With my Theme for the year being "Breaking New Ground" I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than spending some time with my whanau and getting immersed in some cultural festivities celebrating Waitangi Day. We travelled to Okains Bay, and it was there that I jumped at the chance to break some NEW GROUND and get out of my comfort zone….I had my first experience in a waka "Maori canoe", and I have reflected on my experience and share the paralels with Business.

Before we could even be seated in the waka we had to go through some training, and this was most interesting considering 90% of us had never been in a waka before, and 20% were from overseas and didn’t speak english let alone Maori.

Lesson 1. TEAM SELECTION. Before setting off on our journey the chief selected his paddlers based on size, strengths and experience. He had us all line up from tallest to shortest, then selected his most experienced paddlers as the head paddlers sitting at the head of the waka.

Lesson 2. UPSKILLING and TRAINING. Our chief then started training us all in the various strokes, including names, calls or chants. One thing I noticed is we were all involved in the process. We all had our paddles, and we were all standing where we would eventually be seated in the waka. He then proceeded to run us through all the drills as we would be doing them in the waka. All communications were in Maori so we had to listen carefully, and match the communications with the actions.

Lesson 3. TRUST. once seated in the waka, but prior to setting off we had a Karakia "prayer" to acknowledge and pay respects to the waters and the journey ahead.

Lesson 4. LEADERSHIP. Something I noticed about the Chief is that he positioned himself right in the middle of the waka amongst his paddlers. He was LEADING within. Not from the front and not from behind. He was close to everyone where his communications could be heard by all. We had TRUST in his decision making and direction because he wasn’t paddling and he could look ahead for obstacles, which in this case was shallow waters.

Lesson 5. COMMUNICATION. Throughout our journey there was constant communication. Not only by the chief, but by all the paddlers. This enabled us to all paddle in time, preventing our paddles clashing, and making each stroke more effective, using less energy, and making for a smooth ride.

Lesson 6. ROLE MODEL. With our two most experienced paddlers at the front of the waka, the rest of the crew had an excellent lead to follow, even if there were some language challenges everyone was still able to follow a lead, follow a standard, and follow a system or in this case a rhythm.

Lesson 7. COMRADERIE / TEAMWAORK. At the conclusion of our trip there was a huge sense of achievement and pupose with complete strangers shaking hands, and congratulating each other on reaching our Goal, which was to paddle safely down the river to our destination.

Lesson 8. GRATITUDE. Having experienced my first waka journey I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with my Maori culture, Trust the Process, and share in significant celebrations from a significant National occasion.

Thank You to all the Okains Bay Tangata-whenua for their generosity,  with their sharing, hospitality, and Aroha.