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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The unique challenges of women working in the construction industry​

An excavator

We know that gender diversity (let alone diversity in general) makes good business sense – huge bodies of evidence exist demonstrating that when we have more women in workplaces, organisations have greater economic growth and improved organisational, financial and market performance. Yet we are also told by the World Economic Forum that it will be a very long 117 years before we achieve true gender equality.

I was raised around the construction industry. I worked for my Dad’s road construction company during my school and university holidays, and after I graduated I worked on research projects in the logging industry. I then joined a consulting company that delivered large-scale safety cognitive-behavioural culture programs (underpinned with psychology and brain science) to the mining, construction and heavy industries globally.

I was often the only female on the entire site, and even more frequently the only female in meetings. Any challenges I had with this were primarily the result of being treated like what I can only call a child. I often found myself being ‘protected’ by clients (with the best of intentions I confess); clients and colleagues alike at times seemingly needing to protect me from ‘aggressive’ and ‘rude’ behaviour, or even pre-framing my work in the room with ‘be nice to this young lady’. Though I felt capable, competent and confident in sharing information and discussions, let alone managing these kinds of behaviours when they were evident, many people who were older, primarily male, were often unconsciously not setting me up for success, certainly not as the specialist in my field.

There are many examples of these kinds of unconscious biases and hindering behaviours (and I know of many more covert and overt examples of undermining females, including blatant harassment and discrimination), many of which can be directed towards women in male dominated workforces.

While unconscious thinking, stereotypes and biases are our everyday life as humans, there are a number of unconscious biases specifically related to gender in organisations that have systematically negative effects on women. We are more likely to use unconscious thinking processes at certain times, and workplaces often provide many of these conditions for unconscious thinking to occur: having to divide our attention across multiple tasks at once, having to make rapid judgements and decisions, and carrying out routine tasks.

There are a number of reasons why unconscious bias and stereotyping present issues for business, and there are three key phenomena that primarily present challenges to gender equality in organisations.

Firstly, ‘think manager, think male’ gender stereotyping has negative consequences for women in organisations generally, and particularly in terms of the number of women in senior or leadership roles. Masculine leadership behaviours are heavily weighted towards our view of what a leader should be like. Because our biases are frequently unconscious, processes like candidate search, selection, advancement and remuneration can be skewed against women despite equal opportunity policies and practices.

‘Backlash’ talks to how people are more likely to react negatively when they encounter others who do not fit their stereotypical expectations. In the case of gender, people prefer women to behave like stereotypical women, and men to behave like stereotypical men. When women display traits or behaviours that are more stereotypically masculine, they are likely to be penalised and evaluated more negatively – that is, experience backlash from others. Likewise for men who display stereotypically feminine traits. However, backlash affects women in organisations far more than it does men, because women more closely associate leadership with masculine traits. Male-dominated cultures can experience an ‘impossible dilemma’, that is if they do not behave assertively they cannot demonstrate leadership competence, but if they do behave assertively, they are considered less promotable.

Finally, ‘stereotype threat’ is a phenomenon where we become aware of others’ stereotypes about us and as a result we are more likely to conform to them and behave in accordance with others’ expectations. Research shows, for instance, that women perform worse on mathematical tasks when gender stereotypes about maths competence are mentioned prior. So being made aware that, by virtue of her gender, a woman should perform worse at some tasks than her male counterparts can contribute to poorer performance. It is simply an awareness of the stereotype that influences the outcome, not actual inferior competence in a task.

A woman’s fit, functioning and growth within the workplace comes down to some quite specific protective and risk factors. Two of the protective factors in particular include job network and support, and other women working in the area, among others.

This is the main reason why Women & Leadership New Zealand (WLNZ) has ‘female only’ leadership development programs and ‘female focused’ events. If women work in predominantly male workforces, they are not likely to consistently interact with other women working in their area, and very often do not have a female network or support within the workplace. This is also the case the higher up a hierarchy we go, where there can be even fewer females in leadership and executive level roles.

WLNZ has set up a networking group on LinkedIn called Professional Women’s Network Australia/NZ, where women have the opportunity to support each other, collaborate on ideas and share strategies for career advancement. We encourage readers to join this group.

Gender equality is not just a ‘women’s problem’ for us to deal with alone. Yet the reality is we have some way to go and there are some things we can do as individuals, for our own fit, function and growth within our workplaces.

One statement that often comes to mind is something a previous colleague once said to me: “you educate people in how to treat you through setting your expectations and boundaries.” Be clear on what you accept and do not accept, particularly when it comes to your own goals and ideals.

Do you want to join WLNZ’s next event and hear from inspirational leaders like Barbara Kendall MBE, Makaia Carr, Mai Chen and Rachel Smalley? The inaugural NZME Women’s Leadership Symposium will be taking place on 21 and 22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. You can book your tickets now

Author: Kelly Rothwell, Head of School at WLNZ 

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