Guest Editor Joan Withers Introduces Tenacity & Resilience (Series 2 Ep 1)


Welcome to the February edition of the OnBeingBold series. It is my pleasure to guest edit this month’s content and to share with you some thoughts on this month’s topic – tenacity and resilience.


Although we are only just into 2020, it’s probably too late to be saying Happy New Year, and it’s about now that many of us start to focus on the reality of what the full year ahead is likely to bring. If you heeded Dame Therese’s advice last month and spent some of your down time over the break thinking about your life goals, you may be preparing to make some exciting changes in either your personal or professional situation.

For a lot of us though, the prospect of going back onto that well worn treadmill of meeting family commitments and career obligations means our return to work is less than euphoric.
Recognising how fortunate we are is important.

Leading a busy fulfilling life through balancing a rewarding career with having people we love to take care of, is probably what we aspired to in our earlier years. And in the context of what is happening around the world including the devastation being suffered by our close neighbours in Australia, being domiciled in New Zealand is in itself, something to be very grateful for.

However the week in, week out reality of meeting our work obligations, potentially managing a household and children and meeting family obligations does require resilience facilitated by tools and mechanisms to cope and to ensure we do more than, as Meghan Markle pointed out, just survive.

Some advice from me:

  1. Get as much help as you can. Accept offers to assist from others – for example if you have parents or in-laws willing to help. As long as they can see you are genuinely appreciative, people who offer to help are usually delighted to have that offer taken up. Don’t feel guilty hiring a cleaner, lawnmower person, having your car valeted or buying in partially (or fully!) prepared/curated meals. If you can’t afford to buy in assistance at this point in your career, make it a commitment that when you get that next promotion or salary increase that you use some of that to pay for this sort of support. See what Dame Therese has to say on the accompanying video about support systems to cope with large workloads.

  2. Set up a reward system for yourself – short term, medium term and long term. Dinner out (or even a special takeaway) on a weekly basis with your partner might be something that helps you get through – In the medium term planning a holiday can be a great motivation and for the longer term, dreaming about how your hard work is going to enable your next property move is motivational.

  3. Don’t get overwhelmed by your workload. See Julia Raue's advice in her video  about eating the elephant one bite at a time. That is the best solution for getting through a really busy period. Royal Reed also has some great tools for dealing with stress and workload. Getting up at 3am is my way of coping as that time of day works for my body clock. It is incredibly empowering after five hours of non-interrupted focus to realise how much you have achieved. I talk about that experience in my video clip.

  4. Learn to say “No”. How many times have you agreed to go to a function/event, then become increasingly resentful as the occasion draws closer and finally finding yourself somewhere you don’t want to be? Be selective – work out where your attendance will make a difference.

  5. Make sure you have personal support and someone you can confide in who will give you an unbiased view on issues when the going gets tough. If you are lucky enough to have a life partner who fills that role that’s great, but I have also enjoyed the benefit of colleagues who have provided me with great advice and guidance.

  6. Compartmentalise. Be very clear where the boundaries of your work and personal life are drawn – even in terms of mental energy. My routine means I start thinking about work on the journey in and I stop (well most of the time) when I get in the car to come home. Be present for those you love. Dame Paula's advice on this topic certainly matches my views and she is crystal clear on her priorities as they relate to her husband and daughters. Protect your downtime from incursion by those who don’t have respect for your personal commitments. The most shocking example I have of that was when, during my first CEO role my husband’s favourite aunt and uncle were tragically killed in a car accident. Although everyone was aware on the day in question that I was attending the funeral, a direct report saw fit to call me to attempt to discuss a relatively trivial issue.

  7. Don’t work for someone you don’t like, trust or respect. If it is just a difference in personalities or approach you may be able to work through the issues, but if you worry your values or integrity might be being compromised, one way or another that reporting relationship has to end. Ali Gerry has some great advice in her video (5 mins 33 secs in) on assessing whether you should stay or go. How successful you are, how resilient you become in the face of adversity is to a significant extent a product of your mental robustness.

Annika Streefland's video introduces us to the work of Dr Srikumar Rao. You can find his lectures online and to use Annika’s words, he has some profound advice about resilience, dealing with stress and anxiety and building happiness. His description of mental chatter certainly resonates with me.

As the woman with one of the biggest corporate responsibilities in this country, Jolie Hodson's description of how she deals with stress is certainly worth watching. Ultimately we all have to find ways to be the best we can be in our careers whilst maintaining our personal wellbeing and peace of mind, nurturing our personal relationships and having interests and activities that stimulate and excite us outside our workplace. I hope the content this month helps in your reflection and next week we will update with some real life examples of coping with seriously challenging situations.


Joan Withers



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