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Member Spotlight with Tanya O’Shea

We are delighted to share the inspirational leadership journey of Tanya O’Shea CMgr FIML.  

Tanya is the Managing Director of IMPACT Community Services, a charitable organisation that delivers a diverse and innovative suite of programs and services aimed at improving the life opportunities of some of the most vulnerable in the community. Tanya is truly having a profound and positive impact on her community.

Tanya is committed to community capacity building, developing visionary leaders and creating agile workplaces that can pivot, mobilise and adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities. We love Tanya’s views and advice on the topic of burnout and how it is currently affecting the social services sector. Read our interview below.

What has been your biggest achievement as a leader?

Leaders of not-for-profits are continually faced with funding challenges and seeking out different ways to grow and diversify. 

As a leader of IMPACT Community Services for almost 20 years, I can confidently say that 2013 was one of our toughest. Preceded by a change of Government in 2012 and a loss of funding that resulted in a significant hit to our bottom line, 2013 kicked off with our premise being inundated with 1.1 metres of floodwaters from the 2013 Australia Day floods.   

It was a cornerstone moment in the then 35-year history of the organisation – a time when we decided that we needed to take a different approach if we wanted to remain financially viable into the future. With one social enterprise already in place, we embarked on an ambitious plan to develop a new social enterprise that would 1) provide transitional employment pathways for some of the most vulnerable jobseekers in the community, and 2) create alternative revenue streams for IMPACT that were not reliant on Government funding. 

We invested in a test/try approach, commencing and purchasing five different businesses in 2014 with the aim of accelerating at least one of them within a three year period. In 2016, we divested and sold some of the businesses, choosing to accelerate the 1.5 tonne-per-month laundry being operated from a rented premise. Today, IMPACT owns a $2.8 million commercial laundry facility, that has large contracts with hospitals and accommodation providers, and employs more than 25 people, the majority of whom have been referred from our programs at IMPACT.   

At the time, IMPACT did not have any prior experience or knowledge about running a commercial laundry. However, our Board and leadership team had a vision. We invested in trialing and researching the model and navigated a pathway that enabled us to achieve that vision.    

If you could go back in time, what career and life advice would you give your younger self?

Always surround yourself with people who are different to you. There is so much richness and value in surrounding ourselves with people with complementary skills, abilities, experiences, backgrounds, cultures, and worldviews. I spent way too many years early in my career aligning to people like me – which on reflection makes me wonder how much I missed out on! 

In relation to life advice, I would love to have recognised and embraced the possibilities within the ‘pause’. Before any reaction or response, just giving myself permission to wait before reacting. I always felt compelled to fill the void and now I would encourage my younger self to get comfortable with the silence and use the power which comes from a place of self-assurance to make an intentional choice about what happens next.  

How would your describe your leadership philosophy?

My leadership philosophy is about creating WellCalm Leaders using my HIPPOC model as the foundation. Developed from over 30 years of leadership experience, HIPPOC acts like a compass, guiding behaviours that nurture and support our leaders: 

  • Health – Create caring environments that encourage and support the physical and mental wellbeing of ourselves and our people.
  • Insight – Create a clear vision that enables us to navigate a pathway forward, while encouraging a willingness and ability to adapt and adjust when necessary.
  • Purpose – Anchors us to at least one thing that inspires us to get out of bed everyday.
  • Perseverance – Turning up and following through – whether that is in life, leadership, work or play, it requires grit, energy, consistency and a commitment to daily practice.
  • Opportunity – Create space to make all things possible.   
  • Composure – Remain calm and steady under pressure.

Burnout is a hot topic in the world of work right now. How is burnout affecting your industry? How do you spot it and then how do you motive and engage your team to overcome it?

The social-services industry is filled with amazingly talented people who, on a daily basis, leave their own stuff at the door to focus on the needs of others. Burnout is therefore a significant risk factor for our people and is something that we aim to mitigate by encouraging self-care and regular conversations about mental health and wellbeing. 

Recognising burnout is often the easy part. It may be small shifts in behaviour, language, performance and attendance, or more obvious reactions or responses that seem uncharacteristic or incongruent for the situation. Often, we see Karpman’s Drama Triangle in action, where people start using below the line behaviours such as defence, justification and blame to explain their actions (or in some cases inaction). 

Engaging in activities to overcome it is often a little more challenging, as the reality is that while our people understand what to do to reduce the risk of burnout, they don’t always prioritise themselves and their self-care routines. There are always so many excuses – not enough time, not a priority. People tell you that they need to prioritise their health because of some other person in their life. People think it is selfish to put themselves first. The reality is that people cannot turn up as the best version of themselves when they are not consistently engaging in their self-care practices.  

Motivation can be built through storytelling, listening, unpacking, and understanding experiences. It is also important for people to not spread themselves too thin, and instead focus on just one or two things until they become embedded within their routine.  

Identifying a personally compelling reason to maintain self-care practices can be another form of motivation. My compelling reason was being told at the age of 40 that I would suffer a stroke by the age of 50 if I didn’t change my lifestyle.  

What is yours? 

How do you maintain good work/life balance?

I accept that sometimes there is no balance, and you just need to commit your focus and energy to certain things when required. The key for me is having one thing that I can do no matter where I am, how I am feeling, what time I have available. I commit to doing that thing for myself. I invest in myself every day by doing that one thing. No excuses. 

Complete this sentence. Leadership matters because….

When it is done well, people buy into the vision and want to be part of the change and opportunities that can be created.

Favourite podcast?

Cass Dunn’s podcasts – Crappy to Happy and The Confidence Coach 

Favourite book?

Zen, The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno is a book that I always have close by. 

Five leaders you’d invite to a dinner party?

  • Shunmyo Masuno
  • The Hon Dame Quentin Bryce
  • Jacinda Ardern
  • Ainsley Harriott
  • Pat Mitchell

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