Leadership and difficult conversations

Posted January 24, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: , , ,

I’ve been having some difficult conversations recently. For me, it doesn’t get any easier. It’s easy to feel frustrated or upset, and that’s not helpful.

I was watching a Crucial Learning webinar, “Crucial Conversations for Today’s Communication Challenges.” Speaker Joseph Grenny identified the three things that make it a crucial conversation: high stakes, opposing opinions, and strong emotions.

Yes, that’s exactly why those conversations were difficult.

I’d like to share two experiences with difficult conversations. I’m not claiming that I handled them well – I could have handled them a lot better. These were learning experiences for me, and I hope that by sharing you’ll reflect on conversations in your work and home life.

One difficult conversation was actually a series of conversations over time. I started with gentle reminders, along the lines of “Remember, this is what we need you to do.” I tried being more fact-based, removing the emotions and focusing on numbers. Nothing changed.

What seemed to work was shifting perspectives from I (the organization) to we (the organization and the employee). “It seems like things aren’t working for you. How can I help make things work?”

Grenny said that, “If you ever have the same conversation twice, you’re having the wrong conversation.” The question I should have asked from the start was, “What conversation do you want to have?”

The important thing to remember: we all want what’s best for the organization. We all have good intentions, we believe in our organization’s mission, and we respect and support each other.

A second difficult conversation was as a by-stander witnessing a dispute. They didn’t need me to solve their problem – they worked it out already, or at least came to a kind of understanding. But they needed someone who could listen to them supportively, without taking sides, and provide a little closure.

My goal was to be a neutral party, someone they felt safe talking to. I asked, “Are you okay with what happened?” and suggested, “Here’s what I can do.” I tried to start these conversations by making it safe for the people I talked with.

The important thing to remember: we are all volunteers and trying to do our best. There are other things we could be doing, but we choose to help with a shared passion and shared commitment.

What difficult conversations have you been part of recently? How did you start the conversation? What made you feel comfortable or uncomfortable?


Why I volunteer

Posted January 17, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community

Tags: , , ,

It was dark and quiet as I walked along the dimly-lit street to the Admissions tent. Security teams were already there, setting up their stations and directing traffic. Other volunteers were trickling in, some wearing jackets or carrying cups of coffee, all of us wearing gold uniforms and lanyards. We waited under the tent to find out our assignments for the day.

I was excited to volunteer at my third Sony Open in Hawai’i. Each year, hundreds of volunteers help with everything from admissions and transportation to tournament support and hospitality. Without volunteers, they would not be able to donate needed funds to Hawai’i nonprofits.

Why do I volunteer?

Volunteering makes me feel like part of a community. Everyone needs help sometimes. We’re not meant to be alone, and we need each other. Volunteering on a shared task, to help others or bring them joy, makes us part of the larger community. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or once a year, volunteering helps us connect with others.

There were many volunteers who supported other volunteers too, such as driving us to gates, delivering refreshments, and changing trash and recycling bins. We all rely on someone else.

Volunteering is a way to give back to our community. Supporting nonprofits and the community is not only about donating money, it’s also about donating time and skills. I can choose volunteer opportunities that fit my schedule, expertise, and willingness to learn.

I saw volunteers give in other ways too… giving their lanyard to someone who wanted to wear their admission ticket around their neck, giving away their own complimentary ticket to a military spouse who forgot her ID, and giving a dollar to someone who was buying a ticket and was a dollar short in cash.

Volunteering makes me happy. Making time to volunteer nourishes the heart. I enjoy seeing the excitement on people’s faces after they check in, and seeing their smiles as they leave. My favorite was giving tickets to little kids who were thrilled to have their own ticket. Like love, the more we volunteer, the more we receive. By giving our time, energy, and talents, we receive joy and satisfaction.

Volunteering is a gratitude practice. Many people took a moment to thank me for volunteering. It brightened my day and reminded me to thank others.

Riding the trolley back to the volunteer parking area, looking at the volunteers sitting with quiet satisfaction after a long day, all of wearing our gold uniforms, it was a good day.

What volunteer activities do you sign up for? What do you like about volunteering?

“The Art of Communicating” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Posted January 10, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

Tags: , , ,

“Conversation is a source of nourishment,” Thich Nhat Hanh writes in “The Art of Communicating” (2013).

“When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion,” Hahn explains. “When we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.”

I love this way of thinking about conversation. I feel that it is true, whether we are speaking with others or to ourselves.

Often we use words carelessly, and we might end up hurting people or ourselves unintentionally.

When we think of conversation as essential food, our words start to take on greater significance.

Hanh asks, “Are we consuming and creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps us grow?”

More than nourishment, Hanh says that “The one goal of compassionate communication is to help others suffer less.” He says that we can do this by deep listening and loving speech – starting by understanding ourselves and loving ourselves.

“Self-understanding is crucial for understanding another person; self-love is crucial for loving others.”

To start changing the words we use, Hanh offers four elements of right speech: Tell the truth. Don’t exaggerate. Be consistent. Use peaceful language.

Unexpectedly, I hear an echo of Hanh’s words in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” when Benoit Blanc says, “It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought as speaking the truth.”

Who makes you feel joyful, understood, and uplifted after speaking with them? How can you make others feel joyful, understood, and uplifted when you speak with them?

Puppy lessons

Posted January 3, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Family, Humor

Tags: , ,

A little over a year ago, we adopted a yellow lab puppy named Nalu. He was four months old and shy, but when we sat on the floor, he came up to us hesitantly and snuggled in my lap.

We had only recently been thinking of adopting a dog, but he and his human parents chose the time. After talking about it as a family, we decided to adopt him.

Nalu is a very different dog from our first yellow lab, Sophie. He loves to be with us, while she was very independent. He stays close to the house, while she would run outside and explore neighborhood, coming back only when she was ready. He’s slow to accept people and dogs, while she was friendly to everyone.

Here are a few lessons I learned from living with a puppy.

Standing a few feet in front of me, Nalu barked wildly at someone. When the person took one step closer, Nalu jumped up and raced back to me, hiding behind me and peering around suspiciously.
What I learned: The unknown can be scary. I can be a safe space, someone who people can trust to protect and support them.

When Nalu went to the beach for the first time, an unexpected wave swamped him. He ran out of the water and rubbed his wet head in the sand. The second time at the beach, he didn’t want to back into the ocean until another dog ran with him into the waves.
What I learned: Sometimes things are overwhelming, even when we know they’re coming.

The first time Nalu met my mom at our house, he wouldn’t stop barking at her. I gave her a treat and asked her to put it on the floor in front of him. He stopped barking and sat politely. Once she gave him the “okay” and he gobbled up the treat, he didn’t bark at her again.
What I learned: Kindness and first impressions matter.

We have a loveseat in our family room. I usually sit on the left side and Nalu has started curling up on the right side. He sometimes jumps up on “my side,” but he will move over when I want to sit there. When someone sites on “his side” of the couch, he stands in front of them and stares, sometimes putting his front paws on their knees.
What I learned: Territory, also known as healthy boundaries, are important for dogs and people.

I was sitting on the couch reading, and Nalu jumped up beside me. Looking away from me, he slowly leaned against my shoulder until he was lying in my lap. I caught his head as he tilted back, and he turned into my shoulder. His eyes drifted shut and he took a short nap.
What I learned: Dogs and people need affection or a caring touch, but they can’t always tell you what they need. Also, dogs and people can be sneaky.

Our lives are richer for the dogs and animals in our lives.

Did you care for a pet when you were a child? What lessons have you learned from your pets?

Mahalo in 2022

Posted December 27, 2022 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Mahalo

Tags: , ,

My heart is filled with gratitude for the many people and organizations that touch my life every day.

JoAnn Okawa, who coordinated the Admissions volunteers and is organized, thoughtful, and friendly; and the Sony Open in Hawai’i, which provides generous grants to Hawai’i nonprofits through the Friends of Hawai’i Charities. I volunteered at the Admissions tent and worked with pleasant volunteers and checked-in eager, patient golf enthusiasts. The Waialae Country Club is a beautiful course, and the Sony Open treats volunteers very well. They make volunteers and nonprofits feel appreciated!

The 2023 Sony Open in Hawai’i will be held January 9-15. You can buy tickets or become a volunteer.

Mufi Hannemann, Jared Higashi, Carly Clement, and all the volunteers and sponsors of the Charity Walk and Hawai’i Lodging and Tourism Association, for sponsoring a walk to raise money for Hawai’i nonprofits. The O’ahu Charity Walk is a relaxing, enjoyable walk from Ala Moana Beach Park through Waikiki, with pauses along the way to sample food and drinks, and stroll under cooling water sprays. It’s my favorite Walk and I hope that you will walk with us next year!

Lisa Maruyama, Jennifer Cornish Creed, Anthony Arce, and Ashley Galacgac at the Hawai’i Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO), for giving us a space to share our challenges, compiling grant opportunities, and putting together an inspiring annual conference, “Wading through the Muliwai.” When I first became an executive director of a nonprofit organization, I often felt alone and unprepared. Meeting other executive directors and knowing that they are facing the same challenges and opportunities helps me tremendously!

Nolan and Jamie Hong of Pop Creative Media, for sharing fun and easy tips about creating videos, recording ‘ohana legacy videos, and enthusiasm about video. Nolan and Jamie are always willing to share behind-the-scenes moments and are such fun people! I learned that videos should be fun and personal – they don’t have to perfect. You can sign up for their free “What’s Poppin’?” emails and get inspired about video.

Volunteers Alan, Bailee, JR, Kaliko, Katie, and Rose, who share their time and energy at the nonprofit where I work. Whether it’s offering a clinical perspective, helping with filing, or writing social media posts, they show that they are caring and compassionate people!And with their help, more of our funds can support mental health counseling for people in need. Even a couple of hours a month can help a nonprofit keep providing services. Aloha United Way can help you find a great volunteer opportunity.

Roger Jellinek and the Hawai’i Book and Music Festival, with the University of Hawai’i Better Tomorrow Speaker Series, who shine a spotlight on mo’olelo and mele, as well as health and ‘aina. The panel discussions keep getting better and better! And with the virtual Festival, I could listen to talks when I had free time. This year I enjoyed discussions about anxiety and youth in “The Epidemic of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teenagers,” conservation in “Decolonizing Conservation: Hawaiian Models Biocultural Restoration for the World,” and contemporary Hawaiian art in “Likoliko No’eau: A Flourishing Tradition of Contemporary Hawaiian Art.” You can watch all the recorded sessions through the UH Better Tomorrow Speaker Series.

Kumi Macdonald and NAMI Hawai’i for nominating our nonprofit for an office makeover last year, partnering with me to provide mental health workshops, and for an inspiring annual celebration that reminds that we are not alone. NAMI Hawai’i does an amazing work supporting people with a mental illness and their families. At the annual celebration, we were honored to meet Dr. Ken Duckworth, who wrote “You Are Not Alone: The NAMI Guide to Navigating Mental Health,” which shares expert advice and stories from people with lived experience.

Who are you thankful for? How have people impacted your life over the last year?