Tags:#NVW2020VolunteersCase StudiesAir New Zealand

4 min read

A sense of purpose – Anita Hawthorne on what she gets out of volunteering

Every year, New Zealanders contribute about 159 million hours of volunteer work to their communities. 

At an individual level, that might seem like a lot. But for Anita Hawthorne, Group GM of Operations & Infrastructure at Air New Zealand, giving that time invigorates everything she does.  

Pure coaching 

With three years of the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme experience in the bag, Anita has spent quality time with numerous principals and volunteers through Springboard Trust.  

“It’s a really nice match between the educational and the corporate, a nicely structured programme that supports principals’ development. All those elements of strategy and operations that you don’t use as a teacher but absolutely need as a principal – it's a real privilege to help them work through that.”  

And it’s work, she notes, that doesn’t actually feel like work at all.  

“The effort that the principal, the Springboard Trust team put in – all the foundations and support for me are already there, I get to come in and have quality coaching conversations with pthe principal every few weeks.” 

“The way it’s set up – first-timers might think they have to do all this work, but you are working with a principal from a pure coaching perspective. No barriers, just you being your purest self and supporting someone else!”  

First-timers might think they have to do all this work, but you are working with a principal from a pure coaching perspective.
Anita Hawthorne, Air New Zealand

Learning a sector, but helping the person  

Anita wanted to learn more about education as part of her work with Springboard Trust, but stresses that it isn’t a requirement to volunteer as a Capacity Partner.  

“You’re coaching a person, not a whole sector. In my first year, realising how much my principal was looking forward to speaking to me, that really hammered home the value of what I was doing.” 

“I wasn’t there to provide advice on education, so to speak. I was there as a human being, a coach and a sounding board. They can talk to you about the broader school environment, their board, challenges facing the school – and you build this trust that makes you a trusted advisor rather than a sector expert.”  

That isn’t to say that Anita has gone through three years with us without learning a bit about schools, however!  

“A big learning for me was governance, how the board structure in schools works and how that is different to corporate boards. It really helped me understand more about the school environment, how it impacts people and even how it impacts people in my team back at Air New Zealand.” 

A focus on the here and now

The last few months have been difficult for everyone – something that isn’t lost on a GM at Air NZ. But Anita’s commitment to working with principals has seen her continue right on through lockdown, learning more and more about what could change in education.  

“[Principals] have had so many challenges recently. The way COVID has challenged everyone to focus on wellness remotely, the way it has really highlighted the diversity of privilege in our communities. These are massive issues that start way out of the school environment, but principals are dealing with the consequences for whole communities.” 

“There are amazing opportunities there as well, and I’m so happy to be able to talk through these things with a principal who might not have that immediate support network – just like any CEO anywhere.” 

That’s why, no matter what else is going on, Anita is thrilled to focus on her volunteer work with principals.  

“Volunteering, it could be a time issue for some people – especially with everything going on right now. But working with Springboard Trust isn’t like that – it's fulfilling, it gives a real sense of purpose.”  

“When you’re doing something so focused, mindful and meaningful, it creates quality time for the rest of the day – that's why I love working with Springboard!”  

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