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Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership & Consensus

Aloha and thank you for continuing to visit this blawg, I hope your 2017 continues to be off to a great start.

If you are reading this post hoping it is a continuation from last week’s post on communication it is not directly related, but will still follow in the vein on the topic of communication.  Instead, this week, I would like to briefly turn your attention to one of America’s great leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. as we head into the long weekend celebrating his contributions to the Civil Rights movement.

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Honolulu Chinese Jaycees General Membership Meeting Featuring Rep. Karl Rhoads

What does leadership mean to you?
What does political leadership mean to you? 

These are questions that the Honolulu Chinese Jaycees (HCJ) discussed and had a presentation with Representative Karl Rhoads at their General Membership Meeting held this past August.  Before, I touch upon some of the words that Representative Rhoads imparted with us let me disclose the following:

  1. I recently joined the Honolulu Chinese Jaycees;
  2. I was Representative Karl Rhoads Committee Clerk for the past two sessions;
  3. I am not registered with either major political party in America; and
  4. I like discussing leadership issues, as it plays into entrepreneurship, change management, and the like for business matters.

As to the evenings discussion, I just wanted to impart one of the more interesting things that Representative Rhoads spoke about. It was actually a response to my initial question, which was: we constantly hear that we want government to be more like business and that its leaders should operate as such, do you agree/disagree? 

Representative Rhoads responded thoughtfully, and said there are some things that political leaders could learn from business and they way it operates, but that the system that businesses operate under is different from the political side, in terms of the legislature.  He reminded us that as one representative out of many, while he may serve as a representative and type of leader to his constituency that there are also representatives (as well as senators) that all have a voice in the process.  However, he did return to this theme that I have seen in all my leadership classes is listen first.  Especially, in politics communication is key and learning from others helps you lead by example, execute your ideals, etc . . . I think this is something that business and political leaders can always do better. Listen.

I think one of the more insightful comments he made was that we all have a preconceived notion of what a leader looks like and what they do and that legislating does require a different skill set for effectiveness than those traditional notions. A legislator really does not order troops, set out five policy points, or set agendas, as I said they are one of many.  The interesting thing is that many of them rise to leadership postions in the executive branch. In addition, it’s interesting to note that even on the judicial side judges sometimes start out as a head of an agency or a commission.

So what do you think about leadership and management? What should political leaders take from business? Should businesses try to formulate around a checks and balances approach, and would that turn into good governance for sustainable or social benefit corporations?

What do you think?

By the way if you are in Honolulu and are interested in networking, growth as a leader, and doing civic projects please consider joining the Honolulu Chinese Jaycees. It is a great organization and one of its signature events that it sponsors is coming up: the Meadow Gold Healthy Baby Contest.

Leadership Write-up: Managing Diverse Networks, Part I

Introduction: Impetus for the Post

This past Tuesday, as the uproar over SOPA and PIPA reached a crescendo with Wikipedia and many other sites shutting down in protest I was able to participate at The Greenhouse Innovation Hub’s discussion on the two anti-piracy bills. As an attorney who deals with IP issue, focuses on social media marketing, and has worked with legislators as a committee clerk, I felt like it was the perfect storm for me to bring my perspective to the table.

A year ago, I would not have been able to tell you what the heck was going on or why I was participating in so many different activities and interests, other than that I wanted to be a part of something and work on things that fascinated me.  Now, after the 2011 Leadership Institute is pau, can I say that I think was attempting to “manage my network.”

Dr. Tanya Menon of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management came and gave a special presentation to Leadership fellows this past November. Her topic was discussing the research behind “managing diverse networks” and why it leads to successful leaders and relationships. Her research focuses on “how national culture affects people’s everyday assumptions and their patterns of decision making.” To say the least it was very fascinating, and I gained so much in an hour that I have wanted to do this post for a long while, but have not had the time to sit down and type it. So with the New Year passed, my resolution was to get this topic out in January at the very least. In addition, as this might take 2-3 posts to wrap-up I want to plant the seed in your mind that I am planning something for my Leadership Institute project (which all fellows have to choose and then execute after the class is over).  Let’s just my project does not just involve attorneys, but hopefully other leaders in Hawaii. So let’s get to what Dr. Menon shared!

What is “Luck” and What is a Good Network?

If you remember my earlier post on Corporate Hawaii, you will recall that Colbert Matsumoto basically said create the opportunities for lightning to strike. Well, Professor Menon basically agreed. She herself said she did not believe in luck, and that it is chance and probabilities. Why?

She argued that successful people build networks that allow them to know what is important, when, and to whom. This people infrastructure forms the basis of situations that look like luck to outsiders. To understand this we need to explore what is a good network. In turn, we need to play that Kevin Bacon game based on John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation.

So here’s the question, if you were playing the game, who would you pick to get to have the least amount of degrees to Kevin Bacon, John Wayne or Burgess Meredith?

Generally, most people’s reaction is to automatically pick John Wayne due to name recognition. The reality is Burgess Meredith is the correct answer, why? It has to do with this notion of creating weak, indirect, but diverse networks versus forming a clique, which is strong, direct, and redundant. Burgess did many films, tvs, and even commercials whereas John Wayne was only known for a certain genre of movies. Therefore, while John is well-known is reach beyond his world is limited, whereas diversity gives Burgess more reach.

The Why: Redundant vs. Diverse

I know what you are thinking, but John Wayne is more well-known, so how is Burgess successful? That is only one-part of the equation, remember I said it would demonstrate what is a good network. A clique, forms a kind of feedback loop, where a person in the clique is only seeing the same people and gaining very little new knowledge due to limited input. Whereas a network with structural holes, that is it is weak, indirect, and diverse presents what? Opportunities. It is basically the knowledge-gap at work or the “strength of weak ties” (or diversity).

The key is to brokering the holes in the web, among disparate groups, which gives people who can manage diverse networks the ability to profit because a) you can control/broker the flow of knowledge and b) have access to diverse, unique information.

In addition, I think this Wired article largely echoes what Dr. Menon was saying:

Opposites Don’t Attract (And That’s Bad News) | Wired Science | 

I am going to stop here for now, as this is a lot to take in, but I will use this interesting question for you to ponder that Dr. Menon asked us during the seminar:

Why is it that many CEOs and other top-level executives happen to also smoke? 

If you are fascinated with leadership and management studies I would urge you to “Subscribe” today because the follow-up posts to this will be interesting.

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Last Post of 2011 and Looking Forward to 2012


Aloha Everyone!

Hope you are having an awesome Friday for this last aloha Friday of 2011. I just wanted to take the time, as I close out for the day to wish you all a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and for a start of a good New Year. In addition, I would like to thank all my friends, acquaintances, clients, readers, supporters, and yes even my Twitter followers for making 2011 a good start for me.

Storytelling in 2011 

I appreciate getting to know you all in the various settings that I have and welcome meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends whether it be in social media, IRL networking, or for coffee. Also thank you for allowing me to tell you all my story and journey of an attorney that loves the intersection of law, business, and politics in the realm of small business and startups.

Past Highlights 

I would like to highlight thanks to all of you for the positive feedback regarding this site and my services. In particular, I would like to continue to make this site a place a resource for small businesses and startups navigating transactional and compliance issues. Thus from this 2011 you will continue to see posts series like the following:

Because I care about the Hawaii community and am finding that I meet new people of this great state via social media I will continue to do special write-ups on:

New Features for 2012 

Although like all good growing businesses, their ideas change and grow I will be rolling out new features and ways to get information into struggling business owners’ hands. In fact, I’ll admit that being an attorney who just started going solo there were times I wish there were resources for me, and there were, but I will continue to try to deliver information to the people who want its and need it. I would like to thank various people and organizations that have given me feedback before I talk about my 2012 features.

First the Thank Yous

Thank you to my friends at Off-Menu Catering, all of you give so much support and thoughtful feed back to carry me through continuing to serve small business.

Thank you to The Greenhouse: Innovation Hub and in particular Doc Rock (@docrock) and John Garcia (@johngarcia) for creativity and inspiration, Jill (@swamwine) of SWAM, Danny (@wangchungs) of Wang Chung’s, and Shawn of Small Business Planning Hawaii (@SBPHawaii) for bouncing ideas off of to deliver services and information to small business owners. Melissa Chang (@Melissa808), Jennifer Lieu (@jlieu), and Capsun Poe (@capsun) always guiding lights for social media use.

Mahalo to the Young Lawyers Division, HSBA, and Leadership Institute for providing guidance to an attorney.  To fellow attorneys Wayne J. Chi and Scott C. Suzuki thank you for doing talks with me, some more planned in the future! To William (@alohastartups) of Alohastartups.com, much thanks as you are providing a great resource for startups in Hawaii and I am excited for the plan in 2012. However, I think I still owe you a post from 2011! Thanks to Rechung (@TheBoxJelly) of The Box Jelly for providing a space for legal talks and helping Hawaii coworkers.

Finally, thank you to Marcus Landsberg, a fellow Hawaii attorney that has helped out and set down this path of being a solo practitioner like me and showing that solo does not mean alone.

. . . Back to New Features of 2012

Ok, enough with the thank yous and let me get to the new features that you readers can look forward to from me in 2012 for this site in particular:

  • PODCASTS – that’s right Hawaii small business owners, no worries if you cannot make it down to one of my talks! I will be providing portions of them for you to watch in your store or at home.
  • One-sheets – simple pdfs talking about one particular issue for you to download, print, and share.
  • Newsletter – I am not sure what the frequency will be, but definitely watch your e-mail inboxes!
  • REVAMP of blog and website – I will be shifting gears and making sure that I deliver to you content in a more user-friendly style!

That’s it for this year! Have fun and be safe this New Year’s Eve and see you in 2012 (Year of the Dragon!).

-RKH

Leadership Institute: Corporate Hawaii, Part II – Afternoon Session

This is a follow-up to the previous Leadership post, where I shared all the insights that the morning panelists of Corporate Hawaii discussed with the fellows. The afternoon was did not have a moderated panel, but a speed dating type of deal between the following executives:

This was a much more free form and shorter meeting with these lawyers-turned-executives. So I will impart just a couple of ideas from them in no particular order, but feel free to incorporate into your own business or practice or thinking about it.

Darcy – stated that she does not have as much control over work and life, even though many attorneys feel that they have no control; she said life as an executive was busier with meetings; finally, she felt that business development was about cultivating relationships.

Bryan – stated that you should meet as many people as you can, in fact that is how he met Eddie Flores, at a political function. From that encounter, Eddie used him as an attorney, but through working for him they built trust and getting to know each other.

There, I think this highlights the whole going out and meeting new people aspect of networking.

Stanley – said he was ready for change, when he went into a nonlawyer position, but for beginning lawyers he recommends starting in government or if you are going to try and become in-house counsel promote yourself in business-relations, and that a JD-MBA helps. He also said that a lot of lawyers are good at IDing the issues and risk assessment, but the BEST lawyers give solutions and get it done proactively in fixing problems. Finally, he said that the skills a lawyer takes with them into business are: (1) good writing skills, BUT you need to change into business writing; and (2) think logically, to persuade/convince others.

Well, that’s it for Corporate Hawaii. Next post I will pose a question that was discussed at Corporate Hawaii, that I think will provoke conversation, so I welcome responses. In addition, I will talk about the special session on “Managing Diverse Networks” by Dr. Tanya Menon.

Happy Holidays!

Leadership Institute – Corporate Hawaii, Part I – Morning Session

For readers, know that that this session in the Leadership Institute series was done by former lawyers (who are now executives) for the benefit of upcoming lawyers, but my hope sharing them is insight to the legal world and some the things said are just in general for leadership and management skills regardless of industry.

What this Session was All About

This leadership session happened over a month ago and was of great interest to me, as all of the panelists included attorneys who had gone over and obtained some sort executive position at a large local corporation. It was very interesting hearing how they made the transition from attorney to corporate executive. For the most part, many of them did NOT plan on it, and many of them thought they would practice law for the rest of their lives. I will be breaking up this write-up into two posts.  Today’s post will cover the morning discussion and the following one will be for the afternoon session.  The morning was a set of panelists that were moderated and the afternoon was a speed dating type of deal.

I will give a list of the panelists, then list the series of questions asked by the moderator, under each question I will select several quotes or paraphrased thoughts that I thought was interesting or poignant to share with you all.  The panelist that provided the quote or thought will be identified through their initials. Remember the underlying theme is leadership, but for this session it seemed directed at the path of experiences toward leadership.

The Panelists and Moderator

So here is the list of the morning panelists, their titles, and companies:

They were moderated by Melissa Pavlicek, President of Hawaii Public Policy Advocates.

The Questions and Quotes

How do you identify yourself? What is the first thing you say?

  • AO – “Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.”
  • CN – stated she is first a banker, but being a lawyer usually quickly follows
  • MR – introduces himself as the CAO
  • CM – hated being a lawyer for the first 10 years (laughter), but by the time he left practice he enjoyed it

How much of where you are today was planned?

  • FK – none of it was planned, it took an intervention from a friend to change her mind for her career path, and things never turn out the way you expect
  • MR – no planning, he was open to anything and his advice to everyone is to take advantage of opportunities, but be prepared when you do
  • AO – as a generation, the Vietnam War colored his, so planning for him was out of the equation – he feels that his generation did not have the luxury of life choices early on due to the war
  • CM – you don’t plan it so much as “create the opportunities for lightning to strike you”

In terms of skills, do you improve what you are given? Or do you try getting new skills?

  • MR – start with values, and you should be true to yourself; in general, some things you have to learn, but you should also focus on your natural talents; “know the landscape” and be ready to adapt – his personal example, was when he came here for the CAO job, he knew was a “guest” and went out of his way to understand an appreciated the local way of doing things

What skills are valuable?

  • [I can’t remember who said this, but here it is anyway]: legal analytical skills were critical beginning, but leadership skills become more important (due to responsibilities) ; thus as a lawyer we tend to micromanage, but as you transit into a leadership/management it is about empowering others to do the tasks
  • AO – since not every lawyer is a complete package, if you build a lawyer firm you try to complete the package and have complimenting attorneys – but you do want listeners, they understand what the client wants to get (objective-based); if you answer a client’s question with legal answers, many times it is not helpful

What about Outside Activities?

  • In general, all of them are active diverse people. I think the main thing to have gotten out of this part of the moderation was to find some clubs, non-profits, or associations and help out. It is good for networking and actually provides a different kind out outlet for your energies.

This is the last one, there is more, but I thought this question would be a good stopping point for this blog (lol): Are lawyers deal killers? How should lawyers handle saying “no” to clients?

  • AO – not a deal killer, but to new attorneys learn a little bit of litigation to figure out alternatives to trial
  • CN – they are more ready to say “no” early on to things, but risk is a part of business; in-house counsel understands the business better  and can help manage risk better
  • FK – as CEO, she aggress it is managing the risk of the company, so when you, as an attorney are being asked for answer, you have to determine what kind of answer is being asked for (i.e. is this it might be right 50% answer, this is mostly right 80%, or we spent all day and night researching this,100% answer); put another way, how much risk is embed in the question; an attorney’s job is to work with the client
  • MR – sometimes you do have to say NO due to risk identification, BUT the attorney then should direct the client with advice and help to reach a decision in light of that response

Anyway, I hope this was interesting I will be following this write-up hopefully within a week to reach the afternoon session panelists and interesting things I learned there. Finally, some great conversations took place during lunch that sparked off some interesting commentary, and I would like to bring that to you all and get your feedback and sentiments on the issue.

So check back soon!

Leadership Institute – We the People, Part II – Civility in Government

Following up on the prior Leadership post, the We the People seminar’s afternoon panel was very interesting. Recall that we had Chief Justice (CJ) Recktenwald, Senator Sam Slom, and former Deputy Chief of Staff, Andrew Aoki with Kirk Caldwell moderating.
I have to admit being a political junkie that I found it interesting having Senator Sam Slom and Andrew Aoki there, as I did not know what to expect. I definitely think that Senator Slom presented the best case for civility (and humor) in government and of course why shouldn’t he? He has the honor of being the lone Republican in the Hawaii Senate, and on the national level is the only one in such a position.

The civility in government subject, with the panelists present, turned on what civility meant in the judiciary, politics/executive, and legislative branches. What follows are some of the quotes that I took with me from that afternoon and my thoughts.

Judiciary

“Lack of civility increases the cost of litigation.” From CJ, and I definitely think he is right because civility means that the modes of communication remain open, as soon as they break down the barriers go up, which we all know from a purely market system causes things to be more expensive.

He followed that quote with, “Lack of civility undermines, fundamentally, the judicial system.” The basic rationale is that citizens watch their attorneys behaving badly and if that is the case what does that say about the system as a whole?

Politics/Executive

Echoing CJ’s tone, Andrew Aoki agreed that in politics that the lack of civility creates a barrier to access politics. Basically, that it turns people off from participating in the process. I think especially here in Hawaii that is the case, we found in the Hanabusa-Djou race, as mainland money poured in, the tone of the message became nasty (by Hawaii standards) and a lot of people felt that did not have to be the case.

Finally, Andrew felt that it is “Easier to run on fear, then hope.” I think that his blanket statement sounds nice, but I found that it sometimes too easy to fall back on. I think with times being very tough it is always easy to want to give people hope, but the reality sometimes is some of the people’s fears are legitimate and credible. The problem is from a top-down perspective you have to weed out all the noise of what is fear-mongering and what needs be addressed. Once again it boils down to communication.

Andrew felt that there was more civility than not here in Hawaii. In fact, that someone managing here needs to deal with passive-aggressive nature tendencies and that you need to learn how to cooperate and be agreeable.

Legislative

Finally, Senator Sam Slom felt that civility is a part of your ethics. He felt that in recent times we have created all these educational programs on corporate, government, medical, etc . . . ethics, but really there is just ethics. It comes down to your core.

Finally, in the legislative arena, lack of civility leads to escalation and tension-building. It was definitely evident you have thread that balance of sticking to your opinion and focus on the issues, but do not burn bridges. He also emphasized respect the people you serve.

I will leave off with he said something that I think applies to anyone trying to deal with people and gain their trust and buy-in:

Do not over promise, but over deliver.

See you next time for the Write-Up on Corporate Hawaii!

Leadership Institute: We the People Write-Up, Part I

This post is really overdue, as former Managing Director and Acting for the City and County of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell of Ashford and Wriston LLP, did put on a great panel for the Leadership Institute fellows. I just have been swamped with work (lots of people want to start their dream business!).
Anyway, I’ve got a five part series on the Leadership Institute, which this one will start off. This came about because the seminar I had with Corporate Hawaii, sparked off a really interesting discussion that I think I would like to continue, for at least my part, on my blog and in the social media community.

So this is what it will look like:

  1. Part I: Meet the People Write-up, Part I – Homelessness
  2. Part II Meet the People Write-up, Part II – Civility in Government
  3. Part III: Corporate Hawaii Write-Up
  4. Part IV: Corporate Hawaii – Where are the Leaders?
  5. Part V: Managing Diverse Networks Write-Up

As usual I will report on what was discussed at the Leadership Institute seminars and what insights or wisdom that the panelists imparted to the fellows. So with that in mind let’s get to “We the People” write-up.

We the People Write-Up – Homelessness

Kirk Caldwell broke the session into two panels for two different subject matters. The morning session was about leadership and Homelessness in the State, which of course as we got ready for APEC was of concern. He invited Mark Alexander (the State’s Homelessness coordinator), Representative Marcus Oshiro (Chair of the House Finance Committee), and Utu Langsi (Executive Director for H-5).

The afternoon session was about Civility in Government and consisted of panelists, Chief Justice Recktenwald, Senator Sam Slom, and Andrew Aoki former Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Abercrombie (at the time of this session he had not resigned). Part II will follow-up on this topic.

Homelessness

Kirk started off the conversation by discussing that a democratic government needs to have a balanced population and how this factors into the situation of the “haves” and “have-nots.”

Marcus, as an attorney, as he still volunteers with Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and gives pro bono hours, felt that prosecutors, as attorneys of the government occupy a unique role. He stated that a, “prosecutor’s job is to pursuit justice.” In that vein, they need to use their skill set to be a sort of politician that does social good for the body politic.

In the context of homelessness, that I agree that is partly true, as prosecutors need represent the government, which has a responsibility to both those with homes and without. However, I think once again leadership still depends on the person and how seriously they take the responsibilities that come with their job.

Father Mark Alexander definitely took the approach that leadership needs to take care of the least fortunate, which is probably why he took the position with Abercrombie administration. Here are some of the more interesting quotes he imparted:

  • “We have to a have vision where we want to go.”
  • “Leadership has to tell the story.”
  • “Homelessness is not about metrics, numbers, at the end of the day, but about the brothers and sisters in need.”

I really find that last one kind of poignant. However, I think Mark Alexander, despite the poignancy, displayed a remarkably pragmatic understanding that programs we develop for homelessness cannot be “too comfortable.” For example, some programs would express success in the terms of how much food was served. However, this begged the question is that success? Isn’t the goal to help protect people from falling through the cracks, BUT to help boost them back up so they do not remain homeless. So as a leader in this area you would have to provide help, but motivate people or give them the tools to move forward with their lives.

I think that we all know in leadership positions that if a person gets too comfortable sometimes they lack the motivation to take the next step. Pushing people isn’t a way to be mean, but insures that people develop to their full potential. However, out of all the three panelists I think that Utu Langsi had the most telling example of how leadership affects people on hard times. In his former life he was a criminal and was homeless. It was only through judicial grace and “luck” (I will return to the concept of luck when I get to “Managing Diverse Networks”) that he finds himself now helping other homeless people with his non-profit.

I think he definitely showed that part of the equation of helping people is you have to meet them half way sometimes. To lead does mean communicating and understanding them and offering them help, but the person wants to make a change. He definitely emphasized the need to break cyclic problems by helping and educating younger generations.

Budgeting Care

The panel rounded out with Marcus Oshiro, Chair of Finance, giving some insight into the thought process our legislators go through when dealing with budgetary process. Here are his questions:

  1. How far can we cut government programs and services?
  2. What programs and services are we willing to live without?
  3. Are we willing to pay more for the programs and services we want to keep?
  4. What doe we want Hawaii to look like when the recession ends?

This was against the backdrop of some figures he gave us. These are by no means accurate on my part, as I was rushing to take notes while interacting with the panelists. So take them with a grain of salt.  However, the state’s revenue is comprised of half from the GET tax, a third from personal income tax, and about 2% is derived from corporate, tobacco, and other specialty taxes. Meanwhile, health, human services, and education make up the majority of spending, with higher and education and public safety the next major components of the budget.

So it was a very informative in terms of perspective of those in government and public services when they approach the homelessness issue. Next time I will cover the remainder of “We the People” and take the insights on Civility in Government.

Here are few links if you want more information on homelessness in Hawaii:

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Business Entity Formation Talk and Other News

Hey everyone,
I will be doing a brief 30-45 minute talk on business entity formation tomorrow night (Wed., 9/21).  It will be on some of the topics that you have seen in the Draw the Law series.  It is primarily geared for people thinking of starting a new business and things to consider for planning on the legal end of things.

Info on Business Entity Formation:

  • Where:  The Box Jelly, Hawaii’s first coworking space
  • When: 9/21 starting at 6 – 7 pm – after the talk there will be time for Q&A and networking
  • Price: The cost of the presentation is a mere $5.00 and if you’d like some specialized materials that go with the presentation that will be an extra $3.00.

I hope to see you there, but subscribe to my blawg, as I will be doing more talks at The Box Jelly and other locations in the future.

Professional Services Social

As an Oahu Director of the Young Lawyers Division I would like to let you also know that the YLD and the Shidler School of Business Alumni Association will be putting on their Professional Services Social this Thursday (9/22). It will be at Ka Restaurant and Lounge and it begins at 6 pm.

Please consider attending and to sign-up or get all the information check it out here.

For the rest of the week check back, as I will be doing a post about my Leadership Institute visit with some of the State’s public servants from the “We the People” program set-up by former representative and managing director of Honolulu City and County, Kirk Caldwell.

Also Draw the Law will be on Thursday, as I will be at the Hawaii State Bar Convention all day Friday (and who knows I may get some tweets in, so follow me on Twitter @Rkhewesq).

See you later!

-RKH

Leadership Institute: In Hawaii, Who You are Matters to Us

I got a couple of responses of how interesting the Leadership Institute subject matter was last post, so I decided to impart some other interesting ideas and advice I have learned from my fellowship. So here goes.

I was born and raised on Oahu and it was only until college that I lived away for any significant portion of time away from “the Rock” as it is affectionately known.  However, growing up I quickly learned the odd ritual of asking the following three questions to people I would in Hawaii.  They are as follows, in order:

  1. What highschool did you go to?
  2. What year did you graduate?
  3. Do you know [insert name of person you know that might the person you are questioning]?

I never knew the subtleties of why I did it, but I knew it gave me some comfort and was always a good icebreaker for meeting new local people.  This even followed me as I updated my resume for after law school, as I intended to return home.  I remember the Career Services Office staff looked at me funny, and asked why would I put my highschool on my resume.  My only response is that it mattered when applying for jobs in Hawaii, and I kind of got the look of course it matters only in Hawaii because it is a odd state.  I left it that, and left my highschool on my resume.

Well, during one of the Leadership Institute seminars former Judge Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. explained to me why it is the case.  The basic gist of what I learned from Judge Kaulukukui is that you need to get to know people before you serve them as a leader.  How can you effect change if you have no idea about the people you are dealing with?  So it is in Hawaii, a pre-dominatly Pacific Islander/Asian culture, where we want to know who you are because it matters to us.

Now, this isn’t the “who you know” game where you spend time one-upping the other person.  No, it is the “who you know” as in what is your background (who are you and where do you come from).  Let me explain further using the ritualistic three highschool questions.

  • “What highschool did you go to?” represents the locality question, idenityfing where is the place that you come from and what was your environment.
  • “What year did you graduate?” represents the time component of what generation and what time did you come of age, as this shapes our identity and formation as an adult.
  • “Do you know [insert person that you know, that you think the other person may know]?” attempts to get to know your people, who is your group, who are your friends (your clan, so to speak).

Now, if this seems foreign to people of the continental United States it should be apparent to those who have European ancestry that in medieval times you identified your lineage.  Where do you think fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings and A Game of Thrones came up with “I am so-and-so, son of XYZ.”?  Before, you think I bring out my dorky readings for no reason, be aware that our legal system evolved from medieval England.  They used have trial by combat, all that has happened is we replaced the suits of armor with suits and ties, and the swords with word-filled motions.

So where does this leave us?  Remember I said that some of the judges from the Meet the Bench write-up felt be true to yourself, well that applies here.  Your personal background gives context and history and makes you an individual, so when you do business in Hawaii we care who you are.  It may seem to make doing deals longer, but it does mean we are focused on relationship building, which means longer lasting partnerships.

Also if you read through all this and are still wondering where I went to highschool and what year did I graduate, well here is the answers:

  • I went to Punahou, and I graduated with the class of 1999.
  • I will leave the last question to you if you ever meet me to ask do I know “so-and-so.”