By Char Ravello

Keith Yap and wife Valory exploring the glaciers in Iceland. Contributed photo

Isn’t it great to leave a meeting with a smile because you were heard and validated, and it was productive? Ever wondered how to assert a change for effective and empowering meetings? If yes, then we recommend getting to know this community leader, Keith Yap, a master of civil discourse known for his engaging and productive conversations.

“I remember leaving meetings feeling frustrated and could not put my finger on why or what caused it. It was in my LK class that I finally understood the necessity for collaboration and the importance of the balance in hearing both sides to know where you stand. Also, the importance of learning about people’s values to show respect. It changed my life,” said Keith, reflecting on how facilitation style came about.

Today, Keith proceeds by giving individuals the benefit of the doubt — everyone will be respectful, listen for understanding, report the facts, have empathy and compassion, and seek common ground. His approach is to weave the conversation, so everyone has a say in the matter, feels valued and encouraged.

Keith began his leadership journey in the early 1990s as the senior manager in PKF Hawai‘i, an International CPA firm in Honolulu. He was asked to serve as the treasurer for an organization called HUGS (Help Understanding Group Support for seriously ill children).  Shortly after that he moved to Kaua‘i and continued to join many non-profit organizations helping his community. He feels lucky to have had many mentors along the way. Keith says, “One of the greatest skills to have, is the skill to listen and learn.”

Keith Yap at an Ethiopian coffee factory. Contributed photo

However, it wasn’t until Keith was asked by a previous employer to address a very difficult situation that he realized he had a capacity for mediation. His boss recognized Keith’s talent for communicating with people and problem-solving. Successfully working through that very serious issue gave him the confidence to continue shooting for value-based agreements in meetings, using the guidelines of civil discourse.

When asked what inspires him to go for it during challenging times, he replied, “It’s my desire to improve the life of everyone around me, whether it’s my family, co-workers, friends and neighbors. The measure of a person is the quality of the lives of those around them. My desire to make at least one person’s day better gets me up in the morning.”

In looking ahead for our island, Keith acknowledges every day is filled challenges with pandemic issues, work issues, political differences, and hopes people can be kind to one another. Seek to understand before you can be understood.

Keith says, “I currently belong to many organizations, many in different stages of leadership growth. Personally, the value of collaboration and encouraging the value of each and every person in your circle is the key to lifting up that organization. If your goal is to build trusting relationships, it costs nothing to say ‘good morning’ and you’re 80 percent there. The rest will come easy.”

His leadership philosophy is to encourage good actions and counsel bad ones. Positive encouragement is key. Remind people why they are important. When someone is down, pick them up, dusk them off and say you care and mean it. Laugh hard and laugh often.

Keith is witty, kind, patient, approachable and a gifted communicator who embodies this definition of leadership: “Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.” – Kouzes and Posner

Keith models the way for leaders with his favorite quote by Maya Angelou – “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

As 2023 begins, our hope is for everyone to take another look at the behaviors in meetings, and choose to the path of bringing people together. We’re stronger together.                              Happy New Year!

  • Char Ravelo is the Executive Director of Leadership Kaua‘i, and can be contacted at or (808) 246-8727.

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