Archive for October 2018

Hiring the right people

October 16, 2018

The first time I had to hire someone, it was for a summer marketing internship position. The intern we hired didn’t have any marketing experience, and was actually on a business track at school, but I was open to working with someone who could bring a different perspective to marketing projects.

What mattered to me was whether they were intelligent, responsible, easy to work with, and willing to learn. Knowledge and skills were things they could gain on-the-job.

Years later, those are the same qualities that I still look for in an intern, but I’ve added something a little harder to quantify: whether they are a “good fit” for the organization. Now I ask why they want to work at the organization and whether they believe in what we are doing. I don’t expect them to have a “passion” for our mission – they’re interns, and their goal is to gain real-world experience – but they have to be open to and support what we’re trying to accomplish.

The stakes are higher when hiring an employee. Candidates and employers are both on their best behavior. I like the idea of asking questions to find out what really matters. Adam Bruan, founder of Pencils of Promise, asks “What do you love doing most?” to encourage people to share their goals and interests. Hopefully, it will be something that is a part of the job position – or something that could become a part of it.

Yet I’ve learned that sometimes, finding the right person isn’t enough. It has to be the right time for the employee and for the organization.

Last year, we hired someone who was qualified, enthusiastic, and a good fit for the organization. But their life circumstances changed, and the employee left after only a few months. It was a disappointing yet amicable parting.

Looking back, I also remember an employee who was an asset to the organization. But they became dissatisfied, and the organization didn’t act quickly enough to address their concerns. Both the employee and the organization were hurt by anxiety and broken relationships before they parted.

When James C. Collins wrote about good-to-great leaders “first getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) in “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” (2001), I realized exactly what he meant.

This week, I’m reminding myself how important it is to build a team of the right people in the right position at the right time.

Are you involved in hiring or managing people? What do you look for in new employees? How do you respond when life circumstances change or when people are no longer a good fit for an organization?

 

Artwork courtesy of All-Free-Download.com.

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DNA and a culture of diversity

October 9, 2018

In Hawaii, 24% of residents are a mix of two or more races (nearly one in four people), compared to 6.9% of the US adult population, according to a 2015 Pew Research report, “Multiracial in America.”

 

My family is a blend of heritages. Growing up in Hawaii, all of my friends were from mixed ethnic backgrounds too. I learned to focus on who people are, not what they look like.

 

I came to realize that, depending on who I was with, or whether I had a tan, people would perceive me in different ways. Walking with a Japan friend, some visitors have greeted in me in Japanese. Waiting with a Chinese friend, some people have talked to me in Chinese. (I don’t speak either language).

 

It gave me a kind of freedom in who I wanted to be, and which cultural traditions I choose to draw on.

 

In the past, my parents and I would sometimes speculate about our grandparents and great-grandparents, and try to do the math with percentages and blood quantum. It was like discussing sports statistics and betting odds (but a lot less intense).

 

Speculating about our heritage didn’t affect our family. I’m comfortable with who I am and I don’t need proof of where I came from. But one day, I found myself ordering a DNA kit from AncestryDNA.com. I was curious to see the results, and whether our idle speculation was on target.

 

One Sunday morning, I received the results of the DNA test. The results didn’t surprise me; the regional breakdown was about what I expected, though I hoped for more country-specific identification.

 

I didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

A few days later, there was an update to my DNA results, based on more reference samples and addition regions. The regions were refined into estimated countries. This time, the refinement surprised me.

 

But I still didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

Within a few generations from today, I think that most of the people living in urban areas will have mixed ethnic backgrounds. I don’t see it as losing a heritage; I see it as being connected to multiple heritages, and embracing a new culture of diversity.

 

If you have done a DNA test, how did you react to the results? Did it affect your self-identity? And for those who haven’t done a DNA test, what would make you consider it? What would you want to know about your ancestors?

“Searching for Mary Foster” by Patricia Lee Masters

October 6, 2018

Buddhist scholar and teacher Patricia Lee Masters traveled half-way around the world, from Honolulu and Ceylon to India and Chicago, to find Mary Foster, granddaughter of a Native Hawaiian chief and British shipbuilder.

In “Searching for Mary Foster: Nineteenth-Century Native Hawaiian Buddhist, Philanthropist, and Social Activist” (2017), Masters narrates her journey of discovery about the lives of Mary Foster of Honolulu and Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka.

This slim volume is as much a reflection on spirituality and shared values that connect different people and cultures, as it is a biography about a single individual.

We learn a brief history of Buddhism in India; the impact of Anagarika Dharmapala on restoring the birthplace of Buddha, Bodh Gaya, to Buddhists; and Mary Foster’s influence on Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Hawaii.

Just one chapter is dedicated to Mary Elizabeth Mikahala Robinson Foster (1844-1930), who was the older sister of Victoria Ward, and a childhood friend to both Lydia Paki, who became Queen Lili‘uokalani, and Bernice Pauahi Bishop. We learn that Mary Foster was a strong-willed woman with a “horrible temper,” a fierce intellectual curiosity and a need to know more about spiritual ideas other than Christianity. She wrote, “My hunger for understanding remains unquenched, and I long for some way to better understand the world, God, and myself.”

She had both the passion and wealth to champion the causes she believed in: Buddhism and the Native Hawaiian people. Her dual passions may seem contradictory, one looking inward for meaning and one focused outward on society, but both reflect her generosity of spirit and dedication to helping others.

Mary Foster supported Anagarika Dharmapala’s quest to restore Bodh Gaya (the site of Buddha’s awakening). She also generously supported the Maha Bodhi Society, Foster Seminary for Seinhalese monks and nuns, and Foster Home (an orphanage in Colombo). In fact, a cutting from the Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka was planted at Foster Estate in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was also critical in supporting Buddhism in Hawaii, donating land and funds to build Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii in Honolulu.

In Hawaii Mary Foster is perhaps best remembered for her legacy of Foster Botanical Garden. She also founded scholarships for Native Hawaiians to attend Kamehameha Schools and bought hospital beds for the needy at Kapiolani Hospital and Kapiolani Home (later Kapiolani Hospital for Women and Children). She was a determined activist, creating petitions protesting the annexation of Hawaii in 1893 and fighting to protect native trees and water rights in Kahana Valley on Oahu.

With her tremendous impact in Hawaii and Sri Lanka, it is inexplicable that Mary Foster’s life and work have largely been forgotten. It was frustrating to realize that, as Masters admits, “We will never know the real reasons for the family’s dismissal and silencing of the story of her life.”

Seniors and the next 20 years

October 2, 2018

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a telephone survey about the needs of seniors, conducted by Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division.

My responses were spontaneous, and after thinking about it a little more, I wouldn’t respond any differently. But I did think of more things I wish I could have said, so I decided to share my thoughts with you.

Here are the top three challenges that I think seniors face today:

Affordable housing. Oahu is addressing the lack of affordable housing, but we need even more affordable housing units that are built with seniors in mind – such as wider elevators, hallways, and doorways; walk-in showers; and clear signage in buildings.

I also think we need to change our expectations for senior living. One idea is to create ohana apartments, modeled on university dormitories. Two or three seniors or senior couples could live together in multi-bedroom units with a shared kitchen and living room. This could strengthen friendships, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and foster relationships where seniors give and receive care.

Affordable healthcare. In the two years I’ve worked in healthcare administration, I’ve seen big increases in co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles. Some clients have a co-pay of $40 or $45 per office visit (my own copayment is $50). We need more resources in place to help make healthcare affordable. I am strongly opposed to making our tax code more complicated; but, working with the tax system we have today, we could create a tax credit for healthcare providers who waive copayments for low-income seniors.

At some point, we simply need more reasonable limits on annual healthcare premium and copayment increases. The limits could be tied to the rate of inflation or Medicare benefits. In 2018, Affordable Care Act (ACA) rates increased by 19.8% for HMSA members and 24.1% for Kaiser Permanente Hawaii members, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In comparison, consumer prices rose 2.7% over the twelve months from August 2017 to August 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mobility and transportation issues. Hawaii has a variety of services to help seniors with mobility and transportation issues, from TheHandi-Van and Uber rides, to Meals on Wheels and Project DANA, which provide services to the homebound.

I think we can do more a little more. We can encourage more healthcare providers to offer home visits for seniors. We can create a “technology in the home” program to help seniors set up computers, tablets, or phones for web conferencing.

And in the next 20 years? I think the biggest challenge will be keeping physically and mentally active. We need to keep fit, work longer, and volunteer more. There are so many ways to be active in the community, and we need better ways to share those opportunities with people of all ages.

For example, I recently learned about Senior Corps RSVP, a network for seniors who want to volunteer in the community. At the Hawaii Seniors’ Fair, I learned about a foster grandparents program to mentor children with special needs in schools. Volunteerism and maintaining strong connections to the community can help keep us healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What challenges do you or the seniors in your life face today? How do you envision your life in 20 years?

 

Artwork courtesy of All-Free-Download.com.