Vanessa Vanderhoek is a Canberra-based executive coach and facilitator, volunteer Psychological First Aid Officer, keen runner and mum (and step-mum) to three kids. Through her coaching and consultancy practice Career Inside Track she’s passionate about supporting employers and employees to make flexible work work. Vanessa believes that while there has been a lot of talk about flexible work for some time now and despite the great work done by some organisations, it’s not a reality for many people who struggle to achieve this in their workplaces.
This year, she’s founded the Flexible Working Day initiative to promote and celebrate the benefits of working flexibly, which is also supported by leading Australian and international organisations such as FlexCareers, The Parenthood, Advocacy for Inclusion and Women’s Agenda. The theme for the day is ‘Flexibility at Work Benefits Everyone’, with the aim to increase awareness of the benefits of flexible work and to encourage people, managers and staff alike, to take action to implement flexibility in their workplaces.
We asked Vanessa the following questions to hear a little about her leadership journey and why flexible work is so important to her. Here is what she had to say…
What’s the most useful leadership advice you’ve received?
A male boss once said to me early in my career “If anyone offers you a new leadership opportunity and you think ‘I’m not ready’, listen to them as they see something in you that you don’t”. And what I have discovered is that he was absolutely spot on. Over the last decade I have followed his advice and shared it far and wide.
Can you tell us about your self-care strategies that have enabled you to embrace your leadership whilst taking care of yourself and your needs as a working mama?
I absolutely LOVE learning and always have numerous books on the go, listening to TED talks, audible books, and reading / sharing interesting articles. I have also started doodling. The amazing Mel Sporer spoke on a panel last week and shared how she ‘art journals’. As a creative person who often doesn’t get an outlet, I started this immediately and straight way I felt amazing, relaxed, calm. I love to exercise, play lego and I try to meditate (am getting better).
Can you tell us about three books that you have found useful in your leadership journey?
This was a hard question to answer as I have an addiction to learning. The most recent amazing books I have read are:
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind – whilst I am only half way through this book, I am up to the part which talks about how we should each week stop and reflect and consider upgrading our “models of reliability”, such like we upgrade apps on our mobile devices. The author has made me really think about why I do things and I have made changes instantly both in my work and at home based on how he’s challenged my thinking.
- Unwritten: Reinvent Tomorrow – I have a crush now on Jack Delosa ☺ In this short audible book he talks about incredible leaders such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey and shares that they are just originally people like you and I, however there’s a formula to their leadership – they have all lived a life that is true to their inner voice and passion. Amazing book!
- The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F@#k – whilst I am an assertive person, this 3 hour audible book came at a time when I needed it – taking stock to make sure that I am focusing my F-budget on things that matter to me most!
Why is flexible working so important to you, both personally and professionally?
Flexible working is important to me for 4 reasons:
- My time is limited and I don’t want to spend it all at work. We all have the same amount of time (168 hours a week to be exact) each week. This time is non-renewable. I’ve learnt over the last few years that when I invest in it, my energy is renewable. When I have higher energy levels, I am better equipped to live a full life and enjoy quality time with my family and friends. Different types of flexible work (remote working, fly-in fly-out, part-time, staggered shifts etc) throughout my career has helped me achieve my career ambitions.
- It improves my productivity. The Flexible Working Day “team” are a great example of this – we are based across 4 countries and 4 Australian states. How are we productive? We are clear on what we have to do, are empowered and trusted, with open and timely communication.
- It makes business sense. Many studies have shown that employee retention and productivity rates are higher, staff are more motivated and have higher levels of loyalty. For me personally, being entrusted to work in a style that best suited me, my previous employers’ investment meant that I, in turn, invested in them and strived to achieve more.
- Let’s face it, it is the way of the future. People often don’t like talking (or hearing) about the future of work – but the fact is that there is a globalization of causal jobs and with the rapid advancements in technology the 9-5 full time job is expected to be obsolete in the coming decades.