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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 34 - Time To Come Alive: "Breaking Down Barriers” With Special Guest Tina Wakefield, Deputy Secretary Corporate And Digital Services - New Zealand Ministry Of Justice

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Time To Come Alive: "Breaking Down Barriers” With Special Guest Tina Wakefield, Deputy Secretary Corporate And Digital Services - New Zealand Ministry Of Justice

Welcome, everyone, wherever in the world you are. That may be good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. My name is Valerie Hope. I am your coach and your host for the show. The whole purpose of this show is to highlight and interact with people who are finding ways to come alive in their personal lives, in their professional lives, and perhaps even in their community. It is an opportunity for you guys to get conscious of who you are and how you show up, get connected with others, and more importantly, create something of value that brings the world around you to life.


Today is no exception. I have a wonderful guest on the show and I am going to introduce her in a moment. Before we get into that, I would like to remind you of a couple of things. We are streaming live here. If you would like to share this with friends and family because it is a conversation that you think would have value for your colleagues, please go ahead and take the stream and share it with other people. Also, it is going to be recorded and distributed via all the other social media channels later on.


Make sure that you connect with me. That way, we can make sure that you have access and you can give others access to this information. What I like to do customarily before any of our sessions is to start with mindfulness. It allows us to learn how to listen to the conversation that we are about to have. For that, I want you to get comfortable. If you are sitting or standing, wherever you are, perhaps straighten up your back.


It might help to soften your gaze or close your eyes. It’s up to you. Put your feet flat on the floor or stand upright, making sure that you balance between both legs. You want to relax your body, allow the floor or your seats to take your weight. You want to keep your mind alert. While you are doing this, I want you to start to reflect a little bit. Look in your mind's eye. I want you to think about any area in your life currently where you might be experiencing a little bit of resistance. It feels like there is a little wall. Perhaps you feel it energetically, perhaps you feel there is some constriction somewhere, some tightness, perhaps. Look at that and see if there is anything perhaps in a relationship that you have.


Maybe there is an opportunity in your career. Some resistance is showing up. It could be in your health. Perhaps it is in your finances. Take a look and see if there is anywhere in your life where you are feeling that resistance. Once you have located an example of it, take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. I invite you to name the emotion that you have attached to that resistance. It could be resignation, anger, maybe sadness, or frustration. Think of what emotion you have connected to that resistance that you are experiencing. Again, take a deep breath, releasing it slowly.


Now I am going to invite you to think about what would happen if you were to give that up. In other words, to release that emotion. To release the resistance. To disengage the emergency brake that you might have in that area of your life. It might be to connect with someone who can help you move through it. Perhaps to no longer repeat the story that you have connected to why the resistance is there in the first place. See what it might feel like if you were to release that block or that resistance that is showing up. Another deep breath in, slowly, and you may now refocus your gaze or open your eyes and join us again.


Wonderful. Welcome back. That exercise for me is meaningful because I have had the fortune over nearly two years to know this amazing woman, Tina Wakefield and I will have her share who she is in a moment, but I want to share with you Tina who I know you are for me. Tina and I met in Berkeley, California almost two years ago. Both of us participated in the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute to be Certified Coaches. Berkeley Coaching Institute is no joke. You go there because you are ready to peel back layers.


I think that all of us who showed up, I believe 24 of us, that in and of itself was a breakthrough for many. I remember Tina, you and I sitting together. I want to say maybe it was breakfast or lunch or something. Somehow, because of all of the activities that we have done as a group up to that point, it became easy to start sharing very profoundly. I do not know how we got into this conversation. The first time we talked, we started talking about our relationships and divorce.


It was over breakfast, just a regular Berkeley conversation. I remember how kind you are. Although you were very quiet leading up to that conversation, I realized the depth of your soul, your interest, and your compassion for people. Since then, you have been such a wonderful person to speak to. We stay connected intentionally on a regular basis although you are halfway across the world in New Zealand. I want to welcome you to the show. What else would you like to add that will help people know who you are and why you said yes to being here?


Hello, everyone. I am currently in Wellington, New Zealand where it is the middle of winter and it is about 10 degrees Celsius outside. For those of you in the States, you are probably experiencing a very different climate at the moment. How did I get here? Why is coaching important to me? Who am I? Through the Berkeley experience, if I had to pick out one thing that was important for me and that it did for me, that was I think made me comfortable in my own skin.


As an introvert and somebody who is pretty sensible, I cry at Disney movies, and in any movie, I will cry. I cry at anything. My team gave me some flowers the other day, and I cried. New Zealand and I think around the world traditionally, leadership has been something about being an extrovert. Quite often being masculine, being a certain way and I think the thing that Berkeley did for me was make me comfortable in my own skin. It made me comfortable a bit to be the leader that I am and who I am in leading in my own way. I am a tier two in the New Zealand government and the Ministry of Justice. I lead around 250 people. I am now comfortable doing it as an introvert and as somebody who is a bit quieter.


What I admire about you in all of our conversations is that although you are quiet and unassuming in many ways, you know how to handle things head-on. Tina does not mess around. You take your life, what you do, and the people that you have on your team very seriously. One of the things that I wanted to find out first of all, where does that come from? This desire to push through or to make things happen. 


I am not sure where it comes from. It has always been a part of me to want to get things done. Increasingly, as I get older, I become more comfortable in my own skin and less tolerant of things that I do not think are right. We have a saying around my team, “What you walk past is what you accept.” Having become more comfortable in my own skin, I am also more comfortable calling those things that I am not comfortable walking past. That does not always make you the favorite person on the face of the planet, but it feels what is what is right for me and what is very sympathetic to my values, my ethics, and the way that I live.


It is a combination of I guess always having that strong delivery strikingly and also being much more aware of not just the what, but also the how, how I want to lead, and how I want my team to be. They have performance appraisals now. It is not just about what they have to do this year from a work perspective. It is about how they do it, so they get assessed on the how at the end of the year from a performance point of view as much as they have done.


I love that. I am curious. You mentioned that what you walk past is what you accept. I am curious about how young you were when you started calling stuff out. Do you remember an instance?


I think relatively late because I was very unconfident. I am in my mid-50s now. It was probably until my mid-30s before I had the confidence to disagree in a work context with a hierarchy. I skipped my manager and talked to my manager’s manager about things that I did not feel were right. That came as my confidence increased.


As a child and growing up in high school, I was almost agoraphobic. I did not like to leave home. I did not like to go to the movies. I did not even like to go to the supermarket. I would go to school and come home. That was about it. It was a big effort for me from an anxiety perspective to do much more than that. It took a long time for me to get the confidence to do that kind of stuff in a work context probably till my mid-30s before I started to push things that I did not agree with from an ethics point of view.


What you said goes to show the adage do not judge a book by its cover. You demonstrated that well because, in the introduction and my experience of you in the two and a half years or two years that I have met you, I would have never imagined that you suffered from agoraphobia when you were growing up. You have shared this with me before and I want people to get a sense of what that was like. Can you give us an example of how that showed up, the idea of not being able or willing or comfortable leaving your environment?


I was in my second to last year of high school. I guess I was about 16 or 17 and I had a boyfriend at the time. His parents were separated. During the school holidays one year, we went by train to Auckland, which is an overnight train trip from where I was living. We stayed with his father for a day, but after 24 hours, I had to go to my nearby aunt and uncle and fly home because I was so stressed that I could not deal with the anxiety of being out of my comfort zone. That was when I was 17-ish. That was emotional, not sleeping, lots of tears, and I could not relax at all.


The fact that you even took on the idea of going to another city, only a man would do that. You only do that for love or for what we think is love. The idea of actually going. I get that. You said that the confidence developed over time. I get that you had to do something or something had to come to your consciousness to get there. Can you remember what it was or what It has been that you have started to do or apply or learn that helped you move up in confidence? 


I went to a nearby university for my bachelor's degree. I did that because it was the closest university. It was the safest and least stressful option for me. Even during those classes, I would be very anxious. I can remember at exam time once, walking into an exam. It was a three-hour exam and I froze for the first hour and a half, and then escaping for the last quarter of an hour. I had about an hour and a quarter to do a three-hour exam. I was frozen with anxiety. I got to a point where I got better at exams with practice which comes to what I think builds confidence. which is to keep taking small steps forward.


I got to the end of my Bachelor's degree and I knew that I wanted to leave New Zealand and none of my immediate family had been out of the country. I applied for a scholarship in Hawaii, so I could afford to attend an overseas University for my Master's Degree. I was successful with the scholarship. All of a sudden, I was in this place where I had to get on a big plane to take an international flight, never having left the country.


I spent two years in Honolulu, which probably sounds like a dream to everybody and most normal people. It was, “How am I going to do this? I cannot get out of my town or I have never been on a plane before apart from that one flight from Auckland. How am I going to cope with this?” It was a stressful period for me, but I think doing things, taking a little step forward, and doing something, you got a little more confidence.

Not Quite Strangers | Breaking Down Barriers
Breaking Down Barriers: Every time you do something or take a little step forward, do it with a little more confidence.


It came down to me to break it down to get myself from my hometown to Auckland, to get on the plane, to pick up the bag to get to the airport, to get through customs, and then at the end of the day, it is a step off the air bridge onto the plane. When you are on that plane and the doors shut, there is no going back. To me, it was life or death. It had become so huge that, “Was I going to spend the rest of my life in a small town in New Zealand or was I going to do this one thing and get on this plane and take this opportunity and potentially have the opportunity to change my life?” If I had to pick one moment in my whole life and my 56 years, it was from the air bridge onto the airplane to Hawaii.


It sounds like at that point in time, you were sick and tired of not living a life that expressed you fully. You had an opportunity to be who you truly were. I am curious about what it has taken once you made that step. Now you are strapped in, you are going to Hawaii, you’ve spent two years there. How did that impact the other decisions that you made? That was a significant step, especially if you said this is life or death. What impact did that step have on the journey that you have been on since then?


I think being brave and having the courage and the lesson to take a step, what’s the worst that could happen? Giving things a go, not prejudging outcomes, living in the moment, and living in the day. Two years in Hawaii, there were lots of things I still missed out on. Because of my anxiety and this kind of agoraphobia thing. Bus trips, I could have done with my cohort that I did enjoy. I could not handle it.


At the end of the day, I stayed the distance and I enjoyed it. I was lucky because of all the places in the world, I was in Hawaii with such a laid-back culture in general and an American-Polynesian culture in some ways, which although laid back and relaxed, the cultural context helped me to build my confidence.


New Zealand was much quieter and much more judgmental in those days, which was the late ‘80s society. I was lucky to go somewhere where everybody was that much more relaxed. Everything went over an hour late. The American culture of confidence and extroversion, living in that you absorb it. You can not help but absorb it and I was lucky. I had chosen Hawaii because it was the closest to New Zealand. It was not the UK or Europe that is 24 hours away. It is only an eight-hour flight. I would have hedged my bets but it turned out to be. I got lucky and I did not think of it at the time, but it turned out to be exactly right because of the environment that I was in.


That also is a testament to another adage that the average of the five people you spend the most time with, in your case, you mentioned that the cultural context gives you enough breathing space so that you could settle into yourself, especially after taking such a large leap in your past and your evolution. It goes to show that even when we are looking for those opportunities to break out and to build confidence, it is so important who we have around us. It is so important where we choose to live, the work environment that we select, the community that we want to live in, and the organizations that we get involved in. That is a fantastic point. I am curious. How did all of those steps form the career that you essentially chose?


That courage to try new things and the courage to put your hand up even if you can not do the whole job. I came back to New Zealand and started at the library of a large tech corp in New Zealand. As they were opening a new marketing department and they were looking for somebody good at research. I did not know anything about marketing. I have not been trained as a marketer, I was trained as a librarian. I put my hand up and I got the job. That started my career in management and business.


Two things there. 1) I had the confidence to think outside the square and think about, “I might not have a marketing degree, but I am going to give it a go.” The hiring manager there was important as well. He was a young man similar to my age, not much older than me who was extremely extroverted but extremely creative. He could see the potential in me and he gave me lots of opportunities. When I am coaching young women and their careers, I always give them pieces of advice like, “Do not be afraid to go sideways, and do not be afraid to try different things.”

Don’t be afraid to go sideways and try different things.


Because women do look at jobs when they can do 80%. Men will look when they can do 20% or 30%. Be brave about trying things and taking opportunities. Also, who are your sponsors, and who are your advocates? Who do you have around you that will sponsor you and be your advocate? In my recent jobs in the New Zealand government, I have been very lucky to have a great sponsor, Colin McDonald who was the Government Chief Information Officer. He has now left the government and is consulting. He's always been somebody for the last 5 or 6 years who has been there as a sponsor. He helped me put in a good word and be available when I needed to talk.


Find those key people in your environment, workplace, and career who are going to be a sponsor and an advocate for you. I think it is important as well because not everybody can see your potential. Not everybody can think laterally about your capabilities and your potential rather than what you have done or what you have been changing.


Going back to what you said about having the right sponsors and the right advocates, you also pointed out something. There were people at least in your world who pointed out to you the areas where you shine or your genius where they were impressed. As leaders, that's something we cannot stress enough. I do not know if they have this in New Zealand, but here in the US, often you see signs that say, “When you see something, say something.” We usually use that as a warning, especially around something that seems suspicious. The same goes for leadership.


When we see something extraordinary, when we see something that's a sign of genius, when we see something that's interesting or something that we want to praise or acknowledge, we should say something. Oftentimes. the things that come most naturally to us or the things where we excel the most go unnoticed for us if we do not realize how unique or how special that is. I love that you said that. That is important for leaders to do on a regular basis. Talk more about how you show up as a sponsor as an advocate. What exactly do you do or say that makes you effective in those roles?


Sometimes we just had to identify a name. Those things that make us special and make us different. We do not always see those things in ourselves as you said. It’s naming those things that are unique or strengths or different or things that can be leveraged within a person that sets them out from their peers. Naming it, labeling it, calling it, and being an expert about it is important. I always look for opportunities for them. I do not know whether it is a New Zealand thing, but the younger women that I coach, compared to their male counterparts, are probably not as good at networking.

Not Quite Strangers | Breaking Down Barriers
Breaking Down Barriers: Naming and labeling your strengths is an important step in becoming an expert in them.


I do try to connect with other people who have opportunities. I say to them, “Who knows you and who do you know?” I try to get that networking thing to happen, put them in contact with people who might have opportunities for them, make connections for them, and make some introductions for them. I guess also getting to the heart of what motivates them and what they are passionate about. There is a saying that, “If you are working at what you are passionate about, it is not work.”


A lot of young women in particular, maybe all of us to some extent do follow a career path because we think that is the right thing to do and that is the way the career path goes, rather than taking the time to think about what is heart and meaning, what is their real passion, and why they are doing what they are doing. Take the time to think about where you want to go because if you do not know where you are going, no road will take you there. Spend some time thinking about what has a heart for them and what they are passionate about.


I feel like we have written a mini book on all the adages that we know and how they relate. I think that's been like 4 or 5 so far. I love this. One of the things that we learned as a coach is to pursue the things that seem to have heart and meaning. When it comes to your career in particular, I know that over the last two years that we have known each other, there have been several things going sideways and some pivots in your path. I am curious about how you apply that having heart and meaning as you choose what to apply for or what to say yes to, as far as your project or perhaps even changes in the job.


If I think about what has meaning for me, it is building capability and building high-performing teams or maturing processes. It is the changing aspect of things. I like taking something and making it into something better and doing that through people. The things that I have done in the past have been opportunities to experience to lead more broadly and to put out my experience, but in a situation where there is a capacity to change things, to improve things, to develop people, because I am passionate about developing people, making people the best that they can be, and the organizational outcomes. From that, I see that as second nature to me. I am working in justice because I think justice's real meaning for me is a fair, safe, and equitable society. They are meaningful to me.


I have not decided I would work for any organization and likewise my sacrament. I was seconded for four months recently to the Ministry of Health to bring a corporate services team together. Again, health is meaningful for me. The context is meaningful but the job in itself is meaningful for me in terms of developing people and changing things up. I guess that was probably not very clear.


What I got from it and tying it back to some of the things that you have developed or your lifetime is this idea of building confidence. It sounds like when you tapped into what you were passionate about, which is developing people and the equitable and fair treatment of people in the workplace or their community, the need for confidence started to become secondary. It sounds like you are driven by your passion or driven by your interest in your heart.


That is a good observation. When you are driven by your heart, then you do go for it more. You are less likely to put those self-imposed barriers and you are driving for something meaningful, and then you go do it. Good things happen. I do not know if it is the universe or something. When you are following your passion and you are doing good stuff, good stuff happens.

When you are driven by your heart, you are more likely to release your self-imposed barriers and do something meaningful.


Another piece to add is that it should feel easy. There should be an opportunity to experience flow when we connect to that thing, that entity, that organization, or that role that has a hardened meaning. That does not mean that there will not be challenges, but it does mean that there is peace about it. There is peace in confronting the challenge and there is a desire.


It’s so much like a grounding confidence thing that this is the right thing to be doing. I am on day five of a new job. I have not been here. I have not come from an ICT background. I et the ICT stuff. Although I am not a technical geek person, I have now inherited the HR part of the business, the property part of the business, and the health, safety, and security part of the business. I am not a subject matter expert in any of those things.


I have got a lot to learn but I am not afraid. I am excited about it because I know that if I stick to those principles of developing people, treating people with respect, and getting things done, which has always been a strength of mine, and setting the vision, I will learn a lot and that will be rewarding for me. I also know that I can make the people who work for me do their job a lot more rewarding as well because of the coaching and the empowerment and that I care about them as people. I know that they are not all the same. There is no such thing as the perfect employee.


One of the questions came up from Elizabeth. Thank you so much for your question. “You said you do not necessarily know that you are not a subject matter expert, but there are things that you are gifted at and that you do so innately. How do we, as women or as a professional in the workforce, sell ourselves or not just sell, but convey with confidence what we are gifted in? What does heart mean without downplaying it or without coming across as bragging or conceited?”


That is a good question. There are people that you do not have to sell it to or brag to. You do not have to do the sales call because, depending on the quality of the person that you work for, they see it and they understand that. As an introvert, there is a lot of traditional thinking that you have to be an extrovert to be a good leader. A good leader and a good manager will see that. You do not have to be an extrovert to be a good leader. That mix of leadership styles around the table is a powerful thing. The more diversity, the better the result. I am not sure that is answering the question except that the results speak for themselves.

A good manager doesn’t have to be an extrovert. A mix of leadership styles is a more powerful thing, and diversity delivers better results.


I do not brag or talk a lot about what I have achieved because I think the results speak for themselves. I highlight the achievements of the team. I might be the leader of the team but it's about the whole team. I would be more likely to brag about the successes of the team or all the successes of one of my people rather than what I particularly had done. Maybe that's held me back in the past.


How so?


As an introvert and as somebody who does not necessarily speak to what they in particular did or what they are particularly involved in, sometimes in an interview situation, it can be quite hard to talk about your role in that and own that. It is a confidence thing too. I think you have got to look at what situation you are in. In the day-to-day work situation, mainly, the team working well reflects on me. In an interview situation and competitive situation, I have to get a bit more deliberate by saying what it is that I did as a leader to get these results. It is intuitive for me in some respects. Labeling those things in a competitive interview situation where we compete for a job or something. It’s a thing that maybe women do not do as well as introverts and potentially do not do as well as extroverts. You focus on it and work on it.


I know you have gotten some coaching around that. Elizabeth has her hand raised. I am wondering what comments or questions you have about this.


Tina, it is delightful to have you here. Thank you so much. I’m curious about what to say to the younger women because women do get accused of being arrogant. I imagine you have to be even more careful than you do in the US. Women are accused of bragging and being arrogant when they are talking about their successes. I found it is to enroll an ally or get a wing sister to come with you if you will because it is easier to brag about somebody else than it is to brag about yourself. Someone else can say the things about you that maybe you could not get away with saying but you need people to hear so that you can get that promotion or be recognized.


That's right. That comes back to knowing who are your allies around the table and who are the sponsors that will speak out for you. Also, potentially, what does that campaign look like in terms of what the team has succeded and doing, which shows you as the leader of that team? It is an and, not an or. The team did this and I was the leader of the team and this was my role in it. It comes across more softly and less arrogant. If you like, then I was the leader and this is what I have achieved. There are ways of catching up. Interestingly enough, I have not had experience in New Zealand of women being seen as arrogant. I would say that was a label that was much more applied to men in New Zealand. That is interesting.


How does gender parity work? For instance, over here, you have a lot of companies that brag about, “We have all women.” Many percentages of women are always below the director level. It is not up to a certain point.


In New Zealand, we had an amazing woman Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. You probably read about her. She is on a mission to remove the gender pay gap. They have a target in 2021 of getting rid of the gender pay gap. We have a minister for women who is responsible for doing that. In the public sector, we have a State Services Commissioner who has said that 50% of the Chief Executives in the Public Service need to be women. That target has been set and reached. There will be no gender pay gap by 2020.


All New Zealand public service departments have to report to the State Services Commission, which is the central agency that monitors public sector ministries' performance on what the agenda pay gap is and the initiatives that they are taking to get rid of the gender pay gap and how that is progressing. It becomes part of the performance plan for the Chief Executives. People are being measured on this. They do not get to be successful unless they achieve some of these gender parity issues, but it's not women as well. There is a big push on the government around diversity in general.


That was my next question. 


It is not just how many women but also how many indigenous people of New Zealand we have in terms of Chief Executives in our senior leaders. It’s a very active government women's network, with some increasingly active rainbow networks. It is a much more inclusive society being driven right by the head of the country and the head of services. It’s being measured in performance expectations and being set to get those results. 


Going back to this idea of being strategic about getting the right sponsors, allies, and advocates, I do not like to necessarily make it a gender distinction, but I do think that for anyone who does need or desires to have a closer advocate or more effective strategic alliance, talk to the person about what their needs are.


One of the things that you express, Tina, is that you knew that there's a quiet or more introverted personality who would need someone to be the megaphone in some cases. Having a conversation with someone where they know the areas and what you get stopped or the areas in which you perhaps drawback, then they know when to step up or when to be your advocate.


I think that is one of the things that we can do to be more effective in creating relationships that matter, not just because we know that is the right thing to do, but because they will help leverage who we are and how we do things in a way that we probably can ourselves, but they need to know. The other person needs to know what they are signing on for and where you might need the greatest support. When I think about some of the greatest leaders that I have worked with, having the ability to trust them and not to say, “I am not great at this.”


Jonathan Chapel is one of the individuals I interviewed recently on a podcast. He led one of the best teams that I have ever worked on. It’s primarily because he understood, respected, and honored each of our strengths, but we were able to very transparently and authentically say, “I am not good at this. if I could work with Danielle, she's amazing or Melissa would be fantastic to help me and support me.”


Those are the conversations that I feel are missing not only in the workplace but also in entrepreneurship. We have evolved to this very self-reliant society of people in this generation and I think that's to our detriment because it waters down the ability to create meaningful connections and also that village that will not only support our own well-being but the well-being of others around us. What are your thoughts on that?


That is exactly right because if I think about the job interview that I had to go through to get the current job, which is a competitive process at tier two. I employ a coach to do some of those things that Elizabeth was talking about, being able to articulate what it is that I did in a given situation and to help me as an introvert and somebody who probably will not speak about my personal achievements, and to practice for that interview.


I deliberately hired a coach who was good on comms and in presence. All those things that are a more quiet applicant or more reserved might not be doing well in a few situations. Coming back to nobody is good at everything and if you can recognize those areas and get a coach, an ally, or an advocate, that's the right thing to do. I know you are never too old and you are never too high in the hierarchy to do that.


One of the things that we underestimate is the ability to ask for meaningful help. There are a lot of well-meaning people but they do not necessarily have either the skill set or perhaps the knowledge or the experience that we need. I am curious about what type of questions or challenges do you find yourself having to feel when you are in this mental role? What do the women in your workplace come to you for?


A lot of them are looking for directions that might be mid-career or they are at an inflection point in their career and they want some guidance on what is available to them. What are their options? What should they be doing in terms of, “How do I get that next step?” A lot of that, sometimes, is navigating through a difficult work relationship. How do I do that? A lot of it is about progressing their career. In some situations, having the courage to say, “This is not for me anymore and I am going to take a completely different path.” A couple of more, I guess, how do I grow my business-type situations? With women, I think it is some of that confidence to take the next step and know how to take the next step, where to go for it, and how to create the opportunity.

Not Quite Strangers | Breaking Down Barriers
Breaking Down Barriers: Some situations require you to say no in order to progress your career. There are times when you need to take a completely different path.


Do you see how some of those challenges are inherent in being a part of the technology industry? How do you see the industry playing a role?


Some of my coaching and technology space, but some are. We are talking about the adages along the way in this session. There is another one that says you cannot be what you cannot see. I guess that points to me the importance of role models and the importance of anchorwomen seeing what is possible and hearing stories about what has not been plain sailing to get here, and hearing the war stories and the difficult times, and seeing role models so that they know that there are opportunities out for them that is important as well.


Technology is far more so because there are not so many women in positions in technology. I was one of the 3 or 4 women CIOs in the government. It's about getting out there and creating role models. It’s trying to get a little understanding of what's holding women in technology. It comes back to networks. That comes back to flexible working arrangements. A lot of them have young children. Trying to give them the confidence to ask for some of that as well.


We have been talking about all these different things like not only have you developed but then how you have developed other people. Where do you see your next challenge or your next opportunity? What are you working on personally right now?


One of the things I tell my coaches is, where is your vision? What's your vision? Where are you going in terms of your heart and feeling? For me, it is still working on the confidence stuff. It's still working on the things that do not come naturally to me. The confidence to get out there and be a bit more assertive about things, even at my level, the confidence to do a lot more speaking, to contribute a lot more around the leadership table. It is a lot of those introverted things that I need to compensate for. I will probably be going to be working for another while in the government. I see in another 5 or 6 years that as I get closer to retirement, I will leave a senior position and I will work part-time on those things, which are the coaching, mentoring, program management, and governance stuff.


Continuing to build that part of your life. I think that's interesting what you said earlier about your confidence building based on what gives you heart and meaning. There's a natural inclination to try and break through new ways of doing things or a new atmosphere and new things. If you could take what you are learning right now and what you have advised others to do and apply it to some area of life or some area of society, where do you think it's most needed? Where do you think that ability to be assertive or the ability to have expressed confidence and guide coach and role model? Where is that missing?


I think it is judgment and the ability to see the potential in everybody. I think what is missing is putting people in boxes. Too many managers put people in boxes. I would like to see a less judgemental society. I am more of a kinder and softer more inclusive society and management in senior management. I am always lucky that the chief executive who hired me for this role could see me, and was made aware of a lot of my strengths that I might not necessarily talk about. I got lucky with that manager that he had those skills.

Not Quite Strangers | Breaking Down Barriers
Breaking Down Barriers: Too many managers put people in boxes. It is admirable to see less judgmental leaders in a kinder, softer, and more inclusive society.


How do you get all managers to be so open to diversity around the table of all kinds of genders and cultures, introverts, and extroverts? A more holistic and closer approach to building teams and to making calls about promotions and lots of things. Misjudgment, it’s my big thing anyway. Let's celebrate the diversity of people and life. Let's mirror that diversity and our choices.


I think the challenge sometimes is that the human brain is very efficient. It quite naturally puts things in categories and boxes, so that we do not have to utilize so much energy to make decisions on a regular basis. It's like, “This looks like this.” It’s got that bias that's implicitly there. I think what I am hearing you say is that if we could get to the root of who the person is like how they show up as a human being in the world, we would not necessarily have to be led or make decisions based on labels, assumptions, stereotypes, gender, race, and all those things that we now label diversity. We can get to the core as human beings. That's what I am hearing.


Yes and being much more conscious about what makes a team and it’s not all the same. What are you missing in your team, rather than a person happening to be XYZ type of person or they have to have done these certain things? Being holistic I guess, I would say.


I want to appreciate the comment that not only Elizabeth made earlier, but also Christina mentioned that she feels that it's imperative. The leadership is to be a role model in any sphere not just in the workplace, but also in school and overall in society. I think that what you say is a testament to that. It's not just about doing it in the workplace. It is about looking at the human being and seeing how we can make sure that that person feels seen and heard, regardless of where they are in the hierarchy.


I married about five years ago and here, I have five stepchildren and that is a lot. Theoretically, you would think that I could take some of these coaching and people management skills and inclusiveness into a personal context but it's my chatter in a personal context. You are in the middle of it and it's not straightforward necessarily.


I have been warned by my family already like, “Do not touch me.” That's the thing. My 13-year-old niece. I think, Christina, that I have been role modeling because my 13-year-old niece told me something that she felt was a limitation or she was resigned about something. I was like, “Why is that? Why is that important to you?” She's like, “Tia Valerie,” which is Auntie Valerie. “Tia Valerie, do not try to coach me. Do not coach me on this.” There's a fine line for how we need to show up as a leader in the workplace or our organizations, and then also in our family and our friendships.


I'm still working on some of it.


I am curious about this experience, being in this forum and this format talking with me because if I am not mistaken, this is one of your first times being live on Facebook or being live in this type of format. How has it been for you?


It is my very first time but I guess it comes back to that passion so I can see you, Valerie. I am having a one-on-one experience. That's how I rationalize it to myself and thanks. That's pretty cool for me. It seems almost like a one-to-one experience for me. I think coming back to what you are passionate about overrides whether you are confident or not confident about sharing my story and seeing the impact on women. Every time I do share my story and every time I talk about some of the challenges I have overcome, that has been so powerful. Even though at times, it might seem quite personal, I see the power of sharing our stories. The format was fine for me and I know that sharing our stories has a huge impact, so that makes me brave. I guess it gives me confidence.


I am so glad that you chose to be brave with me. I do feel that. This is in and of itself, I find it's a breakthrough for people in a public forum sometimes to share this profoundly. I can only say that my desire my my intention to have a forum like this in conversations like this because first, I have conversations like this on a regular basis, but I can also hear people when they say, “I wish we had more conversations like this.” I was like, “Let's share this.”


Part of my instinct was how to create an environment where people can hear conversations that are happening but are more intimate perhaps in nature, but where they can learn or experience something that might be different than the norm, especially in such a public forum like Facebook. I appreciate you being open to sharing yourself with us because it’s not just me. I do appreciate that you trusted me enough to say yes. I am curious. When you think about breaking through the next layer, the next level of your life, is there anything right now? We did that mindfulness exercise in the beginning. Is there anything right now where you notice there's some resistance or something is showing up where you haven't quite broken through yet?


I'm still quite anxious. I am still not naturally relaxed and still anxious in quite formal situations. Going back to not wanting to leave home stuff. Even now, 50 years later, in formal situations, I am not as relaxed as I could be. I would like to be able to go to formal government events and be completely relaxed and okay with it and not get anxious. I will get exposed to more of that and my world. I know that I will grow confidence and I will keep looking at it. I will keep turning out. It was Einstein or somebody who said 90% of success is showing up. I’m going to keep showing up. It is my play. I will keep showing up.


That is a great strategy and you are right. Life is so important and we often take ourselves way too seriously. If we do want to continue to move forward and we want to continue to evolve, it does require us to show up. It does require us to try new things. It requires us to dance the dance of life. It's dancing to the conversations that we have and dancing in the situations that we have, rather than being stuck or resigned to the circumstances that we are experiencing.


I am glad that you are a model for all of us to do exactly that and I am sure that as this goes viral or whatever it is, you will find someone that will support you to be even more confident when you go into these very formal society events. Perhaps when you have a steward walking arm in arm with you there's something else that he might be able to project and provide. Anything else you want to say before we close for the day?


I guess if I was to leave with a message, that would be something about showing up and something about just giving it a go. Take a small step. If you are facing something hard, do something. It does not matter how big it is or how small it is. Take one step in the right direction. It could be teeny tiny. Take one step.

If you are facing hardships, just do something. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. Just take one step in the right direction.


Great advice. I think my one step is generally to have a conversation. It does not have to necessarily lead to a commitment, but having a conversation usually gets me there. Thank you so much. This was phenomenal. You did a wonderful job. Thank you so much for sharing yourself. You teed us up well because, on August 27th, I’ll have a guest. Her name is Adrian Dwark and she is the facilitator of some courses that I have been taking called Understanding Men and Understanding Women. I probably talked to you guys ad nauseam about this stuff, but it's about knowing how and what to do to partner even more effectively, not only in personal relationships but also in professional relationships.


I think she might address some of the questions that Elizabeth posed during our conversation. Some things might come up that will help us be even more effective in communicating with others. Thank you all so much for joining us. Looking forward to seeing you next time. Thank you so much again, Tina. Have a great rest of the morning for you there in New Zealand. We’ll see you guys later. Thank you.

Important Links

Arnold Schwarzenegger: "In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits.”


Time and time again, Tina Wakefield found herself confronted by self-imposed limits that kept her from living life fully. In spite of suffering from agoraphobia, (an anxiety disorder that causes one to avoid new places or situations) for many years, she began to take baby steps toward building her confidence. Today, she’s breaking down walls in people’s minds through coaching, mentoring and advocating for justice in New Zealand.



·         Stepping onto foreign soil for the first time

·         Following what has heart and meaning

·         How to connect strategically with advocates


Connect with Tina Wakefield.


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