Covid-19 FAQs

Updated 26/08/21

• Can my business stay open during alert level 4?
It is up to the business to check whether they meet the definition of an Alert Level 4 business or service. Workplaces can only open if:

– they are an Alert Level 4 business or service as defined in Schedule 2 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (No 9) 2021 (Order), or they are exempt from the Oder. AND

– they are operating safely, in accordance with the Alert Level 4 requirements set out in the order.

Operating safely includes fulfilling all other Health & Safety obligations. This means that if an Alert Level 4 service cannot operate safely, workers must not go to work and premises should remain closed.

• My business is required to remain closed during Alert Level 4. How much should I pay my employees during this time?

Employers must pay employees as if they were in continuous employment.

If employers cannot operate their business due to COVID-19 alert level restrictions, employees must receive their full pay unless otherwise agreed by both parties in writing.

You may be able to access the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy to help continue paying your employees’ wages.

• Do I have to tell my employees that I am applying for the wage subsidy?

Yes, because it is good faith but as part of the application you must have discussed this application with the employees named in it and the employee must have consented to a number of matters recorded in the declaration:

– the information about them in your application being provided to the MSD; and

– you providing the MSD with any further information about them required in order for the MSD to make decisions about your application, and to audit and review any subsidy that is granted (to you or to another applicant) and how any subsidy is granted and paid to employees; and

– you advising the MDS if they end their employment relationship with your business at a time when you are receiving a subsidy with respect to them

• Do I need to do anything to start paying my employees 80% of their normal wages?

Yes! You must consult and act in good faith. You must put a proposal to the employee and try to get their agreement. You cannot unilaterally vary any terms and conditions of their employment including their remuneration.

The granting of a wage subsidy (or COVID-19/Government Alert Levels) does not override an employers’ existing obligations under the Employment Relations Act 2000.

An employer cannot make any changes under any employment agreement, including to rates of pay, hours of work and leave entitlement, without written agreement of the relevant employee.

• I run an essential business or service, so can operate during Alert Level 4. Can my employee choose not to work?

If you can operate your business during Alert Level 4, and your employees choose not to work (for whatever reason), these employees are not entitled to payment.

However, they may ask to be paid sick leave and/or annual leave and/or any Government subsidy available. All arrangements should be agreed by both parties, in writing.

• Can I require employees to take annual leave if they are getting the wage subsidy?

You cannot unlawfully compel or require any of the employees named in your application to use their leave entitlements for the period you receive the wage subsidy in respect of those employees.

In cases where you agreed to pay only 80% of an employees’ wages, some employees may choose to top up their wages to 100% by using their annual leave entitlements.

• What happens if my part-time employee only works 10 hours per week? What happens to the balance of the wage subsidy?

The wage subsidy is designed to support employers throughout New Zealand, so they can continue to pay employees and protect jobs for businesses affected by COVID-19.

If you employees’ ordinary wages are lawfully below the amount of the part time subsidy amount ($359/week), then you can use the balance of the wage subsidy for other affected staff – i.e. to top up for other full-time employees’ wages.

• Can I apply for the wage subsidy for casual employees?

Yes, you can if your business meets the eligibility criteria to apply for the wage subsidy and provided the casual member of staff would have been expected to work during the time you will receive the wage subsidy.

• My casual employees work variable rates. How do I work out whether they qualify for the part-time or full-time subsidy?

You should average their hours out over the last year.

If this average is 20 hours or more, you can apply for the full-time rate, if it is under 20 hours the part-time rate.

If they have worked for less than a year, you should average the hours worked during their total employment period.

• I’ve heard that I only need to make my ‘best efforts’ to pay my employees 80% of their normal wages, what does that mean?

Remember, the wage subsidy does not override employment law. Therefore, employers should be paying 100% of the employee’s normal wages.

Normal wages = the wages specified in the employee’s employment agreement.

But, if 100% is not possible, then 80% is the desired outcome. You must try your absolute hardest to pay 80% which you can only do so after you have consulted in good faith and gained an agreement from your employee in writing.

NOTE: We recommend all employers review the declaration thoroughly prior to applying for the Wage Subsidy. If you are unsure, please contact us to discuss your situation.

• What happens if my employee does not agree to only receiving 80% of their normal wages?

As above, the wages subsidy does not override employment law. If the employee does not agree to the reduction, you are obliged to pay them 100%.

If this is not possible, a restructure-type process will need to be undertaken, whereby you consult staff on a proposed change (providing rationale/justification), seek and genuinely consider their feedback, then make a final decision.

We strongly suggest you seek advice before going through a restructure process. It is vital you follow the process outlined in the employee’s employment agreements. Any restructures will be subject to significant scrutiny by the Employment Relations Authority should a dispute arise.

• Can I pay annual leave on top of the wage subsidy?

Yes, if that is what the employee wants and asks for.

Note that annual leave is calculated based on the greater of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) or Ordinary Weekly Pay (OWP).

If the employee is in receipt of the wage subsidy their OWP = $600 (Full time employee) or $359 (Part-time employee), not their normal pre COVID wages.

So, they may see a lesser amount than what they were expecting.

• I already applied for the wage subsidy, but only for some of my employees. Can I make another application for my remaining employees?

Yes. You can make an additional application for any of your employees whom you haven’t already applied for.

• Can I tell my employees to use their annual holidays (annual leave)?

Annual leave is defined in the Holidays Act 2003 as being for rest and recreation purposes.

When annual holidays are to be taken by the employee, it should be done by agreement.

You can’t tell your employees to take annual leave to cover a downturn in business caused by COVID-19 unless otherwise agreed by the employees in writing.

If you and your employee cannot agree on when the annual leave is to be taken, and you have given the employee 14 days’ notice, you can make the employee take leave.

• Can I stop my employee from using their annual leave?

People have important and legitimate responsibilities, personal or otherwise. An employer must allow an employee to take annual holidays within 12 months after the date on which the employee’s entitlement to the holidays arose.

If an employee wants to use their entitled annual leave, employers can’t unreasonably refuse this.

An employer can say no if an employee wants to take annual holidays in advance.

• I have an employee who works part-time for me and part-time somewhere else. Can I get a wage subsidy for that employee if they are already receiving one?

Yes. An employee who is employed by two or more businesses, can receive the wage subsidy from multiple employers, as long as the usual criteria are met.

• One of my staff members resigned prior to lockdown, and was due to finish working for me during the lockdown period. Can I still apply for the wage subsidy for that person?

Yes. Subject to the business eligibility criteria, you can apply for the wage subsidy for the period that the employee remained employed by you.

• How should I treat an employee who now wants to withdraw their resignation?

If an employee has resigned and later seeks to withdraw or rescind that resignation, you can choose to accept their request, but are not obliged to.

In considering whether to agree, you should weight up whether doing so would impact others (such as where arrangements have been made to fill the position).

Even where arrangements to fill the vacancy have been made, you may be able to retain the employee in an alternative position.

• I had just recruited a new staff member prior to lockdown. He was contracted to start work with us on 23/08/21 (during the lockdown period) but we are non-essential and have to remain closed during lockdown. What are my obligations here?

If you have a signed Individual Employment Agreement, you are bound by the terms and conditions of that agreement. So, unless otherwise agreed in writing by all parties, you must treat that person as an employee of your business. Assuming you meet the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy, you can apply for the wage subsidy for that employee from the date he was to be employed (23/08/21).

• How should we treat fixed-term employees whose employment agreements are due to expire during an alert level that requires them to stay home?

You should consider whether you were likely to have extended this, if the workplace restrictions had not been in place.

In many cases the reason for the temporary appointment remains, so an extension would be appropriate (i.e. the project they were hired for is yet to be completed).

Or you can consider whether you may be able to redeploy existing employees to fill this need.

Otherwise, the fixed term can be allowed to expire, subject to necessary notice having been provided.

• How many hours of work should I provide my employees during Alert Level 4?

Under employment law, employees must be paid for each and every hour that they work at their agreed wage rate. If you can operate your business, you must offer your employees work as usual and according to their employment agreements. If you cannot offer them work, you must pay them their full pay, unless otherwise agreed to by both parties in writing.

• I am concerned that I cannot meet 100% of my employees’ contracted hours. What should I do?

Employers and employees can temporarily or permanently agree to vary the agreed rates of pay and hours of work. Any change requires good faith consultation and a written agreement signed by both parties.

In most cases if employers cannot pay 100% of the employee’s wages, and employees cannot provide an agreement, employers must follow a restructure-type process, involving consultation and feedback.

• I run an essential business. What can I do if some of my employees say they cannot come to work because they have children to care for during lockdown?

The Ministry of Education has restarted a free childcare programme for children of essential workers in Level 4. This applies to children up to age 13 and is home based care via one of 32 national providers. There are a number of providers across Selwyn, including Selwyn Kids, Busy Bumbles and STEMS.

If an employee chooses not to go to work because they have children to look after at home, then normal employment law/leave provisions apply, despite COVID-19. Depending on the Individual Employment Agreement he/she may apply for annual leave, sick/domestic leave if the child happens to be sick, or he/she may need to take unpaid leave. Some employers may opt to pay ‘Special Leave’ depending on the circumstances.

• Can I use the wage subsidy I receive for a named employee to pay other outgoings such as rent?

No. When you apply for the wage subsidy you also declare that you will only use the subsidy for the purposes of meeting your named employee’s ordinary wages and salary.

However, you may apply for the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) if your business meets the eligibility criteria (e.g. expected 30% decline in revenue). The RSP is a payment to be used to help cover business expenses such as wages and fixed costs, and is available to apply for through the IRD.

• Can I make someone redundant after applying for the wage subsidy?
The wage subsidy is designed to support employers throughout New Zealand, so they can continue to pay employees and protect jobs for businesses affected by COVID-19.

If you applied for and received a wage subsidy, you cannot make named employees in your application redundant for the duration of the wage subsidy.

If you are considering a restructure/redundancy process, we suggest you seek advice.

• Can I make my employees redundant during lockdown?

Yes, subject to there being a substantive justification, and the employer following a fair and reasonable process, including consulting with the employees before making any decisions.

However, as above, if you applied for and are receiving the wage subsidy, you cannot make named employees in your application redundant for the duration of the wage subsidy.

• Is is possible that my business will have to repay any part of the subsidy?

Yes, you agree to repay the subsidy or any part of the subsidy paid to you if you:

– fail to meet any of the obligations about how you must use the subsidy; or

– were not or stop being eligible for the subsidy or any part of the subsidy;

– provide false or misleading information in your application; or

– receive insurance such as business interruption insurance for any costs covered by the subsidy

• Can I force employees to have a vaccine and wear masks?

Mask wearing is now a public health requirement, so staff in essential services can be required to wear a mask. Non-compliance could result in disciplinary action being justified.

Vaccines are now a compulsory requirement for the employees of employers which fall under the Government Covid-10 Order.

Otherwise, an employer could not generally mandate vaccination unless it was a legitimate requirement of the role for health and safety reasons.

In either of these situations, if an employee refused to be vaccinated, this could potentially lead to a termination of employment if the employer was unable to accommodate reasonable alternative working arrangements

• What if one of my employees won’t comply with the rules and is a risk to others?

If an employee refuses to comply with the rules, for example refuses to wear a mask, then disciplinary action could be taken.

This could include suspending the employee if the non-compliance continues.

Didn’t find the answer you’re looking for here?

For further assistance, or to discuss your specific situation, please feel free to contact Pip for a free and confidential chat.

We are ready and available to help both employers and employees.

Pip Simmons LLB, DiSC Certified Trainer
m: 021 474 736

The Power of DiSC in Uncertain Times

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When times are tough, teams look to their leaders for compassion, guidance and reassurance that everything will be OK. Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of introducing organisations to the DiSC Model of Human Behaviour, based on the work of American Psychologist Dr William Marston.

The DiSC model centres on four core behavioural styles: Dominance, influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness, and allows individuals to analyse their behavioural patterns (their preferences and priorities) and understand why other people do what they do. Of all the models and personality/psychometric assessments I have seen and used throughout my career, DiSC is a favourite because it is so simple and easy to apply – perfect for the current circumstances.

Building awareness of the four DiSC styles will enable leaders to recognise and manage their own and reactions to the covid-19 pandemic, and provide a powerful decoder that ensures they are equipped and confident to lead their people through this adversity.

In this blog I will give an overview of the 4 DiSC styles and look at how we can quickly and effectively use DiSC to:
• Lead and Coach through Uncertainty
• Optimise Your New Remote Workforce

The 4 DiSC Styles –

1. Dominance (‘D’)
Those with the Dominance style can be described as direct, decisive, results-focused, competitive, firm, strong-willed and forceful. They tend to make decisions based on a whim as to them it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. They would rather lead than follow and are very self-confident. They thrive on opposition and excel at seeing the whole picture. They seek authority because they like to control the outcomes of projects and activities. They are big on cost/benefit analysis, seek recognition and respect, and won’t be afraid to pursue changes or enter a robust discussion; in fact, they welcome a good debate.
The ‘D’ style prioritises getting immediate results, taking action and challenging themselves and others. In Harry Potter terms, think Slytherin.*

2. Influence (‘i’)
People with the influence style can be described as outgoing, inspiring, talkative, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited and lively. They are bright, bubbly and interesting, and quite happy being in the limelight. They are also quick thinkers who are brave and excellent at motivating others. Often daredevils, they do anything for a good time and are willing to engage in risky behaviour to reap the rewards. They are more likely to foresee potentially positive outcomes for a situation than dwell in potential dangers.
The ‘i’ style tends to prioritise expressing enthusiasm, taking action and encouraging collaboration. In Harry Potter terms, think Gryffindor*.

3. Steadiness (‘S’)
Those with the Steadiness style can be described as even-tempered, loyal, steadfast, accommodating, patient, humble and tactful. They are slow and steady, reliable and hard working. They seek security and a enjoy a calm, team-oriented atmosphere. Not boastful or competitive they do not set out to win, they are just happy that everyone has a good time playing and that no one gets hurt. They understand the need for authority and are fine with other people having it as this means they won’t have to make the tough/unpopular decisions or tell someone what to do. They are excellent listeners and they appreciate what they have – for that reason they will shy away from change for change’s sake.
The S style tends to prioritise giving support, maintaining stability and enjoying collaboration. In Harry Potter terms, think Hufflepuff*.

4. Conscientiousness (‘C’)
And finally, the Conscientiousness style can be described as analytical, reserved, precise, private and systematic. They excel at puzzles and improving existing systems. Open-minded to new possibilities the C style are excellent problem-solvers because they pay attention to details and see things that no one else sees. Not concerned with popularity they are focused on being correct and well-informed. Often seen as perfectionists they have very high expectations of themselves and a fear of criticism or being wrong, so they work extremely hard to achieve results and exceed expectations.
The C style tends to prioritise accuracy, maintaining stability and challenging assumptions. In Harry Potter terms, think Ravenclaw*.
*Character references are used as a guide only.

To think of the DiSC styles another way, the ‘D’ and ‘i’ styles are fast-paced and extroverted whereas your ‘S’ and ‘C’ styles are slower paced and more introverted. And, the ‘D’ and ‘C’ styles are more task-focused and questioning, whereas the ‘i’ and ‘S’ styles are more people-focused and accepting.

While we are all different, DiSC suggests we are predictably different. So, as we face into the covid-19 pandemic and in particular this lockdown period, we know every employee will respond differently. Research also shows that while we are all a blend of the 4 core styles, and our behaviours can be situational or dependant on other factors such as life experience, education and maturity, in times of stress we all typically revert to our core style. This is where DiSC becomes so powerful for leaders. If we know someone’s core style, we can predict their behaviour and adapt our approach to best connect with and support them through this unprecedented time.

Take a moment to let the 4 DiSC styles percolate. Read back through, can you think of someone in your team who represents each DiSC style? What style are you? (If you’re not sure and would like to find out, flick me a message and I can help you out).

So, if the DiSC model suggests people are predictably different, what behaviours might we be seeing from each style as we face into this sudden change from normality to lockdown? The following tips may help you recognise which styles your team members are –

• A Dominant style person may be quick to focus and ‘get on with it’ in the new environment. They will be ready to take the lead wherever they can, especially if this means they stay ahead of the rest. They may prefer the cold hard facts without any sugar coating and will typically ask their leaders to tell them how it is, whatever that means so they can get on with the challenges ahead.

• An influence style person will also be quick to respond, is likely to remain optimistic and may actually thrive in times of uncertainty, jumping at opportunities to innovate and solve problems quickly. They are also likely to crave the social interaction that their normal workplace offered so they will be seeking plenty of visibility of their leaders and their peers.

• Someone with the Steadiness style may be the most emotionally vulnerable within the team. Remember this group prefer stability, like working collaboratively and are very focused on giving support. As exceptional listeners with huge empathy they are the ones who everyone goes to when they are down or need a shoulder to cry on. So, add this to their own discomfort amidst the sudden change that has been thrust upon them – they may need time to process, and some leniency as they come to terms with this situation and remain available to others.

• A Conscientious style person will follow the rules, seek out and challenge the facts, and look for ways to retain control or use their expertise to help in any way they can. Being private and logical they are very unlikely to want to talk about their feelings or people’s opinions/predictions during this time. They are also quite happy working independently, so they may not be as phased by having to work remotely, away from the social team environment.

What can you do to successfully connect with, coach and lead each style though this crisis?

For your “D” and “C” employees – stick to the facts.
These groups will likely be glued to news sources and frequent updates. ‘D’ styles will be checking to see if the lockdown is working yet (results-focused) and ‘C’ styles will be fact-checking and seeking out the most reliable sources of information. As a leader, while it is good to show some vulnerability, try to keep personal opinions and emotions to a minimum here, and provide reputable sources for any crisis-related information provided. Keep the focus on clear and concise communication that is pertinent and keep fearful rumours or speculation to a minimum.

For your ‘D’ employees – tell them what you expect of them and let them get on with it. They are driven to succeed and they will embrace the challenge. Remind them they may need to give their ‘S’ colleagues more space to voice their emotions.

‘C’ employees will also remain focused on the task at hand but may appreciate being empowered to work independently without being micro-managed. Perhaps ask them how often they would like to catch up, rather than automatically phoning them twice a day. Note that Conscientious style employees may become increasingly frustrated at ‘outside the box’ thinking from their ‘i’ colleagues so it can be valuable to shelter them from some of the ‘group think sessions’ and allow them to get on with their to-do list, using their preferred tried and tested methods.

For your ‘i’ and ‘S’ employees – allow Q&A time.
As much as possible, host virtual group sessions to allow them to check in with each other, voice concerns and ask questions. Let your creative ‘i’ employees share their new ideas or ways of working with you or other ‘i’ employees – you’ll be blown away by the suggestions they will have for retaining a close and positive team culture during this time. Give your ‘S’ employees time to see and hear their peers, they will be picking up on cues that you may miss, and they will have everyone’s wellbeing front and centre of their mind.

Note that ‘i’ employees crave a sense of belonging and acceptance, they will be seeking your recognition and approval for a job well done, so now is the time to sprinkle praise everywhere, even over the little things.

And again, as potentially your most vulnerable group your ‘S’ employees will value seeing your own personal vulnerability (your human non-Boss side) so take time to share your own thoughts and feelings while maintaining clear control of the situation. And if you’re out of your depth dealing with the emotions from this group, engage the services of experts to help – EAP counselling for example but do always keep checking in, your S’s need you now more than ever.

And what about YOU, as the leader? Whatever DiSC style you are, as a leader you will feel the impact of this pandemic just as much as your teams. Take the opportunity to connect with your leadership peers and trusted mentors. You, as the leader, must have a robust support system in place to help navigate you through the time of crisis. I know the importance of this first hand, having led a team through the Christchurch Earthquakes in 2011 and 2012. Share your concerns, ask for feedback on significant decisions or vent any overwhelming frustrations you are experiencing. This will reset and build the resilience you are going to need to get through this without burning out.

Using the DiSC Model to optimise your newly created remote workplace.

On a typical day managing a workforce in-person can be challenging. Leaders who understand DiSC behavioural styles can predict the team dynamic, the strengths of individuals and how they operate under pressure. They can separate personalities that clash and pair those that inspire.

In our current crisis scenario, understanding styles and the motivators and stressors of your team members will absolutely help you optimise your new remote workforce. Leaders can strategically assign tasks or responsibilities in line with the DiSC style that is most suited to that function. For example, an influence style employee may excel in driving collaboration by initiating conversation between team members or opening and maintaining dialogue with your key clients, while Steadiness style employees excel in the ability to resolve conflicts by acting as peacemakers, ensuring satisfactory results in your key deliverables. ‘Conscientious’ styles might assess the remote infrastructure or crisis policy/procedures and develop training programmes to mitigate risks while the ‘Dominance’ style employees will keep a watch on what competitors are doing and measure team or business success.

In a nutshell, recognise your employee’s core style and allow them to lean in to these, to play to their strengths – they will respond to this as it is where they operate organically and the organisation will reap the benefits; it’s a win-win.

And finally – every DiSC style will thank you for Communication Communication Communication!

Ask any team what their organisation needs to improve on and I’ll bet one response is ‘communication’. While some organisations were moving slowly towards flexible and remote working options, few locally were ready to instantly flick the switch to full remote working. With teams now spread across the city, working from their individual or family ‘bubbles’, they are even more vulnerable to the disengaging effects of poor communication. Isolation can be particularly detrimental for some during times of crisis, especially our people-focused colleagues. This lockdown has resulted in less social interaction and the brakes have been put on activities that would otherwise offer the opportunity for community and connection (drive-way drinks aside!).

Now is the time for leaders to empower teams to develop creative ways to stay connected, check in on teammates, and notify leadership of any critical personnel needs or circumstances. Naturally we all hope everyone plays their part to unite against covid-19 and ensure this lockdown is short-lived, but research suggests that regardless, the residual effects may last much longer. Equipping yourself as a leader, and your employees, to understand each other and survive during times of crisis by effectively communicating, connecting and collaborating with purpose, and keeping the wellbeing of everyone in mind, will strengthen your organisation and ensure you thrive long into the future.

If you have any questions about DiSC, or specific people/team challenges you are facing, please reach out.

Stay Home and Stay Safe.

Pip x

Investing in YOU

“The most important project you’ll ever work on is YOU”.

So, what are you doing to invest in your own personal success? To treat yourself? Yes, life is busy and it can be hard to make time for yourself, let alone to prioritise it, but if you’re not looking after yourself then who is? You may have a wonderful spouse/partner/family member/friend who cares for you and keeps you going, especially through tough times, but what are YOU doing for YOU? Self-care is something I am trying to focus on at the moment, and I have to admit it’s a bit odd. The idea of taking time out to do something just for me is a little against the grain, to say the least. Especially in the society we live where as Brooks would say “the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry” [Shawshank Redemption]. Add social media to that, often highlighting all the great and exciting things we ‘should’ be doing for our kids, for work, to keep up with current trends etc and the world is in overdrive! So, am I clutching at this notion of ‘self-care’ as an excuse to get off the rat race? Or as an excuse just to be lazy for a bit? “Sorry Morgan I can’t help you fold that massive pile of washing, I am investing in my personal self care”… as I sit in the sun, feet up, reading a book. Maybe. (Haha let’s see if Morgan reads this!)

Or maybe self-care really is important, now more than ever. We all know the prevalence of mental health issues in NZ is growing at an alarming rate, particularly in our children. Where those issues stem from is a question I am completely unqualified to answer, and I don’t begin to suggest self-care is the answer to combatting that, but maybe there is something in it. What if taking some time out of the daily rush and really reconnecting with your authentic self is more than an excuse to do whatever you like for a while, and it is actually quite empowering? Powerful even. I am starting to genuinely believe it is. Self-care is too easily laughed off as too ‘fluffy or ‘soft’ or shoved aside in favour of that ever-growing to-do list. I know this, because I have laughed it off and tucked it away in the ‘I don’t need that stuff’ drawer many times. But, I am now coming to realise it has a real and important place in the modern world. On that basis I am choosing to make time for me, to spend a little time stripping back the noise, identifying and doing the things I enjoy, being present and being grateful. I am choosing to continue to challenge myself, to set some goals, focus my enery on what makes me happy, and hopefully be a better Mum/Wife/Business Owner as a result.

And if I can teach my children that as much as we as parents try to pave the way for them, they are in control of their journey, and that stopping off at a few rest areas along the way to check their map, recharge their batteries and change their end destination if they wish, is a great way of ensuring they get to where they want to be in life, safely and happily, then I’ll take it as an additional bonus.

So what is on my just for me list? I jotted down some of the things I enjoy and was surprised to see how simple these things were, and how few of the things I love to do cost any money (aside from my all-time favouriate online shopping) e.g. take a walk, soak in the bath, burn a scented candle, crank up the music and have a ‘dance party’ with the kids, get outside in the sun, read a book…

This week I have ticked off my weekly run with Morgan (OK, I missed it the first two weeks as I prioritised work meetings, but I made it today, third time lucky!), I’ve booked a massage, and hope to make that a 6-weekly thing, I’ve found a great new TV series ‘The Split’ and snuggle up in front of the fire to watch that at night, and I have booked myself on a Workshop this week to continue my own professional development… good to keep the brain learning! Is there an element of guilt creeping in at all of this? Yes, but I am working hard to shut that down :)

So, what are you doing today, or this week, JUST FOR YOU? its not selfish

“Just Write”

Jack ECG

So here it is. My ‘when’ moment. Standing in a doctors’ surgery watching my 4-year old son Jack get hooked up to an ECG machine to assess his irregular heartbeat. It may not seem like much, but in that moment of vulnerability and fear I got the kick I needed to get on with things. Let me explain.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Chamber Women’s Conference in Queenstown recently. Along with 230 other woman I spent the day in fits of laughter, and floods of tears listening to 8 incredible women share their story. I came away in awe of each of their strength, courage, humility and determination. Since then, I have been wondering how to convert the ‘lightbulb moments’ I’d had that day into actions to brighten my life, and ensure they’re not lost amongst the daily routine and madness back home. What was I going to do differently tomorrow?

Leaving the Conference with 5 pages of key messages, notes and ideas, you’ll understand why I struggled to relax and enjoy the 1-hour massage I had booked immediately after the Conference. Where the hell did I start? My mind was buzzing. I am a big believer that we can do anything, but not everything. So, in an effort to make sense of it all and identify what was really relevant and important to me I started making a list. There were some quick wins in self-care like eating well and scheduling time for me (monthly massage here I come!), and some bigger more challenging questions and issues to tackle. I knew I had to keep myself accountable, so I popped a quick post on my business FB page saying I would be sharing some snippets of what I had heard and what I would be doing as a result. Whether or not anyone actually read the post, or cared, in my mind I now had to stay true to my word.

As my list grew so did my frustration. I’m a perfectionist, so not being able to come up with the perfectly formed plan of what to do and how to do it was doing me in. I stopped and reached for the goodie bag we had been given at the Conference. A fabulous mix of treats – hand lotions, pens, discount vouchers, stress balls, and then a bright yellow envelope. I opened and started reading – a letter from one of the speakers, Di Foster. [Cue lump in throat]. I made it to the bottom of the letter and sat her very symbolic and meaningful little gift on the table in front of me. Then I saw something else from Di – a postcard, which I turned over to see a handwritten message: “You are enough”. Well that was it – the tears were flowing again.

Having been completely lost as to where to start with everything I had heard that day, suddenly it was abundantly clear that those 3 simple words, and truly believing them, is my absolute starting point. If I don’t believe that I am enough, and invest I’m myself then how can I possibly be the wife, mother and business owner that I want to be? And I know this will ring true for lots of people. So many of us are living in a state of self-doubt and self-criticism. In fear of what other people think or of stuffing things up. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and dwelling on our failures rather than focusing on the positives and what we bring to the world. Well, I am over it. It’s time to focus on what we can control – our own minds and our own actions. Do I truly believe I am enough? Hell no. But I am working on it, and for now, that is enough.

Still sitting in my hotel room, there was one other thing that kept sticking out in my mind, above everything else. It came when Barbara Kendall, Olympic Champion and one of the most humble people I have ever met, took us through her journey into windsurfing and challenged us to let go and laugh, to keep it real, to believe there are no limits, to follow your dreams, and to keep it simple. To find that one thing you love to do and that you’re good at, and go for it. I was listening to her speaking, nodding my head, but simultaneously wondering what is MY one thing? What is my passion? What am I good at? What’s on my ‘one day’ list or my ‘if I could do anything in the world I would…’ list? And as if she had read my mind, Barbara finished with a poem about seizing the day. The exact contents of the poem escape me now, but it went something along the lines of back yourself, don’t wait for tomorrow…

“That job, go for it.
That Song, sing it.
That Book, Write it

Ummm [CLICK] – the light flickered on. I quite like writing… I do a lot of it for work (CV’s, Business Plans, Board Reports etc) but for whatever reason I’ve never actually stopped to consider that maybe I’m OK at it. Maybe this is what I do well? Hold on a minute, was I actually starting to join the dots here between something I love to do and something I might be good at? Is writing my true passion? I have always joked that I will write a book one day. One Day. (Maybe when the children have left home as last time I checked there are still only 24 hours in the day) ?. Jokes aside, I saw my pen head for the top of my list and scribble the words: “Just Write”.

The next morning, I woke to the most gorgeous sunrise over Lake Wakatipu. Ok that’s a lie, I slept in until 8.45am – yay for being away for the kids for a night! But, pulling the curtains back and looking out at the sun sparkling on the water, knowing I only had a few hours of quiet reflection time left, I thought about Di Foster and something else she had said. This time it was a question: If not now, when? If I’m not living my best life now, when will I? What is it going to take? When am I going to start following my dreams?

Now, I do need to add a big fat disclaimer at this point. I am not complaining. I have a fantastic life, I am extremely lucky and exponentially grateful for what I have – my health, an incredibly supportive husband, 3 gorgeous children, the opportunity to run my own business, I could go on all day. But, is this my BEST life? Am I living it to MY fullest potential? Am I really following my DREAMS?

Dance back around to what Barbara Kendall said, follow your heart. To those two wee words “Just Write” that had wriggled their way to the top of my list. Add a flight back home to Christchurch and my excitment at seeing all of my boys again. Routine struck, things got busy but still I held onto those ideas and dreams, determined not to let them fade into glimmers in the distance.

Fast forward to Friday morning, exactly one week after the Conference and BOOM, there I was, shaking like a leaf, waiting for the Doctor to read the ECG report and tell me everything was going to be OK, that Jack will be OK. That small moment brought so much clarity and perspective – life is a precious gift, not to be taken for granted. Quite ironically, listening to Jack’s heartbeat had made me tune back in to my own. And Di’s question hit me again – If not now, when? What is it going to take?

So, that was it. My ‘when’ moment. And here I am now, in front of my laptop, having set aside some regular time to work on that belief that I am enough and, not yet writing a book, but giving my best me a go – following that wee inner voice that has been chasing me around all week telling me to “Just Write”.

To Di Foster and Barbara Kendall – a heartfelt thank you.

If you’d like to know more about Di Foster and her incredible story, check out this video she kindly shared with me and follow her on Facebook –

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”



Balance. Such a simple 7-letter, 2 syllable word. I used to have great balance as a kid, as a ballet girl it played a big part of my life, so why is it so dam difficult to get it right now? Of course I’m talking about the elusive ‘work-life balance’, that term thrown around so often as the key to a happy life.

Ironically, I have been planning to write this blog for several weeks. In fact, looking at the date of my last blog “Just Be Kind” it’s been a whole 3 months (??!!), but I simply haven’t had the time. I guess you could say things have been well out of balance.  Now for a self-confessed perfectionist this is incredibly frustrating and embarrassing. When I wrote my first blog I set out to do one every 1-2 weeks. So clearly I have failed in that goal. But does it really matter? No, of course it doesn’t.

And am I the only one who struggles to find the balance, let alone maintain it for a reasonable period of time? No. I did start thinking maybe it’s just a normal part of my learning curve in running a business and raising a young family and that one day it will all suddenly ‘click’, BUT, I know from talking with a range of people that the challenge to find the right balance is real for everyone – Mums, Dads, Wives, Husbands, Singles, Adults, Teenagers, Self Employed, Employees; for everyone.

So what is balance? According to the Oxford Dictionary work-life balance is “the division of one’s time and focus between working and family or leisure activities”. To me it is when you feel like you’ve got everything under control, and you’re confident you are giving each aspect of your life your absolute best – the right amount of focus and effort that it deserves, and that you want to give it.

As a working Mum having the right balance means being ‘present’ with my kids, playing the games they love, going on leisurely strolls to the park where they can stop and throw stones in the river without me hurrying them along or ssh-ing them while I make a quick call or reply to an email.

On the other hand, it means knowing I am doing my best work for my clients, there’s no ‘that’ll do’ or going into meetings under prepared. And it’s having the time to get out and do some exercise, to catch up with friends, to visit family, and chat to my husband – I mean really chat – not just about the bills we need to pay or what I need him to get from the grocery store on his way home from work.

How often can you say you are truly focused on each one of these things at a time? Sure clever multi-tasking often alleviates the need for true separation of each task, for example planning a work meeting while going for a run, but when you are doing one thing (task A) while thinking about another (task B), and those thoughts of task B are preventing you from giving your best to task A, then is that really a good balance? Or have you taken on too much, and is it time to put some strategies in place to tip the scales back in line?

As an example, as I started writing this blog, my mind was racing on all the other things I could/should be doing. My youngest son is in bed for his afternoon nap so I have a 1-2 hour window to get as much done as possible. I could (and probably should) vacuum, wash the floors and windows, register the touch team, unpack the dishwasher, ring Mum, pay some online bills, do my accounts, finish some process mapping, reply to emails, update my business Facebook page, figure out what’s for dinner, do a workout, pull some weeds out of the garden, text one of the many friends I haven’t been in contact with for far too long, or just get out in the sun for some much needed Vitamin D. But, No, I need to get this off my chest. It has been bugging me for far too long. And, being the perfectionist that I am, I know I have to drown those other thoughts out to write a half decent blog, otherwise my precious time is wasted… and I will inevitably be ‘grumpy’ mum when Jack wakes up – as if my lack of focus is somehow his fault.

Phew, just breathe!

So when did life go and get so dam busy? Where does all this pressure come from? Is this an age-old issue, or are we facing more pressure now than previous generations did? Perhaps technology is partly to blame, these days we are in constant reach – there is always an email, text, phone call or message to reply to. But then I choose to check those messages immediately, I don’t have to do I?

So maybe the pressure it all internal, simply a case of me expecting to be able to squeeze too much into my days/weeks? If that is the case, what can I do to take back control? So far, I have stumbled upon the following strategies, and I share them now in the hope something may resonate and help you find the balance in your life too:

(1)   Be clear on what is important to you. This may change over time – maybe giving up those boxing classes while you get your business off the ground or get your head around a new job is a reasonable compromise, just make sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important to you along the way

(2)   Prioritise as best you can. For me family always comes first, beyond that it’s a case of managing my diary realistically to ensure I meet deadlines and stay true to my word – ‘under-promise and over-deliver’!

(3)   Have some non-negotiables. It may be a monthly massage, a weekly wine with friends, or half an hour a day to watch your favourite TV programme, decide what need in your life to make you feel alive and make time for that, without exception

(4)   Check your goals/expectations are realistic – for me a weekly blog is out of the question (thank Goodness some might say), so, I will do what I can, and that will be just fine

(5)   Delegate where you can – get a cleaner to do your housework, ask a friend if they can host this week’s dinner party, pay someone to make your child’s birthday cake (shock horror!) – the sun will still come up tomorrow

(6)   Remember it’s OK to say No. No matter how hard you may want to try, you simply can’t be everything to everyone. And you certainly can’t give your best if you are too far stretched, so have the confidence to know your limits, and say No when you need to.

And remember, it’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.

To Balance!




Just Be Kind

If I’ve learned one thing lately, it has been the importance of kindness in the workplace. And the power it has not only in the corporate or office environment, but within any team, across any industry. Make kindness a priority and an expectation within your organisation and watch your teams prosper and your results elevate.

Sounds simple right? That’s because it is. Too often we over complicate the key to success. We read the latest books and articles telling us the ‘12 things you must do to be a good leader’, the ‘7 things not to do in sales’, the ‘5 things your business needs to succeed’, and while those articles have their place, I say strip it all back and it comes down to one simple rule: Be Kind. Be kind to your people – your colleagues, your clients, yourself, and yes, even your competitors.

culture of kindness

This isn’t rocket science. We teach our children to be kind, to share their toys, to respect each other’s feelings and to use their words rather than lashing out at their friends or siblings when they are feeling frustrated. Yet often as adults we lose that patience and compassion in dealing with the people we love – our friends and family members, and also our colleagues. We walk away from arguments, rather than taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives and work together on an outcome. We assume someone has done something to make our lives harder and theirs easier, rather than looking at the bigger picture. We defend our positions and actions rather than opening our minds to change. We have superficial ‘water cooler’ conversations rather than taking the time to really get to know our colleagues.

WHY? Maybe it’s because our lives are so much faster, busier, more complex and competitive than they used to be. There is so much more ‘noise’ these days. I think of one of my favourite movies, The Shawshank Redemption. In particular the scene where Brooks Hatlen, a prison inmate since 1905, is released on parole in 1954 at age 72. The prison gates open and he steps out to catch a bus to his new home, a halfway house, and a job bagging groceries at the Foodway. He writes to his friends back in prison:

“Dear Fellas, brooks

I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry“.

What would poor Brooks think of our world now? Dominated by cell phones, laptops iPads and tablets. People are technologically connected and far less personally connected. There is a pressure to keep up, to get ahead, and to be seen to be successful. There’s always an email, text or phone call to answer. And we do it instantly, at the cost of real human interaction. Look around your local coffee shop, how many people are on their phones? How many couples do you see out for dinner, sitting next to each other but staring down at their phones? I know I am guilty of this.

We used to go and visit our friends, now we catch up on their lives through Facebook. But how much of what we see is real? People are like icebergs – we only see a small part of each person we meet, and only the part they want us to see, particularly on social media. That is unless we take the time to uncover more about them. This is especially true of our work colleagues – we get to know them on a professional level but most of us seldom make the time to get to know them beyond that; to understand what makes them tick and how they really are.

So I say again, we need to get back to basics. Slow down. Breathe. Quiet the noise. Get offline. Take the pressure off. Reconnect with the people around you, for they are what make the real difference in your life. At work, create a culture of kindness. Take the time to say a kind word. Ask a kind question. Listen and actually hear what is being said. Be open and unassuming. Clarify your understanding. Be generous in sharing your knowledge. Be brave enough to show your authentic self. Be real, Be Kind and the results will come.

And remember, kindness costs nothing, so spread that stuff around like confetti.

blog kind

What Makes A True Leader

Leadership ducklings

I’ve had a few people ask me recently what leadership means to me, and what I believe makes a good leader.

To me leadership is a way of life. It is both an instinct and an attitude, and it is ageless. By this I mean true leadership qualities come naturally, often develop at an early age, and last a lifetime. Leadership certainly doesn’t come with a job title. I guess I could say my leadership journey started when I was chosen as captain of the netball team in primary school. Ok, so that role didn’t come with massive responsibility, but it does make you think – what did the coach see in me to put me in that spot? And in today’s competitive environment, how do employers identify the real leaders to take their businesses forward, as opposed to the people who are just chasing the money and that flashy job title?

I believe that to a genuine leader, leadership is a tap he or she finds difficult to turn off. It is something that runs through every aspect of his or her life; it’s intrinsic in both the work and home environments. To be an effective leader though, you must choose to lead. You must consciously adopt a mindset of inspiration, transformation and influence. Leadership is about connecting, and acting on your desire to make a difference. It takes dedication and discipline. It is a constant balancing act. You must make time to listen, observe, reflect and dream.

A good leader recognises that everything we do is open to scrutiny and interpretation. From the things we say, to our body language or facial expressions, we are essentially a book that team members are constantly trying to read. We must be ready to ensure that your every day actions are consistent with our words, and we must be ready to accept that, as a leader, we are not afforded any ‘bad hair days’ or amygdila hijacks’. Unfortunately my first leader did not subscribe to the same beliefs. In fact, through her words and actions she had an incredibly negative influence over the team, adopting a ‘divide and conquer’ approach – something I have been conscious never to replicate.

There is no doubt that leadership is challenging. It is selfless. It is lonely. You must be ready to have courageous conversations, be sure to make informed decisions and not act on assumptions. Transparency and open communication is essential to building the trust of your team and you must always look forward, as a leader has nothing without a vision for the future.

To me a great leader demonstrates a high level of personal resilience but also proactively shares weaknesses or vulnerabilities for the benefit of others. To this end I take inspiration from former All Black, John Kirwan who has openly shared his personal struggle with depression in the interest of helping others to step up and ask for help. I also think fondly of my High School Headmistress, Mrs Benge, who suffered from a brain tumour but who used her experience to inspire each of the girls at school to believe in her abilities and to never give up. In fact it was her message that inspired me to return to the ballet classes I had quit months earlier, and I will never forget receiving a congratulatory card from her after my final exams, just weeks before she died.

So, can anyone be a leader? Yes. Are YOU a leader? Absolutely, if you choose to be. Whether or not a leader will succeed and create a group of followers though, will depend on that person’s ability to be devoted, transparent, inclusive, and most important of all, genuine. It is those traits I would be looking for in a leader on my team. And maybe, just maybe, that’s some of what my netball coach saw in me.

great leaders

Unleash YOUR power to inspire!

St Clair Half
Wow! I’ve had such an amazing response to my first blog “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, thank you all!
Some have even gone so far as to say my story is “inspirational”. That’s definitely not something I had considered before. I’m just an ordinary Kiwi. Well, maybe one who’s got a few more crazy stories to tell than I thought I would at 33, (I often joke I will write a book one day!), but generally speaking I am just an ordinary proud Kiwi, Wife, Mum, Sister, Daughter, Aunty and Friend.

But then maybe that’s just the point. So often we are inspired by every day people just going about their business. Yes there are those high profile people who’s public achievements have inspired many of us (think Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Helen Keller and a little closer to home Edmund Hillary, Kate Shepherd and even Captain Fantastic Richie McCaw), but frequently it’s those much closer to us that inspire us to act. It’s the personal stories of people just like us, people who we can properly relate to, that help us take the step from thinking about improving our lives for the better to actually doing it. And far too often those people won’t even realise the impact their actions or words have had. Let me give you a couple of examples.

First, my Dad. A genuine hard-working Kiwi bloke, owner of his own hay/agriculture contracting business. He gave me a summer job driving the hay rake. Little did he know that that small act (OK maybe large leap of faith trusting me to navigate his gear over hilly paddocks and through tight gates!), is what has inspired my belief that girls can do anything. I remember having that thought front of mind as I nervously interviewed for a management position within one of NZ’s top 4 Banks, and the belief must have come through, as I got the job.

Second, a great friend of mine, Courtney. This lady juggles work and family life like a machine. She has two adorable young girls and works part time so is busy enough at the best of times, yet last year with the support of her husband Tim, she managed to train for and complete not one but TWO full marathons. I recall going to watch her complete a half marathon in Kaikoura in 2014 and thinking she was completely mad (I wasn’t a runner), but seeing her cross that finish line with her two very proud daughters to greet her gave me goosebumps (and a few tears) and soon inspired me to start running myself. Three half marathons and plenty of other ‘fun-run’s later, the two of are still running together, gossiping as we go, and living healthier lives for it.

So, what’s the point of this blog? It’s to ask you to think about who has inspired you? Have you connected with them lately? Will you? And it’s to remind you that however insignificant you think your story or your actions may be, YOU have the power to inspire. Whether it’s your kids, your spouse, your friends, or the stranger you help at the supermarket, your words, actions, and reactions will influence others. Be the positive inspiration, because as I have learned this week “to be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible”.