How to integrate Maori and Western values in the business world – Parekawhia McLean

Welcoming in Māori language week, we’re talking about weaving Māoridom and Western values in a business context, which is less complicated than you may think – in fact, many of our Māori business leaders within Global Women integrate tikanga Māori in business on a daily basis.


Global Women talked to Parekawhia McLean, chief executive at Waikato-Tainui, about ways we can integrate the two worlds when conducting everyday business. The timing was good, McLean having come out of a strategy session with her board where they had just discussed how to uphold tikanga – the Māori way of doing things – as an iwi organisation.

“Where we landed is, you’ve got to have a balance,” she says. “But certainly in iwi organisations there are practices and values that we have, which we demonstrate in our engagement with others as a way of conducting our business.”

1. KARAKIA AND MIHI: We often start our hui with a simple prayer followed by mihimihi. We do things like recognise those who’ve passed away, and acknowledge why we’re there for the day. If there are manuhiri or visitors amongst us, we acknowledge their presence. These ‘tikanga’ are important to us, reflect who we are and are part of our DNA.

2. MIHI: What I’m encouraged by, is there are many times people know that I work for an iwi organisation, so they go out of their way to welcome me appropriately. They will give a mihi (short welcome) to me or my team.

3. KAI: We’ll have kai or food, because it demonstrates to us the value of how we manaaki or support visitors that come into our space. Sharing food breaks the ice, it’s a lot more informal – if you’re having a cup of tea, you get to talk to people in a different setting, as opposed to across the business or board table. More importantly it reflects that we value the relationship.

4. KANOHI KI TE KANOHI: Engagement face to face. This is an important tikanga for how we operate in good and not-so-good times. While we use modern technology and social media to connect with our people, it will never replace ‘kanohi ki te kanohi’. It still remains the preferred engagement approach for many of our tribal members. It will often take place in different settings, whether that be on a marae, boardroom, local hall, school, etc.