Word on Wellbeing

CEO Shaun Robinson shares his insights on Covid-19 and beyond......


Wellbeing Workshop gets up close and personal with some of New Zealand's favourite Business Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Celebrities.


Today we talk to, Shaun Robinson -

CEO Mental Health Foundation NZ.

Shaun is a father, partner, musician, gardener, sometimes surfer and organisational leader. His professional passion is developing organisations into high performers in the delivery of social good and social change.


A genuine and inspiring leader who really 'walks the talk'. We loved chatting to Shaun about his own mental health, the importance of leadership and team wellbeing post Covid-19.



Name 3 things you have learnt as a Business Leader from Covid-19.


1.Show decisive leadership – our people want to know what is happening and have a clear plan for what they should do – sometimes this means being more top down than normal but in a crisis this is actually what people respond to.


2.Communicate communicate communicate – I started emailing my team with a Covid-19 update every day. It started as a way to keep track of the fast moving events but soon became an amazing tool for shaping our culture and teamwork. Half of my staff have contacted me to say how much they appreciate it.


3.Don’t take it personally – people emotions have run high during Covid-19 and they have sometimes acted pretty badly – I’ve had to have good personal support, not take it personally, stick to my guns about decisions I think are right and firmly remind people about what is acceptable behaviour. After some initial hard times things settled down to a high-performance situation for the whole team.



What is the biggest challenge you have had to face because of Covid-19 and how are you going to overcome it?


The loss of fundraising revenue due to the recession. We are responding by being creative about our fundraising and monitoring performance and the recession environment. The key is not to panic and to take a considered strategic approach.



Are you going to implement any personal changes because of Covid-19?


This has been a good reminder about leading through ample communication. While I have reduced my emails to staff to three times a week I intend to keep this very regular communication going as a tool for organisational development. I also intend to continue to reinforce expected behaviours and to lead strongly through values that are defined by behaviour – ie values are what we do each day not what we say.


I have also increased my external professional coaching as a means to support me and provide a strong sounding board as I navigate Covid-19. This has been invaluable (it also has helped with my personal resilience). I intend to maintain very regular coaching.



As a father, partner, musician, gardener, sometimes surfer and organisational leader, what is your best advice to avoid burnout?


Lean in heavily to the stuff that supports wellbeing. Maintain good social connections with friends and whānau (even when this feels like an effort). Exercise (I’ve started yoga as well as walking cycling and some gym work). Taking time to consciously notice things that give me joy - like just sitting in my garden listening to the birds and really watching how they behave. Doing things that use a different part of my brain than the thinking planning parts eg doing art, playing music, doing my hobbies -its not about being good at these things its about the change in brain waves and emotional state they create. Keeping my mind active on other things – I have been listening to pod casts on things as far removed from work as possible. Making sure I sleep by being conscious of sleep hygiene. Eating a healthy diet. Not drinking alcohol. Caring for others – parenting my kids, checking in on friends , looking after my partner – its very grounding and rewarding.



What tools (if any) do you have in place to encourage ‘positive wellbeing behaviours’ in your workplace?


  • A wellbeing committee for staff input to our actions

  • Every staff member receives support in developing and refreshing a personal wellbeing plan

  • The day starts with karakia and waiata

  • We offer the training we provide for other organisations to ourselves

  • We have a people and Organisation Development manager who reports to me as CE and whose role it is to lead a culture that supports wellbeing

  • During Covid-19 we have offered

  • a half day of special leave per week to all staff,

  • additional paid special leave for those who request it

  • Unlimited sick leave

  • Team wellbeing check ins each day

  • Special provision for those who have been struggling in any way

Note that we have had higher productivity over the Covid-19 period than at any time in the last 4 years.



What are you currently curious about?


  • Different approaches to promoting wellbeing in the community in the new reality post the Covid-19 epidemic.

  • Balancing and rebalancing on the tensions and issues that face organisations like MHF for examples – our role as a responsive Treaty based organisation; the balance between hole population approaches and targeted approaches for specific populations.

  • How the brain works to impact our emotional health.

  • The role of finding meaning in mental distress as part of managing and living well with long term mental distress.

  • What my own bipolar condition means in the context of my life experiences and identity.

  • How my children will grow up.



If you were going to invest in your future best self, where would you put your time and energy?


In being grounded and as present in the moment as possible.




Wellbeing Workshop is dedicated to creating mentally healthier and happier workplaces with face to face and online programs and workshops that enhance employee wellbeing and business performance. We also offer one on one coaching solutions with a range of experts. Chat to us today about how we can help you and your people thrive.




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