Russell Fildes, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Ian Caplin: And welcome to the program you’re watching G-Reg, the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative. My name is Ian Caplin and if this is the first time that you’ve joined us, we find ourselves now at Episode eight of 10 webinars, which taken together across the months of October and November, form the G-Reg 2020 annual conference.

It’s our sixth conference year but it’s the first year that we’ve done things this way. G-Reg, the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative, is the world’s first and indeed only cross government network for those who use the coercive, facilitative and anything else-ive powers of the state, effectively the business of government, whatever we do, however we interact, it’s probably regulation and it’s probably you.

G-Reg’s based here in New Zealand, but we also welcome an international audience. This is recorded as live so you may be seeing us for the first time at 11 O’clock New Zealand Daylight Time. Time for morning tea and I hope this is very much your cup of tea and the jokes don’t end there, members of the audience.

Or you could be watching the recording because you’re watching it
later, or you could be in another time zone because you’re watching us internationally. Wherever you are, whenever you are, I make no apology every session for saying, you’re very welcome here.

Now, if this is your first time here at episode eight, don’t worry, you haven’t been prejudiced by the fact that you’ve missed the first seven. You can catch up with them on the G-Reg website. The back catalogue is being uploaded. In fact, the first five episodes are up right now so you can watch them afresh or as a repeat.

And in any event, even if you watch them in any order at all, that’s okay because while the overall story arc and conference theme is the modern regulator, each webinar has been specifically designed so it can be accessed on its own terms in any order. It’s rather like a box of Roses chocolates, or possibly even particularly with those
green triangles, Quality Street.

We turn then to the theme, the modern regulator and we turn to the theme of this episode, wellbeing. We spent quite a few episodes in this webinar series really looking at the wellbeing of those we regulate directly and indirectly, in terms, for example, of episodes three and four, where we looked at responsive regulation; in terms of episode two, where we looked at working together across and outside government to see how we could work, a) better together, and b) enrich the lives of those that we regulate.

And we’ve covered that with an attitude overall of leveraging our networks to do that with entrepreneurialism, episode one.
The last few episodes have touched upon stewardship and networks, the idea that we see the regulatory estate as a whole.

So we’ve been looking so much at how we look after the wellbeing in some ways within our discretionary parameters, of course, of those we regulate. We actually turn things now rather on ourselves on our own regulation, on our own wellbeing.

If I can channel my inner Doctor Who, that’s a British TV time travel series for those of you who perhaps have missed out; the view that could be taken that one has to coin some sort of stiff upper lip or eradicate emotions, rather like some sort of Cyberman, that emotions have absolutely no place in how we work, what we do for a living, or even how we conduct ourselves professionally – it’s very much part of a case of this conference that you would need a TARDIS to get to that place because those attitudes, we say, belong to another time zone. The human mind and the regulator’s human mind is no exception, is rather like the TARDIS, it’s very much bigger on the inside than the outside.

Our guest today is not a mental health professional or therapist, he’s a regulator. He’s involved in the business of government, just like most of us and he’s going to tell us about some of the fairly sort of heavy things that no doubt, like yourselves, members of the audience, he has to do for a living, and how, in terms of his own wellbeing and that of his colleagues and that of the workplace, wellbeing is dealt with, and also the practical approach that can be taken.

It’s a pleasure to welcome Russell Fildes who’s at MBIE, and Russell is a regular G-Reg conference goer, and it’s very nice Russell to see you again. Russell, a very warm welcome to you, we’re going to just do this slightly differently format wise and we’re going to sort of have a
a conversation, because I think it’s worth just ironing a couple of things out, if I can channel my inner Her Majesty, as she reportedly used to say, but I won’t do the accent, although I have been watching Netflix’s season four of the Crown, which is must watch, erm… what exactly do you do?

Russell Fildes: Yeah, thanks Ian and good morning everyone. Yes, I’m the Official Assignee for the South Island and that means that I’m responsible for the administration of all bankruptcies and liquidations where the Official Assignee is appointed in the South Island.

And also I’ve got teams that are responsible for dealing with the applications for personal insolvency procedures and look after managing our trust accounts.

Ian Caplin: So it’s a pretty serious business. I just want to just unpack that a bit more because we all may have different views of I guess what bankruptcy is and what bankruptcy involves. In a nutshell what is bankruptcy and what does it kind of mean?

Russell Fildes: Yeah, so bankruptcy is a formal procedure. So someone either will get adjudicated bankrupt from the court when it goes through the process, or a person could decide that they need the protection of bankruptcy and file for their own application to the Official Assignee.

And once they are adjudicated bankrupt, then they can’t be pursued by their creditors, but in turn it’s up to the Official Assignee then to realise their assets and to distribute that money to their creditors. Also then they’ll get on the public register so that anyone can search.
And so once they register and see that the person’s been adjudicated bankrupt, will be on their credit reporting and also they can’t be in business if they don’t get the consent of the Official Assignee. So there’s a lot of protections in place for their community and for creditors in general if someone wants to go bankrupt.

Ian Caplin:
And I guess it’s a self-evidently, a pretty distressing area for the bankrupt, for those connected to the bankrupt and for everyone in the mix to get involved in and with as a process.

Russell Fildes:
Well, that’s absolutely right Ian, and people lose control when they go bankrupt. Effectively, a lot of their affairs are taken over by the Official Assignee. If they own their own property that family home, for instance, that may actually have to be sold as part of the process of winding up their assets and people have a strong emotional attachment to their homes.

In some cases they might have been running a business for years and which just simply has to be wound down and closed up, and people get really emotionally attached to that. They could have been really fighting through the courts to avoid going bankrupt.

And just simply not accepting of bankruptcy as an end result and can’t move on with their life. So yeah, there’s many points of where it’s distressing.

Ian Caplin: And in that sense, it’s a terminal procedure and then there’s a sort of a reset, isn’t there. People can emerge from it and be discharged from the bankruptcy.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, that’s right, there’s a fresh start principle for bankruptcy. Generally bankruptcy would last for three years and then they become discharged at that point. But it still remains on the insolvency register for another four years and also on credit reports.

But yeah, eventually, after they’ve had their bankruptcy, and I guess done their time, then they can emerge out the other end and fully participate in society.

Ian Caplin: Now, members of the audience, I’m bringing you in just a little here because Russ and I are having this chat really just to open up what he does for a living, and what bankruptcy is and what the OA does. You’ll have your own parallels for your own work in this.

As with all our webinars, if you’ve got any questions or comments, please don’t be shy, please put them in the Q and A bar below. Russell and I are just going to have a conversation now more about how this kind of heavy duty work, and you’ll be able to identify with this members of the audience, I’m sure, can potentially have an effect on one’s wellbeing and the ways in which Russell and his colleagues, and MBIE institutionally, look after this.

And I’d like to sort of take you back, Russell to the beginning, if you like, the start of your professional story when, I think it was ITS, that you joined as the agency that looks after this area of practice. Tell us about that.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, that’s right. So, in 2004 I became an insolvency officer after graduating from Victoria University with a Bachelor in Commerce and Administration, and it would be fair to say, I was fairly green when I first started.

And the Insolvency Trustee service was of course part of the Ministry of Economic Development and we were dealing with the old legislation, the Insolvency Act 1967 which doesn’t have the same debtor provisions in there that the current 2006 Act, which modernised that a lot.

But, I mean, I remember on my first day I got given two bankruptcy estates. The first one, we never could locate him, he had absconded. The second one I remember quite well. He had adjudicated himself bankrupt, his agent was trying to negotiate and get his tax returns up to date with Inland Revenue.

And she unfortunately had a visit to hospital and he was overwhelmed by all this and went to the court and filled out his form which was just a one page form back then and had himself declared bankrupt.


And at that point really, his life completely changed. Really, the settlement with Inland Revenue really wasn’t on the table anymore. He had a family home that he owned with his wife and their young kids lived there.

We were fortunately, we were actually able to sell that property to the wife, so at least they were able to keep the family home, but also he traded as a courier and owned his own vehicle, and in those days, you know, vehicles had to be sold. There was no provision that vehicles be retained, as there is in the current Act, and he had to stop that business.

So, while I had a lot of empathy for him, I knew that I had to carry out my duties objectively. And, you know, and get that return, I guess, to Inland Revenue. There certainly wasn’t enough funds available to pay Inland Revenue in full.

Ian Caplin: What other kind of – pausing there – what other kind of cases can you talk about where I mean very, very sad cases with human interest and you’re doing your job – we’re going to come on in a second to what kind of systems were then in place, but really, in that period, and, you know, as things moved on. What other kinds of things, you said, you were saying, you called yourself green, but you were saying, you just started and you were getting actual experience as time went on, and of course the OAs can be very much a target of those who’ve had these unfortunate unhappy circumstances, so – very sad situation you’ve described there.

What other kind of situations can you can you bring to the table, just really to set the scene as to where, looking after your own wellbeing comes into play.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, I mean I haven’t particularly had this experience, me, but my office has, where unfortunately a bankrupt did commit suicide, you know, just as he had been adjudicated, in fact before our office even had the chance to contact him.
So, and it’s very rare, but I guess that’s the kind of really, you know, the impact that significant debt has on people, if they have not been able to handle it, deal with it, and what I guess the fear of actually going bankrupt actually has on people and if they can’t see a way out, but I guess that is an extreme example of what a case could be.

Ian Caplin: Yes, and I think it is one of the things, and just to remind everyone that Russell is the OA, the Official Assignee, the officeholder that administers bankruptcies that cover all of these circumstances in terms of resolving people’s estates where they’re unable to pay their debts and fall into personal insolvency.

Now this range of things that you’ve served us up with Russ, back then, and towards the early part, if I can put it this way, of this century, that’s not to age you unduly, what kind of systems did MBIE have in place, or it wasn’t MBIE then, but the predecessor to MBIE, have in place, to help you and your colleagues just process some of this stuff that you were dealing with professionally from a wellbeing perspective mentally.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, so I mean in 2000 and forward, we didn’t really talk about wellbeing, mental health really, but we actually had a really small tight team. We worked in a small office so we all actually knew what was going on with each other. If someone had a hard phone call, a hard meeting, everyone knew.

We were all very supportive of each other, we actually met every week to discuss our new cases. So we really had that team environment where we’re able to really share, and I guess myself as the new insolvency officer on the block, I really relied on those others around me to really support me and the technical aspects of our work, but also in terms of being able to, you know, oh you’ve had that phone call but, you know, really, that’s okay. But you’re going to be okay and you’re going to be able to move on and you’ve done the right thing, and just getting that reassurance really, really was critical for me. And as we’ve moved on, you know, we had, I guess, you know, turnover, as happens. And when we were getting in a lot of new staff, we sort of developed a mantra, I guess, of caring, caring, sharing and cooperation and we used to say that to each other quite a lot.

And I think that really, really just tried to set the scene in that team environment, that really, you know, you didn’t need to hold that burden on your own if you were having a troublesome time, that really did share that, and that people were there to not only support you, but they’ll help you where they could.

Ian Caplin: And that sort of culture in the workplace of cooperation, because the things can get tough and I know that we’ve obviously spoken offline, and you mentioned there were some particularly tough cases that you wanted to share with us, the full [inaudible] of professional experience and really go to this question of, of second checking our own wellbeing. Just before your holidays, I think that you’ve mentioned.

Russell Fildes:Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Yes, a particular case that I dealt with. We got appointed as a liquidator of a company that was, it was trading up to the point of liquidation.
There was, I think, about 80 trade creditors. There was multiple sites that this company had, we had staff that we had to deal with, there was various assets that needed to be ceased, lots of records to get in and out, analysed. We had, one of the creditors wanted to have a creditors meeting, so it had to be organised and there was a vote on that.

So there’s just lots of moving parts going on in this particular case, and lots and lots of work going on. And I remember, I mean, I was still quite new to the job at that time and you know, I was kind of feeling overwhelmed and started to question myself, was I was really doing a good job by letting anyone down, kind of irrational fears that will come in.

Will I get criticised or sued? And yeah and it was hard, you know, I took some of that home, so some of that affected my sleep a little bit and I guess I was able to talk to my boss about that and he was really great. He reassured me that no, everything really is on track and that we are doing the right thing.

You know, and he gave me extra support on that case, which was, which was really helpful. And also, I remember talking to my sister, you know, just in general, you know, not that she knew anything about insolvency, but just in general about how things were going and how I was feeling and yeah and also, just in a general sense was also really reassuring that, you know, that they wouldn’t be giving me this case if I wasn’t up to actually handling about and work through and to and to really reach out for support.

So that was really helpful. And, you know, as you say, [inaudible] I actually had a week’s holiday booked and I was so busy that [inaudible] necessarily think that I could take that week off. And leading up to it, but that, in the end, there wasn’t actually anything time critical happening that week so I did take a week off. And I remember just coming back to the office after that week and just being so refreshed and just being able to get on with the work that was on hand just with a lot more efficiency.

It really was the best thing that I could have done at that time was to take that week. You know, and Dr Ashley Bloomfield recently had a podcast where he talks about triggers [inaudible] when he needed to take breaks, you know, and looking back, you know, those, those signs of those triggers that I needed to needed to take a break.

Ian Caplin: Yes. And thank you very much for sharing that story with us, Russ, it’s it points up a lot of things. I’m particularly interested in what you say about the triggers and the recognition of them and that holiday that you were in two minds about not taking. Afterwards, you saw that it was definitely the right thing to have taken and also the structures that were, that were in place in terms of talking informally to people, even family.

How much – and I know you’re going to come to this in a little bit – how much is that kind of reflected more in the guidance that MBIE has and also in the guidance that you have around your place of work, to look at things like that, recognize triggers and actually almost come outside ourselves and see what’s going on, just in a practical sense.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, I mean we’ve always in the Insolvency and Trustee Service, I think, had this sharing kind of environment. We’ve got really strong culture and engagement and we’ve always worked closely with each other. And if people have tough phone calls and wanted to share this, people are always approachable right up to the national manager Robin Cox.

She’s [inaudible] a really great boss and there’s frequent times that I’ve been able to go and talk to her and she’s always more than willing to, happy to listen to me and hear us out. So it’s sort of that, that culture from, from the very top of our organization right through, and anyone really can go and talk to anyone about any issue that they’re sort of having and if they feel that they need that support – and then I think [inaudible], just in general, in MBIE, you know, wellbeing is really pushed through from the, all the communications that we come up. And if you look through Te Taura, our intranet, there’s just a lot of information there.

Ian Caplin: Thank you for that, Russ. I was just gonna say it’s an interesting one, isn’t it, because they’ll be members in the audience who have, have jobs that call on, you know, similar kind of pressures. And the question will be how does emotion actually help the job, it’s a slightly different lens because we’ve talked about the exercise of regulatory discretion in previous webinars.

We’re talking now about our own personal wellbeing

20 mins

as regulators, we’re talking about effectively saying we should allow our emotions to be respected, both as individual persons. Sometimes, and I think this is part of the case of this series, actually having the empathy and the emotional connection also helps us do our job. What do you say to that, Russ?

Russell Fildes: Yeah, yeah. It’s really interesting because, of course, you know, while we’re having these emotions, you know, we’ve still got our jobs to get on and do and that we need to be objective, it doesn’t mean to say that we can’t feel for the other person, though.

We can feel empathy for them. And, you know, I guess when thinking about our job as the Official Assignee, now we’ve got to take into account the full spectrum of what’s going on with this person. And so just, I guess, because we can, you know, sell an asset, you know, should we be doing that – you know, what’s the greater outcome for this person?

We’ve had cases where, you know, that person’s actually been able to be set up with a financial supervisor and be able to carry on dealing with their business, for instance. So I guess you’ve got to take that into account as well. You know and in terms of using emotions, you know, I think, you know, I feel like sometimes, you know, you get the butterflies, if you’re going into a particularly hard meeting or if you’re not sure what’s going on. But, I mean, I think there’s positive energy as well. So I think sometimes, you know, I almost kind of welcome those butterflies coming in and use it to your advantage. I mean, the mind is such an amazing tool, I think, and you’ve got to make the most of it, you know, think about things in a positive way.

Ian Caplin: :[inaudible] sort of crept in, in other areas of this conference in the other webinars. We’re going to just pause for a moment, members of the audience. If you’ve got anything at this stage that you’d like to say, or you’ve got any comments, please do open fire now in the Q&A box.

Russell’s going to take us through just some tips that he, that he has personally and also formally from some of the systems that that he has at his place of work, which I suspect won’t be too dissimilar from some of the systems that you’ll have in yours, and it may just be that there’s a little digging that needs to be done.

So I’ll just give you a pause at the moment to add any questions, I’ll also ask Mariam, who is producing today’s webinar, just to pop out the poll, which you can fill in at your leisure between now and the end of the programme. Just talking about perhaps again, and it’s really just taking your view on, how much this webinar has made you rethink the importance of your own and others’ wellbeing as regulators.

Great if you’re already conscious of the importance of this. I’ll put some money on the prospect that not all of us are, because we’re so busy trying to sort everybody else out, particularly at the end of a busy year and nobody’s mentioned the C word yet, Russell, but I’ll mention Covid, because that really overlays everything that we’ve discussed.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess coming back to where you are talking about, yeah, tips, and possibly the informal ones. One of my colleagues is actually brilliant at this and perhaps she should have been talking about this rather than that me but I’ve had a few conversations with her leading up to this webinar.

And I know in the past she used to be excellent when she was going home, being able to separate out work and office and not thinking about, you know, what’s going on at the office when she was at home and really having that mental ability when things about came into her mind that she would be able to, you know, be able to take that out of their mind, you know, and focus back on what’s going on at home.

So I think that’s an excellent skill to have. But now she works a lot at home. So I was like, well, how did, how does that work, now, that you work a lot at home, especially during Covid and now after Covid. And she’s got all the processes in place. She’s got a separate office that she only goes into to do her work.

So she’s not confusing the rest of her home life, I guess, with working in the office and she’s got her routines and that, she tells me, she’s got her particular work mug. And that helps her, you know, that’s her mental switch. I’m going from home and I’m going to work and I think that’s brilliant.

She makes sure she takes her lunchtime and she takes it outside of her office and she’s got a routine about switching back off from being at the office, I guess, to going back home. And the other thing is, like, I mean, I think I’ve talked a bit about, you know, sharing and getting this support from your colleagues, and she’s still having those hard conversations, but she’s not got the support around of the whole team.

But she’s said that she’s gonna make a special effort once she’s had those conversations, just to still reach out to her colleagues, whether it be through a Teams message, or call them and still be able to talk through those things. So those bases are still in place.

And also I was talking to our team leader who has now got a few remote workers, who are doing a work from home and he is going to make an extra special effect to also keep in touch with his staff so that
he knows what’s going on, and if anyone’s under any stress or pressure and to keep in touch.

For a call is so much more personable and you get more information than just emails or text messages.

Ian Caplin: Yes, and it’s very much kind of underscoring what G-Reg is actually saying about working together generally – better together, better in contact, better in touch, and in this particular area of wellbeing, very much the importance of contact.

There are a couple of questions and comments which comes through. But I thought perhaps we could look at them and members of the audience, please do keep piping them through, it’s lovely to see them.

Russell’s just going, I think, to take us now through some slides that kind of just accentuate some of the tips that he’s picked up and some of the structures that are in place which may resonate with you, Russ, back to you.

Russell Fildes: Sure. Okay. Yeah. So I guess you know some of the things I talked about, I think, really important is having that, building that positive team environment. I think being able to share your experiences with each other.

And, you know, if you’ve got hard decisions to make, also sharing that as well. If you can really – you know, what is it, a problem shared is a problem halved. So I really believe in that. Know your triggers and also deal with your triggers. If you feel that you’re getting overwhelmed or stressed, be able to take that.

I’ve talked about the holidays before, I think the little breaks as well, like I’ve had experiences where I’ve been trying to write a letter or a memo and kind of got stuck. But then taken the tea break and then just come back to them and been able to write that letter with no problems at all and all the thoughts just suddenly flow.

And having a positive attitude. I mean, I think that you can get far with a positive attitude, I really believe in that. I recently attended the working well workshops, which is an excellent course if you get the chance, definitely, definitely do that, they are lots of fun.

And these are the five things that are important to working well; connecting with people and I’ve talked about that, you know, sharing, sharing your stories. Keep Learning, I think that’s really important, especially us as regulators. In our environment, the laws keep changing, there’s new judgments that come out, so we need to keep up to date with what’s going on and so that we can do our jobs better.

Be active, you know, I personally think this is really important. I will generally run or cycle to work and try to get to the gym a few times a week and I think, you know, if I’ve had a tough meeting, I feel that sometimes, you know, you got a lot of adrenaline going, then going out and having a walk and you know it’s a good way of using that kind of excess energy and keeping well.

And giving, giving to others. You know, it can be small things, but sometimes it might make a real difference to other people as well, so
you know, listen, listen, actively to their stories as well and take notice if you know someone’s down and try and be there for them. You don’t need to be a mental health professional, as Ian said, I’m certainly not one, but you might recognise when someone might need to get some extra help as well.

Stay positive. You know, I’ve talked about welcoming the butterflies, I think that’s really important. You can only control what you can control, I’ve got a bit of a saying, as well – it is what it is.

And if you focus on what you can control, then you’re more likely, I think, to be able to work through to come to a positive outcome than worrying about what may happen or what has happened. I think staying in the present moment and working through what you got.

And be grateful. It’s very few people who get to do the job that I do. And [inaudible] the government and regulatory space, it’s a real privilege, I think, to be there and serve the community and country and I think, so, it’s important.

So even though when things are tough and it’s hard, I think it’s still important to be grateful for those opportunities and all those hard cases that I’ve, I’ve had and that they might have been really hard at the time, they’re the ones I’ve really learned from and really been able to grow from and improve myself.

And always seek support. There’s no point trying to solve everything on your own if you can get support from others who can help you.

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And then, just lastly, I mean, there’s lots of resources and policies. I certainly wouldn’t cover everything, but there’s just a list of some
there, and certainly EAP is, I guess, at the top of the list, they are certainly available.

I know that our people have reached out to them when they need and we get them into the office from time to time as well, so people don’t necessarily need an appointment and they can just pop in and have a chat if they need to, and that’s it. Thank you. I’ll stop sharing my screen now.

Ian Caplin: Thanks Russ, that’s lovely. Lots to think about there and lots of questions and comments coming in and let’s just take them in turn. Russ, you mentioned triggers that you know and you identify personally that indicate that you should either take a break or get support, as one of our questioners has asked; can you tell us a bit more about those triggers because we probably all got our own triggers, and how do you spot them, what are the particular triggers for [inaudible]for you.

Russell Fildes: Yeah, yeah. So for me I think sleeping. If I can get a good night’s sleep, generally I think that everything’s going pretty well. If I’m worrying about something [inaudible] little things are on my mind, then I know I’ve got to deal with that, so and I think with that, is, what can you practically do about that. So if I’m worrying about something that’s to that extent, can I do, actually do something at that time, can I actually send out an email and will that deal with that, or is it actually something bigger, in which case maybe I need to write down a list of actually, what are the things I need to do the next day. So then I can kind of park it and get my good night’s sleep, because that’s really, really important to get your sleep and, yeah I find my mind wanders when I’ve got things, you know, that are, you know, yeah, big, and I’ve got to deal with that.

Ian Caplin: Yeah, that’s helpful and the fundamental need for sleep, just as fuel, really. And like all the observations that you’ve made Russell and Andy re-echoes this in his comment generously; just wanted to say thank you for sharing that with us. It’s a very important message for those of us doing this line of work. Well done. And indeed, well done, because there was a time, maybe not so many years ago and we still see it in certain pockets of places, who think that wellbeing is kind of a nice to have and we need to harden up. Given that this is being broadcasted, what’s your polite message to them?

Russell Fildes: Well, I mean, I think you know, harden up, is, you know, as you say, it’s, it’s an old message. And I think it’s actually a negative message because it’s sort of saying, you know, ignore or, you know, just put aside your emotions and feelings and I don’t think that’s helpful at all. I mean, I think, you know, nowadays we sort of talk about resilience and maybe we talk about resilience a little bit too much, but I think it’s really important, and mental toughness.

And I think the difference between that and just straight out harden up, is that actually, you’ve got to take on these emotions. We, you know, we know that work is going to be tough, there’s going to be tough situations, but we need to recognize that and then be able to deal with that and move on and I think there’s a significant difference between just simple: oh harden up and get on with it.

Ian Caplin: And also I think we’ve established in this conversation. And it’s part of the case very much of what we said elsewhere in the conference is that emotion, emotional intelligence is a tool of the trade in that it goes to empathy and the proper exercise of discretionary power to be a modern regulator.

Not a question but a comment from one of our attendees here today in the audience. We have health and wellbeing as a number one on our weekly team agenda and it’s an opportunity to let colleagues know if you’re struggling with either personal or business issues.

And the next item is recognition, which allows us to thank team members or others in the organization for providing support. And I think that, that is something, isn’t it, is also the recognition that people have done something in this area, and indeed I’d widen that, Russell, recognition generally for what people have done, just in terms of that, well done, that recognition that goes to kind of enriching the day. How does that fill into the wellbeing as recognition in the sense of recognising that somebody helped somebody else feel a bit better and also just recognising people generally?

Russell Fildes: Yeah. No, I think it’s really important to recognise when you do it, do a good job. I mean, it can be easy to get caught up in the negatives, but actually there’s a lot of positive outcomes in the work that we do as well.

And if we don’t recognise when we have done a really great job, I mean, I personally get a really good sense of satisfaction of having done a really good job. And it’s, you know, it’s nice to get that feedback, so I think it’s important to also make the opportunities. I mean, I think we’re probably not good enough about going back and reviewing what we’ve done, doing that debrief process.

You know, and I think, I like to get out every week and have a coffee with my direct reports and that gives us an opportunity to have, you know, have a have a talk just generally as well as about what’s going on in the office, and it gives us a real chance to be able to have that sense and like, and people say, you know, they have that weekly meeting.

It doesn’t need to be anything formal or big, you know, just saying really great job – job done. And I think that is important to reflect on those cases when we have them.

Ian Caplin: Thank you Russell, and coffee and sticky buns from our episode yesterday seem to be a currency in the regulatory profession. Although sticky buns sort of goes, I think, to networking, that may include wellbeing, so I think there’s a there’s a bakery business for someone, somewhere, who’s being a bit canny. Now, just one question here from Wendy, just asking you, Russ: where did you do your five ways to wellbeing course?

Russell Fildes: Well, we actually did it here in our office. I actually got in touch with the facilitator and organised that. There’s in MBIE, the learning and development team. I think there are actually courses at MBIE which are available through Learning at MBIE which you can book on, otherwise to get in touch with the Learning and Development team and they should be able to set it up for you and presumably in other government departments, they’ll have a similar system.

Ian Caplin: And it’s something actually that as I look at the questions, hopefully there are similar systems everywhere. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the same, you’re obviously in a very supportive team, Russell, any advice for people who are not so supported in the current environment? Perhaps it’s not necessarily the structure, the structure is in place, but they just don’t sort of have that locally to them, what do you say to that?

Russell Fildes: Yeah, I think, then, you know, it’s more challenging, but I think they need to make a real effort to go and find a colleague, it doesn’t necessarily need to be in their direct team, but someone that they can confide in and share their experiences with.

I mean it’s ideal that you do have someone that, you know, actually has been through or is going through the same kind of scenarios that you are really, but generally now, a lot of these things are quite general as to, you know, wellbeing and feelings and emotions so, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the same people.

I think I’ve mentioned I talked to my sister in that particular example. You know, I often talk to my wife as well about just things that are going generally, you know, you don’t need to, you know, give away specific details that would breach anyone’s privacy or anything, but I think if you can have still those conversations and get those examples and be able to get that support in different ways, I think it’s still important, even if you don’t feel that you’ve got that direct team environment that you can work with.

Ian Caplin: Thank you, Russ and that’s a creative way of thinking. Where there is an environment where it’s, it’s the other way, a question here from Anita, people can be very good at hiding the fact they may be struggling with their own wellbeing. As a manager yourself, what are some of the ways that you keep an eye on your team’s welfare and in particular, I’d zero in on this point; what are some of the signs that you look out for in other people, particularly if they’re not transmitting it directly to you and talking to you. What are your kind of, what’s, what’s the radar and how does it work, the Russell radar?

Russell Fildes: Yeah, yeah, there’s, there’s really, really difficult to do. I think, I think it’s really important, you look out, you listen out for actual signs of help, so someone might say something, you know, which might seem like an odd comment in a team meeting, but it actually might be actually a call for help.

And it could be, you know, I keep in really close contact with my team leaders who report to me, look after these teams, and, you know, try and find out from them what’s going on with different people. You know, so I think it’s really trying to get to know your team as well as you can.

And then, then, like if something odd’s going on; usually really great with you know, keeping up with the work and then suddenly
they drop something, you know, maybe, maybe it’s not just because they were slack that day, maybe there’s something else going on, so I guess you know you got to be really aware of all sorts of different things that might be going on and then try and give them that support.

And I guess, give them the opportunity because, you know, you kind of, I guess, force someone to share or they might not be happy sharing with you. Or it might be that you’re better off saying to someone else’s, their trusted colleague: oh, can you check out on so and so. So yeah, I guess, try and keep your ears to the ground as much as possible and yeah, just, you know, not necessarily you’re the best person to go and and talk to those people.

Ian Caplin: Thank you Russell, and some

40 mins

terrific tips around the place and thank you Russ for being so open and also so supportive in terms of what you’ve what you’ve said about your own professional background, the job that you do, which is so easily translatable I think to all of us in the audience. I’m sure we’ll, I’ve already seen from the preliminary polls that have come out, there’s plenty there for all of us to take home and reflect on.

Russell, thanks ever so much, once again. Members of the audience, it’s time that we said, au revoir, we find ourselves next week in episode nine in our last week of the series.

But until next time, do please have a look at the repeats, if you like, on the website. If it’s watching them again, or if you’re watching them for the first time, the previous back catalogue episodes. We’ll be putting more up as we go along. Stay well and until next time, from all of us here, ka kite ano, thank you.