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How to make a great Reconciliation Action Plan

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges people face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyone.If we are talking about Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs), it’s always important to begin by acknowledging on whose traditional lands you are living and working on. I wish to acknowledge that I live and work on the lands of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation.Reconciliation Action Plans were originally developed in 2006 and were set up to mark the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 referendum. They began with 8 organisations; today there are approximately 2,000 organisations across Australia with a RAP.Today, a lot of Australian businesses have the desire to genuinely work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and actively want to contribute to Reconciliation in Australia.Reconciliation is about understanding Australia’s history and the treatment of Indigenous Australians to create a platform for change, and being prepared to hear truth telling from Aboriginal people.Becoming a supporter of , the , or developing your own  all help to build momentum towards a unified country.RAPs are a tool used to address the current inequality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. RAPs have enabled organisations to sustainably and strategically take meaningful action to advance reconciliation.Based around the core pillars of relationships, respect and opportunities, RAPs provide tangible and substantive benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, increasing economic equity and supporting First Nations self-determination. Why is it important that organisations have a Reconciliation Action Plan in place?I personally find it interesting as to why organisations choose to have a RAP. For most, it’s to gain greater esteem as an employer of choice and build a more dynamic and diverse workforce. There is a desire to enable their staff to develop greater cultural awareness and professional development practices that will strengthen relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders.Often, Aboriginal job seekers will check if a company has a RAP when they are looking for work. A RAP is an indicator of a culturally safe work environment, and signals that the company is on a journey to breaking down barriers and providing genuine opportunities for Aboriginal employees and businesses.A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is an organisation’s roadmap that guides them on their journey towards contributing to reconciliation in Australia.Each organisation develops their own RAP by stepping through a planning process to identify actions that will support them to enhance relationships, respect and opportunities for First Nations people and communities.Each Australian business has the potential to use their sphere of influence and take meaningful action to provide tangible and substantive benefits for First Nations people, increasing economic equity and supporting First Nations self-determination.By deepening their understanding of First Nations people, culture and histories, businesses can achieve a variety of important business goals such as increasing profit by innovating their goods or services, improving their services or demonstrating their commitment to corporate social responsibility.How do organisations develop a Reconciliation Action Plan?Before you launch into developing a RAP, it’s a great idea to call Reconciliation Australia and have a yarn with a member of their RAP Team. They’ll help you determine if your business is ready to go on the RAP journey and what your first steps might be.Reconciliation Australia’s RAP framework provides businesses with a range of practical information and resources to develop a plan that will help them translate their excellent intentions into action. It’s a proven approach that has yielded significant gains across Australia.The RAP Program helps advance the five dimensions of reconciliation by supporting organisations to develop respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. You can work at a pace that suits your business and the environment you operate within.The RAP framework is supported nationwide by First Nations leaders as well as all levels of government and has a robust structure to ensure its success.There have been so many excellent RAPs developed over the years so it’s a good idea to have a look at a few to get ideas about how others have developed theirs particularly companies undertaking similar work. RAP’s can be used as a tick a box exercise.Unfortunately, some companies use RAPs as a ‘tick box’ initiative to open opportunities for grants and tenders. These companies are in it for the wrong reasons.Other companies will go out of their way to invest in Aboriginal art, but without an active RAP this is a tokenistic action to take. RAPs are a year-round commitment, not a document to dust off during NAIDOC week or National Reconciliation Week.RAPs are limited in what they can achieve and a major issue with them is that they fail to deliver a real impact to help close the disparity gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.Do you have any tips on creating a successful Reconciliation Action Plan?To ensure your RAP gains the support and momentum it needs to succeed, it’s important to have key support from the top down. The CEO and executive team need to actively support and implement it. They should be RAP champions and active members of RAP committees.It’s also important to engage with relevant internal and external stakeholders. You can do this by conducting consultation to deepen your understanding of your own team, and the unique barriers and opportunities that lay ahead.Lastly, it’s important that employees within your organisation are aware of your RAP and the RAP initiatives. It should be promoted as a key document to drive positive change in the organisation. It is vital to ensure that your RAP reflects the voices and needs of all relevant stakeholders. Remember, these are just goals. Without a real and tangible programme and approach to reconciliation, you will achieve nothing more than good intentions and no action. Christine Ross is an Arrernte/Kaytetye desert woman who was born in Alice Springs and grew up in Darwin. Christine has spent over 30 years working at a high level advising both Territory/ State and Commonwealth Governments on a range of issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.In 2015, Christine established her own consultancy specialising in Indigenous employment programs, training, mentoring and facilitating Indigenous conferences and forums. She has organised several key events and conferences across Australia to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, including the largest gathering of 700 in Sydney in 2018 to celebrate the NAIDOC theme ‘Because of Her, We Can’. Christine was the former Chairperson and WA Director of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA) 2017 – 2021. Women & Leadership Australia is proud to announce that our parent company, Navitas, has launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. WLA has championed First Nations leadership for a number of years, through grants programs, engaging First Nations women as speakers and consultants and hosting specialist events for First Nations women. This 'Reflect' RAP gives us a path to move forward with reconciliation plans focused on women and leadership. We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Creating an inclusive workplace for people with chronic health conditions

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges people face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyone.“She was so dedicated to getting us over the finish line.”We all sat, captivated, as the director spoke between hurried mouthfuls during our overdue lunch break.“She pushed through a nasty bout of gastro and just threw up in a bucket between takes. Talk about ‘work ethic’.”The manager who was telling this story was known as ‘one of the greats’. The most distinguished director I’d worked with to date, and this, in his opinion, was what it took to be considered a hard-working actor. A real team player. That’s not admirable, I thought to myself, that’s a result of reckless leadership.The thing is, before our world was upended by covid-19, his was not a unique outlook. As an actor, on winter film shoots, I’d notice half of the crew stifling their coughs during takes, only to let loose in a cacophony, so to speak, as soon as the director shouted “cut”. While working in the fitness industry, I was constantly pressured to come into my shift at the gym while sick. If you could walk, you could work – that’s just how it was. And despite the lessons of the pandemic, I am startled by evidence all around me that the dreaded soldier-on attitude is already creeping back into vogue.Workplaces that tolerate – or worse, urge – staff to work while unwell and contagious are not safe spaces. Not for anyone, but especially not for those of us with chronic illness.For people like me, a cold is not just a cold, and catching one from a colleague can mean a major setback. If it’s something worse, it can mean hospitalisation.My daily baseline is three alarms that help me manage my health. During a recent flare up, I had nine different alarms going off from the moment I woke up to the time I went to bed. Each prompted me to take a blood pressure reading or a dose of medication. Each a poorly timed hand reaching out to pull me out of the realm of the well. With these constant reminders, it’s a miracle that I could forget for any length of time. But if I do, I’m brought screaming back to reality by the woman at the gym, advising her friend to “get COVID now so you’ll be good for Bali”. Or the friend of a friend explaining that they’re just going to go into work while Covid positive, because they “hardly have any symptoms”, and they’re “on a deadline”.It’s a uniquely isolating experience, for those of us living in a body that by all external metrics appears to be functioning optimally, while inside it’s tearing itself to pieces. Often, we present better than we are, because if we don’t maintain a performance of stability, a very real fear is that we’ll lose the work we are lucky enough to have.And in part, the challenge for leaders is that a lot of people with invisible illnesses work really hard to keep them that way. When staying alive is a part time job, you reach for anything that will ground you into a sense of normality, illusionary as it may be.So what helps?Some of the things that were normalised during the pandemic – like ventilated meeting spaces, organising social catch ups at outdoor venues, establishing flexible work from home options, etc, are things that enable people to be productive outside of the workplace. And perhaps most importantly for leaders: try talking openly about the issue along with the potential impacts, and explicitly model the behaviours you’re seeking to entrench.If you as a leader are sick with something that could make others sick, stay out of the workplace, and tell people why you’re doing so.Taken together, these things can make for a safer, more inclusive and a more productive work environment for those of us who lost the genetic lottery.A lot of this comes down to creating an environment where staff can express their needs openly and without fearing backlash for their candour. I recently shared with a higher-up that I was working with some limitations, and to my surprise, I was met with warmth and compassion. “Of course” she said casually. “You just tell me if you need a break”. My fists unclenched as the breath I’d been holding onto politely let itself out. This is what it takes.Those of us with a chronic illness often do present better than we are.  And this is a blessing and a curse. We don’t expect those around us to understand that for us, it’s not “just a cold”. But in the workplace, we desperately need leaders who do. Hannah Vanderheide is a writer, actor, and voice artist with a beautiful little toddler to keep her on her toes. You may have spotted her recent work in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, or on Mamamia where she covers everything from chronic illness to body image and parenting. As an actor, she has worked on Neighbours, Winners & Losers and starred in Amazon Prime series Counter Play.Hannah is also a body-neutral trainer, eating disorder survivor, and wellness industry sceptic who loves to write about the sensible side of health. We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Creating a welcoming work environment for First Nations employees

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges people face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyone.Today, creating welcoming work environments for First Nations employees should be front of mind for ALL employers who are trying to establish inclusive, respectful and sustainable workplaces.The truth of the matter is that Australian employers need to do more to attract, train, retain and promote Indigenous employees. This has been a systemic issue across many industries for generations. Systemic racism against Indigenous employees is very common in the workplace, with a recent study finding that over 50 per cent of Indigenous interviewees experienced direct or indirect racism currently and throughout their careers.If organisations proactively seek to change this, then culturally safe workplace practices can recognise and respect the cultural identities of people, their values, beliefs, expectations, career aspirations and rights. But if we do nothing, then in contrast, culturally unsafe practices disempower people, challenging their identity and wellbeing.Thanks to ground-breaking research, which our consultancy (Murawin) co-led, a new report is now available which lifts the lid on Indigenous employment practices at some of Australia’s biggest organisations. The Australian-first Indigenous Employment Index (IEI)* was launched in May 2022. The initiative surveyed 42 significant employers, accounting for more than 700,000 workers.My team led the qualitative research and heard many stories from Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees about what they believe is critical to creating safe workplaces that will see Indigenous Australians thriving and achieving successful employment outcomes which will undoubtedly go on to changing lives for the better.The truth telling and learnings that came from this research were unsettling. Sadly, Indigenous Australians remain vastly under-represented in the workforce. But since Minderoo published the IEI, the way our findings have been received, especially by employers, gives me great hope for achieving Indigenous employment parity. I am calling for immediate action from employers, governments, and investors to help create Indigenous employment parity and form welcoming work environments for First Nation employees. Join with us and we can contribute to closing the gap.As a Dunghutti businesswoman, I’m calling on you to create proactive strategies that support Indigenous women to thrive in your workplace. She brings with her not only insights from her professional and educational experiences, but also learnings from long lines of matriarchs that have led the way before her and on whose shoulders she stands.Here are four powerful actions you can take as a leader1. Be proactiveAs an employer, you didn’t get to where you are today by sitting idly. You were proactive in establishing a successful business. Don’t let proactiveness stop with your services/products. Be proactive in creating a welcoming work environment for Indigenous peoples. Develop an Indigenous employment/participation strategy that sets robust Indigenous employment targets and report regularly and transparently on your progress towards them.I don’t solely mean developing a Reconciliation Action Plan for your organisation. Yes, this is one critical step, and it will be a major positive tool for your organisation. But when developing your overarching strategy, engage with the Indigenous community, particularly our Elders and Business Owners. Stop, listen to the historical, ongoing, and potential future impacts that your organisation has, can and will have on First Nations people, and build this into your strategy.Most importantly, as an Australian business or a business operating within Australia, celebrating the uniqueness of First Nations culture amongst ALL your employees should be at the heart of your strategy and supply chain.2. Create opportunitiesWork hard to retain your Indigenous employees. Too often employers are focussed solely on Indigenous recruitment, but don’t appropriately nurture these employees throughout their career and in turn, the employees leave.Create opportunities for your Indigenous staff to participate in the governance structures of projects and of your organisation as a whole. If you do this, be bold! You’re creating the space for Indigenous leadership and career progression within your organisation.3. Tackle racismTreat racism as a very serious and reprimandable safety issue within your workplace. Often the first step is to acknowledge that work is still required to ensure that your workplace is culturally safe for Indigenous employees.4. Follow the roadmapFollow this IEI’s Employer Roadmap to Indigenous Employment (p.24). This Roadmap details evidence-based practices that translate the research findings of the IEI into a step-by-step guide for employers. It can support organisations like yours to set your aspiration, assess current performance, and identify priorities to drive real Indigenous employment outcomes, tailored to your organisation.Meaningful actions for InvestorsIf you’re an employer, but also an investor, there’s even more that you can do to create welcoming and inclusive work environments for First Nations employees.1. Make it your responsibility and objective to truly understand the investment risk caused by poor company culture and racism. Familiarise yourself, your organisation and your investment partners with the research that demonstrates that more diverse companies are likely to outperform less diverse companies. Let this influence your investment choices.2. Think outside the box! Evaluate current investee companies and consider their Indigenous employment performance when making investment decisions.3. Engage with investee companies around Indigenous inclusivity and cultural safety and contractually set these expectations when formalising your investment.There is much that we can all do within this space. I am passionate about creating Indigenous employment parity and helping others to establish welcoming work environments for First Nations employees that are inclusive, respectful and sustainable. If employers can bring this to the forefront of their minds and organisational strategies, then I am optimistic for the economic outlook of First Nations Australians and welcome the opportunity to collaborate with any organisation seeking to achieve this. *The IEI was commissioned by Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One. The research was jointly conducted by our team at Murawin and Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre. Murawin also co-authored the Index.Carol Vale is a Dunghutti woman from Armidale, NSW. She is a professional facilitator, social researcher, and policy analyst with expertise in Aboriginal issues, public policy, and stakeholder engagement across a range of sectors. She has been a senior officer in the NSW and QLD Governments, spanning a career of 35+ years across Aboriginal Affairs including housing, education, child safety, justice and intergovernmental relations.Women & Leadership Australia is proud to announce that our parent company, Navitas, has launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. Navitas is grateful to our critical friends at Murawin for their support and guidance during the development of our RAP and look forward to working with them closely on implementing actions which will help to deliver meaningful change for First Nations peoples. WLA has championed First Nations leadership for a number of years, through grants programs, engaging First Nations women as speakers and consultants and hosting specialist events for First Nations women. This 'Reflect' RAP gives us a path to move forward with reconciliation plans focused on women and leadership.  We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

NEW CEO APPOINTED TO AUSTRALIAN SCHOOL OF APPLIED MANAGEMENT

The Australian School of Applied Management (ASAM), which sits alongside Women & Leadership Australia (WLA), has announced the appointment of Karen Taylor as Chief Executive Officer.Ms Taylor is a highly skilled CEO with extensive experience in strategic planning, change management and business growth and development in the education sector. As former CEO of Government Skills Australia, Executive Director of GOTAFE, Executive Advisor to Bendigo Kangan Institute and Deputy CEO of the Australian Institute of Management, she brings to the role a deep understanding of the education and training landscape in Australia. Ms Taylor is a graduate of the AICD Company Directors Course and has successfully led large teams in complex business environments, been accountable for strategic planning, financial strategy and sustainability, and consulted to CEOs and Boards across AustraliaImportantly, as a successful woman leader, Ms Taylor is acutely aware of the obstacles and challenges facing women leaders and is passionate about advancing gender equity.The appointment also sees Ms Taylor take up the CEO role for Women & Leadership New Zealand (WLNZ) and the National Excellence in School Leadership Institute (NESLI), which sit alongside ASAM.“I am delighted and honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead and work with the outstanding team at ASAM. ASAM is an exciting business that represents unique and diverse opportunities for learning and professional development in Australia.“ASAM as an organisation believes that visionary leadership, which is inclusive and embraces the power of diversity, is key to solving the complex challenges we face as a global community. I look forward to joining the organisation and continuing to drive leadership development for all Australians.”The Australian School of Applied Management (ASAM) is one of the country’s most highly regarded providers of leadership education. Working with approximately 8,000 learners each year, they provide innovative development solutions for individual leaders and leadership teams across all sectors and industries.About ASAMThe Australian School of Applied Management (ASAM) is one of the country’s most highly regarded providers of leadership education. Working with approximately 8,000 learners each year, we provide innovative development solutions for individual leaders and leadership teams across all sectors and industries.Focused on improving the way people work together, our world class learning solutions support organisations of all sizes to accelerate their leadership capability and achieve their unique goals. We also provide specialised leadership development and networking opportunities through Women & Leadership Australia (WLA), Women & Leadership New Zealand (WLNZ) and the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative (NESLI).Part of Navitas, a leading global education provider, our vision is to be Australia’s best leadership education provider by supporting organisations and individuals in the continuous pursuit and application of leadership excellence. WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOU​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

How to replenish your surge capacity

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at the phenomenon of ‘surge capacity’ and how the application of constant ‘surge’ conditions has impacted school leaders during the COVID pandemic, and caused an increase in vicarious trauma and carers load for leaders.What is surge capacity? Have you ever scaled up your efforts – whether increasing your work hours, donating more to charity, or squeezing more tasks into your day - in times of crisis? If you have, then you have used your surge capacity. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive leadership qualities that leaders draw on in times of crisis, change or trauma to survive – whether figuratively, or literally. While these qualities can be used over a short period of time, they lead to burnout if we operate at that heightened level for too long.The most tangible example is the extra resources that people pour into natural disasters – firefighters work around the clock to put out fires, SES volunteers go days without a break to rescue people from flood waters, and governments, private organisations and individuals donate large amounts of funds and goods to support the survival of the people affected. All these things have one common theme – they are unsustainable over time.As a leader, you activate your surge capacity to protect your organisation in times of crisis or rapid, unpredictable change. The usual timeline of these situations would see you have an immediate surge response, and then soon after turn to rest, reset and rebuild, using more normal energy and resource levels.Why has my surge capacity disappeared? The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significantly drawn out timeline of a ‘disaster’ meaning that leaders’ surge capacity has been on heightened alert for the better part of two years. Without the usual timeline that allows for rest soon after the disaster, you are left feeling burnt out, depleted and wholly uninspired or motivated to lead your school community. This contributes to poor wellbeing for you, as well as your team, and your organisation more broadly.How to support yourself: Luckily, there are some things you can do to support yourself in times of crisis, to better cope with your heightened leadership responsibilities. These include:- Going easy on yourself. Giving yourself some extra time and space to get things done, leaving things that aren’t urgent and having more rest time aren’t selfish, they’re important for your health and wellbeing.- Acknowledging that things are different. There is a lot of commentary at the moment about things going ‘back to normal’, but the reality is that things really are different now. While it’s okay to miss things that are different now, there are a lot of positives to think about, too.- Recognising that you may be experiencing grief-like symptoms. As mentioned above, you will miss some ‘pre-covid’ things, and that is okay. Taking the time to grieve for those things is an important step to letting go and moving forward.- Focussing on maintaining and strengthening important relationships. COVID was a big ‘reset’ for a lot of personal and professional relationships. Take the time to identify the relationships that might need to be reset or renewed, and focus energy into these.- Finding new activities and hobbies that offer some relaxation and reprieve. Now that things are opening up, there are new opportunities to try new things, or to continue hobbies that we picked up during lockdowns. It is important to take time away from the ‘crisis’ and do something that is enjoyable and good for you.Dealing with elongated periods of distress and change is challenging for everyone. Understanding what surge capacity is, and taking steps to replenish your surge capacity, will help you lead productively and positively in your organisation. WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOU​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Extending Your Table: Cultural inclusion in leadership roles and beyond

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges women face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyone.‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.This saying is significant in the diversity sector. It reminds us to appreciate the value of role models to young people, especially young girls, who look up to women they wish to emulate. While this is great for some, the reality is that most leadership roles are still occupied by people of Anglo Celtic descent, with little space given to people from different cultural backgrounds.If we stop to think about the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon which has and continues to plague the assent of women into leadership positions they have earned, imagine the scale of obstacles for women with coloured skin, head coverings, foreign names, and accents; a veritable reinforced steel ceiling is the sad reality.We know the hollow argument historically brought forward by naysayers in referencing women’s appointments, that ‘quotas’ should be discarded because ‘merit matters most’ – has been successfully debunked as women have shown repeatedly they are amply able to turn up, excel and get the job done – cue Gillian Triggs, Julia Gillard, Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern and others.By the same token, inclusion, and promotion of diverse women of colour (WOC) becomes an area of previously unchartered conversation that warrants attention. In a 2021 report, one in three WOC felt their workplaces were not culturally safe while 60 per cent reported experiencing racism at work. Experience shows me that WOC lack neither the talent or capacity to succeed – merely the opportunity. Australian women leaders with influence are in a position to recognise and tap into this, and they should – because the ripple effect in elevating communities benefits us all.Ways to show allyship with WOC is to practice the art of cultural intelligence. This can be achieved in multiple ways, including:diversifying the way we market, recruit, and retain employees;interrogating the ethnicity pay gap that can drive real progress and action;delivering more progress through education and mentoring; andempowering WOC networks to play a key part enabling change. By limiting the inclusion of all women in the workplace, we short-change ourselves because we inhibit the full potential of our colleagues.There is more than a fiscal benefit in hiring a diverse workforce – there is a moral imperative, too.Not only does research prove the more varied a cohort of workers, the more enriched solutions can be, it stands to reason that when our workplaces resemble the communities and society we live in, we can and do deliver a product more attuned to our clients.In Australia, where one in three of us is either born overseas or has a parent born overseas, (in some states almost one in two) we are faced with a reality that diversity is very much ingrained in the DNA of Australia; this is who we are.  By extension, if women comprise 50 per cent of the nation’s population, we can and should be doing better with metrics in representation. Does your workforce resemble Australia’s cultural demographic today? If not, why?When we hear about the concept of being an ally we rightfully assume it embodies the notion that a person shows solidarity for another, without expectation or gain, holding space for the otherwise sidelined minority.  First Nations spokesperson Carly Stanley has posited we progress this idea from ally to accomplice, as the latter infers a more conscious role in the facilitating of opportunities for WOC.  This has an affirming tone to it. In the same way we know that it is not enough to not be racist, but to be actively anti-racist, so too should our support be progressed actively, and not passively.Actioning these ideas by making space for those outside the mainstream within your workspaces, will be a challenge. More often than not, that challenge will emanate from the comfort of privilege you yourself may have held without question – or even awareness – for the longest time. Acknowledging the lack of diversity in your workplace is an uncomfortable reckoning for many and it is certainly easier to turn a (colour) blind eye to it and hope the injustices dissipate. But they will not.  I need to tell you that it is okay to feel uncomfortable and that to sit in youe discomfort is a small price to pay in the evolution of social change that a shift in culture necessitates.Discomfort soon becomes comfort as it leads to growth, which leads to success. Trust in the collective good of the diversity of the sisterhood and live the mantra that if your table is full, extend it. Else I can assure you, these WOC will make their own table and it will be impressive. By Tasneem Chopra OAM. A cross-cultural consultant, Tasneem Chopra OAM addresses issues of diversity, equity and inclusion across organisational leadership, including intersectionality, within government, corporate, arts and community sectors. You can find out more about Tasneem here. We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

How to overcome complex decision fatigue

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at how you can manage your day to overcome complex decision fatigue, a phenomenon that is more prevalent than ever as we grapple with carers load and the associated impact in workplaces.What is complex decision fatigue?Have you ever noticed that your ability to make decisions dwindles as the day goes on? It’s easy to attribute this to being tired, but it’s actually more involved than that – every time we make a decision, our ability to consider our options and potential consequences depletes a bit. Complex decision fatigue refers to the effect that decision making has on our cognitive state. The term was coined by Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, to demonstrate the emotional and mental strain that is created by making multiple decisions throughout the day.Interestingly, researchers have found that with smaller, routine decisions, our ability to make decisions is not greatly depleted. It is when we must focus on more complex or less routine situations that our capacity to make decisions can begin to fade. Over time, complex decision fatigue can also lead to stress, headaches, irritability, and increased anxiety.Signs of complex decision fatigueThere are several signs to look out for that might indicate that you or your team are struggling with complex decision fatigue: - Procrastination - Impulsivity - Avoidance - IndecisionTips for overcoming complex decision fatigue:There are many things you can do to minimise your risk of experiencing complex decision fatigue.Automate your less complex decisionsBy having a work uniform, planning and preparing your meals in advance and creating a predictable routine before and after work, you minimise the amount of decisions you have to make each day. Even though these decisions are less complex, they still save brain space for more complex decision making. Optimise your scheduleDo you feel freshest first thing in the morning? Try to keep it free, and use that time to strategise, plan and make decisions. Conversely, if you find you think more clearly in the afternoons, prioritise that time for complex thinking and decision making. Leave your more mundane or ‘routine’ tasks for times where you feel tired or need a break. Practice positive wellbeingWhile our capacity to make complex decisions is depleted BY making complex decisions, you can still take steps to proactively increase your ability to think critically and decisively. Eating well, sleeping and having rest times will help you overcome complex decision fatigue. While prioritising your wellbeing is sometimes the last thing on your mind, it really couldn’t be more important. Use these tips to reduce fatigue and increase your energy and enthusiasm at work. WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOU​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Celebrating the leadership, strength and spirit of our Indigenous women elders

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges women face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyoneI distinctly remember as a young child, that I was surrounded by Indigenous women leaders. My grandmother, Ethel Saveka (nee Morrison) raised me and my twin sister from the time we were six weeks old. It was the early 1970s, and although the child removal policy was technically abolished, it was still commonplace for mixed race children, like my sister and I, to be removed by the state. We were very fortunate and blessed to have been raised by such formidable women as our Akas (grandmothers). As children, we were always busy working, travelling, planning, preparing for events and cleaning. Endlessly cleaning up! My grandmother and many others in our large Torres Strait community in Cairns, North Queensland, were very industrious women. Many of the Akas like Maryanne Morrison, Serai Lowah and Mana Morrison had husbands working on the Coral Sea as Skippers and Captains of lugger boats with crews of young Torres Strait divers, hauling all manner of produce from the reef. Those elder women in our communities managed large and extended families for months on end without their husbands.The Akas were always planning events and as a child, I never quite understood it.  They worked together to bottle coconut oil and products made from palm leaves. I distinctly remember a childhood spent sat at the end of a coconut scratcher, grinding a half coconut against a metal comb jutting out from a small timber seat.  The white flesh of the coconut would fall into a basin under the scratcher and this would either be scooped up for that evening’s meal or sent two doors down to Aunty Serai’s house.  Needless to say, us kids were thin, from days, months and years of endlessly scratching coconuts. Much later in life, I learned that all that coconut scratching was mainly to bottle coconut oil for sale to tourists and the money raised by our Akas would go towards purchasing more houses for the cooperative.  My grandparents, Asera and Ethel Saveka were co-founders of that Indigenous business way back in 1975. Younger men in the community would regularly deliver palm tree branches, the fronds of which would be deftly removed and individually stripped, de-spined and cleaned. The spines of those leaf fronds would be bundled together to make ‘island brooms’ to whack the dust out of carpets and to sweep floors – far superior to modern vacuum cleaners. The stripped palm leaves would be piled up and distributed to other Akas and Aunties in the community to weave into baskets, hats, floor mats and ornaments, all products made for sale from our little community store. In fact, it was less store, and more home.By 1975 and together with their relatives, my grandparents established the Kozan Housing Cooperative through the 1975 Indigenous Home Ownership Program (IHOP). They started with four little houses in a Bungalow. When the men in the community were at sea, the women raised money to grow the little housing co-op through their micro-enterprises. They produced cabaret nights with entertainment by ’The Grapevine’ a rhythm and blues band created by their sons. They sold hand sewn frangipani leis and coconut damper at Fun in the Sun festival stalls and they made traditional skin care oils, food and gifts that were sold to tourists and locals alike.  The housing co-op created short-term accommodation for Torres Strait families often rejected from hotels and motels and it created long-term rentals for families rejected from real estate agencies. Today the co-op has its own headquarters and a portfolio of more than 30 houses.The female leaders in my family were some of our earliest Indigenous women entrepreneurs. For my Aka Ethel Saveka, and her peers, an opportunity to sell coconut oils, frangipani leis and palm weaved mats turned into a housing cooperative that has sheltered disadvantaged families for over 46 years.  Something for which we, as her descendants, are justly proud.As my elders did back then, and so many of us do today, Indigenous female leaders often work tirelessly without fanfare, taking every opportunity to keep families and communities alive, while simultaneously pivoting around all the barriers and challenges placed in our way.My grandmother’s line today counts over 130 descendants across three generations – and ours is a small family in comparison to many Indigenous communities. Consequently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women often evolve naturally into leaders because of the sheer volume of offspring whose survival depends on their nourishment, nurturing, guidance and ultimately their survival instinct.That First Nations custodians have survived for over 60,000 years is a testament, in part, to the strength and resilience of our Indigenous women leaders. Yet today, more than any other demographic in this country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women bear the legacy of overwhelming disadvantage.  We experience some of the highest rates of unemployment, discrimination in the workplace, financial abuse and domestic violence.  Worst of all, Indigenous women today represent the largest cohort of prisoners in the country, comprising approximately 34 per cent of the total number of female prisoners, despite making up only two per cent of Australia’s total population.For a demographic that has never mounted a brutal resistance, we remain disproportionately subjugated.Leadership takes many forms and for Indigenous women, we often draw strength from our many elders and ancestors who themselves have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to leave a legacy or rather a template of success that we may followAccording to Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's Voices) a report commissioned by June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner since 2017, “… our women on the ground know what they are talking about, that they are leaders, survivors, teachers and healers. They carry with them a wealth of inherited, lived and learnt expertise….”I’m more than convinced that empowering Indigenous women “on the ground” will be the single most disruptive innovation this country has ever seen.Once we as a nation value that “wealth of inherited, lived and learnt experience”, once we as a nation, tap those rivers of innovation that continue to lie dormant through lack of opportunity, we as a nation can and will transform. By Kat Henaway.Kat is a Meriam/Mua Torres Strait Islander and German woman who has gained significant experience working in multinational organisations in Sydney, London & Edinburgh over the past 20 years. She has worked for some of the world’s largest private sector companies including Vodafone Hutchison, Arthur Andersons, ABN Amro, Société Générale, Ernst & Young and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. In the public sector, Kat has worked for The City of Edinburgh Council, the UK Pensions Regulator, City of Sydney, UNSW and UTS. Kat gained a Bachelor in Community Management at Macquarie University and completed an Incubator Start-Up at the School of Social Entrepreneurs where she developed Blacademics.com, a website for Indigenous people navigating university. In the women’s development space, Kat worked with UN Women Sydney Chapter and is currently Board Director for Women for Election Australia. Her latest venture is Women’s Business, an enterprise that connects women of colour to leadership opportunities.Kat is passionate about empowering marginalised women. We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

How to be a trauma informed leader

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at how the principles of trauma informed leadership can support you and your school community. What is trauma informed leadership? Have you ever struggled with your wellbeing and engagement at work after an unexpected or traumatic event? If you have, you’ll know that the kind of leader you work with has a big impact on how you recover.Trauma informed leadership enables you to lead in a compassionate, inclusive manner, that ultimately empowers those you lead to grow through a traumatic event. It emphasises nurturing leadership that builds trust and empowers the resilience of your team, and the organisation more broadly. Adopting trauma informed leadership strategies will help improve staff retention as well as health and wellbeing in your organisation. There are five key principles to trauma informed leadership: Safety Choice Collaboration TrustworthinessEmpowerment  What does trauma informed leadership look like? In times of disruption, leaders need to switch from ‘business as usual’ leadership and adopt a more collaborative and encouraging style of leadership, to foster positive connections and culture. Using trauma informed leadership principles will enable your organisation to heal, learn, adapt and excel, even in the face of adversity. To be a trauma informed leader, you should:- Practice the five trauma informed leadership principles above. This can be achieved by consulting and collaborating with all members of your team.- Foster a supportive environment for your team. You can do this by actively listening, taking action on people’s concerns and actively including individuals in work and social activities.- Ensure psychological and physical safety. Enable this by fostering a ‘no bullying’ culture, not just among your team and the organisation, but also in suppliers, agencies and contractors you choose to work with. Listening to and believing employees when they come to you to report incidents or express their concerns is also important. - Use adaptive leadership skills. This can be achieved by thinking outside the box when presented with an issue, being flexible and helping members of your team to embrace uncertainty. - Try to understand individuals in your organisation holistically. This is an easy one; making an effort to gently enquire about the weekends, evenings and any hobbies and activities of individuals in your organisation will give you a holistic view of them, both as they are in the work, and beyond. Not only will this increase your rapport and social capital, but it will also allow you to better understand their actions and response to different situations.- Offer support. Having an ‘open door’ policy will encourage your team to come to you if they ever need support. Make sure you have an in-depth understanding of the support that the organisation itself can offer, and also other community groups or services that might be able to help. When we think of trauma, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a broken bone, or PTSD that is the result of a dramatic, unforeseen, terrifying circumstance. However, the nature of the pandemic over the past few years has caused trauma and unrest for a great number of us. By practicing trauma informed leadership in your organisation, you will provide a safe space for people to re-engage with the work, and to heal and move forward.  WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOU​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Leading through disruption and into the future

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at how you can find the positives and lead productively out of disruption.What is disruption?Put simply, disruption is change. Often, it is characterised by unplanned, or significant, change. While COVID is the most discussed disruptor at the moment, the principles of leading through disruption can be applied more broadly – from environmental disasters, like bushfires and floods, to significant social change, like the Black Lives Matter movement, or #MeToo. One of the most important things to remember about disruption is that over time, a lot of good can come from it.What are some of the negative effects of disruption?Unfortunately, the disruption caused by COVID has had a significant impact on the energy reserves and wellbeing of leaders and employees. Research over the COVID period has found that 2020 was the most stressful year in history (1), with burnout levels increasing by 12 per cent in a single year (2). On top of that, nearly half of employees who worked from home reported that their mental health and wellbeing had declined. (3)These statistics go some way to explaining why leaders and employees more broadly are reporting decreased leadership capacity, burnout, and disengagement with their roles.How can we move forward?If we can find it in ourselves to look past the exhaustion of COVID, we can already see some effects that will help us move forward positively. Research has already told us that there has been a sharp increase in digital literacy skills across the global population (4), and that the dissolution of the ‘formal’ work environment has created a more ‘human’ culture in work environments (5). Both of these elements offer us opportunities to optimise the school environment.  How to lead through disruption: There are a few ways to lead positively through this disruption:Create a safe space You can create a safe space for people in your organisation to express their concerns in almost any environment. Making time for private one on one conversations online, over the phone or in person is one way, or gathering with small groups at a time. Having a regular all-staff meeting where people are openly invited to ask questions and raise concerns is another way.Communicate frequently with your team Understanding and utilising different communication channels on a regular basis will help your team feel connected and informed, reducing anxiety and fear about things that are ‘unknown.’ A regular update via online ‘team’ channels, and making time for regular chats in an informal setting are two ways you can stay connected and reduce stress for your team, and the organisation more broadly.Invest in opportunities that will enable your organisation to harness the new skills they have learnedReminding your team that they learned and achieved during the pandemic will help them to overcome a potential sense of loss, after two years of disruption. Giving them opportunities to put their new skills to good use in the organisation reminds them that they did achieve something tangible – and gives them something to be proud of. 1. Gallup, 20212. Glint, 20213. Qualtrics, 20204. McKinsey, 20215. The Conversation, 2021 We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

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