SSO Execs: Up Your Game
Interview with Tawera Nikau, Managing Director of Team One Corporate Development.
Tawera is one of New Zealand’s most successful professional athletes, having made his name in the highly competitive world of rugby league. A veteran of 19 tests for New Zealand as a forward, he went on to captain the New Zealand Maori team at the Rugby League World Cup and was recently inducted in the New Zealand Legends of League. In 2004, he had his right leg amputated due to complications from injuries suffered in a motorbike accident. The traits that made him a sporting champion enable him to excel in other areas. His inspiring leadership traits will help you up your game.
SSON: You used to be a professional rugby player and you’ve been through some pretty tough situations both on and off the field. What really inspired you to be a professional speaker and motivator?
Tawera Nikau: The great thing about playing traditional sports is that it teaches you some great disciplines in terms of motivation and applying it in your life. And this was a natural progression to my speaking role now. I speak at about two to three events a week — which adds up to a few hundred a year — and I’m really inspired by impacting and changing people’s lives.
SSON: What kind of impact has this had on your life and what knowledge can you share that others can’t?
Tawera Nikau: I’ve been through some adversity, particularly losing my wife to suicide due to depression, and also having my leg amputated. Because of that, I’ve had some highs and lows, and everyone goes through those peaks and troughs. It doesn’t matter who you are in this world, we’ll always have challenges at specific times. So it is about understanding that if you’re tough throughout those hard times, things will turn better and end well. What I’d say, from my high and lows in sport and in life is that it’s made me more aware of who I am and how it ultimately comes down to you yourself to decide what you want your life to be like. So I share some good insights into understand to what it’s like to go through adversity — because it’s through adversity will you become stronger.
SSON: Lots of our listener are in high management, or are C-level. They’ve risen to the top of their professions, but some feel that they can’t seem to have it all when it comes to managing their family, friends and work lives. What do you have to say to people who feel this way?
Tawera Nikau: That’s a good question. In terms of high performance and those who have spent a lot of time working, it’s all about balance. In my company, we work with lots of companies across ANZ to find out what it means to have a work-life balance. What does that term mean for you and what impact does it have on your family? It can be difficult to give 100% intensity at work if it’s affecting your family. So we at Team One work with companies and people to help them set their priorities, and we run through specific programs to help people work this out. It comes down to working out what is important to you: would you rather be watching your son perform at his first play at school, or be spending your time working until 9 o’clock at night? It’s about prioritising and focusing so you get to see the bigger picture. It’s only through this can you start to see the future which then gives you the values you can use to make better judgement.
SSON: When people in leadership positions come to you for help or advice, what’s the most common issue? What do you have to say to them?
Tawera Nikau: The most common issue is about spending time with their family. A lot of our people are CEOs and GMs who are working 12-14 hour days, and so it’s about asking how can you can delegate and let go of control to create an environment where you can empower other people in your organisation.
That’s the great thing about leadership — it’s about helping people make better choices. A lot of stuff from Team One is about asking what it takes to be a high performance team and how you can lead people in your organisation. So these are some of the things we speak to our CEOs and team leaders etc.
SSON: For lots of us, we can get caught up in our day-to-day things as well as our work, how often do you – and how you do — step back to see the big picture and evaluate your life? What kind of advice do you have here for our listeners?
Tawera Nikau: We get our C-level and high management out of the office for two days and get them to focus on their vision. We ask where do they want to be when they’re 75 years old, so it's about building the steps towards this and how they can do this. A lot of the people have come out of the program and said that "Yes, that is what I want to do and I need to do this to achieve my goals".
A lot of people get to 45 years of age and have not taken the time to figure out what they want. So they ask "What have they done in the last 40 years?" — and this is when they have a mid-life crisis. So taking the time to figure this out early is an insurance against a mid-life crisis. Why? It’s because with this time and careful thinking will you work out what you really want out of life. It’s important because like you said, we often get caught up in our day to day lives of going to work and all the things we have to do and not thinking about life and the big picture. So we work with managers and C-level executives in our retreat to help them figure this out.
About TAWERA NIKAU
Tawera is one of New Zealand’s most successful professional athletes.
He made his name in the highly competitive world of rugby league. A veteran of 19 tests for New Zealand as a forward, Tawera went on to captain the New Zealand Maori team at the Rugby League World Cup and was recently inducted in the New Zealand Legends of League.
Tawera’s passion and contribution to league continues as he works with the NZRL as a New Zealand selector and assists with the Junior Development Programme.
In 2004 he had his right leg amputated due to complications from injuries suffered in a motorbike accident. The traits that made him a sporting champion enabled him to excel in other areas. Tawera is now an ambassador for the Achilles Foundation which gives people with disabilities an opportunity to participate in mainstream events. In 2010 & 2011 he finished the New York Marathon and in 2010 completed the Oxfam 100km Taupo Trail Walker which raised funds to support Oxfam New Zealand.
As acknowledgment for his contributions Tawera has been appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Rugby League and the community and recently recognized as an Emerging Leader by the Sir Peter Blake Trust.
Tawera is Managing Director of Team One Corporate Development a training company which is dedicated to "Unleashing Human Potential". He brings a wealth of experience in high performance sports and effortlessly translates this knowledge into clear insights in the areas of leadership and organisational and individual behaviour.
He is also very passionate in seeking opportunities to further develop Maori which lead him to become the CEO of Aotearoa Construction which has a vision to pioneer a business model that blends profit with social benefit, whilst delivering outstanding construction services.
Tawera has been working on the Professional speaking circuit in Australasia for seven years and is highly sought after as audiences find his life story truly inspiring and motivational. He is a living example of someone who refuses to quit no matter how hard he is hit. An excellent communicator, people from all walks of life appreciate his down-to-earth presentation style.
Tawera is speaking at Shared Services & Business Transformation Forum New Zealand where he’ll talk about his experiences in high performance sports and how this translates into the areas of leadership.