29 November 2017

The world of the traditional dominant is a changing

I’ve often been asked what is my biggest learning since setting up CQ and I never really had a decent answer for that.

Well, I worked it out recently when having a conversation with the multi-talented Ali and Sarah Tocker of Tocker and Associates. The discussion was centred around how it is often difficult for people in positions of power and status to understand the effect that they have over others. Hmmm, that got under my skin and I started reflecting.

When I started CQ I had been a farmer for 30 years (shock horror – I’m an old bastard) and in that time as a farmer, I was constantly serviced by people who wanted to sell me something. I got a very elevated sense of importance.

And I really gave little thought to what effect I had on others.

So, setting up CQ meant my former status disappeared. I had to deal with customers up close, and if I didn’t deliver there was no business. It was a big shock to the system. I now had to be so aware of my effect on others.

Why is this relevant to this blog? Going back to the conversation with the Tockers and subsequent discussions, there is a growing awareness in me of just how important the cultural (and power) divide is, not just in New Zealand, but worldwide. The divide between people who are in a dominant position opposed to people called the other. The race, gender, and socio economic family you are born into has a huge effect on our lives, and often the privilege that comes with it is taken for granted.

I’m a white male, so have often been in the dominant culture, and when you are in that seat you often don’t know, or even think about, what it’s like to be the other. It is really hard to recognise that you are in a dominant position when everyone around you looks and thinks like you. Feeling comfortable is often a sign you are in a dominant position.

And yet, I have also been the other as well. Many people are in the other situation and, more often than not, it makes a big difference to how their lives play out. Women, Maori and immigrants are all nodding their heads at this point.

These clips demonstrate the point far better than I am describing.

The Pencilsword’s take

Now that I have been made aware of it, I see it everywhere. How often does that happen? It’s like I have a new insight that was hiding somewhere. All of a sudden, I see this cascade of barriers breaking down as the others are pushing back and it’s exciting.

Just in the last week, there has been media coverage of surgeons bullying behaviour throughout Australasia. Surgeons, who have worked their arse off to become highly skilled and respected specialists, but mostly as the dominant. It appears they have been bullies for a long time, and if you ask many people who work in a hospital and they will tell you it’s been going on for a long time. But now the others are finding their voice and this behaviour is being called out.

Then we had Sir William Gallagher talk at the Waikato IOD Christmas dinner last Friday night, and used the forum to say climate change was a ‘rort’, that the Treaty of Waitangi on display at Te Papa was fraudulent, and the concept of the Treaty itself was a rort. This is from another dominant.

Dear old Don Brash has been at it again. Bloody hell he could have been the Prime Minister of New Zealand! Don is displaying typical behaviour of a dominant and that is, they think they are so often right.

So, the world is changing and the others, are finding their voice. This is the bit that I find exciting, because I’m a believer of collaboration and that incorporating a wider range of world views, is always an asset. We know this from our work at CQ. The more inclusive and encouraging of a wide range of views from others, makes for better decision making and results.

In some way I feel for the dominants, as they struggle to adjust to the emerging world, where status and money are not as respected as collaboration.

The culture that allowed sexism and racism to exist without being called out is being eroded with the help of social media and bold others.

For ten years I have been trying to create space for others with CQ. While not an automatic tendency for me, the more I do the richer are the rewards, and the less I am inclined to go back to old habits of ignoring my effect on others.

My challenge to dominants – you will need to adapt to the cultural shift that is happening whether you like it or not.

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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