The Power of “Kumusta?”

The Power of “Kumusta?”

The power of kumusta. When was the last time you sincerely asked, “Kumusta?” There is so much power there if you asked seriously.

Kumusta is a Filipino word, derived from the Spanish ‘Como esta?’ which translates to, ‘How are you?’ in English.

Now, I do have two ‘issues’ with ‘how are you?’ or at least how this is being used today, especially in business.

How Are You?

1. People ask, or shall I rather say, say ‘How are you?’ without any intention to know the answer. Why did I say this? Well, people these days say, “Hello! How are you?” and continue on their way. See, there’s not a chance but just to return a smile and maybe utter a ‘hi’ or something just as short.

2. In the business world, when leaders ask “How are you?” with great zeal and interest, they really meant, “How’s our scorecard looking? Are we meeting the metrics? How is the team performing?” Not so much about the person but what the person can bring in.

I’m not generalizing, neither am I blaming them. It’s natural for leaders to want to know team standing at any given time. However, is that all there is?

Many of the heartfelt conversations I’ve been in started with this one-word-question.


Once over lunch, I was with my rather young teammate, an intern. I was open for anything. Even nothing. This was among our first few conversations, so I wasn’t too sure what a non-work conversation would be like with today’s young blood, you know. We’re talking 17-year gap.

I was thinking K-Pop, current TV series or maybe online games, which I know nothing of. Only one thing was certain, she was not her usual bubbly self.

So, I asked, “Kumusta? How was your weekend?”

She looked into my eyes. At this moment I wondered if it’s not customary anymore for the ‘millennials’ to ask this question. I was ready for a friendly banter.

“Remember Ana (not her real name)?” I said, “Yes, your close friend and greatest critique. Why?” Then she went on and on and on sharing with me blow-by-blow what happened over the weekend. In summary, she, together with her family rushed her close friend to the hospital for something very serious and needed immediate attention. It was really heavy emotionally so I just listened. “So, that explains why you are not that bubbly today.” She said, “I haven’t slept since Saturday morning.”

That opened more channels of communication for us. I noticed too that she would go to my office more often, would always remember to share and started asking more questions.

She’s a product of one of the premier Universities in the Philippines. Thus she got calls every now and then. I told her, “Hey, if the offer is good and for a regular post, accept it.” She always assured me, “I committed to you and the Company when I signed the contact. I’ll do whatever I can to help you in my 6-months here.”

Indeed, she delivered. Whatever I assigned, she always gave me above and beyond output. She completed her internship with us and is now with a big multi-national Company.

The Power of Kumusta

That is just one of many and from my experience, there is no better way to gain trust and commitment than by first recognizing that your employees are individuals, each with their own interesting stories.

I chose to use “Kumusta?” over “How are you?” because of the sincerity that goes with it. It is a short way of saying, I care about you, I want to get to know you more, let’s talk!

How many leaders are truly interested in their employees? Yet, this is a key factor in building employee trust and commitment!

How do you connect with your employees, whether you are in HR or a business leader? For employees, what’s the best way leaders could get to know you more? 


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