Ushering in the Age of Spacious Leadership

Ushering in the Age of Spacious Leadership

Whether it is the way we write, the way we think, the way we communicate, or the way we relate to one another—space is critical.

Space is the yin to the yang, the cause to the effect, the dark to the light. We often use space as a metaphor, one that is so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. The human body itself is 99.9% space. Yet, we seldom delve into our relationship with space. 

We are in a constant relationship with space and time, and that relationship can often be a battle. There is never enough space, or there is too much. We can oscillate between an agoraphobic and claustrophobic relationship to space. Not only our physical and physiological spaces, but also our psychological and psychic spaces. 

Over the last seven years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to develop a meditation, breath and yoga asana practice that has transformed my relationship to space.  
 
I completed my training as an Art of Living teacher of breath and meditation in India just as the pandemic struck. It was the most amazing synchronicity to have this gift, both for myself and for those I teach, to find spaces and places of internal peace in meditation during those tumultuous years. 

I learnt a lot about space, as we all did.  As people across the world were confined to their homes in the pandemic, the greatest of fears arose in so many people, and the trauma of this continues to ripple amongst the population. Our fear of confinement is huge.  It shows how much we have become ill-equipped to find an internal peace in difficult circumstances.  

Watching the struggle of so many sowed the seed for my upcoming book. What is it about our relationship to space that is making so many people uncomfortable and unhappy? 

Our spaces have become extremely cluttered. Not only with the endless cheap consumer goods and packaging that fill our homes and workspaces, but also in the digital spaces that define communication and work in the 21st Century. Our world is cluttered by the constant streams of information we consume, clogging our thinking with our growing addiction to our digital devices that are constantly overloading our senses. 

Our internal and external spaces are chocka. We are choking and suffocating from a lack of space in our minds and our environments. It is relentless. 

Our digital world that held, and can still hold, the promise of saving us time and labour, has become a burden in the complexity we have become engaged with. Endless subscriptions, registrations, compliance processes, passwords, authentications, marketing… whew, it is exhausting. Not to mention the stress for those who struggle to navigate this world, due to age, ability, or expertise.   

Working in leadership development, I observe closely the challenges of those with leadership responsibilities in the corporate world, the public and not-for-profit sectors, and in communities and families.  

I started to reflect on what was missing for people. What are leaders struggling with most? 

It occurred to me that the greatest challenge is the relationship to space and time.  

The most successful leaders are those that find balance and harmony in this relationship. 

So what does that mean? 

Well far greater minds than mine have studied the relationship between time and space: just think Einstein and the theory of relativity. And long before Einstein, indigenous knowledge systems navigated this relationship and understood it at depth. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the concept of wātea, the time-space continuum, is a fundamental element of the indigenous knowledge systems of tangata whenua, the people of the land here. Across the Pacific we have the vā, the relational world of time and space amongst people and all living things. 

It dawned on me (and I love the metaphor of dawn, of light emerging in the day) that the most important quality of great leadership is spaciousness. 

Creating space for others to succeed is at the heart of great leadership models variously described as servant leadership, emergent leadership, distributive leadership, shared leadership, collective leadership, eco-ological leadership… 

Leadership fails when it is all about a one man band. Success is always predicated on the engagement of others. 

In the 21st century, we still see examples of an antiquated and colonial way of leading, where command and control leadership is administered from the top of a hierarchy. It is a failing system. Our diverse populations and newer generations do not buy into this: it is a hero based model that has had its day. There is no space left for it to thrive. 

The emerging great leaders of today are frequently unseen and unheard, because they are busy creating space for others to succeed. They lead by serving others, rather than cluttering up space and sucking up oxygen telling people what to do, and telling people what they themselves are doing. 

Sure, great leaders must communicate and engage powerfully and share vision, purpose and inspiration. But not from a pedestal. 

The old Taoist maxim, that the leader leads well when the people believe they themselves have achieved success, has never been more true. It is creating space in leadership for others to succeed and to lead that is the most successful leadership. 

Fundamental to the exploration and navigation of external space is the journey of inner space, the unseen journey. Achieving spaciousness in the world around us starts with creating internal space within us. 

Decluttering our minds, our psyche, our thinking is fundamental. And in today’s world, it is something that most of us do not pay enough attention to. The art and science of doing nothing, of creating internal space. 

This is where a meditation practice kicks in.  

Meditation can look very different to different people, and the practice should never be a ‘one size fits all’ thing.  For one person, vacuuming the floor may be a meditation. Driving a car may be a meditation for another. A walk on the beach or in a forest may be it for someone else. Others may wish to practice the meditations of spiritual knowledge systems.  

What is your meditation practice? Is it conscious or unconscious? 

With these final questions, perhaps it is timely to create some space for you as the reader. Here is where I stop writing, and let you go away and reflect.  There is more to come, watch this space… 


This year I am celebrating seven years since I published my book The Weave: The Surprising Unity in Difference. I don’t know what it is about a seven year period – it is a cycle that many people have beliefs about, ranging from astrological cycle of Uranus through to the seven year itch in relationships. My relationship to space and time has fundamentally changed in the past seven years, and I am excited to share with you some of the story behind my upcoming book.  

Making Space to Build Great Teams

Making Space to Build Great Teams

“Holding space” takes time to master. It requires a deep commitment to serve others, and to focus on the group in all its diversity rather than on one’s own voice, opinion and ego.

Providing the right physical and psychic space is critical to creating highly functional teams and organisations.

When facilitating groups, making space for people in a psychic sense makes a huge difference to the successful cohesion of a group and the outcomes they achieve. Disunity, division, conflict and breakdowns are seeded when people feel excluded and unheard, engendering a sense of not belonging. Creating psychic space requires a great deal of listening and a term that gets used in facilitation: “holding space.”

“Holding space” takes time to master. It requires a deep commitment to serve others, and to focus on the group in all its diversity rather than on one’s own voice, opinion and ego. It is a subtle skill, but starts with honouring all the voices and ways of expression in a group, and seeking connection, building on the contributions that are offered.

Read the full article on the Tetramap website

Weaving Ways Through Wicked Problems

Weaving Ways Through Wicked Problems

It’s complicated. Such a telling response when people are asked about a challenging relationship. It has become a widespread meme because it is spot on describe the ins and outs of relationships.

That’s also our world today, super complicated, and full of wicked problems it feels impossible to unravel. We can feel powerless in the face of what occur as insurmountable problems.

Weaving as a metaphor for ways of connecting seems so obvious. We use terms like threads of thought, ideas, and weaving these threads so frequently we most often don’t even notice the reference.

And yet weaving is potentially the most important metaphor of all time.

Indigenous cultures use weaving as a metaphor extensively. In the ancient wisdom of indigenous people, the practical, the spiritual and the intellectual are woven as one.

References to the ways nature weaves eco-systems is deeply entwined in the stories that guide many indigenous cultures.

And in fact all cultures.

Weaving is arguably the oldest technology of human kind. We saw how nature wove, and started to replicate to make structures for food, clothing and shelter.

And even today, every constructed environment we inhabit or use in human built infrastructure is full of woven forms.

The opportunity to explore weaving as a metaphor offers a vast, broad and deep way to navigate complexity, to align our thinking, our actions and our reflections with the twists and turns of woven forms and functions.

Delving into a weaving way enables ‘give and take’ navigation of disparate elements that can come together, and separate, where strands can stand alone for a while, and combine as and where necessary.

A physical weaving that is well constructed has flexibility; too tight and it is constrained, too loose and it does not hold.

Weaving as metaphor can enable us to navigate both the physical and the metaphysical, co-joining elements of our tangible and intangible world.

A shortcoming of humankind today has been to reduce the world to tangible, linear processes that people believe they can define, confine, control and measure.

But in reality, as science and spiritual knowledge around the world is starting to merge and co-mingle, we can see that there is so much that is immeasurable and unfolding in our realities that we would be wise to stay curious about, accepting that human knowledge has only taken baby steps to understand what goes on across this planet, the elements and the ‘space’ beyond our immediate realms.

To weave ways of being and ways of doing, and to be in awe at the opportunities we as humans can have on this intricately beautiful and complex planet is a place for us to stand, to hunt for threads of connections, and to unravel the tangles of our woven world, finding unity in our differences.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Hugged My UnVaxxed Friend the Other Day

Why I Hugged My UnVaxxed Friend the Other Day

It’s tough out there right now. So many, many people functioning on fear.

I am a fully vaccinated anti vaxxer. In a perfect world, I would not go near a vaccination.

I have a healthy distrust of big government, big business, and big pharma. To be honest I would not trust any of them as far as I could throw them.

I chose to be double vaccinated, not for myself, but for my family and community. The decision was simple. Not that I liked making it one little bit.

But this is not a perfect world. We are all immuno-compromised because of the tainted air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, the work we do, our unhealthy homes and workplaces, and the inequitable society and economy we live in.

If we put a lens to the disgusting chemicals that abound in our environment, a COVID vaccination and its potential side effects probably pale in comparison.

Exhaust fumes, pesticides and nitrates in water and food, chemicals in building materials, cleaning materials… the list goes on and on and on, and it has all been in the name of gross profit, well actually greed.

I write not to excuse or justify for a moment the use of vaccination. It is simply to set a broader context.

This is not to debate or to use the tired adversarial debate process, of who is right and wrong.

No one is right and wrong in this.

I got vaccinated because I spend a fair bit of my time with marginalized members of our community, those on the edges, that we now deem ‘immuno-compromised.’ They include my 92-year-old Dad, who I visit regularly as his care-giving service has been halved. I spend time with people from the disability community, who have no choice over their compromised health. I spend time with people of various ethnicities who through inter-generational trauma, poverty and suppression through colonisation have compromised health; physical, mental, and spiritual.

None of these friends and whānau have the same access I do, as a middle-class white pākehā with a small disposable income, to organic food, home grown food, herbal remedies, yoga and meditation programmes that all support my immune system.

There is plenty of science that clearly demonstrates those in lower socio-economic groups do not easily have the bandwidth or the environment to ‘pivot’ to healthier lifestyles.

If we could get what I have in these so called ‘alternative’ sources of good nutrition, spiritual and mental health to the wider population, we might shut down the Ministry of Health, Pfizer et al tomorrow.

After all, they do have a vested interest in people remaining sick, otherwise they would all be out of a job.

But we are where we are.

And we have a new minority that run the risk of being turned into lepers; the unvaccinated.

I get it.

When I go out and I see people not bothering with masks, sanitizer, tracing, or social distancing, I judge. I think, come on, get with the programme.

But I then move on to work to source some compassion in myself. The fear in their eyes equals the fear in the eyes of those fully vaccinated following the rules. And let’s face it the rules are messy, inequitable, and frequently don’t make much sense.

Tragically, there are so many hidden sources, political and ideological behind the information we are consuming. We have outsourced what we think and feel, not solely to government and business, but to the algorithm that is choosing the information we consume. We would do well to hack and disrupt the invasive memes that enter our homes and heads that follow an orchestrated coded agenda, and browse sources far, wide, and unpredictable.

The government’s PR campaign is growing tired.

In Aotearoa Labour and National governments alike have been manipulating the population with PR and media since the early 20th century.

A recent article in Memories magazine by the wonderful radio documentarian, Hop Owen, now in his nineties, tells the story of the introduction of radio to Aotearoa. At the time, a radio set in the home was the very latest technology. But its introduction was mired in political agendas.

Hop writes that in 1934 Auckland’s favourite radio station 1ZB was owned and operated by “Uncle Scrim” a former Methodist City Missioner, who knew well the misery of Auckland’s poor and unemployed. He gave a weekly talk called The Man in the Street that was obligatory listening for anyone in Auckland with a radio set. But an election loomed, and the reigning Coates/Forbes coalition (yes they had them even then) of the Reform and United parties (predecessors of the National Party) were worried Uncle Scrim would use his platform to support Labour, and the government Post and Telegraph department that controlled radio frequencies jammed his broadcast. He did get to broadcast his script the next day after a furore and it contained no endorsement of the Labour Party.

Labour won the election in a landslide victory, but it too would go on to try and control the airwaves. They made the way for parliament to be broadcast for the first time in the western world under a pretext that it would bring democracy to the people. They then went on to stage manage, and carefully select speeches, speakers and edited debates to better represent partisan government views.

It does not feel a long stretch 85 years later to the controlled daily PR briefings we endure from government ministers and health bureaucrats every day. And isn’t it strange that the signage and branding in vaccination centre booths is remarkably like those in polling booths? Just saying.

So where do we go.

We must dig deep in ourselves to source love, compassion, and acceptance. It takes work. It takes stepping through our fears and reactions. For me I now have a two hourly daily practice of yoga, breath, and meditation. That calms me. I have used lockdowns to expand my practice. I am growing vegetables and tending my garden more than I have ever done before in the 30 years I have lived in this spot.  I teach meditation and breath workshops online, for people in workplaces and homes to bring a bit of peace and harmony to the fear of the chaos of the world beyond our bubbles.

In my own small way, I wish to bring these immune system building practices to others, and one day in an evolved world, they will become the norm, rather than toxic food, air, water, chemicals drugs and adversarial politics.

We are so blessed to have a short time living on this planet. The natural world we live in is magical and amazing at every turn. If we can pause, wonder and be curious about its magnificence perhaps we can better source wellbeing. In front of me are a vase of flowers and some fresh fruit, they are exquisite. They are beautiful beyond compare. What human mind could ever design something so remarkable. We work to get close, with our imaginations and creativity. But we thrive when we surrender and let go to the fact, we are only a small speck in the cosmos. Our ills derive from getting way too big for ourselves, thinking we can control natural systems for our own benefit.

As western systems of governance, business and science are failing us, it is timely to turn to the ancient wisdom of indigenous knowledge sourced ( honoured and not appropriated) from India to North America to Aotearoa. Western science and thought are slowly catching up to the thousands and thousands of years of wisdom in indigenous science, that melds physics and metaphysics, and teaches harmonious living with tangible and intangible systems of our natural world.

My teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar puts politics and religion like this:

“The role of religion is to make one righteous and loving, and politics means caring for people and their welfare. When religion and politics don’t co-exist, then you have corrupt politicians and pseudo-religious leaders.

A religious person who is righteous and loving will care for the welfare of the whole population and hence become a true politician. And a true politician can only be righteous and loving.

Today both religion and politics needs reform. Religion must become broader and more spiritual to allow freedom of worship and to encompass all the wisdom of the world. And politicians must become more righteous and spiritual. “

So whānau, breathe. In your mind and your soul, hug one another, whether it is mentally or physically. Have compassion for all in this time of fear.

Source yourself in activity and thought that brings you peace.

Step away from the drama that pipes into our homes and affects our systems, manipulating adrenal systems, evoking cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin without our control.

Take time to reflect, to meditate, to do nothing and whatever works for you to still your mind and relax.

In te reo Māori the achingly beautiful, timeless, prescient and connected language of this land,

Kia manawanui, kia māia, kia arohanui.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Quit

I Quit

I’ve called time.
At the tender or ripe age of 60, this is it. Enough.
I quit.
There is huge freedom in being a quitter.
I’ve given up.
I’ve let go.
I’ve surrendered.
So What?

To quit in today’s world usually has a negative connotation. That’s interesting. A quitter who gives up is often seen as a failure.

But the very word quit comes from two great concepts; freedom and silence.

It’s latin.
quit1
/kwɪt/
Origin
Middle English (in the sense ‘set free’): from Old French quiter (verb), quite (adjective), from Latin quietus, past participle of quiescere ‘be still’, from quies ‘quiet’.

It is time to unravel all that I have thought was important over the past few decades, because most of it wasn’t.
And I think as a species, we humans have been overthinking our importance and shaping the world to our own detriment. That is why I am quitting, giving up, letting go and surrendering.

Phew, it does feel a great relief.

I have been so attached to getting it all right for so long. Trying to solve every freakin’ problem with my intellect. How arrogant is that? But most of us do it. We think if we nut everything out, we can solve any problem. Well, who decided whatever it was, was a problem in the first place!

So to coin a hugely overused cliché, what is the roadmap?
Well for a start there are two very colonizing, limiting words.

Road.
We would well do without them. They have so limited our horizons, the ways we navigate. Yeah I get they were designed to make it easier to get around, and in a certain time that was probably a good idea, as to navigate rugged terrain limited our movement and access to opportunities. But at what cost? Now the road rules and negates so many other ways of navigating our world, that are usually far more harmonious with other species and the natural world. Bugger the road.

And Maps.
Maps started out to make life easier, didn’t they? But maps have way out lived their usefulness after centuries of use to dominate, separate, colonise, divide, own, rule. You get my point. And anyway, there’s GPS.

So goodbye road, goodbye map.
I don’t want a roadmap for the future.
What I do want is to quit, to find freedom, quiet and silence.

The world is already going through so much crazy change, any map or any road you might have is going to be obsolete the moment you look at it.

The massive challenges we face, environmentally and socially have been on the cards for many many years.

The thing was, when people started to talk about the future and the opportunities and risks of globalization, the use of resources and the wicked problem or enormous potential of developing the developed, developing and under developed world, it all became an ideological or intellectual debate.

Debate. Now there is another outdated concept. Oh dear, and that has been the supposed basis of democracy in the world, debate. I am really not sure whether ‘debate’ is a useful process at all. It’s an adversarial clashing of egos more than anything else, and has the world always ended up a better place in the hands of those who won a debate?

So we were all getting it wrong trying to fix everything with our heads, our logic. So arrogant.

We had taught ourselves to distrust, disown and discredit our intuition. It was witchcraft, it was ropey, soft, vague, dangerous, woolly, feminine, dangerous, unproven, hugely risky.
Well was it, is it?

My intuition told me a long long time ago that we needed to live more harmoniously with each other and with nature. I didn’t have the data, and to be honest, quantitative data has never really been my thing. But I could sense we were pushing it. Stuff was going to wear out. Surely life on this planet has always been about cause and effect. You use things and people up too much, and things will bounce back. There will be an effect, there will be an impact, and the force may well be far greater than you thought.

So here we are. Pandemics. Storms. Busted infrastructure. Stuff running out. People not happy.

My aim is to do far far less.

I quit work. I quit recreation. I quit consuming.
Undoubtedly I will do a little of all these things.
But I will DO far far less, and aim to BE far far more.
Much more meditation every day.
Teaching myself to think less and less and less.
Teaching myself to reflect more and more and more.
Teaching myself to love more and more and more.
Teaching myself to practice Festina Lente, to hasten slowly.
To be in balance with action and stillness.
Hmmmmm.
Ahhhhhhhh.
That feels good.
I quit.

Building Story Mojo – Leadership in a Pandemic Age

Building Story Mojo – Leadership in a Pandemic Age

 

Never before in recent history have the communication skills of leaders been more important.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world in early 2020, people from every walk of life and in every corner of the globe have struggled to understand what on earth was going on. We had no framework, no reference point, no practiced skills, knowledge or experience to navigate a pandemic that would rend the very fabric of our communities.

The shock and the fear was deep and wide. The shock waves and trauma are still around and going nowhere soon.

Households and workplaces scrambled hungrily for information from any source; what was really going on? Whose information could we trust? Social media, news media, our friends, our families, political or workplace leaders, our spiritual leaders, our fathers, our mothers, our sons or daughters? How could we tell what was true? Even now, what sources do we trust?
Can we trust science? Who has a hidden agenda?

Sharply contrasting communication styles have emerged. There was blame, attack, metaphors about battles, fights and war. There were also appeals to calm, unity and working together, metaphors such as ‘bubbles’. New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, whether you agree with her politics or not, was lauded by leaders from the right and the left for her excellent communication skills, and these centred around her powerful use of metaphor to tell a story.

Research shows on average we all use up to six metaphors every minute every day. Our lives and our communication is (to use yet another metaphor) riddled with metaphor.

They can have immense power and influence. Neuroscientists have found that substituting power verbs and metaphors can dramatically influence us in our experiences and decision making and how we see the truth. For example if we substitute the world ‘collision’ for ‘smash’ when witnessing a car ‘incident’ people’s estimates of how fast a vehicle is travelling can change dramatically. If the word ‘smash’ is used people estimate a higher speed, if the word collision is used they estimate a lower speed, unconsciously. As we are awash (another metaphor again for drama and emphasis!) with endless notifications across social news media, TV, radio,  audio, video, politicians, community leaders, neighbours and friends, navigating what is true and what is not is immensely challenging.

Sometimes even what might appear to be quite harmless metaphors can create fear and disempower. Talk of ‘waves’ of the pandemic can give a sense that it will be a never-ending force with no end. Contrast this with the use of a metaphor like ‘fire-fighting’ which can enable people to fell they have a sense of control over something that can be overcome.

There are pluses and minuses with the use of all metaphors. The most important thing is to be aware of their power and how you use them, and to change and adapt them for different circumstances.

Building story mojo with the use of metaphor is now a key tool in a 21st century leader’s tool kit.

There is an onus like never before on leaders to reflect deeply and clearly on the language they use, the stories they tell. What metaphors and stories are you using? Will they create fear, or calm? Will they call people to action, or disempower them?

In my upcoming workshop Story Mojo: Story Telling for Authentic Leadership we will explore metaphor and storytelling in depth. Join us to take your leadership communication to another level. http://www.andrewmelville.com/workshops/

Let’s Teach Side Hustle at School.

Let’s Teach Side Hustle at School.

 

Like many people growing up in the late 20th century, I was told at school and home that success looked like achieving well in education and work, focused around core subjects and career paths into professions or trades. There were set steps to follow, and you were always being measured against others and ranked. The measurements, metrics as we talk about today, were numeric, linear and quantitative. There was a cut off point where those with enough marks headed in one direction in life, and those with not enough marks headed somewhere else, usually to lower paid employment or perhaps no employment at all.

However, turns out my greatest successes in life have been my side hustles. But no one ever taught me that. When I was very young, I experimented with friends about making things to sell. It was a game. We made art, cookies, or perhaps even mud pies, and played shop, selling them to family or friends for a few cents. It was a little glimmer of what it might mean to be entrepreneurial and receive reward for something you made from your efforts. Later in life, products and services I have designed and delivered myself have been the most satisfying and the most lucrative.

But my education for this was only ever a game. This approach to creating things, selling or exchanging them, was certainly not on any school curriculum. And once in the work force, creating new ideas, products and services in most of my early roles was not valued whatsoever. You followed a set line, a set of formulas with parameters around delivering work and outcomes. Step outside of the set rules too much and you were reprimanded.

Today, I still see this continue. I have witnessed children in school, students in university, hungry to turn their ideas into realities that will benefit their families, communities, and themselves shut down time and time again. Many is the time I have seen an inspired student or graduate deflated as their enthusiasm, their vision and their creativity is shut down. They get told to follow the script in their career, if they can in fact find a job.

In the Māori and Pasifika world I have seen this frequently occur too with another twist. These students want their study and their research to go straight back to their whanau and community, and yet they get told their study is an ‘academic exercise’ and they do not get to deliver their ideas and have to turn to compromised roles in mainstream workplaces.

An entrepreneurial or creative spirit happens on the sidelines.

In 2020 as traditional jobs disappear in the thousands and kids have spent half the year out of school, what new alternatives can we look at to fulfil on dreams, to source an income, and to ‘make a living’ in the true sense of the word? (Interesting how we default to thinking about cash when we talk about ‘making a living’ rather than giving this phrase a broader intent!) I’m pretty damn sure that professional roles for life are on the way out for good.

The power base of the tired old professions of accountancy, law, medicine and engineering are less and less relevant in today’s world. Many of the services offered by these professions you can now google, or manage yourself. I see more and more of the traditional firms resort to fear tactics as they desperately try to remain relevant, inculcating a risk averse business culture, telling the population that it is very dangerous to do without a lawyer, an accountant, an engineer or a doctor. It is tragic that many parents, teachers, academics, business and government leaders still push these professions as the pinnacle of achievement. And in so doing they’re selling their children and their children’s children a very dud deal.

Maybe it is a bad idea to try and quantify and systemise something as creative as a side hustle. But then again maybe we should honour, celebrate and encourage rangatahi today to have a few strings to their bow, to experiment with technology and creativity, with science and with art, and where all these often sidelined endeavours intersect. I once teased an old friend with a strict socialist ideology that the best thing I could ever teach my children growing up was how to write an invoice. And I wasn’t kidding. Writing an invoice can give you many things; an awareness of business, financial literacy, self sufficiency, self worth. I know for myself writing an invoice for my services is very satisfying and empowering.

Let’s pivot, no in fact lets pirouette, to put the entrepreneurship of the creative and tech sectors at the forefront alongside sustainable uses of the land and our beautiful resources, to grow food and shelter. Is it timely to change out what has been seen as the ultimate professions.  Let’s honour the collective, the diverse skills in our communities. It is time to move away from hierarchies that values certain human attributes above others.

Kia Manawanui, Kia Kaha, Kia Māia.

 

The Opportunity For Māori Values To Re-Build NZ Inc.

The Opportunity For Māori Values To Re-Build NZ Inc.

Whatever way you choose to cut and dice it, colonisation was, and still is brutal for Māori.

If not at the scale of warfare of some parts of the world, the brutalization of the spirit, of a way of life, of a humanity has deep scars still running through Māori communities today.

But there is a further tragedy, and one that could become a triumph if people’s mindsets can shift.

Three massive fissures in the wellbeing of Aotearoa, the Christchurch earthquakes, the Christchurch mosque terrorist massacre, and the COVID19 pandemic have shown the generosity and values of Māori communities coming to the rescue again and again, often in simple understated ways.

On each occasion marae, always a place of welcome and haven, were instantly in action providing food and shelter for displaced people, without question. Again and again. No delays or processes about waiting for approval, funding, or criteria to be set. And alongside those marae, Māori health and social service providers rose quickly to each occasion supply what people needed, door to door.

And there have been more subtle ways that te ao Māori has been a massive contribution in this nation’s times of need.

When the mainstream public; numb, speechless, and desperate were flaying around to understand, to find meaning, to make sense of it all, we started to see words like whānau, aroha, kia kaha on placards and on lips throughout the motu.I

will never forget witnessing a crowd of many cultures gathered outside a Ponsonby mosque bursting into a rendition of Te Aroha to express just that… the waiata led by a Chinese man.

Why does the nation turn to kupu from Te Reo Māori in times of great hurt, of great need?  On the one hand mainstream New Zealand continues to persecute Māori, with racist jibes, institutional racism, casual racism, fear and ridicule. But on the other, when the chips are down, what set of values do people turn to?

When we hear talk of the Kiwi Ingenuity of Aotearoa New Zealand, of our ‘down to earth’ nature, of our ‘can do’ attitude, and our non-judgmental friendliness on the world stage, what is the source of that in our history?

Without research, and without any academic nous, I strongly believe that it was not simply the pioneers and colonists that forged the ‘kiwi’ way, it was Māori.

And yet that contribution, as with many others from the Māori world is never fully acknowledged. Our qualities as a nation are assumed to be an evolution of some pioneering spirit, and anything wonderful in the growth and forming of this nation is rarely attributed to Māori.

Now, as we face years of re-set, come-back, re-formation and re-invention, where does a Māori tikanga sit in the mix?

From every vantage point that I can see, the collective spirit, the focus on whānau, manaaki, tiaki, aroha and whenua is an operating system robust, age old, harmonious, productive, unifying and fundamentally utterly humane. It is a universal and cohesive winning formula. This is what we need to re-emerge.

We have led the world for so many initiatives in our history. We love being the David to the world’s Goliath and we are good at it.  But we have hugely underplayed how much Māori contributed to these successes. It remained hidden.

Now as communities process the grief of a decimated economy with work and livelihoods in complete disarray, we can perhaps finally start to take seriously the ratification of Te Tiriti o Waitangi forward. We can move on from it being an abstract idea, that has been thrashed and manipulated by colonising governments to this day, ignored by the business community, and reviled by the mainstream public to have it be a living document, and foundation for a cooperative template for partnership.

The tragedy and missed opportunity is that the colonial view of Te Tiriti was so literal and narrow that it fully missed the nuance, the inter=connected, holistic and sustainable operating system of Te Ao Māori.

Wake up people! A true partnership between the best of the kiwi mainstream western world, and the best of Te Ao Māori can make our place magic. We know we can pull together as one. We all get the concept of rowing the waka together. Let’s now live into that promise, that opportunity.

Let’s learn to fully love our whenua, our maunga, our awa, our moana as living beings, as extensions of our whānau. We’ve started to write this into our legislation, let’s honour it, let’s be it.

My personal experience as a pakeha in Te Ao Māori has always been one of love, of acceptance, of an all encompassing aroha that stretches way beyond words. I am at a loss to understand why so many pale, stale, males like myself are so frightened of this world.

I guess it is attitude, and that dear Aotearoa, is what we have to shift.

I’ve had the privilege to be invited to document and articulate efforts around co-governance between hapu/iwi and government. When this has progressed well, usually after decades of intransigence on the part of bureaucrats and colonised thinking in Iwi, it has been beautiful to behold. People work together to make the whole far greater than the parts, the whenua is loved, cherished and gives back, and stormy times and conflicts are navigated.

I am not suggesting a utopia, that is always a lie and a fantas\y. But we can do and be so much more.

Kia Kaha, Kia Māia, Kia Manawanui.

 

 

 

Love in the Time of Cholera- The Opportunity of COVID 19

Love in the Time of Cholera- The Opportunity of COVID 19

It is hard to see it when so much seems bleak, but the chaos, disruption and fear we are experiencing in this pandemic can give rise to re-discovering better ways to live and work.

There are viral aspects of the COVID-19 that go far beyond the physical illness and risk of death.  It is being felt in what might seem to be completely unconnected and unrelated environments. It is being felt economically, culturally, environmentally and socially. It is affecting relationships, income, wellbeing, work and home pressures far beyond its physical presence in a community. I see the fear in my family, and I have already experienced many thousands of dollars’ worth of work cancelled or put on hold indefinitely.

This is what viruses do. They spread across networks, at a pace and in directions we find hard to keep track of. And this in turn leads to fear.

We fear what we cannot control. We fear what is uncertain. Fear has been a driving force for survival deep in our primal make up and our physiology throughout our evolution as a species.

Mastering fear is something as critical today as in any time in our history.

The difference is that today we have a greater set of tools than ever before to master fear. We can utilise science and technology, and couple it with a greater understanding and behaviours as socially aware and conscious human beings. We can be pragmatic and empathic in equal measures, but it can seem that the latter is trickier to master.

What is the opportunity that COVID-19 offers for us to live more harmoniously, more sustainably and more mindfully?

For a start some of the sensible measures being outlined are things that we should be doing anyway, regardless of the threat of contracting the virus.

  • When I hear leaders in businesses telling their staff to stay at home if they feel at all unwell, or staying away even if they feel like they are coming down with something, is that not a good practice all the time?
  • When it comes to having a sensible amount of food and resources to be self- sufficient in our homes, is that not a good practice all the time?
  • When it comes to eating well and taking measures to boost our immune systems, is that not a good practice all the time?
  • When it comes to offering leadership that allows people to make choices about things such as travelling for work if they feel unsafe, and questioning how often we need to travel for work, is that not a good practice all the time?
  • When it comes to taking greater care with hygiene in public places and moving around our connected globalised world, is that not a good practice all the time?

In a crisis, or under threat, we’d like to think that we would always rise to the occasion and do the right thing by others. But in reality, do we know whether we will stand up, or run,  attack or blame?

Dealing with fear and responding to it, when the impacts are so very uncertain, is more about simple practical steps than heroic gestures. It is about offering generosity and empathy however the fear, the response or reactions are occurring.

I am saddened by the panicked reactions I see, as it seems a great deal of fear is lying just under the surface for many people. And tragically there are some rather crazy memes flying through social and news media that fuel the fear.

How can we enable people to deal with fear in such uncertain times?

Again it is about simple practical actions, taking care of others.

Sure this has to be done mindfully, and hugs and kisses may be rather off limits.

But we can be caring of others in times of fear in little ways, random unsolicited acts of kindness, making and sharing food, offering to do chores for others… it is the simple day to day things.

Caring in Te Ao Māori is enshrined within the concept of manaakitanga, a broad and deep way of caring, connecting, welcoming, and including.

There are many ‘little ways’ within manaakitanga that enable wellness and belonging.

Communication that connects in a ‘little way’ taking time can be simply to ask how others are, and to simply listen, without judgement and without trying to solve their issues. It can be small home made gifts, cooking, carrying out simple chores for others.

  • When we see or hear someone exhibiting fear, we can practice empathy through accepting who they are, and not try and talk them out of their fear or tell them that they are wrong to be fearful. Empathy is about listening more and talking less.
  • Fear can be very abstract about what ‘might’ happen in the future. We can support fearful people in fear by putting our energies into the present moment, and focusing our activity and thoughts on the present moment, rather than speculating about what might or might not be around the corner.
  • We can support people to take actions to build immunity in mind and body, through diet and supplements, taking time to relax, walk in nature, practicing calming breathing and mindfulness techniques. Check:  artofliving.org.nz  and  www.mindfulnessauckland.co.nz

The practical measures outlined above are things that good leaders will already be carrying out. And here I must name check Mark Templeton, CEO of Aeroqual. It was a rich and caring conversation with Mark and my colleague Peter Roband that sowed the seed for this article, and in fact the title came from Mark.

What I took from those two wonderful men was that our mindsets as well as our skillsets are so important to take care of in tough times. It is very easy to default to making a self-fulfilling prophecy out of the impacts, and talk ourselves into a crisis or a drama even when we do not need to.

The best leadership right now is that which offers a way forward with compassion and empathy;  building our immunity, our resilience, our courage and sustaining our wellbeing.

And for those who must always have the bottom line in sight from a quantitative point of view, people who are well in mind and heart as well as body create better results. It is a ‘no brainer’ and a ‘yes hearter’.

As the Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote in Love in the Time of Cholera, “ Think of love not as the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”

Daylighting The Pipeline of Uselessness

Daylighting The Pipeline of Uselessness

In the work of restoring streams and creeks there is a thing called ‘daylighting’. It refers to restoring waterways that have been diverted underground through pipelines and culverts. The daylighting occurs when they can once again flow above ground as water ways.

So with that in mind I want to talk about how we might bust open the pipeline of uselessness that is our education and career pathways for young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is time to call it out. For more than 20 years we have established a pipeline of uselessness through education and workplaces in Aotearoa.

We have been educating people with information that does not turn into skills and does not equip them for jobs, workplaces and the world.

We have created endless tiers of management, where people do not produce anything.

Ask the majority of secondary, tertiary students, and employers if they think their education is equipping people well for work and the world, and they will offer you a resounding NO.

And yet it continues, on and on.

It all began to really turn to custard towards the end of the 20th century. As the new millennium dawned, some bright sparks in government decided they would jump on the neo-liberal machine and turn tertiary education into something that would make money… at any cost.

So to some extent, there were elements of this that were a good idea. Why not earn income from international students? And to do this one had to head higher up the rankings of universities internationally. Maybe that could be a good idea too.

However, as is often the way with government policies, it was a sledgehammer to crack a nut approach.

Around this time my own alma mata, AIT polytech, became AUT University, God Bless Them.

The transition showed just how myopically focused (and how much the same!) academics and bureaucrats can be. They made sure funding was all about research outputs and bums on seats, and sweet FA about quality teaching, or adapting curricula for fast changing world and employment markets.
Any sense of graduates gaining skills and mindsets for the new working world and fast emerging ‘gig’ economy were no where in sight.

And on their merry way they trundled through the 2000s.

Every year, tertiary education became less and less relevant to the market.

Every year more and more degrees and courses were created.

Every year universities, polytechnics and private providers spread campuses up and down the country, offering a multitude of courses that competed with one another, with pipelines to jobs that no longer existed, at least not in the form they were being taught.

Every year more and more graduates were ‘qualified’ for specific roles that were diminishing.

Every year, the expectations of graduates rose, as they sought employment in so called ‘management’ roles because these attracted better salaries, and after all that was their due, after paying thousands and thousands in student fees. Why wouldn’t you?

At one point it really came home to a group of us who were ex-industry professionals helping run a journalism programme that had become a degree at AUT when we noticed all the applicants for a media award for a ‘senior’ journalist were in their early to mid 20s. The career path to someone being ‘senior’ and then on to management had grown much faster, so that people could follow the salary band, all with limited experience.

And so we also started to see more and more of the “Peter Principle” , the concept dreamed up in the late 1960s as a satirical idea about managers rising to the level of their incompetence. The principle fast turned from satire to a sad reality.

And so we started to create legions and legions of managers every where, from government, to corporations to small businesses, to not-for-profits.

Everyone was a manager of something.

And to boot, the title and the role, the job description, the CV, the ability to be a manager was based on some inept psychometrics, in job interviews, and employment processes run by HR professionals that measured only very narrow elements of human beings and their ability and potential.

Argggh. I have sat on many an interview panel when all the assessment criteria were irrelevant and quite frankly useless, bearing no relationship to the actual job to do. Someone would end up employed who did not fit the job and was simply good at writing CVs and application letters and gaining qualifications.

Anyone with a foreign name or diverse life experiences usually had their CV tossed to the bottom of the pile.

And so for several decades we created tiers and tiers of managers, predominantly white and middle class, inexperienced in life, emotional intelligence or empathy, but increasingly skilled at justifying their existence by creating meaningless work; restructures, new strategies, staff reshuffles, KPIs, reports, blah, blah blah.

This is nothing new of course in a colonial society, but it reached epidemic proportions over the past 30 years.

And now here was the further twist. These legions of inexperienced ‘managers’ were now making government and corporate policy, to employ more and more people like themselves, who had no experience at the ‘coal face’ but could write reports, and invent KPIs and measurements that all looked quite good on paper, and might get an A as an essay or uni assignment, or as a bright new shiny output of policy or strategy, but did not turn into the delivery of any useful services for the public, or the economy. These outputs never turned into any specific actions or changes.

And so on and one the roller coast trundled throughout the first decade and a half of the 21st century.

Every year, local and central government grew another floor of managers, more and more tiers of management. I believe Auckland Council has six or seven tiers of management today.

My goodness, what does Tier 4 do as opposed to Tier 7?

And in the hallowed halls of the council, people talk rather reverently about some on a higher tier as if they are a demi-God. Well I guess they wield more power and definitely bigger budgets and the ability to hire and fire, but divine presence?

So we wonder why the public service is in disarray and the corporate world terrifyingly out of touch with their customers and the public.

For a start they are increasingly faceless, lost way behind an automated customer service line. Their names, and their direct line phone numbers are never to be found. To face up and take responsibility is no where on the horizon, not even as a KPI.

I have painted a desolately picture here, and despite this I remain an optimist that these horrendous can change.

There are increasing glimmers that there is more and more awareness that these systems are broken. We hear more and more talk about adaptive leadership, empathy, authenticity, vulnerability and human centred organisations.

Here and there the talk turns to reality.

It does take a mindshift, not new skill sets. And there is a vast different.

Our individualised education and employment systems focus on gaining tools an and skill, without the wisdom of where and how to use them.

This requires a mindset shift, to being more human centres, and more focused on the collective than the individual. It requires a focus on how can the team as a whole succeed, and on measuring a wider range of successes.

We really have to redefine success, and we see glimmers in this around the new approaches being sought by government to measure more widely that GDP and solely economic metrics.

The idea that wellbeing and social impacts are equally important.

After all if we go to the origin of the word ‘economy’ it comes from the same root as ‘ecology’ which comes from the Greek word and concept EKOS, which is family.

So the whole point originally, was economics as a system for a family.

So paying attention to the collective, the whole, the organism of an organisation is the new ‘black.’

But we are only taking baby steps towards realising this after entrenched individualism and colonialism for hundreds of years.

The irony and the opportunity and the potential turn of the cycle is to wake up to the fact that all along there have been systems existing in this country that are perfectly suited as a model for a collective way of working, of honouring difference, and recognising the enormous potential when one or I shoud say when ‘we’ fully embrace the innovation, the inclusion and the ingenuity of working in a collective way to achieve far greater results, outcomes and outputs than we can achieve alone.

Aod so this most obvious of systems is Te Ao Māori.

Hello! It is such an absolute no brainer, and yet legislation, ideology, religion, and mainstream culture has repeatedly ignored, dismantled and totally supressed Te Ao Māori systems.

It is a devestatingly crying shame. For what better opportunity does Aotearoa have than to full embrace an ancient and timeless culture as it’s mainstream operating system.
How beautiful, elegant, smart and successful this can be.

Our niche on the world stage, our uniqueness, has always been based on Te Ao Māori, it has just never been acknowledged.

Our history of punching above our weight, of kiwi innovation has always had Te Ao Māori central to it as much as the zeal of European pioneers. And I romantically like to think that on a good day historically, there were no degrees of seperation between innovative pioneesr and an entrepreneurial tangata whenua.

Hello people, wake up. We have this most elegant and smart opportunity right in front of us. The rest of the world sees it and we don’t. We are admired and sought after around the globe and yet we still can’t see it, mumbling into our beards monosyllabically in the cultural cringe anti-tall poppy sentiments giving ‘all credit to the oppposition.’ What?????? How crazy is this false humility?
Really it is just passive-aggressive bullshit.

We can rise up the brilliant opportunities of the tikanga of Te Ao Māori as this main operating systems for our motu and ourselves.

We are gorgeous. And this place is gorgeous.

We can collectively embrace system changes that enable us to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Fundamentally, the changes that will enable more equity for more people to be fulfilled in their life and work will come from a place of love.

The concepts of aroha, of whakawhanaungatanga , of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga are all about love, a universal love connecting, people, planet and the universe.

Love is about shining light, on ourselves, and on others, seeking the light, seeking the daylight.

So daylighting our selves and our places in love is something that we can all commit to, it is a value beyond question, beyond debate, it is presencing our potential as human beings to evolve in love.

Aue te aroha i ahau, aue
Aue e te iwi e.
E te iwi Māori puritia kia mau,
Utaina ki runga i te waka o te ora
Ka hoe ai ki te tauranga.