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September 23, 2007

Lōkahi: the language of collaboration

One of my writing objectives is to explore what it means to write with aloha, learning on a month by month basis from my top writing coach (and general mentor) Rosa Say. As some of you may know, Rosa explores the values that underpin her coaching and management philosophy at Managing with Aloha Coaching.

This month she’s been discussing Lōkahi, the value of collaboration and co-operation, harmony and unity. Here’s a brief summary of what Lōkahi means in business:

Collaboration and cooperation. Harmony and unity. People who work together can achieve more.
~ Lōkahi seeks the harmony of bringing people to agreement. It is the value of cooperation, collaboration, and unity.

~ Therefore Lōkahi brings these values to teamwork, defining how those who work within an ‘Ohana in business can be most effective in their collaborative efforts.
~ Lōkahi gives us a demeanor to strive for in working with our peers in the best possible way. We want their help: many hands (laulima) make the work more pleasant (‘olu‘olu) and they move it along faster. With Lōkahi we can achieve more by working together in harmony with others.

I'd been thinking about how to illustrate this value in relation to the written word. In fact Rosa has already come up with some great examples: being specific about what you’re looking for when you’re hiring people, and some of the words her ‘virtual team’ were using in relation to their work at Joyful Jubilant Learning.

Now I was more than a little spooked when I read that last piece of writing, because earlier that day I’d been thinking about penning something on a very similar theme. The narrative thread had hit me in relation to the topic we’d been discussing here – authenticity – and it occurred to me that it was also a tremendous example of how we can use language to support collaborative working. Bringing people together to achieve more.

And it’s such a great example I’m going to stick with it. It's too good not to share some more. It’s moving and inspiring. It’s teamwork in action. Pull up a chair. The story’s about to begin.

Team work in action

One of the team, Steve Sherlock, is prompting us to work together on a group song. We’ve been lagging behind a bit, not taking the bait, and he’s decided to go public on the site to get us to pay a bit more attention.  The way he starts is interesting. He acknowledges the work that’s been going on up to now – and acknowledges the difficulties he’s been having in knowing how his contribution would fit.

The collaboration and learning here during this month is quite amazing. I was beginning to panic on what I could add to this impressive discussion.

Rosa nibbles and does what we should all have done in the first place: admit she doesn’t know the song, heads off to YouTube , brings back the link so we can all hear it, and comes up with a first attempt at the song. (This is a whole other tangent which you can follow if you like! But it’s important background context: a group effort, a light-hearted task, music, singing, entertainment as a spark for learning.)

Dave picks up on one of Steve’s comments and plays it back to him. This is a great way to build rapport, to show that you have been listening, that you value the words that someone else has said. He empathises, indicating that he shares some of those feelings – and then offers some suggestions for getting over the block. (This is where we great some of the great material on writing with authenticity.)

If thoughts like these creep into your head, (not talking directly to you Steve), take a breath and take comfort in the fact that we all appreciate you for who you are. I have written stuff here that, for a brief moment I thought shouldn't be here. You know, "that's not good enough to remain on this page with everyone else's work."

I just think that if we remain true to ourselves and write from the intersection of our soul, gut, heart and mind, we'll get more and grow more.

Steve comes back in, plays back the comment and makes it more general – a piece of advice that we can all learn from, whoever is listening.

well said, Dave. With the deep breath, allowing the moment of reflection; the true self can arise. We can hear the inner voice, the authentic voice, and then putting it to pen or keyboard become the confident writer

Karen is listening. Somehow, in some way it helps to give her the courage and confidence to publish her contribution to the ‘making a difference’ forum at Joyful Jubilant Learning.

I think you've captured what so many of think about what we offer up here on JJL. It's like the sum of us all is so much greater than us individually that it is very daunting putting ourselves out there. But somehow, that also makes us dig so much deeper and really tap into our own authentic voices! I for one know I am a better person because of who you all inspire me to be. (says she, fingernails in mouth as she presses the button on her own Make a Difference contribution today...)

It is an amazing piece of writing. Straight from the heart. I’m reading it a few minutes after it goes live. Karen, in Australia. Me, in Edinburgh. I’m in tears as I read it, overwhelmed at the way our words, our stories, our voices can somehow connect, intertwine, inspire.

I’m not the only one to be moved. Rosa connects the story back to some of the other things we have been learning recently, like spirit spilling, and writing for the possibility of change.  April isn’t slow to remind us that our words do make a difference and that she will happily remind us of the same if we ever find ourselves doubting it (I do, I’m sure we all do. It’s good to have friends, team members, who will keep on reminding us)

Chris makes Karen’s story real – she links it to the people they will be working with in Australia. Real people, real lives, whose lives will be changed by Karen’s stretch, her belief in herself, her knowledge that she is making a difference. And we can start to see how our teamwork, our network of virtual support can create a ripple, upon ripple, upon ripple… and who knows where it will end.

Stories start to be told. Steve reminds us of the spirit of the geese.  Dave pens a story of his own, inspired by Karen’s words and actions.

Greg shares the story of how possibility, how believing that you can make a difference, has inspired him to leap and stretch in relation to his own business goals. He shares a quote with Karen that sets her off writing to her own readers at the Clearing Space, another set of people who are reading, being inspired by words, actions, the energy of possibility, the spirit of Lōkahi.

As dave concludes – this story has taken on the life of a boomerang in perpetual motion.

There’s so much in here. I know I’ve written about it at length but there was so much spirit, so much energy, so much about how we can dig deep to write from the heart, to write as our true authentic selves – and so much evidence of what can happen when we do.

The language of collaboration

If you've time to follow the comments and the written pieces you’ll find some of the language patterns for yourself. You’ll find:

  • Humour: it started with a song, and there are strands of humour, of shared experience, throughout the thread
  • Affirmation: playing back some particular phrases and words. It shows you’re listening
  • Specific feedback: paying attention to what people have said and done
  • Personal experience: being open about how an experience has affected the team member
  • Support: being quick to offer support, ideas, a comment, feedback
  • Stories: taking one contribution away from the shared space and developing it in your own
  • Authenticity: being part of a team allows each individual to dig a bit deeper, to say things they might otherwise be scared to say
  • Openness: being willing to share doubts and fears. I think this is key – it allows the geese to fly in formation because we all know there are times when we’re strong, and other times when someone needs a bit more encouragement and support

It’s the best answer I’ve been able to think of as to what makes virtual relationships different. It’s something to do with the spirit of collaboration. A willingness to share. This is a team of people that come together virtually, that do not know each other ‘in person’ and may never do so given the distances that separate us. And yet we can write together, learn together, laugh, sing and cry together – connected by something intangible - and yet so real that we can sense it, feel it, take strength and comfort from it.

The words that capture the spirit of virtual Lōkahi are this:

"It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought." (Agnes Repplier)

You can follow the whole story of collaboration in action at the September Learning to Make a Difference forum at Joyful Jubilant Learning
For more on the spirit of Lōkahi check out Rosa's month long essay series at Managing with Aloha Coaching
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Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count


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Joanna, the tears are flowing again... what a beautiful, heart-full post.

You forgot something... the fact that it was YOUR writing that triggered the soul moment within me that prompted that piece of writing.

And yet again I am going to echo your words - for often they could be mine...

"I’m in tears as I read it, overwhelmed at the way our words, our stories, our voices can somehow connect, intertwine, inspire."

Here's to tingling currents of thought... unbounded by time or place... that connect our souls together in wondrous ways.

There may be more for me to say, but at the moment I am too overwhelmed to make head or tail of it.

Joanna, this is good. If you weren't such a confident writer, you could always get a role doing the "play by play" as they say on this side of the pond! Great recap! I am glad you are part of the team!

I would love to read more from you on the language of collaboration. It has been an amazing month at JJL and the energy you and so many other brought to the discussion is inspiring. Thank You!

Karen, thank you.

The whole thing last week was truly amazing, and I felt very proud to have played some part of it. I'm guessing you're probably feeling slightly overwhelmed by the way we've reacted to your writing - but I think that is inevitably what happens when someone writes direct from the heart, with their authentic voice. It resonates.

I know what it's like to have to walk away from your machine when you read something that triggers a reaction - happens a lot to me too!

You're welcome back any time you choose.

Best wishes with your work this week to get your new magazine ready


Hi Steve, thank you!

I had to look up "play by play" (amazing how different yet similar our language is...)

It's funny, one of the writing styles I most admire is the online journalists here who write the running commentary (play by play style I guess) on football and cricket - and respond at the same time to comments, questions, jokes and suggestions that readers send in.

The material's always crisp, informative, personal, lively and very very funny. I've often thought - I really admire people who can write like that.

Maybe one day. But I'd have to spend quite a lot of time learning about the sport first!

Best wishes


Hi Greg, it's good to hear from you over here as well as at JJL.

The energy there has been amazing hasn't it - I guess that's part of what I was trying to capture and learn from in this piece. It will be interesting to see how we move forward into the start of year 2,and where all this energy takes us.

More on the language of collaboration... sure - I'll keep that in mind, and I've still a week left of September if the muse strikes...


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