September 2020By Iulia LeiluaThe first time I observed cultural gaps in a workplace was in 1984 – when a Māori phone operator was threatened with dismissal by the New Zealand Post Office for greeting people with the words “Kia Ora”.Dame Naida Glavish became the centre of national debate, which resulted in ‘Kia ora’ becoming an acceptable form of greeting for toll operators. It also highlighted the gaps in understanding about Māori.Fast forward to today, some of those cultural gaps I saw during the 80s and 90s still exist today. Even though there are Māori and Pasifika cultural advisors and statutory obligations for government departments to consult, iwi or Pasifika communities. They include:1. Misunderstandings;2. Cultural ignorance and insensitivity;3. Lack of awareness of indigenous practices and lifestyle;4. Differences in worldview;5. Different decision-making styles;6. Different approaches to closure (of tasks, of agreements, of dispute resolution).There are many positive, practical ways that this communication divide can be closed.Bridging this communication divide is on the agenda of many New Zealand business, public sector and community leaders. But some are struggling to figure out what the impact is and how they personally have to change.Courageous conversations are needed to increase Māori and Pacific cultural intelligence. We also need to exchange experiences.Twenty years from now, half of our population will be non-European – meaning embracing diversity and inclusion isn’t a ‘want to’ anymore it’s a ‘have to’.Wherever you are in your business or workplace, this programme will make a difference for you if you really commit to it. Whether you’re just getting started on an engagement process and want crystal clarity on what to do and how to lead or serve Māori and Pacific peoples. OR you might’ve hit a plateau and need to fine-tune your message and tactics to achieve the next level of growth.Remember, improving your cultural intelligence is a lifelong journey because things change over time, demographics change, you change. Over the next five weeks, my intention is to introduce you to some basic concepts and help you with any burning questions you might have during our webinars or one on one calls. This will help you advance along the cultural intelligence continuum.What is cultural intelligence and how does it work?Cultural intelligence is the ability to cross boundaries, operate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. Did you know that 90% of leading executives from 68 countries identified cross cultural leadership as the top management challenge for the next century?What does it mean for you? If you were a more culturally intelligent leader you could….Have a safer workplace if your Māori and Pacific employees understood your health and safety codes and were more risk averse.You could walk into a Māori meeting on a marae knowing exactly how to navigate your way from arriving at the marae gate to leaving knowing you put your best foot forward. You would also have a plan of action for after you leave the marae, because Māori engagement doesn’t end at the marae. To build a trusting relationship with Māori, you need to look at a long-term strategy for Māori engagement over possibly five or six meetings.If you were a more culturally intelligent leader, you could have better processes in place for when you meet face to face with your Pacific stakeholders. By knowing the key cultural concepts that drive Pacific peoples you could develop a powerful strategy to reach more Pacific clients, new recruits or influencers.There’s a chronic skills shortage in the trades industry, cultural intelligence could help you find the right Māori and Pacific peoples with the right skills and provide good incentives to keep them employed. It could help you read the cultural cues that your Māori and Pacific employees express through their behaviour, their willingness to speak up and ask questions or their level of care for safety.If you’re a baby boomer looking for an exit strategy from your business, selling your business to a Māori owned business entity could not only help you into retirement, it could have a positive impact on our economy’s growth. Did you know that the Māori economy is worth $50 billion?
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