Monday, February 19, 2018

Life- it’s not just one appointment after the other!

I decided a few years ago that my life was simply a series of appointments, just like work.
If I was able to simply ‘book things in’ then I could keep my entire life in check.  That works most of the time BUT, not all.  The reason I am typing this blog today is that I am struggling to type anything without miss-firing.  I can’t even eat my lunch without spilling it down the front of me! 

My life is a series of lots of different jobs, from taking Pilates classes, running my IT Company, to managing my commercial property to business consulting work and of course looking after Connor full-time- the 17 year old fantastic teenager who is on the Autism Spectrum.

This morning, I scheduled my life to fit beautifully.  I had to relieve a Pilates class in Epsom from 9-10 and then at 11 I had to be at the Skin specialist for a mole removal at 11.  I had scheduled to be back in the office at 12, where I would have lunch while catching up on my email and writing up some more material on the consulting contract I had as well as what the team had been up to in the morning, I then had a 3pm meeting for Connor which would take the rest of the afternoon.  On the side I am also renovating a bathroom so calls from trades to manage among all of this.
Ahh- scheduling bliss.  I always feel proud when everything just fits!
So I taught the Pilates class at the physio clinic and drove off to my appointment, making my phone calls on the hands free on the way.  Go there early so started doing some emails.  11am rolled around and I walked into the skin clinic.  The Dr looked at the funny thing on my arm and said ‘that looks different to the last time I saw you’, I said yes, it changes a bit.  I then said- so what is it?  The last time I asked him he simply said he did not know.  This time he said – ‘I think it’s a colorless Melanoma’.  Great.  Just what I needed.  I went into the surgical room and they cut it out. He asked me to have a look.  I looked and couldn’t believe that he took such a huge chunk out of my arm for such a small mole.  They bandaged my arm from wrist to elbow and then said- you’ll need Panadol for pain- every 4-6 hours.  Yikes- this is going to ruin my plans!

As I walked out of the clinic, I realized three things.  The first was that my arm was going to be way sorer than I thought, the second was this was going to screw up my perfectly scheduled day as I could barely open the door handle of my car.  But the third thing was really going to throw me- my focus was shot.  I Melanoma.  Great.  I’ve still not gotten over the fact I have bowel polyps growing in me that I will be on a life long removal journey for and now this.  What even is a colorless melanoma?  I know I will have to wait 10 days for the biopsy results, but I’m sure they would not tell me that I have a melanoma unless they were reasonably sure. 

So here I am, looking at my perfectly scheduled day, realizing that even the best of us get slowed down and our day supposedly ‘ruined’ due to looking after our own health.  If anything comes out of this blog it’s to start treating your health as more than just an appointment built into your busy day.  Take the time to reflect and understand why you are even going to the medical appointment- because you have chosen to look after yourself so you can perform for your workplace, your family and your friends, but most importantly for yourself. Give yourself the time after the appointment to re-group and be the best you can be to all in your life, not a mess in your next appointment!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Equality through opportunity - How would your staff describe you?

A staff member recently gave me a quote I needed for a submission for an article about how I work. He told me I promote 'equality through opportunity'.  I loved that phrase, it really summaries how I work and who I am as a person. I was really proud that this is the feeling/ image I portray.  I wrote it on a post-it note and look at it everyday which prompted this post.

I certainly would not have said that about myself say 10 years ago. As I've understood more about what makes me tick and what makes others tick, I've been able to change the way I approach things.

Dealing with students over the past years has allowed me more to understand what fragile beings we are at this part of our career.  I have also witnessed the Autistic/ Asperger's 17 year old whom I care-give for go through 15 jobs in just over 12 months, more than I have had in a life-time!

I've come to realise, that all we really want as humans is to be given the opportunity to succeed.  This is not the success that our employers or family may want, but succeed in our our definition of success.  What I've come to realize is that most of us define success by having material things or by having a label- such as a job title or achieving a qualification which labels us even more.  

The 17 year-old I care-give for can't stand labels.  In fact I've observed him recently when being asked about his new job, simply describe the successes he has had at work, rather than the company name or what his job title is.  He would say "I've been trenching sports-fields and golf-courses".  When asked who for and what his actual job was- he could not even tell the person he was speaking to the company name or his proper job title.  I was astounded.  The fact that he has been working on a multi-million dollar upgrade of one of Auckland's most exclusive golf courses didn't even feature....that is until I dropped that into the conversation.  Then it hit me.  success is not or should not be about labels.  If we simply understood what peoples 'life success criteria' actually were, we might be able to provide employees and colleagues and friends with the opportunities to better reach their own personal success goals.  

I certainly believe that if we provide the foundations for opportunity to succeed to all employees, we will not only provide opportunity for their own success, but also a better form of equality in the work place.  I provide a diverse working environment, I have had people in my work place with mental health conditions, totally different ethnic back-grounds and cultures, however they are all treated the same and all held accountable for their work, this creates opportunity for them to succeed on a level playing field and makes them feel important and valued.  I do also take the time to meet with the team individually and work through their own SWOT analysis, this is also a vital step I undertake with students- who often have no idea where they are at in this regard.  In short, people need to understand people as people and their feelings and motivations are what makes our world exist.

Late in 2017, I had fantastic feedback from an Intern about his success criteria, which I found out was actually making his grandmas dream come true.  For years our team have voted on who is the Star performer of the month, again, they define what THEY see as success in a star performer.  We all get one vote, including management.  This particular intern WON the BMW Convertible for use for the month.  He was so happy.  He took the car home and with the top down, took his Grandma for a ride.  He told me it was one of his proudest moments.  This intern was from India and had lost his Mum in child-birth, he was also a twin.  His grandma had raised him and his brother.  Her dream was to ride in a convertible.  He did this through our process- opportunity through equality.  He won the car because the TEAM defined who was successful and in doing so, he realised his own success criteria- to make his grandmas dreams come true, through his hard work.

So when we think of our corporate worlds, I think back to the number of  times I have seen people passed up on opportunity due to 'office politics' because 'management have decided'..  Some of our largest multi-nationals are full of this culture.  I've seen people in these companies fall apart completely as they strive to hit the 'companies success goals', with the company not giving a dam about the individuals personal success criteria.  
Just imagine hoe different our work places would be if we stopped and asked our employees what their individual success criteria were?  Are you providing opportunity for them to succeed in this space or are you just driving them to meet your own goals at the detriment of their own?

For the record, when I sit and think about my own life success criteria, this is what I come up with - in no particular order:-

- providing the time and environment for the 17 year old Autistic boy I care-give for to meet his own success goals.
- providing a home for my family that is comfortable and loving
- ensuring my own health & wellness is a priority - putting this first, rather than my career
- doing something to grow my own knowledge and helping others at the same time
- having the financial stability to choose my work quantity and have this flexible enough to work around my primary goals.
- ensuing young talent in NZ is fostered and opportunity is provided for them to be expressive through entrepreneurship, support and opportunity to meet their own goals 
- feeling good about my work helping others succeed through watching them learn and succeed.

My challenge to you is to give yourself 15 minutes to try and write out your own life succeed criteria.  Take these, then think about how your life is designed.  Have your Designed Your Life to meet your own success criteria, or are you on a different path?  Something to ponder on!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

She's a very busy executive you know

A mentoring programme come through a linked-in feed this afternoon and landed right at the top of by inbox.  Sheer curiosity made me open it.  I read through and though, why not, even a mentor can be mentored, right?

So I sent the email.  I had a couple of responses back and I specifically asked how I could contact the lady who had made it her goal to Mentor 100 Woman led Cloud based business start-ups in 2018.

I have spent the past year balancing my start-up, selling my commercial property, working in my IT business as CEO, going through pre-cancerous polyp removal from my bowel, working in my fitness business and I took on the full-time care-giving for an Autistic 17 year old in March last year, I run a weekly walking group and I also do voluntary unpaid mentoring of young entrepreneurs and students, plus I am renovating a house as well as dealing with repairs to my house from the Autistic meltdowns that have resulted in holes in my walls.

The response I got was horrifying "she's a very busy executive you know'.  I was so annoyed.  Right, and I'm not busy.  I found the time to send an email as I thought it was something I could do for myself.

I decided that if I do ever hear back, (which sounds like it will be unlikely), that I will say no.  Clearly to start a relationship by saying how busy you are is no way to show me you will ever have time to mentor me, or that I will feature as important to the mentor.

I get so annoyed when people state they will 'give back' when they don't know the true meaning of it and they simply do it to gain a better image or qudos.

I have mentored for 10 years and have spent probably thousands of hours volunteering my time for the health and well being of others rather than myself.

Next time you tell someone 'you are too busy', I challenge you to think how you would feel if someone said that to you!   Stay busy, but never start a relationship by stating you are!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Getting breakfast into your Teenager ...or yourself!

Get Your Teenager to Eat Breakfast- Give them Cookies!

I don't often blog about the Nutrition side of my knowledge but after being challenged by trying to get breakfast into the teenager I care for, as well as my early 20-something fitness clients, I thought its about time I discussed the topic!

I watch with interest in the mornings in our office the 20-something year old IT guys come into the office, sometimes with coffees, sushi, Danish style treats or even sit at their desk with sandwich's or if we are lucky, sit at their desk with a bowl of cereal, some with nothing.

As a fitness trainer, I have been educated on the importance of breakfast to ensure your brain function is where it needs to be in the morning, also for maintaining a healthy weight and to ensure the metabolism is a fat burning machine.  Its the one thing my younger clients struggle with the get consistent.

Now I have a teenager living with me.  I have tried all sorts to get him to have breakfast.  Porridge- No. Toast- too hard. Smoothies left in the fridge- forgets them.   Fruit- sometimes. Mcdonalds- this would be the preference...but...!  I've resorted to Up & Go, which is against my judgement- a liquid fuel.  This he will even seek out in the cupboard.  But I don't like it because it has too much sugar.  

So I was onto something- he told me he liked to have it while he was driving.  I also knew it was convenient and easy and felt 'bad' because it was in a box.  So what if I played with this phycology?  Make it look like it was a 'bad' food that you would not eat at breakfast and slam all of the goodies into it that you would have a breakfast.  YESSS!

So I created the ultimate 'Breakfast Cookie'.  Yes, I give him biscuits for breakfast! 
It must have worked as the cookie I left on the bench with a napkin was gone in the morning!

So if you want to give it a go, here is my recipe- which is full of protein, low in fat and no refined sugar and plenty of carbs and fibre...

The Ultimate Breakfast Cookies

Makes 6-7 Cookies
Total prep and cook time- 30 mins

1 banana (Medium)
1 Apple (Medium) (peeled) and chopped
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 dried peaches or dried apricots
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
2 Tablespoons runny honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

  1. Preheat oven to 175C 
  2. Line cookie tray with baking paper and set aside.
  3. In a food processor, blend the banana until smooth, when add chopped apple and continue to blend until smooth Set aside.
  4. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Add the blended banana and apple to the dry ingredients.
  6. Add the honey last and blend well
  7. Mix well and ensure all of the dry ingredients are coated with banana and apple and honey mix
  8. Let  mixture stand for 5-10 minutes to absorb the moisture from the wet mixture.
  9. Take approx. 1/4 cup scoop of the mixture and press it together to form a round cookie about 7cm round and 1.5cm thick and place cookie on tray.
  10. Repeat with the rest of mixture
  11. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden.
  12. Remove from the oven, then cool completely.
  13. Keep for several days in an airtight container, or freeze.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Autism in the workplace- how to make it fit

I've had the privilege of caregiving for a 17 year old with Autism since March this year.  My life has changed drastically. Not only have I had a teenager in the house, but one with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)- specifically Asperger's whos ups and downs are now part of my life.

He's high-functioning Autistic. This means he can drive, work and get about life pretty well, but is challenged in some areas like social interactions, dealing with stress, emotional outbursts and has no filter!  He had 6 jobs since he has been with his in March and has found it hard to settle, but what I have found interesting is how he has dealt with his challenges in the workplace.

For the first 5 jobs, he never disclosed to his employer that he had Autism.  He wanted to be treated 'normally'.  The thing is, most of the time he can be what looks like 'mainstream normal- (if there even is such a thing)'.  What sets him apart from others without Autism can be subtle but also drastic to a workplace at the same time.   Everyone on the spectrum can present differently, so this can be challenging too.  After being educated myself and working with wonderful organisations like and 
 and, they have equipped me well with what Autism is and how to deal with it at home and in the workplace.  So in a nutshell, this is what I see in terms of Autistic Traits which you may recognise in perhaps some of your team in your workplace, please note this is my observation rather than a definitive list:-

Anger/ Meltdowns- can range from mild to extreme and almost always have a trigger.  Levels of irritability may always be there in some degree.
  • Perfectionism which can also trigger outbursts or anger when something does not go their way
  • Extreme focus on certain topics or objects which can be obsessive
  • Social interactions- prefers to be alone reading a book/ being by themselves at lunchtimes/ morning tea etc. rather than being with others
  • May sometimes be seen as odd or eccentric with things they say/ do or possibly how they dress.
  • May struggle when meeting new people and may also not look them in the eye
  • Limited numbers of age-appropriate friendships (if any)
  • Can struggle even more with how to interact with the opposite sex socially or even in a work environment.
  • Can speak almost like a professor with huge depth of knowledge on their favourite topic ( an adolescent can almost seam like a 60 year old some days)
  • Can have an extreme talent in one or more areas that can exceed those of similar age and experience.
  • Likes structure and routine and can be rattled if it changes (eg moving desks or meeting times).
  • Repetitive processes suit them best
  • Swearing or being rude may be common place for them, they often don't even realise they are doing it.  Just gently pull them up and start letting them know what is appropriate and what is not.
  • Being on time is critical and can get very rattled and irritable if they think they will be late or others will be late
  • Can have a great sense of humour with very quick wit
  • Usually highly intelligent but may not have done well at school as the classroom environment my not have suited them.
  • Can sometimes have poor personal hygiene (can see it as pointless)
  • Can sometimes be hyper-active (but may not be ADHD, just part of Autism)
  • Can be very loyal, which can also equate to long term working relationships in the right environment
  • May require medication to contain irritability

The challenge I had when advising him on Job #6 was to disclose or not to disclose. I spoke to the organisations I had supporting us and they said some people do and some people don't.  We decided it didn't get us anywhere on 5 jobs so perhaps this time would be better.
I thought of it myself as an employer and how I would feel if someone I was hiring disclosed to me and would I be basis or not.  Big call.  So we decided to wait until he got the job and had been in it a few weeks before disclosing, after all he still had the 90-day trial period anyway.  When he came home from work and aid he told his boss and could I please email him any material I had, I just about fell-over in shock.  He had done it!  God I was hoping he would keep the job.  Apparently his boss said he knew very little about Autism and could he send sometime to him so he could understand.  So we did.  The other thing was, I decided to step in, much to my Aspies disgust!  I sent his boss a text.  It was the best move I ever made.  This meant that we could both work on supporting what was happening.  When medical meetings were required I would also inform his boss (so he didn't think it was just a sickie being pulled).  When things went wrong and the day just could not be coped with, he would text me to say he was coming home.  Quite an unconventional relationship, however the openness and willingness to support someone on the spectrum has been remarkable.  I think this is how our workplaces should be.  We should be giving people a shot with Autism and other Mental Health issues, after all, deep down we are all just the same, just with a different brain.  There are so many positive things about Asperger's/ Autism that I never knew.  I would have people with Autism or Mental Health issues in my workplace any day, all I need in full disclosure so I know what I am dealing with.  This is the problem with our PC world, people don't want to disclose to their employer due to fear of discrimination.  Come on employers- get with the program and help these excellent staff members fit into your workplace.

I now take the approach in my workplace that if I spot someone with what I suspect is a Mental Health issue, that I just approach them with the hope they will open up.  Most usually do.  This also means I can help them and understand why they may have up and down days and I can support them on their journey.  When I have done this, I have seen waves of relief go across peoples faces.  They don't want to suppress what's going on and hide it from everyone either but the way our society is modeled, sadly they feel like they need to.

People may think its a drag, I don't. My job as a CEO is to create a diverse workplace with trust, openness and honesty and support.  If we all just got over ourselves, the world and our workplaces would be such better places.

So my final tips.  Here is my edited list that actually got sent to the employer- if you have or suspect you have staff with Aspergers/ Autism in your workplace, here is my list of how to deal with things and help these great people fit into your workplace:-

List for Employers re Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s) from Lyndal

·         Be direct and clear to as to what time you expect him and where and he will be time punctual every time

·         Ensure he knows the schedule well ahead of time and try not to change what you have agreed, changes can be unsettling for him and can cause stress

  • If you see him getting stressed or swearing, let him have some time-out and go for a walk Autism means that different things will stress him more easily than others (pain/ doing something wrong etc.) 
·         Don’t expect him to be social with others in the team- this is one of his big challenges- try and slowly introduce him to people by letting him work with them rather than socialize with them, he does however value people who understand him at work and can bond with those who understand his behaviors and can see past them and see him for who he is..

·         If he says some rude or brash comments, this is part of his Autism/ Asperger's- do not take it personally- he has no filter!

·         If under extreme stress can have meltdowns, you will know because he may yell and swear profusely, sadly these cannot be well controlled yet and the best thing to do is tell him to go for a walk or calm down- do not let him get back in a machine/ car, if he goes for a walk he will calm down and he will come back.

·         If he doesn’t do something perfectly, to his expectations he can get very upset with himself and it may last for hours, this is also part of the Autism, he may also worry he is going to get fired and you may need to reassure him that its OK

·         On the positive side, he has  amazing ability to focus on the task at hand comes from his Autism/ Asperger's, especially in his special area of interest- this is his passion and his talent and any employer that has him in this space is very, very lucky as he has extreme talent.  Some Autistic people have extreme talents in music or the arts,he has had talents in his special area- since the age of 5.

·         If you look past the social issues, the no filter and the swearing, he is the nicest most loyal person you may have the pleasure in meeting, yes he can get angry and upset but this is common place for this different brain and he is learning himself how to control it more and recognise triggers every day.

·         Talk to him about things you see and discuss solutions with him regularly, give him regular feedback (we do this once per week on a Friday) and reward him for good work (a shouted lunch or dinner goes a long way with him, especially if its measured against a pre-set list of goals and expectations.

·         If really worried, please call me , his caregiver as she knows what to do and can advise on what is happening as he may not be able to explain at the time.

      Employer to employer, I challenge you to think about how your workplace functions and how you reach out and help those who may be suffering or may not be OK mentally.  We are all capable of getting depressed and suffering mental health issues, and some people may have them genetically passed on from birth.  I hope this blog helps you to understand and challenge your own behaviours towards others who might be a little different than yourself.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Diversity- I'm not worried- are you?

"Panel discussion - diversity in Auckland businesses, from the boardroom to shop floor".  This was the title on an email that popped into my inbox this morning.  I was annoyed about this email for two reasons.  Firstly the content stated "....will discuss the challenges of improving diversity at all levels of an organisation and what directors can do to encourage and promote diversity".  It then went on to let me know that there was a paid event.  Shame on you Institute of Directors!  As a director of many companies, and a CEO I do not recruit my staff based on diversity or gender.  That in itself to me is discriminatory.
I have a mixed team whom I have bought together not on background, culture, gender or the fact I need a diverse team.  My belief is different- these are the  rules I follow for all teams I have the chance to create:-

* Skills and Talent
* Ability to Learn
* Ability AND willingness to work in a team
* Attitude
* Honestly
* Openness
* Willingness
* Respect of other people, including peers,customers and of self
* Ability to receive and to give feedback
* Customer focused with a sense of urgency
* Self belief

I got asked this by a mentee this evening- what do I look for in people I bring into my teams or hire.  I told him the above list.  I also said that I do not believe in recruiting for diversity as in todays world it IS a diverse world and to me its common place- the new normal.  He looked at me in a slightly odd way and I wondered why.  Then I realised.  This is his normal- why am I even talking about this!  I have to stop!  This is why I cannot believe we are still making specific points on this.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact I was raised with an upbringing that saw me being taught to be inclusive of all people.  I will never forget my mother always saying- 'treat people like you would like to be treated yourself'.  As a leader, I believe whole heartedly in this.  I also live by the rules I expect of my team. The most important rule to me is Self Belief.  If I don't believe in myself- why should anyone else believe in me?

Gender is a word hardly ever spoken in our office.  I’ll say "come on guys- its meeting time without a second thought".  When I say ‘guys’ I mean all, not in the true meaning of the word ‘men’.  I also respond to the same phrase and won't batter a mascara filled eye-lash over it.  I’ve actually been getting a little tired of hearing people complain about Gender balance, or imbalance.  My belief is that it doesn’t matter if people are male or female, transgender or whatever else people identify with, as long as a person can do the job and relates to others in the team and my customers, does it really matter?

I believe that I have succeeded in my own career because I’m good at what I do.  I make the hard decisions and deal with the hard issues.  Some days I’d even call myself a bitch.  Why?  Because some days you need to fight like a dog.  I have such a strong sense of self belief and self-motivation that I believe I can get through anything.  I also believe that you need a strong team around you to make this possible, yes both male and female or whatever the balance may be.  I have the right people for the right jobs- regardless of culture or gender.  They are an awesome team and they know it.  I encourage my team to openly talk about their backgrounds, culture and differences in the office.  Openness and willingness breaks down barriers and makes us a better team.

I was thinking this morning about any actual real differences that would make me work differently with males and females and I could think of only one.  It is in my Health & Fitness career and that is that Men and Woman have different anatomies and this can cause different injuries and tightness in the bodies.  The example I was specifically thinking of was hips when woman’s hips are generally wider than men’s due to being designed for child bearing.  I have noticed specifically than men have tighter hip flexors than woman.  I have also noticed on the flipside that woman’s anatomy can sometimes restrict them then doing some exercises.  Now I’m sure Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus may disagree with me but I’m just saying it as I see it.

Yes, I do work with a larger amount of men than woman.  Sigh, apparently I keep being told I am working in a Male dominated industry.  Do I let this bother me.  No.  Do I think that then men in the office are good at what they do – yes.  Do I think the females in the office are good at what they do?  Yes.  Do any of them have faults or things they could improve on?  Yes.

I’m getting tired of the Gender debate.  When I took my first Management position, I was the youngest on the management team but some 10+ years and also one of only 3 females of a team of 10.  Did it bother me?  No.  Was I thankful to have the opportunity at such a young age? Yes.

I think we really do have to look beyond the gender.  I’ve worked with trans-gender people, gay men, lesbian woman, straight guys, straight females, old, young, retirees and the list goes on.  I have even worked with people with illnesses I care not to describe which I was asked to keep under wraps for the persons privacy- I respected that but never let this get in the way of them doing their job.  I have always worked in and run multi-cultural and diverse teams from early in my career.  I believe opportunities should be distributed amongst those who work for them and those who want them.  I think those people who are hung up on gender or diversity need to look beyond and work out what skills and talents they want to be surrounded by and view people by these traits rather than their gender label. 
The young talent I mentor coming through know nothing other than working in mixed gender and culturally diverse teams.  This is the new normal- I've been working this way for years- is it me that needs to change or do some organisations need to simply understand what the new normal looks like?
And to add to that, I’d have Caitlin in my team any day- a talented athlete I admire who is not afraid to believe in themselves.  That’s all I ask of myself and that’s all I expect from others.  Let’s start working on self-belief and encouraging our teams in this way, not gender or diversity belief. 


Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokémon Go or Pokémon Stay?

Pokémon Go or Pokémon Stay?

Who wants to go to the waterfront at lunchtime to catch Magikarp? 

Anyone who doesn’t know Pokémon go might simply suspect a few of the team were going to go fishing off the local Wharf.  How wrong you would be.  Its Friday night in our office and would you believe we have had staff COME BACK to work to wait for those finishing so they can go Pokémon hunting in their pack-group.  Back in my day we used to go out drinking on a Friday night.  The thought of going walking around outside in the rain pointing my old flip phone in the air would probably seen me arrested and locked up for the night with suspected substance abuse or intoxicated behaviour in a public place. 

Also back in my day if you congregated in places that are not often frequented, you’d also be looked at sideways.  Matters would be made substantially worse if you were a 20 something year old male seen facing a famous landmark holding something in your hand you are violently swiping.  Being arrested would be a light consequence for that one.  If you then went on to tell the nice officer that actually the main reason you were at this famous landmark was that you were actually at a gym. And… Oh,  the reason you’d been walking around and around this famous land-mark was that you were waiting for your egg to hatch.  The nice officer may have a room with padded walls in mind for you for the evening.  Matters would be made considerably worse if there were multiple 20 something year old males in the dark displaying the same behaviour.

After seeing things rapidly unfold over the past few weeks, I asked the team for a show of hands for who played Pokémon Go.  Every person’s hand went up except one.  I was quite startled and asked the one person why they were not playing.  He just said- ‘my phone is too old and won’t run it’.  Apparently he’d tried to download with no success.

As the CEO I had to make a conscious decision on what I would do myself.  Do I simply download the game and play in private so I knew what my team was talking about?  Or do I download the game and quietly get tips on the side from members of my team to gain my own confidence with what this phenomenon was actually about.

So I went with the later, first asking the 18 year old school student I mentor to show me how to get sorted.  I was on my way playing Pokémon Go.  The feeling of catching my first Pokémon made me feel like I was part of the team….that is until they told me that you pretty much get given the first few.  Like a total novice I was sitting at home trying to work out what you actually had to do with these strange squares in front of you.  Apparently these were to be Pokestops which on clicking would reveal pictures of my landmarks nearby and if you were close enough you could spin and get prizes. 

To be fair, I didn’t actually know you could spin them until yesterday.  My bashing and swiping at the screen must have had a similar effect, but apparently does not show you are in the know as a Pokémon expert.

On exploring the other odd objects in the game, I managed to find another shaped object, I tap and it told me it was a gym.  As a real life Fitness trainer, this got me pretty excited.  Wow, it knows I’m into gyms and fitness training.  What a cool game. It actually knows a bit about me.  I was pointing my phone in the direction of Shane Cameron's Gym thinking it was pretty cool that the game actually knew where a real life gym was too.  So I tap to go into the gym and it then tells me that I don’t have enough experience to be a gym trainer.  This just annoyed me.  My real life self knows very well that I have a lot of experience as a gym trainer and I in fact own my own gym.

I came into work the next day and told the team how upset I was that it told me I was not experienced enough to be a gym trainer, even though I actually was one.  Howls of laughter came from the team in the office.  How was I supposed to know that gyms were part of the game and they had nothing to do with my personal identity?  How was I also to know that it was just a sheer co-incidence that I happened to be pointing my phone in the direction of Share Cameron's Gym and a Pokémon Gym was in that general direction!  I later discovered that gyms were everywhere and actually had nothing to do with real gyms.  Quite a let down!

That weekend I spent time at my holiday Bach which is quite remote.  I was interested to see if there were any gyms out this way, or perhaps some rare Pokémon.  I walked and walked and walked along the beach.  My loan Avatar, the beach and me and nothing else.  No gyms, no Pokémon…not even a loan Zumbat to show its ugly face.  It was a barren new land. Where did all of the Pokémon Go?  Where were the Pokestops?  At first I thought I phone was broken, but my battery was running down pretty quick so I knew something must have been working.  Nope I was in the game,.  My personal heaven started turning into my Pokémon hell.  I just knew the team would be coming back to work on Monday showing off about how well they were doing and then asking me what level I was on and how I did over the weekend.  Things would have to change in my Pokémon world and soon.  It was now starting to make me look bad and embarrassed.  I had committed to play and my team knew.  Backing out know would make me look like I’d given up…and  I’m not a quitter!

So here I am, between Government meetings in Wellington with another of my team walking from meeting to meeting yesterday hunting for Pokémon.  Thankfully he was watching over my shoulder and telling me that I had just got eggs and I needed to incubate.  I did think that was a rather person statement until he then showed me I had a rather good prize waiting for me.  He swiped away on my phone and told me he had ‘incubated my egg’.  Awkward.  I was loathe to ask him how it would hatch until he told me I had to walk 10km.  For me as an endurance walker I will have no problem.  I was however concerned about a number of others in my team- could they or even would they walk 10km to hatch a virtual egg? 

The answer appears to be yes.  I got a few of them to check today how far they had walked since playing the game on their phones.  I asked 7 people who played- some had been playing for the entire 21 days and others only 2 weeks.  Over the 7 people, they have accumulated a walking distance of 334.5km.  OMG nearly an average of 50km per person!!  Some playing on average for 1 hour a day with others up to 12 hours per day.  This is highly impressive for a bunch of IT guys who usually do their gaming sitting behind some big screens from the comfort of their chairs at home!

I always cringe when I travel about my phone battery running low as I usually have to make calls between meetings, check emails and look things up online.  Yesterday I found a whole new way to run down my battery.  Playing Pokémon Go saw me use up the last 26% in about 30 mins flat hunting for Pokémon.  Its actually the first time I’ve asked a Taxi driver if I could plug in and charge my phone on the way to the airport.  Knowing my colleague was sitting in the back catching Pokémon on the way back on his phone while mine was dead clearly made me once again look like a Pokémon Novice and out of my depth with this game.

I did however have one up as I had a PowerBank in my handbag in case of emergencies.  Yes, there I was at Wellington airport listening to my colleague telling me I should be catching Pokémon.  This was the time to use the emergency PowerBank.  So there I was, in high-heel boots walking around Wellington airport catching Pokémon trying to look like I was actually reading email or doing something equally as important….

This evening, one of my team even showed me his setup to go Pokémon hunting.  He brings his MacBook with him with his phone plugged in and walks around Auckland, on a Friday evening with this setup.  I just hope he ends up with both his iPhone 6 and MacBook after he's been down those dark alley ways hunting Pokémon this evening……

I also raised the question with my team- have you thought about privacy?  Today at lunch I was sitting down and had a look at Pokémon Go.  To my surprise I was actually sitting in a Gym.  I entered and I could see other yellow team players in my virtual world.  Steven1275 was there.  As I looked over a few tables I realised in my real world there was another Pokémon player.  I would be anything his name was Steven.  I was a little horrified to realise that my Pokémon identity was being exposed in that way.  Thankfully when I registered for the game I decided I also saw it as a marketing opportunity for my new Start Up business- FindMyStudy and I registered my player as this name rather than my own.  The team laughed at me until I explained my rational.  I also pointed out that other players could see their identity of what they had set.  Some of the boys told me they had chosen girls identities so they would be fine.  Apparently for some it’s a gamer thing- as if you are staring at a screen for hours on end its better to be looking at a member of the opposite sex…OK, got it!  I’m guessing a few of them will be trying to reset their player name this evening!

 So the question is Pokémon Go or Pokémon Stay?

Here are the pros and cons as I see it, especially from my position:

Pros- Pokémon Stay:

·         Team Dynamics: Encourages fantastic team dynamics and closer relationships between colleagues

·         Improves Geographic Knowledge: Gets people understanding the geographic regions more and helps when staff have to drive to clients or work appointments

·         Encourages Team Work: When Pokémon hunting its an unwritten rule that you help show others nearby or with you to show where the good Pokémon are.  This is a great trait for my team to have and I love seeing this unfold in both the workplace and through Pokémon Go

·         Exercise & Fresh Air: People are outside walking around for kilometres in the fresh air- such a fantastic health benefit, especially for those in my time who don’t exercise much.

·         Meet New People: It encourages my team to meet new people and talk to them when Pokémon hunting.  This is something they can sometimes have problems with in a business environment when meeting new people so gives them more practice talking to people they don’t know for the first time.

·         Compassionate/ Caring Attitude: Encourages a ‘how are you going’ behaviour and interest in what others are doing and where they are it.  Colleagues are asking colleagues what level they are on and if they need to know where rare Pokémon are found.  This is great for all but I especially think it is great for those who suffer Mental Health issues- people showing others they care.

·         Inclusiveness: The game is inclusive.  Even those in my team who are new to each other or those who are shyer than others now have a common ground and get excited sharing tips and tricks.  This helps with their working relationships and confidence.

·         Creates a Project Focus/ Team Goals: Pokémon go is able to be used as a comparative in a working sense about all working together to meet a common goal- catching Pokémon together or completing a work project or Sprints together have the same things in common.

·         Effort = Reward Mentality: Walking 10km to hatch an egg to get a good prize also shows that to get something good, effort must be put in to get the best rewards.

·         Learning to be Patient: Pokémon hunters know that the rare Pokémon are hard to find and sometimes you have to wait and keep trying to get the good ones. Another handy trait to have in this instant world we work in.

·         Being observant: is also important as a Pokémon hunter- you need to know what's around you in both the virtual and the real world to do well in the game.  This is also an important trait in business and certainly helps in our team.

·         Listening to and taking advice and feedback from others:  I have watched may of my team offer advice on where the best Pokémon or Pokestops are.  We always try to encourage a constructive feedback loop in our office and this is certainly helping in both the office and the Pokémon world

·         Improves Memory:  Pokémon definitely improves memory.  Knowing where the Pokestops are that will give you eggs will help get you further, and you can keep refuelling.  This is also an important trait for business.  Remembering places and names will get my team far in their work life. Its just annoying that the Pokestop closet to our office is also the one that’s closest to my desk out the window!

·         Phones are charged: Keeping phones charged and with them at all times.  This is something we have had issues with in the past with staff’s batteries running flat at critical times at work.  Thanks to Pokémon go, phones appear to be well charged at all times.

·         Encourages team to be Social and network.  We try to encourage our staff to network with others outside of the office environment so that their people skills improve.  Pokémon gets people out and about in close range of others, it encourages social behaviour.

·         Problem solving: One of my team has even worked out a way he can code a robot to beat the game.  Thankfully he's decided not to do that.  I still admire the problem solving attitude.  Something we praise in our office.


Cons- Pokémon Go

·         Addiction and Compulsiveness: I asked those in the office who thought they were addicted to Pokemon Go.  This averages to 20% of the team.  A worrying statistic.  Some even asked me what the definition of addiction was.  They then decided that they were addicted as they thought they were unable to stop playing at will.  I said I would challenge one of them to stop playing the game from this evening until Monday morning.  He simply said ‘ you know that’s not going to happen’.  This is a worrying negative of the game.

·         Decrease in Productivity.  If people are not talking about Pokemon go, they are playing it.  Even taking a toilet stop now appears to be a reason for some to divert to the otherside of the floor to visit a Pokestop.

·         Office Conversation is one sided: The old water cooler conversations now seams to steam around Zumbats and Pidgey’s or Magikarp and Phyhorns.  Not very inclusive for those who don’t know Pokemon Go.

·         Focus is diverted Many a computer screen around the office seam to have maps up with people trying to work out their next plan of Pokemon hunting and where they can go to capture rare or large volumes of Pokemon.

·         Time Waster: There seams to be little point to the game and the consumption of large amounts of time for no real benefit, only kudos

·         Waste of Money: Some of the team here have actually paid money to buy additional things to give them more power or help them achieve further.  It might only be $24 now, but it could end up being $100’s later or worse $1,000’s.


In summary, my call is Pokemon Stay.  I’m sure like any other fad, it will simply be that but one that I don’t think I will forget in my lifetime.  I’ve seen my team grow closer together in the working environment because of the way the game bands them together outside of work.  Anything that improves people’s relationships and gets them exercising in a heathy way is a plus in my books, this far outweighs the one-sided office conversations or temporary diversion of focus.  If you are tempted to play however, watch out its addictive and you are going to need a good on the go phone charging source!  If you don’t want to play, I know of a good place where there no Pokemon or Pokestops and it has the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in the world- my little slice or heaven and my escape from all things Pokémon.

Ultimately the choice is yours, I’d say its at least worth a go so you can form your own opinion like I have.