Māori leadership programme proving to be more than successful

Fletcher Building is a global business made up of over 20,000 employees across 34 businesses and hundreds of brands operating in 40 countries, covering construction, manufacturing, and distribution industries. Introducing their successful pilot Māori leadership programme in 2015 has been key to the success of engaging and preparing their Māori workers to enter leadership roles.

Published: Friday, 23 August 2019 | Rāmere, 23 Hereturikōkā, 2019

Whakatupu means “to grow” or “plant the seed”, and is the name of the Māori leadership programme that was introduced to Fletcher Building as a pilot.

During the four two-day workshops, two of which are held on the marae with an overnight stay, they work on group projects which they implement in the business.

Participants are assigned a mentor/coach where they receive four one-on-one sessions with informal mentoring from the programme alumni and a group project relating to building a Māori network within Fletcher Building.

Some examples of rōpū projects include increasing the use of Te Reo Māori across the business by incorporating bi-lingual signage, each site to have its own pepeha displayed, and a Māori intranet page aimed at sharing Māori success stories, aiding collaboration and a place to learn.

Remo Tumahai (Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, Aitutaki) is a team leader of one of the subsidiary groups with Fletchers.

He was part of the first group that went through the Whakatupu programme which aimed to grow Māori leadership within the organisation. When asked if he wanted to, his answer was simple.

“Hell yes! I had done other programmes within the organisation and found them intense. So I honestly didn’t know what to expect in the beginning – I was very open minded and a little bit apprehensive but from the get go it was awesome,” he says.

“I haven’t been to the marae for a long time and my first impression of the course, was the facilitator introducing himself and giving me a hongi. That was a great impression I instantly thought to myself, “wow this going to be an authentic course”,” he laughs.

As a passionate alumnus for the programme he says that the format that they used really helped to ensure that he took on board what was being taught.

“The first day was hard-out we went to the university marae which my cousin runs and I didn’t know,” he admits bashfully.

“Initially I wanted to see how they were going to integrate Māori with the values of Fletcher, I had been to other programmes and it was like bang, bang, bang that you didn’t really get time to ask questions but with Whakatupu
it was more kōrero.

“The biggest thing that I learned from Whakatupu were the Māori principles of Tika, Pono and Aroha. I use these to find clear cut outcomes that are really effective when I make decisions for my team. I’ve been using them consistently so that I adhere to being tika, being pono and using aroha. It was so simple. It really made me proud to be a Māori.”

When Val Panui (Ngāti Rangi, Te Ātihaunui-ā-Pāpārangi) a credit controller of the subsidiary groups with Fletchers was approached she had to warm up to the idea.

“My manager said to me, “I think this would be good for you” and I said I don’t have time I’m too busy. I didn’t look at it. It wasn’t until my husband read the overview and looked at it and said, “Hey, you should do this. You’d be really good at this,” she laughs.

In retrospect however she has come through a very personal journey since undertaking the leadership programme.

“Whakatupu basically awakened what I let go dormant since I was girl when my grandfather died,” she says. 

“One of the biggest experiences that I took from Whakatupu was the calling of the awa. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, I ended up going back home to Raetihi, went out to toward Pipiriki, went and had a swim and basically having a cleansing session, for me and my kids.

“That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, is going back home to the awa, and taking my kids back home and basically says to my husband, “That’s it, we're putting our kids into bi-lingual. We’re speaking Māori at home, this is our waka, jump on it and if not when you’re ready you jump on with us.”

“Work wise however,” she says that the Māori leadership programme, “has developed her skills and she was presented with a highly recommended recognition award for work she did on a project.”

Val has since gone on to complete courses in raranga, te reo Māori and just recently signed up to the Poupou Karanga class with Te Whare Wānanga o Raukawa. Her husband has just signed up to te reo Māori classes this year.

Fletchers more recently have commissioned a kapa haka group that will lead and provide cultural support and advice for events being held throughout the different campuses across New Zealand.

The kapa haka will be part of the opening ceremony of the newly refurbished offices in Penrose. There is even a case put forward for a year long project role for one Whakatupu alumnus each year following their attendance on the programme.

Since its inception a number of Whakatupu participants have received promotions, career development from working on additional projects or taken on further education following on the programme. The programme was highly commended at the 2017 Diversity Awards.