Indigenous leader shares magic of world view in business, life

‘Magical’ isn’t the way many people would describe donning heavy workboots and touring an open-pit gold mine in northern British Columbia.

But Karen MacKenzie would.

This time last month, the co-founder and President of MacKintosh Canada, an Indigenous-owned international consulting company, did just that in the Tahltan Territory, an area the size of Switzerland that stretches into the Yukon.

She had a job to do while there, but she also had an open mind toward the possibilities that could come from her visit and work with those involved in the mine.

“It just gives you an inkling of the size of our country, our nations and how we can all work together to make magical things happen,” Mackenzie said about the visit to the territory. “And sometimes you don’t know what (those magical things are), so if you go in with a script and something happens, you’re hooped. If you go in with the intent to meet some wonderful people, acknowledge the land where you’re at, you just start to take in things.

“You know what the challenges are and … the solutions can be beyond (what’s in the script). I think that world view that Indigenous people bring to business and living is very powerful,” she said.

MacKenzie, who is also co-founder of PeopleBest Canada, an artificial intelligence company that looks at what makes success happen inside people, teams and organizations, brought that world view to Brock this week during the third annual Indigenous Leader Speaker Series hosted by Brock’s Office of Indigenous Engagement and the Goodman School of Business.

Joined by Robyn Bourgeois, Brock’s Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, the Cree-Métis woman shared how she incorporates traditional knowledge into the workplace. Their conversation was supported by the D.G. Willmot Foundation and is part of the D.G. Willmot Leaders Series.

The idea of creating magic in business dominated their discussion.

“Magic is all around us and we have to have our senses open to receive it and be aware of it,” MacKenzie said.

Some of her other teachings included:

Put down the pen and paper

Instead of taking notes during her talk, MacKenzie encouraged her audience to just listen, a lesson she learned from Indigenous elder Nellie Carlson, who spent 18 years fighting the loss of her status after she married a Métis man.

“She said, ‘If you only remember one thing, that’s what you were supposed to know and remember. That’s the one thing that spoke to you,’” MacKenzie recalled. “That’s a teaching that really spoke to me. Really learn to listen. When you take notes, you’re not really listening.”

Don’t overprepare

MacKenzie urged attendees to not have rigid agendas for business meetings, a lesson she learned from a Blackfoot elder when she made the mistake of asking what was on the docket when she met with him.

“He said, ‘Here’s the agenda: We’re going to start and we’re going to finish and in between we’re going to do stuff,’” MacKenzie said. “He said, ‘You have to create space for magic to happen. Don’t overprepare.  Don’t fill (your time) all up.’”

Mentorship doesn’t only happen from the top down

MacKenzie stressed the importance of having young people, not just elders, as mentors.

“Who’s in your circle? Do they all look like you? Think of that diversity,” she said. “I would challenge everyone in the audience, who’s their mentor? Who do they mentor? Maybe it’s someone at work you go for coffee with. Maybe it’s someone who’s a soccer player. How do you use that in the workplace?”

Everyone has something to offer, she added.

“Don’t think ‘What do I have to offer?’ Maybe it’s the kindness of going for coffee with someone.”

For those who were not able to attend, a recording of the conversation is available on Goodman’s YouTube channel.

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