BCITO chief Karaitiana — inclusive and consultative

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Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Mosgiel as my parents had been living in Otago at Brighton for a few years. However, I spent my young childhood in Woodville and teens in the Manawatu.

What schools and tertiary institutes did you attend, and what relevant qualifications did you obtain?
From Woodville Primary my secondary education was at Marist High School in Palmerston North. I am very much a Massey University alumni, having trained as a teacher at Palmerston North Teachers College at the same time as studying art history and classical studies at Massey. Later I completed an MBA at Massey, and have dabbled in various post-graduate qualifications.

What are your family/other interests/hobbies away from the workplace?
Between work commitments, governance roles, three children and nine grandchildren, I don’t have much space for hobbies. I still maintain an active interest in the visual and performing arts, and I spent 24 years working on my Iwi’s treaty settlement issues. My wife and I are regular walkers and I read a lot.

What were your previous career positions, going right back to your first job after completing your education/studies through to any senior management/chief executive roles you held before moving to the BCITO?
This is my fourth CEO role. Prior to this I had CEO roles in economic development, the health and disability sector and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). Immediately before the BCITO I spent three years in a consultancy practice. I have a fair amount of sales and marketing experience in my background from the consumer electronics industry and interior/kitchen design, as well as FMCG.

As a family we have also owned and operated businesses in early childhood, the restaurant industry and fashion retail, as well as a building company.

Pretty much except for the BCITO role, I have completely changed my career every three to four years, and have mostly operated more than one role at a time.

How long have you been at the BCITO, and what was it that most attracted you to the CEO position at the organisation?
I am in my ninth year at the BCITO. My stepfather was a Ministry of Works builder. For most of my teens I was his unpaid slave apprentice, and have been building ever since, with a lot of renovation/rebuild/DIY behind me.

At the same time, I have always been involved in education, having taught on and off, either part-time or full-time, at primary, intermediate, secondary, polytechnic and university level, but mostly I’ve been involved in governance positions.

Most of my professional life has been in management, and the BCITO has brought it all together (education/building/management). On top of that, being part of transforming the lives of people through apprenticeship training is such a positive thing. It was attractive then and still is.

How would you describe your management/communication style? How do you manage conflict, how do you reward excellent work performance and how do you manage poor performance?
I have an inclusive and consultative style, but with a large dose of clarity about what we are setting out to achieve and how each individual can, and needs to, contribute to the achievement.

I have a strong attachment to cascading the strategic plan into a business plan — and then the business plan into work plans for teams — then into Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (KPO) for each individual. Out of those KPOs I expect managers to monitor and regularly communicate performance expectation and recognition.

Within this, poor performance is actively managed, and I like remuneration to be tied to a combination of meeting the market and rewarding performance. At the same time, I am a fan of informal recognition, and am not shy in telling people when they have done something good.

What do you think is your most important trait/commodity? What do you attribute your success to?
I think my strongest attribute is that I am a strategist with a combination of analysis and creativity. I have a liking for, and expectation of, effective execution. I like to have high-performing people around me and I am committed to developing people. I don’t mind being surrounded by talent, and my dream organisation is one which is full of people who are better than me.

I am deliberately calm, humble and stable, but resolute, and I try to ensure all of my responses are human. I think managing and working with people is the absolute best part of management.

What is your personal work ethic, and how do you think this affects the organisation’s culture?
I think I work hard. I don’t think you have a choice of working hard or smart but, rather, that you have to work harder and smarter all the time. I like high standards and lofty goals. I like to benchmark with the intention of always being in the top quartile.
I haven’t tasted failure very often and don’t want to. I think this has influenced the culture of every organisation I have lead.

What is your priority for the BCITO in the context of the current state of the New Zealand construction industry? What is the biggest challenge you feel your organisation faces, and how do you inspire your employees to meet it head on?
At the moment our biggest challenge is volume — how to recruit as many keen people as possible into the industry, and to develop and inspire them to be the best professional tradespeople they can be. We are in the unique position to lift the skill and knowledge of the industry for the future.

I want to ensure we keep maintaining the highest quality educational focus. Industry training is not some second-rate add-on to the education system, and our trainees and the industry deserve the best educational experience we can deliver.
We fundamentally disagree with many of the recent changes the Government and its agencies have introduced, but need to work with them to extract the best outcome that we can for the industry.

I communicate this to our people often and regularly, along with clearly explaining the various tactics and strategies to meet our goals. I get out regularly into the industry and on the ground with our staff to keep the conversation going.
We are also very open with our metrics and reporting on progress against targets — we do it regularly and celebrate success.

If you could instantly change any aspect of doing business in the New Zealand construction industry, what would it be?
No one thing. We need to keep developing our skill levels. I would like to see more emphasis on quality and high-performing homes rather than large ones, but that is really about the customers. We need to keep lifting our game with health, safety and injury prevention.

This is a great industry full of great people. You always know where you are with people — what you see is what you get. In different ways we all just get on with it and contribute what we can.

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