Mary Britton

Founder and Managing Director of Coaching Pacific Ltd.

Jeanine:  Good morning. Good afternoon and good evening. Wherever you are in the world right now. My name is Jeanine Bailey and today I'm not with my wonderful business partner Marie Quigley who is probably sound asleep as I speak right now. And today I am with an amazing guest Mary Britton who has kindly agreed to join me today to have a conversation. And I was very fortunate to meet Mary through, gosh I'm just trying to remember quite now Mary, but I know that we've been working together on the ICF Australasia summit. If I can say that. If it's not a secret.

Mary:  No not a secret.

Jeanine:  So I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mary for a couple of months now and I’ve really enjoyed our conversations and our connection. So I was very keen to bring Mary onto our podcast today and I know that we both have a very mutual passion about supporting indigenous cultures and we've both had that experience and certainly in Qatar for me, in New Zealand and I know for you Mary living in New Zealand as well. So I won't say anymore I'm going to hand over the microphone to you to introduce yourself and let people know you know what it is that your roles. Because I know you are wearing a couple of hats and then we'll dive into cultural intelligence.

Mary: Fabulous. Thank you Jeanine. So my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me to come and have this conversation. And yeah I'm Mary Britton and I live in New Zealand. I was originally from the UK where I grew up in England but genetically I'm mainly Irish so my access to discovering that there was more than one way of telling a story came very early on. And my sense that that depending on where one is standing which culture one is coming from, changes the story and changes how it's told, changes how it lands, all of those things. So my roles I'm currently the pillow head for coaching excellence for ICF Australasia which is where I had the pleasure to meet Jeanine. And I'm working there on virtual professional development and always working to bring cultural intelligence into every aspect of what I do.

Jeanine: Thank you Mary. And again thank you for joining us on this podcast. You've introduced where you're from and I'm in Australia, born in Australia and my mother is English and all my grandparents are English. So I have that ancestry and I live in this amazing country called Australia and I was also very fortunate to have two uncles who married to Indigenous Australian women. So it sparked an interest in me and then to be invited by my colleague Rachel Petero to work in New Zealand supporting Maori and Pasifika women, has been such an honor and such fantastic work that I’ve been doing with her. So as you say, the stories change the more we learn different stories from different perspectives. Our, gosh, our worlds just completely open up and I'm moving my hands up into the sky right now as my world has. And Mary we spoke briefly before we came on to the podcast and you talked about cultural intelligence which is a beautiful term that I’ve just heard. So could you say more about what that means because potentially there are many coaches out there who may recognize that it's missing or may not. So it would be great to hear your perspective about what that is.

Mary: Thank you Jeanine. Well really we're familiar with all sorts of ways of using intelligence and linking up other words with them and we understand a lot about emotional intelligence for example, and that there are competencies in that and that we can learn and train and become better at those things. Cultural intelligence is really, it's really anchored in our understanding that we are all unique. We're all part of a human race and of course we have many things in common, including how our mind works and how our brain processes things but we also all have a different and unique way of putting things together. And understanding the value of and being able to listen for, the way another tells a story and also to deepen our understanding and awareness of how very different life can be for, depending on where we've come from, and depending on all the componentry, everything that informs who we are. So cultural intelligence is connected to identity. Mine, yours, Other peoples. It's always so connected to that understanding which is very quite prevalent in the diversity and inclusion space, for example, where we really do get that diversity is good. Diversity is good for teams, diversity is good for the forest even, diversity is good for the planet in terms of just keeping our whole ecosystem working properly. And when we think of the universe or the planet and then we bring it down to our own community, perhaps to organizations, to a team of people, an ability to listen to different perspectives and to turn things around to pivot things because we are listening to where someone else is coming from, where someone else is standing on that cultural continuum, really supports us in developing a much broader, a much wider, a much more inclusive, much richer and potentially a much more innovative and successful strategy, plan, agreement to action anything at all. So it’s in there somewhere, cultural intelligence.

Jeanine: Yeah it's incredibly incredibly rich and I'm guessing challenging to measure as well because there is so much that comes into it but something to embrace. And Mary I heard before we came out again on this call I really heard your passion for this and the diversity and inclusion it seems to have a real calling in your heart. So I'm wondering if you could say more about that but that calling for you about this.

Mary: Absolutely. I'd really love to use New Zealand as an example as this is where I am and this is the place that has informed a lot of my understanding about all of this. So here in New Zealand we have an indigenous people called Maori. And Maori and Pakeha as they call us, Europeans, signed a treaty in 1840 and the agreement was that New Zealand would be developed then in partnership between Maori tribes and the Crown as they were at the time. So bringing us right forward into the now, what is so is that Maori are not doing as well as the general population in a number of spheres. They're underrepresented for example in further education. They're over-represented in some health statistics. They're over-represented on the wrong side of the bar in the justice system. And so clearly whatever's going on here in New Zealand which is a beautiful and extraordinary place to be by the way. But whatever is going on here there are inequitable results. And that's incredibly important to me. Feels that, I’ve gained an awful lot from learning what I learned of Maori and also Tikanga Maori, Maori culture, Maori customs. I've learned an extraordinary amount. There are for example, Just to give one example, some incredible words in the Maori language that summon up and encapsulate all sorts of things that in English we would need to have spent a paragraph explaining there's a beautiful word for example ‘Kaitiakitanga’ which is some people might translate that as ‘guardianship’ but it actually describes the whole relationship of a whole people with the planet, with the need to safeguard, to care for the ecosystems, the environment and how to marshal and manage and care for every aspect an element in an ecosystem in nature to keep us all healthy and well and fed and all of those good things. So it's Kaitiakitanga as I said it took me a paragraph there almost to just explain. Whereas when you say Kaitiakitanga, it summons all of that up immediately for people. And so even in that, even when we learn that some of the things that are really important to other people are encapsulated in their language, how they speak about things. Maori have an extraordinary relationship also with time. They quite often think, some people call this a long term leadership, well its very long term if you're Maori and you always look far into the future to the health and well-being of future generations and then you make your decisions based on your understanding of what you're doing today is going to have an effect on your grandchildren and their children and their children and that's how you look at it. You don't look at it in a short term ‘business as usual let's get this done’ way, it's seriously far more. “OK. Let's think now what's going to happen if we do that for these people who haven't come yet. We're coming later”. There's so much we can learn, so much that we can appreciate. You know we don't have time to even touch the surface of so many things that there are to learn from Maori people and Maori culture. So very wise, very extraordinary, very connected to the planet and nature, very smart and full of wisdom. So when things are inequitable in terms of outcomes for them. My sense pragmatically as a New Zealander amongst the whole population is that we will do better when all of us are doing better.

Mary: And so yeah, Sorry I'm just keep talking. It's as you say it's something I'm very passionate about.

Jeanine:  Yeah but it's so rich, what you are sharing. And as you say there is, gosh, there is so much to learn. And you know, what struck me as well as you were sharing is that, you know, so much of the modern day society is about the now. And of course there are very good things about the now when we're when we're present and it's the decision making, it's the material gratification, it's the doing the things to get the votes, to win votes in a short period of time so those long term sustainable decisions are often negated or impacted. So we're not making we're not making effective decisions for the long term. So I believe that's what's missing particularly with the climate crisis that we're experiencing right now. Having been through again the Australian bush-fires earlier this year, late last year. I feel that it's all being created because we're not thinking long term we're not thinking about the sustainability of the planet. I know what I'm saying is potentially very obvious but we're not paying attention to it.

Mary: No. Absolutely. That's right. And I think the recent COVID-19 induced crisis, well the current COVID-19 crisis that we're all working our way through here, also brings into sharp focus what becomes really important when people's lives are in danger. And when we collectively want to make decisions that will allow us to take care of ourselves and each other and to come out the other side as one, so to speak. And so we've shifted our attention, in a way, from economic imperatives to health and well-being imperatives. And many of us have noticed how that changes things. And that's a cultural shift. So there's a cultural intelligence to be built as we reflect on what we're living through right now too, just around what has become important and what we have therefore been making decisions based on.

Jeanine: Yeah. It really is the time to create different outcomes create different ways of being and doing and behaving and my hope is that through all of this there is this a new way of living that is again sustainable for the planet. And that's my hope and I know that there's many people who are skeptical about that. And there are many that potentially want to go back to the old way of living. And I know that there are many that want change. So it's going to be interesting times as we come through this. So I'm curious Mary in terms of the cultural intelligence, in terms of bringing that into your work, how have you been able to do that? What's been your experience.

Mary: Oh yes great question. So it's absolutely my privilege to work quite often in the training of coaches that I'm involved with Maori coaches. And we collectively, the cohort and myself and the training team, always learn more and more about Mana Maori and Tikanga Maori culture every time. We also have Pasifika people quite often in our training and again we're learning. And we pause quite often. We introduced rituals that perhaps are missing from the secular world quite often the training world. We often begin our sessions when we're training with Maori Pasifika people with a Karakia, which some people call a prayer. And it's not necessarily a prayer to God either or anyone or anything in particular. Sometimes it's a prayer that simply invokes what we've been speaking about here a little bit, which is our love and connection with Papatūānuku, Earth mother and Ranginui, Sky Father and just connects us with the earth and the sky and allows us to take a few moments of becoming present to where we are and who we are and where we stand on the planet. So those things get woven in, we quite often find ourselves also singing Waiata after we've shared acknowledgement because it just seems to be a very natural thing to do. So Waiata is a song of some sort. They don’t have to be long. We have some beautiful short Waiata too and people do sing them quite often during training which is also something that doesn't always happen. So interculturally it grows all of our cultural intelligence to experience how that feels, when someone begins with a ritual in that way, when someone completes the song in that way. I haven't found anyone that isn’t moved and that doesn't find something opening in themselves when they're part of a group where these things become part of the normal that we create together. So those are some of the ways I’ve also had a little look at creating a model that I often share with people around exploring diversity, inclusion and cultural intelligence that just allows any individual or team any group of people, to have a look at what the steps are in opening ourselves to another, to a culture, to a different way of looking at things. And so it comes into my work that way too. And I actually believe it probably informs every waking moment in a way, because once I think I understood that there was always another place to stand, a different perspective to hear I’ve always got my ears open for that. That's always one of my perspectives as a coach, as a mentor, as a supervisor in everything I do is really to be listening for a story that's unfamiliar and a story that's going to add or grow or make richer something that some landscape that we may be creating together in whatever way.

Jeanine: Yeah that's beautiful Mary. And there is so much that we can learn isn't there from different cultures and I certainly notice the difference between the training that I do in Qatar or not very often in Australia but mostly in Qatar and the training that I’ve done in New Zealand. It just seems so much, I mean they're all rich they're all amazing. And what I really appreciate about the training that I do in New Zealand is that it is, it feels very spiritual, it feels, and again I'm opening up my arms again, it feels very opening because of the cultural practices that they bring in the Karakia as you said, my Maori pronunciation is not very good, the way it should.

Mary: It is perfectly good Jeanine.

Jeanine: The ladies will be proud of me. So they're always encouraging me to whenever I aim to say a few words because speaking another language is not my superpower unfortunately. But I really want to be able to and it's just incredibly, as I say, opening the mind, heart, soul and I think the grounding practices that you shared. They really do bring us to be really truly present and appreciate what's very simple and very important to us. I hear what you're saying and I can hear it if you can hear Batman coming down the stairs.

Mary: I can hear Batman coming downstairs.

Jeanine:  He says it's enough now, enough now Jeanine. For those of you who don't know who Batman is I know many people do. It's my cat and I believe the loudest cat in the world. So he's gone quite. So Mary is there anything else that you would like to share about this beautiful practice that you do this beautiful work that you do? Before we before we close up is there anything that you would like to maybe share or ask or invite of our listeners based on this beautiful work that you do?

Mary:  Thank you. What a nice invitation. I guess my invitation then to everyone who is listening is just to perhaps observe ourselves as we step back out of listening to this and back into our world and notice our reaction or response, observe ourselves as we meet things that are new to us, different from us, outside of our experience. And just notice what we do, how we respond. And it feels pretty true that often the first step in opening ourselves to something new or becoming even better at something that's important to us is just to notice what's going on trust right now. So that's my invitation.

Jeanine:  That's a beautiful invitation and yeah I guess keep open, keep aware of that there's so much more richness beyond our own worlds and even though our own world can be incredibly rich, there is so much more out there to enhance our own world. So thank you Mary. Really appreciate you being on this podcast with me today. And again I really appreciate you being in my world and still continuing to open up again my mind, heart and soul through everything that you bring. Thank you Mary. And we trust listeners you've enjoyed this podcast and we'd appreciate any feedback that you have for us and we look forward to listening. Joining us on the next episode. Thank you.


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