Great Hotel Brands, Great People
With Ona Hinds, Recreation Manager, at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii,
Kohala Coast, Island of Hawaii
Me: I was so excited for this interview, since you are not only a "client," but I also consider you a friend. I have known you many years, and am so grateful for our connection. You are one of the kindest, most warm hearted, compassionate women in our industry, in my opinion.
So, let's start with your name Ona, is this your birth name? In Hawaiian it means "sweetness?"
Ona: Well, my whole name is Keona Ona Lani ( Ke-Ona-Ona-Lani), which is my Hawaiian name, and means 'fragrance from the heavens'. My mom's mom (Tutu – Hawaiian for grandparent) says it means 'intoxicating fragrance from the heavens'.
Me: So, where does Jolene come from. How do we get from Ona to Jolene?
Ona: Jolene is my English name, and came from my mom.
"Intoxicating fragrance from the heavens" – that pretty much sums it up. I do believe that the names we are given at birth, do have deeper, intangible meanings, that are evident to some. Clearly, the name Keona Ona Lani, is divinely orchestrated. I believe my birth name "Faith" is as well. I am very blessed that my father fought hard for my name Faith.
Me: How long have you been with the Fairmont Orchid? I feel like I have known you forever.
Ona: Fifteen years. I started as Rec Attendant at the pool.
Me: Your Fairmont location, in particular, has some very special people. As you know, I still keep in touch with Ryan, and also Cassie. Addie is the best, and you know I adore Gina, who used to work next door at Mauna Lani. Seems like the HR team/management hire very sensitive, heart centered, and warm people. Is there a special interview process there? Do you have leadership meetings? Team workshops there?
Ona: The interview process here is like any other, possibly. Normal questions are asked. We used to have leadership meetings once a month. Maybe it is our location, as the Big Island in general, has much to do with the way we are.
We are who we are, before we get to the Fairmont. They really look for personality, genuineness, etc.... maybe that is the answer as to how we all ended up here.
Great point! Who you all are before you got there, is who you are, so it probably does go to the HR/management team's desire to hire people who have warm personalities, and who are genuine, and caring naturally. I do not believe these are qualities that can be "trained," as they are innate, and as it is said, "wherever we go, there we are."
Me: I must ask you about your level of self-awareness, as well as awareness in general. You and I had a very deep conversation last week; thank you again by the way for that. Where do you think awareness, self-awareness, being open and vulnerable, fit into the work culture? Do you think there is space for this in a work culture?
Ona: Yes indeed there is space for this in a work culture. Here at Fairmont, when Accor took over, they launched a training program. It was called 'Heart ist'... like 'artist from the heart'. I thought this was really cool! We strive every day, to take the time out to see how other people are feeling. There is space for this, if a company is willing to take the time to introduce trainings like this.
It is also up to each individual to ground themselves. In this industry the needs never end. It is very easy to get caught up in work, expectations, etc...and people can get lost in that. There is room for this within a company culture. This is a 'hard industry' so we do all need to take time to be empathetic, and feel someone out emotionally. It is always up to the individual. I hope this makes sense?
Me: Yes, you are speaking my language! And yes, "the needs never end" in this industry. Another reason why this type of sharing and support can be powerful in helping us all maintain our serenity, perspectives, and most importantly sense of humor.
It is quite impressive that Accor would launch a training program like "Heart ist." I am an artist at heart, and also super sensitive and empathic. Many think the hospitality industry is no longer a place for sensitive, warm, and caring individuals; especially those who are heart centered. I think it is important to remember that even though so many have left the industry, there are a percentage of amazing individuals like Ona, who remain, and who are terrific reflections, especially to me, that some of us can still be ourselves, within an industry that is quite tough, especially this last year and a half. Finding others who can appreciate us for what we bring to the conversation, bring to others, and who we are as individuals, make our jobs that much more rewarding and fulfilling. No one is an island, and we need others who are "heart-ists" to share, grow, evolve, and laugh with. And yes, this can be done within a work/professional environment!
Me: You mentioned something from NPR a while back, I think it was from June? About the number of workers quitting their jobs/ positions?
Ona: Yes, I listen to NPR on my drive to work. And this episode was about the unemployment rate, and it went on to talk about how many have left the hospitality industry, etc...
I typically listen to NPR to hear news and hear what is going on. Music these days can be depressing. Listening to some of the words in some songs, this unconsciously feeds into the brain, and this is what some of these kids are listening to!
I tried to find this NPR segment, to reference, and I think this is the one Ona spoke about: www.npr.org/2021/06/26/1010521131/millions-of-workers-say-i-quit-as-restaurants-and-hotels-reopen
Totally agree with Ona about some of the songs out these days, and probably many songs in general. Probably why I have always been a huge fan of classical music, jazz, and some blues. There is much beauty in music available, if we are attuned to it.
One of my favorite Plato quotes about music: "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." Another great quote, this one from Aristotle, and to Ona's point – "Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul, and if it has the power to do this, it is clear that the young must be directed to music and must be educated in it."
Me: As you know I did a great and fun interview with Ryan and his wife, Corinne. What an amazing couple. Talk about love, synergy, compassion, and awareness- they have it all. We spent some time talking about balance, boundaries, and time away from all the cell phone madness. As I do think we are living in a culture that has gone mad over technology, especially with cell phones. It is really shocking to me, how so many are very unconscious as to how they use their devices.
Many of us need to have very strong boundaries and clear, rigid intentions, to take time away from all this. Do you get time away from your phone?
Ona: Yes, when I paddleboard. It is always an hour or two, and this is my time away from the phone.
Whether it is an hour, two hours, or periods of time like Ryan and Corinne regularly schedule, many enjoy their time away from the phone. There should be no expectations from anyone other than ourselves, as to when we decide to step away from the phone and technology. I think this should be supported, and never criticized.
Me: So this perfectly brings me to my next question. Tell me about Shaka Aloha Adventures.
Ona: Shaka Aloha Adventures' official start date was March 2020. I had the idea since 2016, there was just no time to move on it. So when I had the time, when I was basically laid off from Fairmont, I thought it out more and got to go on more hikes, and test out more gear.
I put all the paperwork together, applied for a business license and started to learn what it really takes to start a tour business here in Hawaii. I had time to hike around, and a couple of my friends were not working, so we would go on hikes, and take boards to secluded beaches, ponds, rivers. It was lots of fun.
I am very excited sharing these experiences with people because I grew up here. Maybe people who are not from here, do not know about all of these amazing spots. No tour company on the island does such a thing. I do my bookings on Fridays, which is my day off from Fairmont.
I am so excited about Ona's Shaka Aloha Adventures. I am not sure if there is any place more beautiful than Hawaii. It is by far, my favorite place! For those who love nature, beauty, being in "awe," and want to adventure the Big Island, with a beautiful and amazing individual, this would surely be the "go to plan" for your visit.
This interview with Ona, was so amazing, as she is no doubt someone who is not only invaluable to the hospitality industry in general, but to anyone who comes in contact with her. I am blessed to work with her, and most importantly, blessed to have gotten to know her on such a deep level these past few years. I am fortunate and grateful to have her as a friend, and so glad we had time together to do this interview. I hope that anyone reading this blog post, can get some gem(s) of wisdom, insight, etc...
For more information about Fairmont Orchid, please check out:
And for more information on Shaka Aloha Adventures, please check out:
instagram @ Shaka_ Aloha_ Adventures
facebook Shaka Aloha Adventures LLC.
Bookings are typically done through these or Airbnb experiences.