What’s on your recovery rocket?

Look, I am not a big believer in balance.I am a believer in balance being an admirable goal, one that should you find it, will probably mean you live a much happier, healthier life. I have just spent so long searching for it that I am sure I am running out of places to look. And this is coming from someone whose biggest responsibility outside of herself is a kelpie. (Perhaps I could have found balance in a greyhound?)I lamented this problem to a much wiser colleague of mine, who is in possession of two golden retrievers, a husband, adult children, and, if memory serves me correctly, a cat. Rather than clipping me over the ears and telling me to get on with it, she took the time to introduce me to the Recovery Rocket. I looked at it with the requisite apprehension, but delightfully, there was nothing on there that seemed unattainable.Essentially, the recovery rocket provides a model for maintaining a baseline of mental wellness over a year, and then gives you activities to do during the week to top up your engine fuel. It was originally designed by an organisational psychologist called Andrew May, who created the model for the Australian Cricket Team.For your baseline, the model recommends:300 nights of good sleep (7 + hours of unbroken sleep) every yearOne big stretch break or ‘off season’ (a good week or two on holidays)Three mini breaks (long weekends in different locales)10-15 minutes of ‘slow time’ every day (going for a walk, preparing veggies for dinner, meditation, etc)30 weeks where you accumulate 100 recovery points. What are recovery points? Recovery points are points that you get for doing activities that you enjoy. Each has a certain number of points attributed to it, and the aim is to do enough activities each week to accumulate 100 points.In the model, points are attributed to massages (50 points), going for a walk (20 points), talking with a friend on the phone (15 points) and so on. However, you can make your own up instead.For instance, I have my weekly dance class racking up a solid 30 points for me every week, along with walking my dog on the beach (20 points), walking along the beach with my friend (10 points), sitting down to do some crochet or other craft activity (10 points), watching a few episodes of my favourite show (10 points), getting takeaway (15 points), dinner with a friend (20 points) and playing a video game (5 points).What I like about the recovery rocket model is that it is set up for success, rather than failure. To tell someone that they need 365 nights of a solid seven hours sleep every year in order to live a well-balanced life is, frankly, rude. One hour of meditation every day is somewhat excessive for your average executive and you won’t always rack up 100 points every week. And with this model, all of those things are okay. There’s no need to beat yourself up because you only managed 80 points one week. One night of tossing and turning doesn’t automatically mean you have failed for the remainder of the year.So, I have a challenge for you all. This week, sit down and make a list of 10 activities you enjoy, that are easy to fit into your week. Give them points based on how refreshed or rejuvenated you feel at the end of them. And next week, see if you can make it to 100 points.What will you put on your recovery points list? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Kamala Harris made history on January 20th. So did Douglas Emhoff.

On the 20th of January, a bit before midday (they were ahead of schedule and, frankly, who can blame them?) Kamala Harris was sworn as the 46th Vice President of the United States of America.

How to handle your inner critic

Most of us have an inner critic. They’re a little voice in the back of your head that makes you think twice about what you are doing, have done, or want to do.This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we have all witnessed the malarkey that comes with a leader whose inner critic is totally and utterly absent.  People with no self-doubt can be somewhat destructive and feel they are more invincible than they are. Questioning your actions and opinions is actually a really important part of being a leader.However, when your inner critic moves from a valuable sounding board (are you 100% sure about those figures?) to a bully (‘There’s no way you got those figures right, you must have stuffed up,’) it’s important that you have the skills to put it in its place. Because while critical thinking, careful consideration and checking in with what you are doing every now and then is a good thing, constantly putting yourself down is another thing altogether.Here are a few ideas for managing your inner critic:1. Give it a name Australian musician, Clare Bowditch does an excellent job of this. Her inner critic is called Frank. And when Frank is getting her down, Clare simply says to herself; ‘F off Frank,’ swiftly putting Frank back in his place. Personifying your inner critic is an excellent way to distance yourself from that self-doubt.2. Keep a ‘wins’ file Recently nailed a brief? Keep it. Glowing praise from your boss on a project you worked hard on? Keep that too.  Keeping comments, projects and results you are proud of on hand to have a look at when you doubt yourself is really important. They serve as a tangible reminder that your inner critic is wrong, and that you really can and will do a good job.3. Find a sponsor, mentor or office buddy to back you upWhen you are feeling a bit like a fraud, unsure of yourself or doubting your worth and value in your role, check in with a friend that you know will boost your spirits. Someone who will remind you about all the incredible things you have achieved and will be able to talk you out of a negative pattern. If you don’t have this person in your office, find someone like a mentor or sponsor who you can call on when you need to.4. Remind yourself that half the population isn’t worrying about this. Overwhelmingly, people who struggle with imposter syndrome, or who have to battle daily with their inner critic, are women. Remind yourself that Jeff in finance and Andrew in marketing are likely not wringing their hands over whether they are good enough to be in their role, or have done a good enough job on their report/presentation/article etc. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but we know from studies that the majority of employees who doubt their worth and capability are women. Take a deep breath, and do what you know best.5. Acknowledge its concerns, then move on If your inner critic is constantly pestering you, undermining you, or pulling you up on the same thing over and over again, take ten minutes to sit with it and see what it is that it is most worried about. Acknowledge the concern, and then move on. Once the concern is acknowledged, and something is put in place to rectify it (if necessary) you can move on- and also remind it that now everything has been addressed, it should move on too.

Get to know Suzi Finkelstein

Suzi Finkelstein is the CEO of the Australian School of Applied Management (ASAM), which is the parent company of Women & Leadership Australia and Women & Leadership New Zealand. We asked her a couple of questions to get to know her a bit better as she celebrates six months in her new role.Tell us about your role as CEO of ASAM?I have just celebrated my 6-month milestone as CEO. Stepping up into this role at the beginning of a pandemic was an epic decision!  ASAM delivers leadership education under six separate brands; Women & Leadership Australia, Women & Leadership New Zealand, Women & Leadership International, National Excellence in School Leadership Institute, and Government Public Sector Learning.What do you love about your job?I am passionate about social equity. I believe there are many systemic challenges, particularly in Australia, but one arena that can build capacity and opportunity is via leadership education and social capital. This is the foundation of all we do, and our purpose is to affect positive change.What is your greatest achievement?Stepping up into this role during a pandemic is an achievement that I’m really proud of. I am relishing this dedicated space to influence and build a culture that is constructive and deliberately developmental. I am committed to people and purpose and I truly gain from the mutual recognition and reciprocity that this cultivates.  Thankfully I am surrounded by good people and I don’t stand alone.If you weren’t in your current career, what would be?I would like to be the SBS host of Insight, one of Australia's leading forum for debate and powerful first-person stories. Weaving stories together whilst respectfully highlighting the differences is appealing because of the dynamic complexity which unfolds in real-time.What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?I often share these wise words from Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State: `Women can have it all, just not at the same time’. On a daily basis, I witness the fatigue of women trying to achieve so much all at once. I also witness the frustrations and the disappointments, often followed by disengagement when it all becomes too much.As women, and as a society, we need to recognise our individual life stages because they impact our capacity. If I could speak to my 21-year-old self, I would reassure her that there is a time for everything and to respect the natural order.If I could have any superpower…It would be the ability to hear others thoughts. I am an incorrigible people watcher, fascinated by reactions, interactions and altercations. To understand what makes people tick would be fascinating. I have an education background which led me to coaching and facilitating, all of my work is underscored by my belief in people. Getting inside their head (literally) would take me steps forward in increasing compassion and capacity.

You know your values, but what about the people you work with?

Values are a very personal, important thing to a lot of us. Ensuring that we both know our values, and are true to them, is incredibly important- particularly for leaders who are aiming to be authentic.However, how do you know that your values are coming through in your actions and are demonstrable to the people you lead? It can be hard to step out of your own actions, thoughts and feelings and instead think about how others perceive you. One of the ways we tackle this in our leadership programs at WLA is to look at the front and the back of our T-Shirt.The premise of the model is that you take the front of your T shirt, and write your values down. They might be things like honestly, equality, trust, calmness, fairness- the list goes on. Then you think about your actions, and HOW you lead. What actions do you take, what response do you give, what is your tone of voice, your body language? And then you ask the question; what would the people I lead, see on the back of my T shirt?As you walk away from these interactions, if the people you lead had the opportunity to guess your values and put them on the back of your T Shirt, what would they write? Would they match the front of your T Shirt? Would some of them match? None of them?Of course, you can never really know. But it is a useful lens to view your past actions through, and also an impactful tool for planning actions, decisions and interactions that come up during the day. Activities like open ended ‘walk and talk’ sessions with people you work with can also help you to find out how your actions are perceived, if you create a space where you are comfortable to ask the question and your colleague or friend is comfortable to give a truthful answer.Being an authentic leader is so important. Authentic, consistent leaders create a culture of trust, honesty and openness, leading to increased team cohesion and better wellbeing for your team members. Taking the time to ensure that your actions match the front of your t-shirt gives you and your team confidence that you lead with integrity.

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Laura Maxwell's career journey​

Laura Maxwell

Laura Maxwell is Chief Commercial Officer at NZME. She has over 20 years of experience in media and is also currently serving as a Chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a Director of the Newspapers Publishers Association and a board member of the Radio Bureau. Laura will be speaking at the upcoming NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium so we sat down with her to discuss her career journey.

Tell us about your career to date?

After completing a BA at Otago University I began a fantastic OE that ended up lasting….much longer than planned! I did get to experience working in a range of industries, improved my skiing and to my father’s relief, started my first ‘real job’ in sales and marketing at the University of Canberra, at 26 years of age. Given the commute was sensational, I also completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing while I was there.

I have worked in small businesses where I have rolled my sleeves up and been involved both along and across the business. This taught me so much and gave me experience in manufacturing, importing, exporting, retailing, packaging, pricing, negotiation, marketing, advertising, sales and finance. Once I joined larger organisations (where your role is more defined), I then had the confidence to challenge and add value to areas ‘outside my remit’. I have been within the media business since 2001 and still love the pace, the brands and how we connect with Kiwis. For me, being in an informal, creative and fast-paced environment suits my ethos of taking the role seriously but having a good time too.

What have been some highlights (and low lights!) in your career?

Highlights for me have been working with slick, global brands where I got to experience planning, strategy and execution at a level that was simply top notch and at a scale larger than we have in New Zealand. These include working alongside big brands and organisations like Team New Zealand, Louis Vuitton, the America’s Cup, the All Blacks, and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Working for a business and creating commercial success in a short window, such as for an event, was a steep learning curve for me. For the America’s Cup programme we developed, branded, packaged, retailed, marketed and sold over 90 new products specific to the event with every step of the chain needing approval from the event brand owners. And we hit our targets!  

One of the biggest career challenges for me was when I was leading Yahoo!NZ and the Xtra email issue arose. I would not call it a lowlight (although being on conference calls to the States every hour throughout the night seemed like a lowlight at the time!) as it was a great learning experience.  I have used the skills learned during that episode again and again.

You are recognised as a leader in your field. What advice would you give other women who aspire to this?

Plan where you want to go and create a pathway to get there. Be honest with what your gaps are and improve them. Find businesses where you can make a difference, that excite you and where you ‘fit‘. If you rate a particular leader, then either get a job with them or see if they will mentor you.

Choose your battles and understand the impact of your decisions on the business, the brand and other people within the business.

Outside your business, give your time to contribute to the betterment of your industry – this will also raise your profile. What groups are there you can join? What initiatives can you develop and lead that will improve the business ecosystem for the industry?

What do you think are the most important strengths/skills women need in the workforce now and in the future?

The same skills any person needs to be successful. I do not see the key strengths/skills as being different for women. Own your ideas, speak up and add value. However, if you want to position yourself for an executive role, do not volunteer to take notes in meetings or organise the coffee or bring in the baking.

When negotiating your remuneration, show how you add value to the business and know what the market rates are for your role. Make sure you have a list of the achievements in the previous year and what your plans are to move the business forward. Take the emotion out of it. The business is not hiring you. They are hiring what you bring to the company.

We all know how important networking is. What is your networking strategy?

I like talking to interesting people who can see new ways of solving challenges. I seek out people who may have similar challenges to me and share ideas with them. I do not believe it is a numbers game. I would rather have fewer good people that I can call than have the largest list of people.

What do you think the biggest challenge facing females in the corporate world, and females in business more generally, at the moment?

Confidence. This is the biggest difference I see between men and women in a work environment. I thought it was a Kiwi thing, but I think it is more of women underestimating what they bring to the table. Find the forums to accelerate your worth to the business. If you are delivering value and your employer is not valuing it, then ask for feedback and do not be afraid of what you hear. Then you can decide if there are changes you need to make at work or if the current business is not one that will fulfil your goals and instead find a new one.

Would you like to hear Laura Maxwell and other inspirational speakers share their journeys and leadership advice? Join us at the NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium from 21-22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. To secure your seat at this phenomenal event, register now

 

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