A princely tale of gratitude

A princely tale of gratitude

When sixty of us 17 and 18 year olds gathered at the Police College in Trentham, Upper Hutt in January 1981 it’s probable that none of us really knew why we were doing it, or where it might take us. We had been selected from a pool of applicants and as the country was in a recession, with unemployment rising it was likely – in hindsight – that there would have been no shortage of applicants. From what I can pick up, some joined because of family connections, some because they saw this as a career for life, and others, well, who knows what 17 year olds are making decisions based on!

Recently, our Covid delayed 40 year reunion took place in Wellington, with 27 of the group, some spouses and one instructor. And we saw videos from four others who couldn’t make it including until recently the coach of an international rugby team.

Through 1981 we were designated temporary constables to help out with policing during the controversial Springbok Tour. 58 Graduated. Four have sadly died. Three of us, including one of my besties still, started our police careers at Dunedin. Six of the 58 are still serving in the police.

With Mum & Dad at the opening of the Police College 42 years ago today.
Mum & Dad with me at the opening of the police college 42 years ago. Mum and Dad are still my best career champions – always there.

During the reunion weekend, we visited the Royal NZ Police College in Porirua where we moved to in March 1981, as the first occupants. Exactly 42 years ago today, on 1 April 1981, the then Prince of Wales, visited us and formally opened the new College. It was an amazing event, and we trained hard to put on a gymnastic display with telegraph poles, got a crash course in marching and drills and I’m sure we made everyone pretty proud from our parents in attendance, the police commissioner Bob Walton through to the then prime minister Robert Muldoon. Prince Charles was our Patron and so we were and still are known as the Prince of Wales 25th Cadet Wing. The Cadet programme only lasted another year, and after that all recruits had to be grown ups of at least 19 years old!

Rainbow Warrior Bombing display at the police college museum Although I’m smiling, I am respectful that Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira died in this incident, never forgotten. To my right is the outboard from the Zodiac used by the bombers. I had a photograph with that in the NZ Herald at the time.

It seemed to me at the reunion there might be an inverse relationship between tenure in the police and enthusiasm to relive that special year. For the six cadets still serving as police officers, it was obvious they were proud, but the life was still very much in the present. A great career for each of them I’d say.

For me, having done nine years, there was a certain level of marvel at revisiting the college, and with it all the memories stored away. Some things I don’t remember I ever knew. On the tour the subject of remuneration came up “$8990 was our starting salary” I declared. Turns out that was only if you had UE – otherwise it was a $1000 less! Parts of my career are stored for ever there and I never knew – the display in the Museum of the Rainbow Warrior bombing where I had been brought in to support as 2 i/c Exhibits, the Trades Hall bombing where, with a Detective Sergeant, I had been privileged to conduct the Auckland-based enquiries, and the memorial to Police officers killed on duty including a Sergeant I had known in Dunedin. All sobering and satisfying to reflect on all at the same time.

Sharing a cup of tea in the canteen at the end of the tour I chatted to the latest recruits, to discover that their patron is one of my partners at PwC. Small world. If they represent the police of the future, we are very fortunate. Far more mature, and balanced than I recall we were!

I hope these beautiful people in training that I met from the latest recruit wing don’t mind their photo here. We are in good hands with these fine people in blue.

There’s practical stuff I learned in the police that I use every day in my work still – freeze the scene! – which is more about capturing electronic devices in my work now, but the principles are just the same as for a physical environment, and capturing and recording evidence for use in Court.

But the gift of the training and the time in the police has been holding onto resilience, perspective and calmness under pressure.

I use that every day too. It’s good leadership.

Thanks to the police for quite a lot actually.

Stephen

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Whānau time

Whānau time

It started when Thomas my eldest son arrived at the Airport after four and a half years in Europe. Walking into the terminal I told myself that I was good, I had been good during his departure, then cancelled trips due to Covid and then Cancer. But I felt it. “Are you okay Dad?”, not really, you? “no same for me too!” Then it was a booth breakfast with Thomas and his Mum and I. Twenty four hours ago working, looking after his family, now jammed in the booth, being grilled and given pocket money! It was a great start.

My next son Tim had a big birthday a couple of days later, then it was Dad’s 90th, a trip to Christchurch and a most special celebration – Mum and Dad’s 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Grandma had declined permission for Dad to marry when he was nineteen. You can’t blame her really. But on turning twenty, it was off to the Christchurch Registry Office a few days later in Manchester Street – midweek – and nuptials. Smiles all around and the happy couple settled in Christchurch where they still live. Mum’s still an Aucklander though “that easterly wind always gets you”, and as a family we had many happy holidays at Stanmore Bay, Whangaparaoa.

About 20 marriages a year make it to 70 years in New Zealand. No wonder you can’t find the pre-printed cards at Whitcoulls!

So what are Mum and Dad secrets: good genes, garden vegetables, sugar-infused bottled fruit, boysenberry ice cream, wholemeal bread, married young and keep a healthy bit of disagreement going on are my observations. When I interviewed Mum in advance of the big day she said having your own interests was really important. Fiercely independent was what it felt like as a child. Dad said Mum’s insights on money were really important, he said she was usually right in hindsight. Pocket money for Dad is what we saw.

We had 55 people join us to celebrate the big day All whanau. It felt rich and full.

Then it was my turn – move into my new house, a big birthday and a Whakawātea for friends, neighbours and those involved in the construction.

Going back to work I felt replete. A real turbo boost of those most special to me.

Think I need another break now!

Stephen

-I really did interview Mum and Dad. Some family were present. It was the conversation you won’t ever wish you had. I’ve done a few interviews in my time. This was beyond special.

-Statistics available on marriage length indicate that in the US about .001 of marriages make 70 years. About 20,000 marriages take place annually in New Zealand.

    Just like riding a ski

    Just like riding a ski

    I’ve been fortunate enough to see if I could ski again after a bit of chop and change in one of my legs a couple of years ago. No one was more surprised than me when I gave it a go at Coronet Peak a few weeks ago, and I managed a few runs, backed up a fortnight later.

    I found myself telling people I could still ski thanks to a special ski week quite some time ago and it got me thinking about that ski week.

    Back in the school holidays in the sixth form (year 12 now) I spent a glorious week learning to ski properly at Mt Olympus Ski field near Lake Coleridge, Canterbury with a group of school boys. It now promotes itself as the place to “Ski in the Playground of the Gods“. It was a big week.

    We got dropped off at a Canterbury Farm Station somewhere, and me and three other boys were driven up in the couple’s two door Range Rover. I assumed they operated the Station, but at that age, you don’t know much really, and I didn’t ask, or was told. Mind your own business my mother would have said anyway! They were club members I do recall, and I can see that the club is still running the field – the Windwhistle Winter Sports Club – as it has since 1932. I’ve had a thing for skiing and those early Rangies ever since.

    Then there was no milk and I started drinking black coffee which tasted quite bitter and was instant – I think that was “normal” then – but I’ve been a black coffee drinker ever since. And on the first day of skiing the instructor told us “leave your poles boys, you’ll be learning to ski properly”. And we did.

    So when I thought I’d give skiing a go at Coronet Peak with limitations to my leg I found I could. What came straight back to guide me were the lessons at Mt Olympus, coming sharply back into focus. Shifting the weight from ski to ski to turn. Poles just for balance.

    It’s worth learning something properly. It stays.

    Stephen

    The original Range Rover was introduced by British Leyland under the Rover brand in 1969 and continued in production until 1996, by then under the Land Rover brand. It was a two-door model until 1981. You’ll see restored two door models for sale in NZ for ~$50,000 and a lot more overseas.

    Feedback Season

    Feedback Season

    For many organisations including mine, it’s “year end” at 30 June, meaning lots of work to close out financial performance measures and work out how well we did as humans. Assessments are made against goals – how did you get away with that for an objective?! – and we try as best as we can to assess behaviours on leadership and teaming for the year just past.

    It’s serious business. Countless research and anecdotes tell us people are more likely to leave their workplace because of their boss, not the work, or even the rewards. Leadership has a massive impact on performance, wellbeing, and the one measure most precious to me, happiness.

    I don’t recall anyone saying to me – hate work, the boss is a prick, but I’m as happy as can be. Of course, happiness must just be my thing and satisfaction, professional reward, or contentment might be better descriptors for you. In fact I’ve had my happiness both challenged (it’s potentially superficial) – and reaffirmed (deeper happiness), at the same time by some recent reading on Stoicism. Stoicism considers that happiness can be found through virtue, the four main types of which are wisdom, justice, courage and moderation.

    Using the Stoics virtues can guide us in feedback.

    I think if we could try to give feedback that followed these Stoic principles, it would be a fairly good start for all of us. We could try giving feedback that is:

    • Given in the exercise of good judgment, experience, as a wise person would do – wisdom. Serious feedback needs serious work and is not for the faint-hearted and requires experience. It’s grown up’s work.
    • Fair and equitable according to the receiver’s experience – progressive justice. The platinum rule – treating others as they wish to be treated, not just how you think you might like to be treated.
    • Given honestly and accurately, regardless of the giver’s feeling – courage. Buckle up, this isn’t easy and it takes courage to do it, and do it right. That’s not just “telling the truth” as they can sound blunt, uncaring or abrupt.
    • Given with a sense of reason, balanced against the receiver’s overall performance and the team’s too – moderated. Moderated feedback is kind, generous and fair all at once.

    Of course all is this is about supporting the giver. The receiver needs to be equally as prepared, and a wise receiver of feedback will be noticing the care and attention of the giver and playing their part – like an encouraging, nodding member of an audience – to encourage and help the giver too.

    Go for it!

    Stephen

    ps Stoicism developed in the 3rd Century BCE and flourished in the Roman Empire