Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: It's vital to hire the best person

By Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

It appears that Tim Groser, our current Minister of Trade, may well be in with a chance for the top job as Director-General at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He has said that if the appointment is made on merit he could pull it off. Being a realist he knows that the high profile and influential global trade leadership position is not necessarily made on merit.

Political considerations, regions and countries wanting their turn, particularly developing countries, even gender preference could all have some sway when voting takes place later this year.

The position is being hotly contested with nine experienced senior global politicians put forward by their countries.

I believe that all appointments, whether local, national or global, that carry weighty business responsibilities, should always be made on merit.

When the current CEO of Te Puia was recently appointed I asked a board member if there was not a suitable Maori who could have taken up the position.

Te Puia has a major role in promoting and encouraging the continued development of authentic Maori arts and crafts.

Apparently there was a number of qualified Maori who did apply for the job. I was told the position went to the most experienced and suitable business person and was made strictly on merit. And that's as it should be. If I owned Te Puia, or for that matter any other business, I would hire on merit as well. To do otherwise is senseless. You're in business aren't you?

So I was somewhat surprised when I read recently that some in Ngati Porou are up in arms that two non-Maori made it through to the short listing for the CEO position with their Runanga.

They only want someone affiliated to Ngati Porou to be considered for the job. I suspect that those making the appointment will want that too.

But they are aware and experienced enough to know that qualifications and business success come after years of sustained hard work, that it is rare to find an applicant who has everything they're looking for, and they are not prepared to exclude anyone with a successful business record.

Be that person one of their own or a non-Maori.

The inclusion of two non-Maori in their short-listing suggests they may be looking for someone who brings additional experience not currently found in the work history of iwi members who applied.

Non-Maori who apply for positions in Maori organisations, or organisations whose client base is predominantly Maori, must have something they know (or believe) the organisation needs, if not in the long term, then certainly in the short term.

Those vetting the applications will consider this and may be encouraged to see the added value this experience would bring to support achieving the organisation's vision. In all high level positions today, organisations have to be precise and clear about the CEO position's purpose.

Once that is set it should have no trouble deciding on the desirable qualifications, skills and work experience to fit the position.

They now know clearly what they want in their new CEO. Get that right and making an appointment on merit should not be difficult.

The concerns raised about non-Maori leading significant Maori organisations are not uncommon. But these days we do have highly qualified Maori with very successful business experience out there. However not all want to work for their iwi. Many offer tribal politics as the main reason. I know of one CEO who lasted only five months. He told me he was constantly challenged about the business decisions he made.

This he could deal with but the frustration came in being challenged by board members who didn't have a clue about the business environment they were operating in.

He has since returned overseas telling me "I don't need this s... at this stage in my career".

Another CEO left after 18 months because of the viciousness of tribal politics. She found the inflated Maori male ego of board members pathetic. She wanted so much to be of service to her iwi but the work environment was not conducive to that.

As desirable as it may seem to those in Ngati Porou, and others, who want to "make sure we are growing our own" I believe having one of their own is not what's most important here.

Having the right person is.

Hiring on merit will deliver that person.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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