It can be difficult to prioritise wellbeing during the best of times, let alone during a crisis when leadership is most challenging.

Supported by New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS), the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (FGC) was pleased to host a webinar series with prominent Clinical Psychologist and mental health thought leader Jacqui Maguire focusing on this important topic. The two sessions were designed to support our food sector leaders in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle and the severe flooding in the Auckland region. If you were unable to join us, they are available to available to view on FGC’s website and are a valuable resource for anyone in leadership.

FGC Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley said while it was obvious there were significant practical challenges for food and grocery businesses in the wake of the cyclone, the mental wellbeing of people was also a huge concern.

“We wanted to find a way to provide support to our people as they get through these tough times, particularly on the back of Covid-19 where they were integral to keeping products on supermarket shelves. With NZ Food Safety’s help we set these webinars up to ensure leaders had a toolkit to help them and their teams get through in good shape.

“Jacqui was amazing. Her practical, down-to-earth, and timely advice has given our leaders valuable tools for approaching the aftermath of the latest events, and will stand them in good stead in the future when they are faced with similar multiple and fast-moving challenges. For anyone who missed the webinars, I thoroughly recommend they watch the videos or listen to them like a podcast.”

Session 1

Drawing from clinical experience, research, and the experiences of survivors and emergency management experts, Jacqui dived into ‘Looking after yourself and your loved ones so that you can lead well during tough times’ in session 1.

She shared practical and achievable steps leaders can take to reduce the load on themselves and others, through acknowledging the psychological impact of disasters, recognising signs of distress, getting through the early days, the power of community and leaning on others, checking in on others, and being helpful from afar.

Talking through the immediate response phase, Jacqui talked about the early stage “where you’re continually coming up against challenges… the body is in complete survival mode… the risk for people through that period of time is – are they remembering the basics to look after themselves, like eating nutritious food, getting some exercise, and having a shower every morning and trying to get good sleep?”

Jacqui also had some helpful advice for anyone feeling survival guilt.

“Survivor guilt is very normal. There will survivor guilt for those in impacted regions. There’s survivor guilt for those around the country… how helpful is that guilt… the saying that I talk about often is ‘name it to tame it’, naming and acknowledging the survival guilt hopefully diminishes it, and then I’d say channel your energy to where it would be most useful and that will be different for everybody.”

Session 2

The second webinar drilled down into Leading others during the response and recovery phases, which is timely as New Zealand moves into recovery mode.

Jacqui explored how leaders can best care for others when they are individually struggling. She looked at the various reactions people in the team could be experiencing, working out what the core needs for people during and after a disaster in the workplace, and ways that leaders can respond, plan and act to best support their people during this time.

Jacqui and Raewyn discussed leadership and the overwhelm that can occur for many particularly during an emergency situation.

Summing up the unique challenges of leading in the food sector, Raewyn said “We are in a fast-moving consumer goods sector; it can be a high pressure and competitive industry”.

She said the industry is “highly regulated with lots of interdependency: essential goods people can’t survive without, everyday purchases for families, and vital considerations around food safety, nutrition and sustainability. We really feel these pressures during long-term events such as Covid-19, and we know that primary producers and manufacturers are facing huge challenges around weather events, with flow-on effects on the supply chain.”

The Deputy Director-General NZ Food Safety, Vincent Arbuckle, said “I can’t imagine what people are going through, and this is a small means through which NZFS can send support to FGC and its members”.

“Responding to and recovering from a crisis is a long process, and I found Jacqui’s insights to be useful and practical. I plan to implement several of the strategies discussed in the webinars in my work and personal life. If you haven’t tuned in yet, I recommend carving out time in your schedule for these sessions, which offer some insightful professional development. We’re delighted to have Jacqui’s support – her wisdom and expertise are invaluable.”

Read a summary of session 1 or watch the video

Read a summary of session 2 or watch the video