An interview with our director, Sasha Hanic.
Just like our business name, In The Deep suggests, we love exploring things below the surface. We thought to wrap up this year, we'd do a little in-depth self-reflection. So we sat down with our director, Sasha to get her take. Where we've been, what we've learnt and most importantly, what's on her summer reading list to end 2019!
In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit have you formed that’s most improved In The Deep?
"More than anything, it's my behaviour towards my team". Sasha came to the realisation that as a leader, this is how she impacts the business. "So, it's how I walk into work, how I react to problems, what my expectations are, and my not-so-great-traits that effect those around me.
I've realised that I need to let go of solving everything myself, and as a leader, train my people how to work together as a team." This new mindset has freed her up entirely. "My eyes are open to the reality of working with other people. I guess I've learnt that I can't get frustrated and reactive, instead, I need to channel that into supporting, developing and training them".
As someone who likes to self-reflect a lot, Sasha this year, has focused on her leadership skills.
This came after a couple of difficult years. "In 2017-18, I completely lost my confidence. I let people go with the flow without any boundaries. This year, along with reading a lot about leadership, it's also been about getting my confidence back."
We had to make a change.
"I went through a stage of working with people who weren't the right fit for our team. When I let go of the reigns and didn't give people boundaries, it all started to fall apart." She says, "I then went through a period of doubting myself. It was great, in the fact that it made me realise, once I was back in control, I'm more capable than I gave myself credit for."
We began this year cementing the values, mission and vision statements for In The Deep. In doing so, Sasha says she "became confident to trust the vision for our community, and they opened up the direction in how I can lead."
Sasha admits she'd get really frustrated when people wouldn't pitch in and help. She'd have a to-do list a mile long, and she'd be all about crossing things off the list and getting things done. "What behaviour has most impacted In The Deep?..." she ponders, "I've changed from being a task-focused person, to a people-focused person. I've realised that I'm dealing with HUMANS! And they too need time, and structure, leadership, and coaching." This mindset, she says has "helped me lead people, rather than a to-do list."
As an introvert, being a leader has not come naturally.
"I could sit in my office alone, not answer my phone and get things done, and be the happiest person in the world. As an introvert that's a core part of who I am, but I've thrown that ideal out the window." Sasha has had to get out of her comfort zone. She now spends time getting to know everyone more intimately. In doing so, she says "I'm getting the gold out of everybody. I feel like our team is really connecting now. It's been invaluable. We're doing fun things together, like staff squads and the Christmas racing night, for example".
“It was so amazing to see our community having fun! One of our resident Dad's clocked a 28 seconds for their 50m freestyle! So, it's on now, everyone is amped up for more!”
Sasha reflects that this is part of In The Deep's big vision statement. She feels "like this mindset shift has been huge in moving us towards our vision of community." "Putting people first over my to-do list and helping the team to grow has made a difference. I was so disconnected from the team at the start of this year. Stepping more into my role as a leader has allowed our values and culture to flow into a tight-knit crew."
What in your mind, have been the key accomplishments for In The Deep this year?
Our new water! The first one that springs to mind for Sasha "is getting our new Brauer water system." After reflecting on the values of In The Deep, it was really important to Sasha that the environment also reflected the brand values.
“Our new water feels aligned to our value of ease. Knowing that I'm keeping our community healthy and free of toxic chlorine by-products — that was a big win.”
Having record enrolments this term! We've welcomed an extra 100 children to our classes this term. Whilst Sasha admits she's not much of a numbers person, she says "moving the needle feels like all this hard work has made a difference.
We're creating a learning environment that families are excited to be a part of." She reflects, "I had to change the whole culture of the business from my previous mistakes, and recruit and train fifteen new teachers, too. What it took to overcome past errors and make this happen feels like a huge personal accomplishment."
Developing our brand. "Reflecting on who we are, and what brings us joy, as a business, has had such an impact on our team's culture" Sasha goes on to say. She's blown away by the people we're attracting to work at In The Deep and how much of the brand's values are reflected in them, too.
After doing staff appraisals recently, Sasha says "their feedback has been a highlight for me. They've loved making new friends and becoming part of this tight-knit team. They all get along so well. So the record enrolments isn't just a number for me, it's outcomes like this that I treasure".
Presenting at the ASSA Conference! This year, Sasha was asked to present at the ASSA Conference – a humbling honour in the swim school industry. She chose to walk the audience through developing In The Deep's vision, mission and values for her presentation.
With lots of positive feedback in the room, Sasha muses "I struck a nerve at that conference; a lot of presentations stick to the surface level of what and how swim schools do things, so with what we presented, it was going into more depth, exploring who we are, and WHY we do things and the need to create a business that is a joy to run, which people really responded to."
Some other honourable things Sasha mentions:
- Special thanks to Jill for her star recruitment skills! ??
- My tassie trip was amazing. I fell in love with that beautiful place ?
- Our new staff uniforms ✨
- Our Bondi Junction office has helped us create a sense of community for our team ?
- Getting our teachers involved in customer support has been wonderful – their knowledge of the water is invaluable! ?
What has been a key lesson you’ve personally learnt this year?
In business, Sasha now understands her role as leader and reflects that "the leader sets the tone of the whole business.
To do that well, you really have to look after yourself. I've overworked myself this year to get the business to where I want it – and am amazed that I'm still finding energy. My body keeps telling me to slow it down, so now one of the habits I'm getting into is not apologising for time off. I used to feel guilty taking even one day off a week and not being there for everybody, but I'm learning to overcome that and do things that fill my own cup back up.
I'm learning to let go of the belief that everyone will think I'm slacking off if I take a day off here and there." (We think it must be her Gen X traits that made her believe this, haha!)
Sasha says it's all about continual learning and growing. "I'm looking at my mistakes now as a real learning opportunity, instead of losing my confidence. Leadership is so important – I made the mistake of me thinking I could distance myself from my people and everything would be fine.
“Even if you're an introvert, you do have to connect with your staff – leadership is all about embracing and empowering people.”
What are you grateful for this year?
Sasha responds, "I'm so grateful that no matter how much you mess up, there's always an opportunity to fix things. Losing fifteen staff last December and turning that around in 6 months, goes to show me that things will always pan out. You can always change and find a way if you want to. My eyes have been opened to a lot this year." She reflects, "Phew! I'm glad it's over! It's been one of the toughest years of my life, but it has shown me how much you can achieve in such a short period of time. It nearly killed me but I think we've now established our culture, branding and values, and they've set us up for an incredible 2020."
...And finally, what’s on your summer reading list?
"Oh, I do have a summer reading list!" Sasha excitedly goes and grabs a couple of books off the shelf behind her. "Gosh I love this question.
I want to get out of business thinking mode first up. I'm going to read a biography that's been sitting on my shelf for two years. 'This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl' by Paul Brannigan — I love Dave Grohl. I feel like he has an important voice, and I love his quote about kids making music in garages — it's a good reminder to get off my screen and go get creative!" We go off on a tangent about hiding our phones this season, and how damaging they can be to creativity.
So what else is on the list, we wonder? "And then I picked up this book on the Enneagram. I've been thinking about activities I can do with the team next year, and I keep hearing about how amazingly accurate it is and people I admire are getting really into it. It's called 'The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery' by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
About three years ago I dabbled in it, and also looked at the Myer Briggs one and a few others, but the Enneagram speaks to me more, so I'm going to dive in. I like the depth of the thinking, the unpacking of our personalities and understanding who we are, and how we operate at a high and low level of the type we are. So I'm going to do a bit of self-discovery to end the year, and indulge my inner introvert!
Well, we say, you've earned it Sasha!
We hope you have a whale of a holiday season, our dear community! Thank you so much for welcoming us on your swimming journey this year, and we'll sea you in the water in 2020! x