to share the intent of Aloha. You must believe that your staff is innately good, worthy of the faith you place in them and capable of great things. Their success will lead to your own.

Do you have an employee who is disappointing you? Look for the reason, and look for the good within them. They may be in the wrong job at the wrong time in the wrong circumstance.

Look for the ways in which they are good and strong, and put them in a position where their goodness and their strengths serve them best.

Share you own Aloha and you'll more easily figure out how you can get them back on track.

Can you do this with every candidate that walks through the door?

Can you believe in the good in everyone?

To be realistic about this, probably not. Therefore, as a manager, interview, recruitment, selection and hiring will be the most important things you do. In addition, your employees must have enough open capacity in their lives for the job you offer them.

THE POINT I must emphasize is this: When you do hire, select employees you believe in and are willing to create a relationship with. You must be able to give them your Aloha, sincerely and completely without reservations.

Managers manage through other people -- technicians manage systems and processes. Your own belief that the people you manage are innately good is the single most important prerequisite to your own success as their manager.

You needn't say the words outright that you love them, but they must feel that you do.

Rosa Say is founder of Say Leadership Coaching. This essay is excerpted from her new book "Managing with Aloha." She can be reached at 833-9122 or via www.sayleadershipcoaching.com

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