© 2019 by Penny Clark-Hall of Social Licence Consulting. All rights reserved.

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  • Penny Clark-Hall

A week of political anomalies


- A politician admitted fault voluntarily

- Culture of bullying addressed

- Criticism tactics or free speech?


What a circus it has been in New Zealand politics this week. I can’t remember a time, from my days in Parliament, when politics has been such a sideshow. What impressed me though was listening to Trevor Mallard’s humility on the AM show and the fact that this inquiry happened in the first place.

Mallard’s response to being challenged for his own bullying behaviour, in light of the findings from his inquiry, was something I have not seen in Parliament before. He showed vulnerability, humility and honesty - Social Licence gold. You only have to assess your gut reaction to his response to know how effective honesty, humility and vulnerability is when you’re being called out for a failure. But if that isn’t enough to convince, Duncan Garner’s appeasement should.


Garner, is well versed on political bullshit and I can imagine he would have found Mallard’s ownership of his behaviour as refreshing as I did. No one finds it easy to own their failures as a human being, least of all a politician. The traditional response would be to get defensive, deny and talk around it, which ruins your credibility and trustworthiness. This. is how you lose peopled your Social Licence. Instead, he humanised himself in that we’re all imperfect beings who are trying to better ourselves. I can’t argue with that - I’m definitely not perfect.


“Absolutely, I don't think there will be a person in the building who has been perfect. I am a man of my generation and have acted badly in the past. I have been trying to improve and I think I have improved significantly.”


"I think as your own kids get older and you think about the sort of world that you want, you think about what is appropriate more and you adjust your behaviour accordingly.”

Because Mallard didn’t shy away from his own failings, the conversation was able to move on in a constructive way, where the issue of a bullying culture again became the focus. A far more productive use of air time in my view, rather than battling to get an honest response. When I say ‘we need to fail better’ if we want to avoid, or minimise, losing trust, this is a good example. Own it.

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