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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.

Replenish your leadership capacity

“If you’re a leader at this moment in time then I don’t need to tell you how hard it is – finding a way to replenish and refocus isn’t any longer just a good idea, it’s a critical survival skill,” says Women & Leadership Australia CEO, Suzi Finkelstein.Investing in ourselves as leaders has never been more important than it is right now: as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, help our teams and organisations create a ‘new normal’, and plan for a brighter future.More and more, leaders like you need personalised, one on one coaching to reignite your passion for leadership and figure out what lies ahead for you.Women & Leadership Australia’s Replenish Coaching Package has been designed to support leaders to be at their best in the midst of the most disruptive upheaval of our times. This tailor-made coaching package is the perfect way to reinvigorate your leadership approach in readiness to take on new challenges and opportunities.The Replenish Coaching Package utilises a rigorous, best-practice approach to coaching which adheres to the code of ethics established by the International Coaching Federation.Here are some benefits of leadership coaching for you and your organisation:Feel inspired and energised:One-on-one leadership coaching gives you the space to step back from your current responsibilities and challenges and remember why you became a leader. Making space for yourself to appreciate your ‘why’ helps you feel energised and inspires you to continue with your leadership journey.Personal coaching that addresses YOUR issues:When you are working with a personal leadership coach in a one-on-one setting, you don’t just get general advice. You receive personalised guidance and expert support in a safe and confidential setting. Discuss your challenges, overcome your insecurities, and be supported by an expert who is there to help you.There’s a real return on the investment:Studies from the International Coaching Federation show that there is an average return for businesses of four-to-eight dollars for every dollar invested in personal coaching for leaders. This is due to an increase in productivity of around 86 per cent for organisations who invest in personal coaching for their leaders, compared to 22 per cent increase in productivity for leaders who undertake group-based leadership development programs.Create your priorities and find your path forward:After the upheaval of the past two years, knowing what to prioritise and figuring out your next steps can be hard. Gain clarity and focus with your coach, and create a plan that feels authentic to you, leaving you motivated to embark on the path ahead.In the same way that a great sports coach is integral to enabling peak athletic performance, a leadership coach enables great leadership by providing an opportunity for leaders to experiment, learn from mistakes and ultimately grow. Invest in yourself with the Replenish Coaching Package today.

Creating Value Through Good Governance

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.My personal success measure for my role as a non-executive director is that the organisation should be in a better state when I leave than it was when I joined. For that to be true, the organisation needs to be well-governed to mitigate intolerable risks and take advantage of opportunities to increase value.Good governance is the key to sustaining a successful business that achieves its goals, in the short and long term, while remaining legally compliant and maintaining a positive reputation in the eyes of shareholders, regulators and the community.The difference between a well-governed organisation and one that needs help in that area, is pretty obvious in my opinion. You can feel it in the culture around the board table and the relationship between board and management. The style of the Chair is also critically important as equal information and an equal voice for all directors is an important feature of a well-functioning board.Every time that I have sensed that I didn’t have all of the information that I needed to be able to support or challenge a recommendation from management, my instinct proved right. Don’t be afraid to scratch that itch and ask for greater clarity.Your organisation’s success may depend on your line of questioning. Certainly when things have gone horribly wrong for organisations, there has been shown to be a disconnect between board and management with critical information often not being brought to the board by management or requested of management by the board.There are a number of factors that collectively contribute to good governance. Well-functioning boards are usually collaborative and consensus-oriented, placing a high level of importance on accountability and transparency.Well-governed organisations are responsive, effective, efficient and follow the rule of law. They are also equitable, inclusive and diverse.It’s the impact of diversity, in all its forms, that can often be underestimated. The key to understanding the optimum mix of diverse views is to consider the customer base of your business. What does your addressable market look like and how does that compare with the decision makers in the organisation? Diverse perspectives at the board and senior management level ensure that a broader range of scenarios are considered before taking a course of action in order to maximise a sustainably successful outcome. Diversity requires inclusion to be effective. Without it is like being invited to play a team sport but no one passing you the ball.An investment in getting the governance of an organisation right will reap rewards.It will provide the organisation with a clear vision for business growth, ensure the organisation is ready to mitigate any major risk and remain compliant, and improve the reputation of the business.Governing bodies are responsible for overseeing the strategy that leads to sustainable business growth and that involves creating a clear vision of what the company could be in the future. Determine where the business can win and discover the right opportunities to act on. That will improve performance over time and create a strong narrative for the business that will make it easier to attract investment.To be risk-ready, get on top of current risks and gain insights about possible future risks. Create strategies for mitigating risk and learn from the experience of others.A focus on improving compliance should ultimately result in less time and resources spent on compliance because it will be embedded into the culture, systems and processes of the organisation. The starting point is to be clear about your legal responsibilities and regulatory requirements. It is important to understand the lines of defence and accountability at the operational level.A positive reputation can be achieved through best-practice governance. If you develop a culture of doing the right thing then that tells customers a lot about the business they are engaging with. A positive reputation is critical for business sustainability and delivering increased shareholder value.Marina Go is Chair of the Super Netball Commission, Ovarian Cancer Australia and The Walkley Foundation, and a non-executive director on the boards of Energy Australia, 7-Eleven, Autosports Group, Pro-Pac, Adore Beauty and Booktopia. Marina has been actively progressing equitable outcomes for women and culturally diverse Australians in her working life and as a volunteer for more than three decades. 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.

Returning to work: why affordable childcare and flexible working conditions are needed to redress the gender pay gap in Australia

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.I returned to work part-time when my son was one. My partner and I co-parent: we’re both freelance writers who live off the grid in regional Victoria. We’re classified low-income earners, so the government’s childcare subsidy – which is means tested – covers 85 per cent of our costs. For us, Australia’s childcare system works. But we’re not the norm.Recent research by education advocate The Front Project found that, for 52 per cent of parents with kids in childcare, the system is ‘hardly working’. Despite the apparent array of options, parents felt they had little genuine choice once affordability, lack of available places and lack of accord with their beliefs or values were factored in.Australia has the fourth most expensive childcare system in the world, with 30 per cent of families spending more than a quarter of household income on childcare (the OECD average is 11 per cent). And it’s women who are most financially disadvantaged as a result.Childcare subsidies are capped at $10,560 per year per child (although this may change under proposed reforms). That means there’s a point where it becomes financially unviable for the second income earner in a household – usually a woman – to work more than three days per week. The Grattan Institute has shown that the Workforce Disincentive Rate – the proportion of income lost through higher taxes, reduced family payments and childcare costs – is particularly punishing for second earners thinking of taking on a fourth or fifth day of work. By the fifth day, some are effectively paying to go to work.Not surprisingly, this has led to the ‘1.5 earner model’ – where dad works full-time and mum part-time – becoming the norm.This in turn contributes to ‘the mothering penalty’: less workforce participation by women, fewer opportunities for leadership roles, training and career advancement, and less pay and lower superannuation long-term.It decreases a woman with kids’ earning capacity, leading to a greater income gap between women with kids and those without than the gender pay rate gap. And it has led to repeated calls for Australia’s childcare system to be overhauled.The calls are gaining traction. The cost of childcare has been highlighted as a potential key decider in the next federal election, with the Morrison government announcing changes to subsidies in its May budget (these won’t come into effect until mid-2022 and will only make a difference for approximately one quarter of childcare users). The changes come on the back of Labor’s calls for the subsidy cap to be scrapped entirely.Structural reform is needed to enable greater workforce participation by women – and there’s research to support its viability. While childcare subsidies cost the Federal Government more than $8 billion per year, modelling by the Grattan Institute indicates that, by increasing the contribution by $5 billion annually, workforce participation by women will increase the GDP by $11 billion over five-to-ten years, more than paying for itself.While affordable childcare is essential to increased participation, so too are flexible working conditions, such as personalised start and finish times, job sharing and working remotely.There are systems in place to support this: under The Fair Work Act, most employees are legally entitled to request flexible conditions if they have been with their employer for more than 12 months and are actively parenting or a carer.In fact, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, almost 70 per cent of private sector companies had a flexible workplace strategy in place in 2017–18. However, only 1.6 per cent of all industries had targets set for men’s engagement in flexible work. This suggests a distinction between meeting basic legal requirements, and a workplace culture that normalises flexible options, particularly for men.It’s also in keeping with what Annabel Crabb found in her Quarterly Essay ‘Men at Work’: that societal norms, workplace pressure and inadequate financial support prevent men who would like to more actively parent from doing so. Similarly, research from the University of Sydney found that, 10 years after the establishment of Australia’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme, men are largely locked out of shared care. This is because the minimum wage paid by the scheme is a disincentive (it equates to 42 per cent of the average Australia wage), because secondary carers are only given two weeks leave and because until 2020 parents could not split the 18-week ‘primary carer’ entitlement.Prue Gilbert, chief executive of the workplace gender equality consultancy Grace Papers, said this research showed that leaders needed to accelerate gender equality by ensuring workplace cultures permitted fathers to use flexibility.For those employers who fear a decrease in output, a clear link has been found between flexible work and employee engagement, productivity, retention and well-being – across all ages and genders.This suggests the problem is as much about redressing out-dated social norms as it is about creating structural solutions.As a society, we still see women as the primary carers and we still don’t value work that has traditionally been carried out by women as equal to men’s work. Until we acknowledge these biases and adjust policies and workplace cultures accordingly, we will continue to disadvantage everyone.Part of the reason why my partner is so comfortable co-parenting is because his mother was the breadwinner and his father the homemaker. This has led to him normalising gender role reversals, valuing child raising and insisting upon his right to flexible working conditions. And it has made it possible for me to prioritise my career.For us, the ever-shifting work-life balance has found a happy medium.Of course, what our family and work lives look like will change over time, as will everyone else’s. That’s why there must be structures in place that support the myriad of different work-life combinations of Australians, that don’t prevent women from working full-time and men from child raising.There’s no doubt COVID-19 has radically transformed the way we work in Australia, especially when it comes to working remotely. In this new era, we must keep challenging out-dated norms and fighting for childcare initiatives and flexible working conditions that promote gender equality – changes that will ultimately benefit us all. By Leigh HopkinsonLeigh Hopkinson lives in Barkers Creek with her partner and their two-year-old son. A journalist and editor, she primarily writes about issues of social justice. Her work has appeared in publications including Overland, Kill Your Darlings and the Guardian. She is currently working on her second book.​ 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. 

Announcing the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership

Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) is delighted to announce the 2022 recipients of the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.Nominated by members of the public, the annual Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership celebrate exceptional women nationally who’ve led across various industries and capacities, specifically those who have made outstanding contributions to the narrative of leadership equality.We are delighted to share that Christine Holgate, CEO of Toll Global Express, has been awarded the 2022 Australian Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.Ms Holgate said of the honour, “I am truly humbled and proud to receive this award amongst so many inspiring female leaders.“The last 12 months have been a very challenging period for many women.  Amongst the hardships, we witnessed women come together, stand up and speak out, exposing the harassment, discrimination, and intimidation of women, of all ages, occupations and beliefs in our country.”WLA CEO, Suzi Finkelstein, said of the recipients, “The Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership are an important opportunity to shine a light on women's leadership and increase visibility to shift the dialogue and showcase role models for the next generation of leaders. Today we celebrate the inspiring leaders who have affected change and opened doors for other women by challenging inequities and disrupting the norms, all whilst navigating the complexities of a global pandemic. We are extremely thankful for their work and contributions.”The State and Territory recipients are as follows:Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO, Australian College of Nursing (ACT)Lisa Cox, Disability Advocate and Media Professional (QLD)Shivani Gopal, CEO and Founder, The Remarkable Woman (NSW)Jahna Cedar OAM, Executive Director, IPS Management Consultants (WA)Professor Nicola Spurrier PSM, Chief Public Health Officer, SA Health (SA)Antoinette Braybrook, CEO, Djirra and Co-Chair, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (VIC)Professor Kate Warner AC, 28th Governor of Tasmania (TAS)Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, Aboriginal Elder; Renowned Artist; Activist; Writer; Public Speaker (NT)Dr Anne Walters, Chief Plant Health Officer (NT) Award recipients will accept their awards at various WLA events throughout the year. To see more information about the recipients, click here. 

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