Mental Health Training

#32 High performance secrets from 30 years of research – Samantha Huddle, GM, AU/NZ, Great Place To Work (s02ep08)

May 13, 2022

Great Place to Work certify companies by surveying their employees and is the global authority on workplace culture. So, as GM for Australia and New Zealand, Samantha Huddle, know's a thing or two about building psychologically safe and caring cultures. Samantha has worked with Great Place to Work in multiple countries and provides valuable insights on organisations of all sizes.
"When we talk about care, we're talking about employees having the extent to which management is actually showing an interest in them as a person, not just an employee."
- Samantha Huddle


  • How a caring workplace is one where employees feel that they can bring their whole selves to work, where they enjoy high levels of psychological safety.
  • How the values of a workplace are not something that are on a wall, it’s what employees experience in their day-to-day interactions with management and colleagues.
  • Building trust in the work place is about being collaborative and involving employees in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment.
  • How to manage mistakes in the work place by focusing on the information rather than about the person


Check out the Great Place To Work Website for more information on this fantastic organisation.

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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Samantha Huddle 

Graeme Cowan 0:03 

Hi, everyone, this is Graeme Cowan, and welcome to the Caring CEO podcast. We create this podcast because we believe that every leaders number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together. It is my job to interview CEOs and other senior leaders who value building both a culture of care and a culture of high performance. I’m very keen to understand how they do this. And I’m sure they’ll be lots of insights and tips for anyone who wants to build a high performing team. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Samantha Huddle to the Caring CEO. Welcome, Samantha.

Samantha Huddle 0:43 

Thank you for having me, Graeme, I’m really pleased to be here.

Graeme Cowan 0:47 

What does care in the workplace mean to you, Samantha?

Samantha Huddle 0:50 

We talk a lot about care at A Great Place to Work. And we find that it’s really fundamental to a great workplace experience. So, we’ve been studying organizations for the past 30 years. And what we found is that high trust cultures. And so, they’re ones where people trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do. And they enjoy the people that they work with, is what makes a great workplace. And we look at care, under what we call respect. So, we find that trust is made up of the relationships between management and employees. So, and we’re talking about credibility, respect and fairness. So, when we talk about care, we’re talking about employees having the extent to which management is actually showing an interest in them as a person, not just an employee, and that they understand about their well-being, they’re able to have a healthy workplace environment, they’ve got benefits that support them. And management recognizes that they actually had lives outside of work as well. And we find that caring managers are really aware of the impact that work has upon the employees’ lives. And coupled together, I guess with that is a caring workplace is one where employees feel that they can bring their whole selves to work, where they enjoy high levels of psychological safety. And they’ve also able to make a mistake, without feeling that there might be, you know, retribution, they can make some mistakes there and on as part of doing business. So, we find that great workplaces. Caring is really a central part of that. And what we’ve also found in the past sort of 12 months, or 24 months now COVID just kept on going, you know, more than any other time, like care has really come to the forefront. And the most important thing that managers can be doing is showing that care and compassion for employees on an individual basis and understanding that you can’t have one size fits all response, because every employee’s individual needs are quite unique, you might have someone that’s trying to homeschool young children, but then you might have someone that’s living alone and really missing out on those social connections. Or you may have somebody that has elder care responsibilities as well. So, we’ve got to be able to sort of work out, I guess, managers, being able to connect on that personal, individual authentic level with the people they work with, and be able to, I guess, you know, demonstrate caring in a really genuine way. And it’s been amazing, because some of the things we’ve seen over the past couple of years have been, you know, truly inspiring. And when the whole world has fallen apart in lots of ways people were able to rely on people that had jobs have been able to rely on work, and that’s given them that certainty, or that, you know, support that sometimes people get don’t get outside of the workplace. So yeah, sorry, a very long out. I think, you know, care is really central to, to work.

Graeme Cowan 3:46 

Yeah. Now, what you’re saying is so true. The last, whatever it is now, over two years, it has just been such rapid change and such volatility, that we really can’t know the exact answer before we act, we have to be able to give it our best shot. And, you know, I’ve heard Jeff Bezos say that the 70% solution, you have your 70% shorts, right that go with that one. And then the gesture sales afterwards. But that concept of psychological safety, which people can be themselves, where they can try things and know that they’re going to be sacrificed, if things go wrong, is absolutely critical. Having the great place to work come into being, I think you mentioned about 30 years old how, what was the reason behind it?

Samantha Huddle 4:34 

Yeah, it’s, I mean, I love this story. So initially, the organization it’s founded by Robert Laboring, and he was an industrial relations journalist. And so, he was an anti-Vietnam war protester. And he used to write about how terrible companies were. And he managed to get some a book advance in the 80s to write a book about the worst places to work in America. And he was going to do this with Milton Moskowitz is a very famous journalist at the time, but then the publishers got a bit nervous. And they’re like, oh, maybe you can’t actually write a book about places to work in the US, you have to write about the best workplaces. And he’s like, was very cynical, but they don’t, they’re already paid him the advance. So, he actually went about and spent the next few years talking to 1000s of employees across the US. And much to his surprise, he found out that there were some actually really great workplaces out there. But what they had in common was that they had really high levels of trust, trust between employees and management, and where employees had really high levels of trust with their colleagues. And so, they were able to sort of trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people that they work with. And so, we started in the US, he had this book that was the New York best time seller, and then went on to publish ‘The First List in Partnership with Fortune’ that’s very well known. And now we publish this recognizing best workplaces in more than 70 countries around the world. But then in 2015, our global CEO, Michael Bush came in and joined the business. And we’ve been having a look at the data. And what he actually found was, although we’ve been recognizing those great workplaces for a long time, some of his conversations with some employees, at some workplaces, they weren’t actually having a great experience. And we found that there was sort of inconsistencies in the data. When we looked at what frontline workers were experiencing relevant to executives, or people based on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, there are all these other things. So, we actually found that trust wasn’t just enough. And we’ve actually looked at the end just evolved to develop the great place to work for all models. So now what we’re looking at is consistency of experience. So, it’s really important, we know that at a great workplace, we have leaders who have strong values. But we also look at innovation by all where everybody has the opportunity to contribute to new ideas, and have their ideas listened to no matter who they are, what they do in the organization, and that everybody has the opportunity to contribute. And so yeah, that’s sort of how we get to where we are today.

Graeme Cowan 7:12 

I worked in a recruitment consultancy for about 15 years all up and in executive search as well. And so, I’ve worked a long time in consulting. And it was always very, very common story that we would go to see and visit a client and they’d have their values up on the wall and all that sort of stuff. And then the next day or the next week, you’d have someone from that company just telling a completely different story. So, it’s one thing to name your values. And, and but it’s another thing to lose them, isn’t it?

Samantha Huddle 7:43 

Yeah, absolutely. And we talk about that in our model, we say that the values are not something that are on a wall, we actually say that it’s what employees experience in their day-to-day interactions with management. And with their colleagues.

Graeme Cowan 7:55 

And trust is such a critical element, as you’ve identified and really looked at in a lot of detail. But you know, there’s, I think there’s like the Edelman trust index, which shows that it’s very low. And that was really before COVID began, has it improved or declined since COVID started?

Samantha Huddle 8:18 

We’ve actually found that if we look at our best workplaces falls on average, over the past 12 months, they’ve actually improved. But what we found is that organizations that were doing things really, really well before they could lean on their trust reserves during hard times. And they’ve been able to adapt and be far more agile than places where that might not have been the case. And I think, you know, for many organizations, COVID has forced them to have this leap of faith for that employee working remotely. And they haven’t been able to sort of monitor and control in the way that they might have been able to traditionally but there’s great workplaces that have this sort of already got high levels of trust, and have been able to make that transition a lot more easily.

Graeme Cowan 9:01 

What can a senior leadership do to restore trust? It’s very fragile, isn’t it? What can I do to restore it?

Samantha Huddle 9:11 

Um, I mean, I think trust is easily broken and, and take full and can be taken a long time to build. And I think involving employees in decisions is one of the most important things. So being collaborative. What we find time and time again, is that when employees are involved in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment, or they believe that management’s responding to their suggestions and ideas that builds trust, and it also requires really strong two-way communications practices. We had an interview with Ben Dawson in San Francisco earlier in the year, and he’s the CEO of Cisco, he’s won the Best Workplaces in Australia last two years. You know, they’re an amazing organization. And one of the things that he said was that trust first and then deal with deviations from that, and that’s sort of how they are approached COVID. And I think that’s, you know, a really great way for employees to think about, you know, you give people that trust, rather than, you know, employees slowly having to earn it. Because I think at the end of the day, they want to do a good job. People want to have a great time at work. Yeah.

Graeme Cowan 10:20 

Trust and vulnerability can lead to trust kata, and I read somewhere, I think it was Daniel Coyle book about the culture code that he actually the vulnerability precedes trust. So, it’s, you know, the willingness to say you don’t know the answers, that you don’t know what’s going to happen three months down the track, because things are changing so quickly, that can really build it. And I remember I once did a project with a workgroup in AB, they were in the operations area, continuous improvement, and a great leader, the guy, but then I’m David, David Banks. And one of the outcomes of no games will change at that time. And this is like, you know, five years ago, but one of the outcomes of that was that David Banks, who was the general manager, he did a telecon every two weeks, where he would answer questions. And sometimes he had to say, I just don’t know. Sometimes he would say that. I know, but I can’t tell you. And sometimes he would say, I know, but I can’t tell you that now. And just by doing that, it brought down the stress and built the trust.

Samantha Huddle 11:32 

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s something that we’ve actually, that is their value, what’s something that I’m often you know, we talk to our clients about when we do culture coaching with them. It’s about you know, sometimes you might have the answers that you’re not able to tell your people, but it’s better to actually say that, to say nothing. And that definitely helps. And it’s about trying to keep those two-way communication mechanisms open. Yeah.

Graeme Cowan 11:57 

I read, Samantha, that one of your heroes is your grandfather. Why is that? Who was he? And why was he a hero to you?

Samantha Huddle 12:06 

Well, my, he’s my father’s father, and he’d had, you know, he had a, I think, you know, quite a challenging life, you know, he was, he was orphaned. And he had been sent to this very explosive private school in England on a full scholarship by the Freemasons, but I think he was one of, you know, a number of children. And he’s saying that his siblings were actually not doing so well now living in poverty. So, he actually left school very early to go and work and to care for them. You know, he then married and then, you know, World War Two, and he was in Dunkirk, he was a sergeant, and a whole lot of officers actually managed to get themselves back to England. And he was left behind with a number of others, and they spent time behind enemy lines. And they were able to safely sort of come back. But then went on to sort of raise his family in the UK. And he was very involved in lots of community work and he was a very gentle man that I understand. But, you know, I only really got to connect with him as a child. And I’d love to have an adult conversation about some of the things that he learned about leadership and such, you know, how would you go through experience like that and carry on? And, you know, the trials and tribulations, but he was also very humble person.

Graeme Cowan 13:21 

Did you see any of his qualities reflected in your father?

Samantha Huddle 13:24 

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I think, in terms of sort of dedication and hard work, I mean, my dad was a 10th on tourists. And he came out here, with $100, in a suitcase, told us growing up, and I think, you know, to work really hard, but be really appreciative of the opportunities that he was giving us. Because things were really hard for a lot of people in Britain after the war, and I think, you know, one of those things was that, you know, it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, everybody is to be treated with respect. And, you know, which is kind of funny, because I come into a great place to work. And it’s such a central tenant of the model about who we are and what we do. And I mean, I know in Denver, it’s came to Melbourne, people used to ask him what he started doing for a living and what school he went to, and that was nothing, you know, in the 60s in the 70s. And that time, no one was around, and he would not answer those questions. And I think sort of, you know, for me equity and providing others we, you know, everybody has the opportunity. Everybody should have the opportunity to have a positive great experience at work. And for many people, that’s unfortunately not the case.

Graeme Cowan 14:32 

And your mom came to Australia when she was 18, right? That’s right.

Samantha Huddle 14:37 


Graeme Cowan 14:37 

That’s a big thing by, by herself and–

Samantha Huddle 14:39 

And with her mother.

Graeme Cowan 14:41 

Okay, with her mother, okay.

Samantha Huddle 14:44 

But I understand at the time mom wasn’t very keen on me. But yeah, so should they shake hands as well, I mean, mom had actually traveled around and lived lots of different places as a child because their mother was raising her by herself. And, you know, women had worked during the war, but then as soon as the men came back, there were no jobs for women, they had to give all those jobs up for men. And so, it was very difficult. I think that my grandmother had to find work and they moved around a lot. So, Mom went to like, I think, 10 different schools and left school at the end of year 10. And I think her teacher really wanted her to go to university, but she had to, she was told she had to leave school, and it was time to get a job. So, I think, you know, like, I’ve been very lucky to have experiences that they didn’t have. And, you know, I guess I’ve made aware of that. And we that kind of feels you feel some kind of, I have no responsibility.

Graeme Cowan 15:39 

Yeah. And you chose to, you’re the first in your family to go to university, which was a great, you know, achievement by your parents to prepare you and have you ready, and make sacrifices, and you chose to study literature. What was that?

Samantha Huddle 15:54 

Oh, I was just really passionate about writing and ideas, and the way that words could make you feel and the way that you could use with to influence others, I guess. Yeah, literature and politics. And history as well, I guess. But I was looking at, you know, do I do it for commerce, and I was thinking the right thing, sensible thing to do would be commerce and dead luck you should do what you love and what you feel interested in. And I feel so lucky to have had that education. Because so often, you know, it’s all about how you can actually get, you know, something that’s going to be functional. And to have that opportunity to learn how to think critically is, you know, wonderful.

Graeme Cowan 16:39 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Samantha Huddle 16:42 

Um, wow, that’s a big question. I, I mean, look, just to enjoy and relax some of Shielding. Brooke. I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown in the last few years. And I mean, I think, you know, her work on vulnerability is amazing. And really inspiring. And I think you sort of get to a stage of your life where you want to start, you know, reflecting on who you are, especially after you have kids and, and how you want to do things.

Graeme Cowan 17:13 

I also saw just on Brene Brown, I also saw that you’re a real fan of that speech she did you know, T Roosevelt had that saying about being in the arena, and you loved what she spoke about. Now, what do you, what did you take away from that, that you use?

Samantha Huddle 17:33 

I mean, it’s okay. It’s just you know, if you’re really passionate about something, and you really believe in something, it’s better to, to get up and have a go and try to make a contribution. And even you know, it’s not going to be perfect. If you don’t have a goal, you, if you do have a goal, you’ll get further than you ever would have before. And it’s so you know, they talk about that she talks about the cheap seats, it’s so easy to sit there and criticize others. And I think, you know, particularly sometimes we can have a bit of a tall poppy syndrome culture. But, you know, I think we should really celebrate others that are willing to step up and, and give things a go, because it’s not easy.

Graeme Cowan 18:09 

Yes. Yeah, very much. So, one of your first jobs was with Patagonia. What were they like to work with?

Samantha Huddle 18:16 

Oh, they’re amazing. So, I sort of came to Patagonia because I’ve just done a couple of cases, I was going overseas, working in ski resorts and had started wearing their clothes. And I had a friend who had actually been working in retail and had sold me, one of the items in Canada and told me about the company. And then when I came back to Melbourne, I was kind of I’d come back to do my honors, yeah. And they just opened up their first store in Melbourne and sort of went in, and I was very excited and got myself a job. And they were just amazing. Because they had this, this saying at the time, and we don’t care what hours our employees work, as long as the job gets done. And you’ve said that we’d close the store. And I was really lucky to meet a bunch in AD, who was their founder when he came out to Australia. And I guess for me, it really had a massive influence on my career in a couple of ways. I remember first, when Christmas, we received his box of brownies from the US. And that was to celebrate the fact that they’ve been named in the Fortune Best Companies list. And little did I know that I would eventually start working for great place to work in the UK and Australia. But also, like at the time, I was studying human rights as part of my [19:30], thesis. And for me, it was about understanding the impact that business could actually have as a force for social change in the world and to say, you know how men Patagonia really use the purpose of the company as a tool for social change, for environmental change. They were you know, very early, they decided to give 1% of revenue to grassroots environmental causes. And it made me think about business in a way that I’d never really thought about before and which I found really interesting. And so that had really influenced me in the sort of some of the career choices I made. But just the way they trusted their people, they treated their people, they build camaraderie. But everybody was really you’re not like people in the company really believed in the purpose of what the company did. So, you weren’t just buying a ski jacket or place, you know, you actually buying, you know, this purpose. And it’s ideal. That was pretty special.

Graeme Cowan 20:24 

Yeah, yeah. And I know now I’m pretty sure they’re a B Corp, which for our listeners is a beneficial corporation. That means that they’re accredited on what they contribute to their employees and suppliers, the community and the environment. And so, and that that sort of sense of contribution I see in your career, that’s been quite a common theme you’ve been interested in, and even your master’s studies now. Why do you think it is important for employers to contribute to a better world?

Samantha Huddle 20:56 

Look, I think there’s a few reasons. I mean, there’s the business case. And at the moment, if we look at Gen Y, and Gen Z employees, they really want to work somewhere that matches their values, they want to work at places where employers have purpose that are inclusive, they have a position on climate change. But I think, you know, in the world today, we have these systemic problems, that can’t just be solved by government, or by individuals, we need business and government and individuals and civil society to come together to be able to solve them. And if we, if we don’t do that, we won’t be able to get the benefits. And you know, we won’t be able to solve these wicked problems. And when I say that, I’m talking about things like poverty and climate change, or, or even, you know, a lack of well-being people experiences at work. So, I think there’s a really important role that government and business can play. We know that when employees feel a sense of purpose in their work, and not just about the work that they do, but even something outside of work, they’re actually going to make a much more significant contribution than if they don’t so one of the questions we ask is, I feel good about the ways we contribute to community. And my work has special meaning and we find it the best workplaces on those two statements. Employees write much more highly than the average workplaces.

Graeme Cowan 22:18 

If you believe like we do those leaders number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together, you may be interested in these three free resources were provided at our website, The first one is the ‘We Care’ credo poster. And this contains the mindset and values of teams that prize, self-care, crew care, and redzone care. The second resource is a poster called ‘How to support a teammate in distress?’ And this provides easy to follow instructions on how to identify someone who’s struggling, how to have the ‘Are you okay?’ conversation with empathy, and how to guide them to the help that they need. And the third resource is a building a mentally healthy culture checklist. And this provides items to think about before you launch initiative, how you do a great launch. And then thirdly, how to keep the momentum going following the launch. These three free resources can be found at

I was fortunate enough to interview Steve Wardlow, Managing Director of Microsoft in Australia. And he talked about the huge impact that the CEO, the global CEO of Microsoft could have blamed God is on his name. But he started his whole speech when he took over the CEO about five years ago that he talks about how technology had helped his children who had learning difficulties and were dyslexic could they can certainly do it with the help of technologies. And so, he threw out the challenge of, you know, what are you passionate about? How can how can you use Microsoft to change the problems or improve the problems you’re passionate about? And as an example of that, Steve Borel decided to start the middle health Workplace Alliance, which was for senior leaders to really embrace the concept of change. And yeah, and I have spoken with other people that work in real purpose focused organizations and they really had something and the you probably aware there was a report brought out by Atlassian and PwC called Return on Action last year, and it showed that employee’s number one societal concern was mental health. And I guess that reflects the whole, you know, pandemic and whatnot. Interview. But what was even more fascinating, I thought was that on average, or the people interviewed the engagement, those 54% engaged, but if their employers were doing something about the causes are passionate about that went up to 89%, then I’m sure you’ll own your own stuff will reflect that as well.

Samantha Huddle 25:20 

Yeah, I look, Microsoft and Atlassian are both great, which are a great place to work certified companies. And we, yeah, we sit, we say that in the care that they show their employees as well. But we’ve found that quite often in the last couple of years, people have had the mental health support from work because they haven’t had other places to get it. And I think there’s been this real sort of tipping point, with awareness around mental health and well-being where now it’s sort of okay for people to talk about it in a work context in a way that two years ago really wasn’t normalized.

 Graeme Cowan 25:55 

In some Gallup research, they found that up to 70%, of engagement in the team is due to what the manager or leader does or says. So, if that’s the case, how do we scale great leadership and management across an organization?

Samantha Huddle 26:13 

Yeah, look, that’s, you know, we’re definitely find that those frontline leaders are actually critical to creating a great place to work experience. And what we know now is that with the speed and agility with which decisions need to be made in a business, they’re being made further and further down the line. So, you can’t just be relying on the executive to make these decisions, we need to be able to trust our frontline leaders, that mid-level managers to be able to make these decisions. And I think part of that is having a culture where people it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to learn, it’s okay to show up and be yourself. And I think a lot of you know, the workplaces that do this really, really well. They’re able to coach their managers to be able to make those individual connections with the employees, they manage on a very personal, you know, individual basis. And so quite often it might give those managers enough sort of training, so they feel competent, having these conversations with their reports about what’s going on, you know, how can we help you then balance your work life and your personal life, so you can bring your whole best self to work. I mean, a great example I’ve got is mantle group who the medium this workplaces category in Australia last year, and their managing director actually meets with every employee every year to work out my deal. And the module is, what is your module for what you want to achieve on your personal and work goals next four months, and then they work together to work out a module for how they can help that employee do that, which is just a fabulous practice.

Graeme Cowan 27:46 

I really like that that’s an that’s sensational. How many employees do they have?

Samantha Huddle 27:53 

300, I think.

Graeme Cowan 27:55 

Obviously takes a huge amount of the CEOs time, but he’s obviously determined that it’s worth it.

Samantha Huddle 28:02 

Yeah, yeah. And I think I mean; they might I think they’re half the brand. So that’s probably done by managing directors in the different businesses, but it’s, it’s just such a fabulous practice. And, you know, they’re a great organization, really high levels of trust. But that means that it’s like a unique and special benefit that they’re able to offer their people. And so, things like that will help build trust. But I think having that, you know, we’re talking about four or later is someone who’s able to make that emotional connection with the people that they’re leading. So, they feel listened to so they’re able to raise concerns and ideas.

Graeme Cowan 28:34 

How do you raise concerns with someone that reports to you that is disappointed you?

Samantha Huddle 28:42 

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, is we interviewed Bellroy, who is also a B Corp, and I want our small list. And that was talking about like when mistakes are made. At work. It’s always about the information. It’s not about person. It’s about the information. And that’s something that I’ve really been thinking about a lot in how I sort of lead and manage people like what is the information that is, you know, got somebody to make this decision. I mean, I haven’t really been in a situation where I’m at the moment where people are disappointing me, everybody is, you know, so passionate and committed. But I think when mistakes are made, I think that’s a great way to look at how we can fail quickly and move on. It’s like what’s the information rather than it being the person?

Graeme Cowan 29:30 

And on a personal level, you’ve got lots of balls to juggle, you know, you’re married, you’ve got, you know, two kids, you’ve lived in Melbourne. So, by definition, you’ve had lots of lockdowns. So, you’ve done lots of homeschooling. How did you and your husband cope with that?

Samantha Huddle 29:46 

Like it’s been really hard and he’s been, you know, really, really great. But I think in lots of ways, it’s been the sort of new level of where all of a sudden, you know, both parents in families, whether two parents at home, we’ve young families have had to sort of say, all of the domestic things that we’ve had to balance. I know that its last year, we had some changes in our business in Australia, and we’ve been growing really quickly. So, it was like being in a startup in the middle of a pandemic. And I think, you know, it’s about like, especially prioritizing, you can’t do everything at once I know, you know, Mr. Isaacs, from business chicks, she talks about the four burners. And she can only keep two burners going at a time. And I think that’s a great analogy. And I think, you know, for us to say, sort of like family, and sanity first, you can’t do everything and my perfectionist tendencies have really been, had to be shown the door. But we really make it a priority in terms of, you know, I do PT and Pilates and I walk with the girlfriend a couple of times a week, my husband plays soccer and asked during exercise and having that time is actually really important. So, we can actually be our best selves for our kids. But it also means that the, I’m doing my Masters as well. So, my socializing might just be catching up with a girlfriend for a walk won’t be this sort of what I look back at pre COVID times the excessive social use through with John. And I think, you know, I know definitely in the last six months, I’ve been really trying to mind my mindset. And one of the things I’ve done, that has been really positive, he’s journaling. And I just, you know, as somebody who used to be passionate about writing, I don’t know how I haven’t come to this party so late, but just being able to reflect on what I’m grateful for each day. You know, if we’re working at home, better have a home. I have a family. There are so many things that we can be grateful for. And I think that sort of practices helped. And, you know, I don’t really, I don’t drink really, unless there’s a special occasion because I need to get my sleep. In lots of ways, it’s about keeping it simple, stupid, I guess.

Graeme Cowan 32:05 

And when you write your journal, do you do that by typing or just–

Samantha Huddle 32:09 

I write. I handwrite it. Yeah, yeah. And so, and my husband’s been, you know, his really had like, were both, you know, partners in raising our children. And we both sort of share the pickups and drop offs. And we have time with the children like they’re both at primary school, so they’re still worth by one. So, we get that sort of one-on-one time and have that family time and prioritize like at least having one meal a day together as a family, which doesn’t sound like much, but it actually sometimes in his activities or in a queue, it can disappear. And I think that’s for me that’s kind of the cornerstone of families being able to sit down and talk at the table, even if they don’t like what you’re serving. But another thing I’ve read recently was Robin Sharma, I don’t know they’re familiar with him.

Graeme Cowan 32:56 

Yeah, I understand that the book ‘The Everyday Hero Manifest’.

Samantha Huddle 33:01 

But he writes another book called ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’, and ‘The 5am Club’. So, this is, um, this is the first one of his that I have read, but he has this methodology about how to sort of be your best and then some things that I’ve taken from it. And something that at my, at this stage in my life with young children are not quite working, like I do try the 5am club for a few weeks, but I was trying, I was having to go to bed before them and it didn’t work that halfway. You know, one of the things he talks about is like doing this Weekly Review at about, you know, what you’ve done over the course of the week, and so I’ve been going back through my journal and looking at and giving the weak bit of a regime. And, you know, sometimes you’re actually, you know, moving the needle or changing things or making games that you wouldn’t have necessarily done if you hadn’t done that.

Graeme Cowan 33:48 

You mentioned the you know, the gratitude benefits of journaling, and that’s, that’s well proven, that’s great for our mood, self, a sense of self as well. But we also, do you also have insights by having that habit that you may not have had if you hadn’t had the regular journaling activity?

Samantha Huddle 34:08 

I think fine, and I think it was something that Ben Crow who I follow, who I think which is fabulous, shared a couple of weeks ago on Instagram and I think something had happened while Rafa was playing Nadal was playing. And he was sort of interrupted by somebody was heckling from the crowd. And he was talking about how there’s this space, he was referring to that psychiatrist, but he was sort of saying there’s this space between stimulus and response. And that’s where you have the power to choose. And I think it’s really helped me stop and think and reflect and, and even you know, sometimes, you know, there are things that might heighten your blood pressure during the day. You know, I’m being in Melbourne in a lockdown situation for a long time. There’s lots of things like that, but I think it’s made me stop and say, oh, actually, I’m aware I’m feeling and thinking it’s I’m going to pause and take a breath. And think about it differently. So, I think it also really helps you to reframe situations,

Graeme Cowan 35:06 

I really what life would Ben Crow said, because he’s as you know, as the mindset coach fresh body as well. And he talked about how many of us stress by things we can’t control, and you have no control over the outcome, you have no control and other people, but you can control what you choose to do each day, and what you do and how you do it sort of thing. And I really think that’s a fabulous perspective, really. You let go the results. And I think that does help with actually performing better than ever as, as Ash Barty certainly showed.

Samantha Huddle 35:45 

Absolutely. And I was so lucky to be in the Barty party couple of weeks ago. And I was watching. And you know, she just looks like she was enjoying it and just such grace as well. And I think that’s the thing, like life is a journey. And, you know, I’m really lucky that I have a real sense of connection and purpose to the work I do. And I’m really passionate about it. But I think, you know, if we can connect to that purpose and be it’s in the small actions and those small things that we do every day, rather than just being focused on these end goals, it can really, you know, help us enjoy the experience a lot more.

Graeme Cowan 36:21 

And it’s also good to reflect on Nadal as well. And I must admit, I’m one who gave up and it was two sets down. He was sweating like a pig. He’s making unforced errors. I’ve thought it’s all over. It’s all over. And just, just extraordinary. And he’s had never done that before. So, 35 years old and 20 grand slams, he’d never come back from two sets down before but somehow you mentioned it and you know, and I think it is a lot as what you describe as what Ben Crow described is choosing how to respond. One point at a time, it’s, there’s lots of great lessons there for us, that’s for sure. If you have a message that you could share with the world, what would it be?

Samantha Huddle 37:11 

Look, I think, you know, at the end of the day, we’re all we’re all the same. We’re all you know, we’re all, we all want to love and be seen and feel understood. And just acknowledge that we can do that together with each other.

Graeme Cowan 37:30 

Yeah, yeah.

Samantha Huddle 37:32 

Yeah, we all have hopes and dreams. And, and you never know, really, you never always know what another person’s going through. Yeah, I think that’s an important one as well. So, I think the last few years, there’s been such, you know, social upheaval and turbulence globally, and in lots of ways, and I think, particularly for people that have, you know, worked, tried to work on social change, or impressive movements or things about, you know, business being opposed to good and things like that, I think it led a lot of people to do a lot of soul searching. And I’ve personally, I’ve done a lot of soul searching about things like, you know, climate change, like, why haven’t we made the gains? And why hasn’t anybody listened? But I think, you know, there’s been a lot of, you know, people have been shouting at each other, and there hasn’t been as much listening and people would try to meet each other on the same level. And so, I think it would be about try to find ways to tell a friend.

Graeme Cowan 38:29 

Yeah, yeah. And I love that point about not knowing what people are going through. There’s is saying, I can’t remember who said it be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. And it is very, very true. You know, I share my story of battling with depression and mental illness, frequently, and just so many people come back, come up to you, until you hear his story. And, you know, these can be people who look like they got the perfect life. But you don’t know, you really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. And I think that sort of mindset is a great one to have that connection with people to realize, well, you know, who wants similar things, and we all want to feel respected and understood. It’s absolutely fantastic, catching up with you, Samantha, a wide range of discussions and topics and it’s particularly great to get your insights. You know, running an organization in Australia, like great places to work because you have lots of qualitative and I’m sure qualitative insights about how those things you raised of some important the, you know, the trust, the respect the other person’s perspective, the purpose, all really critical things to navigate in this sort of environment. If you had the opportunity to go back to your 20-year-old self, so just when you were finishing your literatures degree, and you could have the knowledge you have now what, what advice would you give that person?

Samantha Huddle 40:09 

If got time? Pause and take a breath? I think one of the things I’d say is that you don’t have to think the same way as other people for your ideas to be worth something as well. And I think there’s that saying, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ It’s something I talked to my boys about. It’s hard. It’s, you know, like, it’s hard to not get sucked into that. But I think it’s taken me a long time to be able to really try to live that as well. And you know, just be yourself and be okay. It’s one more thing I was hoping to share is yes, I’m in just a great place to work. Our mission is to create great places to work for all but you know, any company that wants to start out on their journey to becoming a great workplace, the first step is to become great place to work certified. So, we can help companies by benchmarking my culture by doing, we use that trusting employee survey to measure the quality of their employees’ experiences at work. And it’s our vision that every organization will, you know, have that high trust culture and become great place to work certified so that, you know, how we’d like to contribute.

Graeme Cowan 41:31 

What are the obvious benefits to employees? What are the benefits to society? If people do feel they’ve got if they do have a great employee experience? What are the benefits to–?

Samantha Huddle 41:42 

Oh, yeah, lower absenteeism, better mental health. You know, businesses will grow faster and create more opportunities, we find that at the best workplaces, for all where people are included and feel they have the opportunity to contribute, that they have higher levels of innovation and that they’re growing, they grow five times faster than other businesses as well. But I think you know, if people are able to bring their whole selves at work, and you know, no matter who they are, or what they do, regardless of ethnicity, or cultural background or gender, that’s also helping model what we’d love to see outside society.

Graeme Cowan 42:20 

Yeah. Thanks for sharing those really important messages on the caring CEO, Samantha, it’s been great talking with you.

Samantha Huddle 42:28 

Pleasure. Thanks for having me, Graeme.

Graeme Cowan 42:31 

Thanks for joining us today. I hope you’ve learned something new and heard some practical tips you can try with your team. If you enjoyed this interview today, please rate us on iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. When you rate us, it helps other people to find us. We also welcome any comments. If you’re interested in seeing details about our scalable weekend mental health training programs, please visit us at Our goal for these programs is to make them accessible, practical, and ongoing. If you’ve been impressed by a CEO that you would like us to interview, please email details to Thanks for joining us.

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