Leading with Aroha – Lucy Boomer
We’ve found the perfect person to spotlight during Mental Health Awareness Week – People & Organisational Development Manager at Mental Health Foundation, Lucy Boomer. Lucy has been part of the Do Good Jobs community for years, in her People and Culture role at Greenpeace and as a founding member in our Purpose-Driven Productivity course in early 2020. She also spotted her current role at the Mental Health Foundation on Do Good Jobs and was attracted by the impact she knew she could make. She’s a goodie for sure!
From her West Auckland home, Lucy and I chat about the latest lockdown, her role and career history, stepping up to become a leader and the new normal of managing people and organisational culture during challenging times.
Coping with uncertainty
Lucy started her role at The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) during the first level four lockdown in March 2020. She had to find her feet in an ever-changing environment. It can’t have been easy starting a new role, dealing with lockdowns, supporting the team that delivered a vital service to New Zealanders facing challenges with their own well-being and mental health, PLUS keeping her own well-being in check.
Lucy laughs and admits that starting during lockdown was a challenge. She bowled into MHF with big ideas and energy – and instead had to pivot and pause – and deal with huge challenges.
She had been initially attracted to the role by the ability to make an impact and she was able to do that straight away, during the biggest upheaval modern Aotearoa has seen. And, it seems like this was the making of her as a strong and bold leader.
Luckily, Lucy’s time in HR at Greenpeace gave her a toolbox of systems and processes to bring over to MHF for her newly established role, and she was ready to jump in and meet the challenge. That foundation shines through her in her work.
Greenpeace also nurtured her passion for well-being:
“Being exposed to climate/eco-anxiety and grief, I was working on ensuring we had the right supports and systems in place internally to support people who were experiencing burnout, mental distress, anxiety etc and the more I learnt, the more I wanted to be working in that space.”
When I meet with Lucy over Zoom, we were all in lockdown again, 18 months later. With the Delta variant in the country, the team at Mental Health Foundation’s work went straight home after the first case was announced and kicked into action like a well-oiled machine. These days the MHF staff don’t need to re-invent the wheel when lockdowns happen ”the wheel is already there.”
Living their values is important, and as the People and Organisation Development Manager at a Mental Health organisation, Lucy has played a key role in implementing changes that look after their team. This includes initiatives like moving to a 4.5 day week during alert levels two to four and introducing unlimited sick leave that won’t affect their total balance. There’s clearly a focus on ensuring the staff that do so much good mahi for others are looked after and supported. By now we’re all similar with the Mental Health Foundation’s lockdown support posts, reminders to breathe and ground ourselves – they’ve become an important part of our lockdown lives.
Becoming a Leader
It’s a pleasure to hear about Lucy’s career journey – she’s worked in Australia and the UK in some really interesting environments, like as a Recruitment Advisor at B&Q (The British Bunnings equivalent), as the Social Media Manager for an Irish bar in Australia and recruiting for NZ 111 emergency phone line. Along the way, she made the move from recruitment into HR and People and Culture, where her warmth and creativity are right at home.
“Stepping away from predominantly recruitment to learning the many ropes of HR was a steep learning curve. The umbrella of HR/People & Culture is so large and every day there was a new challenge and I was learning. I felt very much out of my comfort zone at this point…but that’s where the magic happens”.
Lucy is so obviously a strong leader and thought leader, we talk about the joys and burdens of these dual roles. Being someone who can make the magic happen is the trait of a great leader. And moving into a leadership position has been a pivotal point in Lucy’s career.
“Another steep learning curve was moving into a leadership position and growing a team. I really enjoyed this part of my career, it was great to feel invested in as I was put on leadership courses to discover my leadership style and to learn what makes a great leader. I was fortunate enough to have a thorough development plan in place with my line manager and was offered various training to attend to support this development.”
Lucy enthuses about having a work coach and takes care of herself through well-being and professional development. She loves being creative and talks about how failure is ok, it’s a learning opportunity and are the key to growth. Lucy also feels “very lucky to have had managers who have inspired me, given me their time, shared their knowledge and given me space to grow.”
Setting Boundaries in Do Good Work
Reflecting on working in the Do Good Sector we both talk about the importance of, but difficulty of, having strong boundaries. For Lucy, boundaries are about putting yourself first. It’s a win-win for your workplace as well – as they’re getting a happier, healthier, well-rested employee.
We agree that health boundary setting can be so much harder in the Do Good sector where you do a lot of heart work. We both talk about having ‘the guilts” and how easy it is to fall into a trap of always being ‘on.’ Lucy sees wearing burnout as a badge of honour as one of the key issues in the sector – it’s something we need to stop doing if we want to live our values.
Tika, Pono and Aroha (respect, truthfulness, compassion) are core MHF values and they lean into them hard. Since the last lockdown, MFH has launched ‘Open Minds’- an online tool that equips managers with the confidence and skills to talk about mental health in the workplace. This kind of digitisation is really important for the sector, as Lucy identifies;
“The Not For Profit sector is growing very quickly in a digital age, this means we have to grow with agility and we are not always set up in a way to do so. Especially organisations that rely on fundraising, there isn’t always the money to be able to spend on these challenges, for instance, digital infrastructure, systems and equipment..”
Before we end our chat, I’m very keen to pick Lucy’s brain on her well-being tips. Her go-tos are small things like not taking your phone on your lunch break. She likes to walk up Maungawhau at lunchtime, walk in the native bush nearby, do yoga with her group, see family and friends and take a break from talking about mental health.
I get the strong feeling that anyone who shares an office with Lucy is very lucky, she’s warm, passionate and puts you at ease. We finish the call with her inviting the Do Good Jobs team to visit her offices in Auckland, it’s just the kind of person she is. We’ll be taking up that offer when we get out of this lockdown, Lucy!
Are you struggling, feeling out of sorts, need to talk to someone?
It’s been a tough year and many people who’ve never needed (or thought they needed) counsellor support before, might now benefit from reaching out to someone who can listen. If you’re struggling, text or call 1737 for a free confidential chat.