Inspiring stories of female success


23rd February, 2020

Stand tall: Life lessons from women at the top of their game

What do you get when you combine the Silver Ferns with some of NZ’s top female business minds? MYOB recently hosted an event that aimed to find out.

It’s usually only when you’ve reached your goal that you can clearly look back and see how it was achieved. In the meantime, the path to success can often feel isolating.

And things are generally made worse for women, who face more challenges in their journey to the top, simply owing to the way genders are perceived in society.

READ: Celebrating women’s financial literacy in NZ this EOFY

While the situation is changing, there’s still a long way to go, which is why MYOB is dedicating the months leading up to end of financial year discovering and sharing stories of inspirational females from around the nation.

As just one example, the online accounting company recently brought together some of New Zealand’s top women in business and the same number of top women in netball to discuss similarities between performance athletes and the sort of financial stamina and prowess required in business.

The result was a day of empowerment. The event demonstrated just how much women can achieve, whether it’s in the field of business or in the sporting arena, while hinting at what a truly gender-equal future might do for our economy.

Before sharing a few key quotes to inspire you, here are some of the standout parallels we gleaned from the combined insights of both sportswomen and businesswomen.

1. Overnight success? Don’t count on it

In business, as in sport, the public often only see the upside of success.

Nobody else sees the years of training and work that has gone before the homestretch.

Both business owners and sportswomen had invested years of time and energy prior to success, and this became a clear theme for the day.

2. Love what you do

There are a lot of sacrifices that are made to remain focussed on success.

If you love what you do it makes those sacrifices easier and helps keep your motivation levels high. After all, morale is as important for athletic performance as it is for business productivity.

3. Performance reviews aren’t just for corporate jobs

Being the absolute best you can be means having the self-awareness and personal insight to know when you’re less than best.

MYOB’s interviews of Silver Ferns and prominent businesswomen also revealed how true this is for both camps, with sports teams spending as much if not more time in reflecting on their past performance and conceptualising how to improve.

4. Backing yourself to boost yourself

Gaining and maintaining confidence in yourself doesn’t always come naturally, but it is a critical success factor.

Those who are successful in sport and business often have to overcome imposter syndrome, prejudice and other personal hardships, none of which is possible without developing self-confidence.

5. Never fail to embrace failure

It’s probably part of the positive mindset that both successful business people and sportswomen have, that they can turn a negative into a positive.

Being realistic and accepting that there will be setbacks along the journey was common to both groups of women, both in terms of how to learn from them and in terms of their character-building qualities.

“Setbacks can actually be a good thing they can bring fire in the belly or open a new door,” said Silver Fern Shannon Saunders.

5 inspirational quotes on finding success

1. “The balance of being focused on the task and having fun is quite hard” – Phoenix Karaka, Silver Fern.

Both successful business women and sportswomen are focused. They’re clear why they are doing what they are doing. They know what is important and understand the sacrifices that need to be made along the journey and that it is a choice. They are clear about the next step and don’t get distracted from their goals. They believe that, if you love what you do, it’s easier to stay focussed.

2. “You need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable” – Lisa King, founder of Eat My Lunch.

Courage plays a large role in improvement. A common theme with the women was needing to find their courage often. They all acknowledge that this is challenging but overcoming fears is just a normal part of being successful.

Lisa King often thinks of her favourite quote: “everything you want is on the other side of fear” to help her find courage when she requires it.

3. “At times it’s really hard to step outside the comfort zone. It does so much for our self-esteem, for our self-awareness, for our confidence (when we do)” – Fiona Gowing, president of Rural Women in NZ.

Finding and building confidence is important for success.

The women interviewed have built their confidence by going outside their comfort zone over and doing things over until they become easier.

Many surround themselves with people who are encouraging and encourage themselves by looking at their track record in times of doubt.

Self-awareness assists with confidence building. Being aware of your strengths and playing to them is key. Understanding that you will not necessarily be able to do everything is a lesson many of the women in business have learnt.

In sport and business it’s important to get help in your weaker areas. On this subject, Jane Watson from the Silver Ferns called out the fact that keeping things simple and having a routine often helps.

4. “Look for ways to improve, but don’t be too critical or negative” – Helen Robinson, professional director and CEO.

Continual improvement is confidence building as well as having a positive impact on your performance or business.

5. “Part of being able to build your own success, whether it’s in business or in sport or wherever it might be, is also just being really present and taking all the opportunities that are in front of your right now and making the most of them,” – Sharndre Kushor, co-founder of Crimson Education.

Sharndre Kushor shared some great advice for her business she gleaned from renowned kiwi sportswoman and entrepreneur Linda Jenkinson, who suggests that you can’t always be playing on the field – sometimes you need to take some time out for reflection and to see things from a different angle.

“Sometimes if you’re working in a business and also work on the business, it’s so easy to just always be playing the game ‘on the field’,” said Kushor.

“But some of the most important reflection time, where you can actually think about strategically what will help your team to be more successful, occurs when you pull yourself out of that and go and sit on a grandstand and watch the game play out.

“As you’re watching it, you learn so much about the dynamic that you don’t see when you’re in the middle of it.

At the end of the day, said Kushor, sometimes success only comes once one learns how to be present in the moment, which forms the foundational concept behind the quote we’ve highlighted above.