07. Loshni Manikam: Improving wellbeing in New Zealand’s dairy industry

Loshni Manikam

What if farming + family does not add up to happiness?  Loshni Manikam, leadership coach and winner of Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year in 2018 talks to Sue Stockdale about how she helps women to thrive in New Zealand’s dairy industry.  To find out more about Loshni Manikam see her LinkedIn Profile.




Loshni Manikam transcription

Sue :  Hi, I’m Sue Stockdale. Today I am talking to  Loshni Manikam, winner of the 2018 Fonterra Dairy Women of the year award. She runs Thriving Farming Women. and Iceberg coaching and lives in New Zealand. Welcome, Loshni.

Loshni: [00:00:26] Well, thank you very much, Sue it’s lovely to be here.

Sue : [00:00:29] Now your background is really interesting in terms of how you ended up in New Zealand being responsible for milking I understand 600 cows and doing coaching. Tell us how it all came about.

Loshni: [00:00:41] It’s actually quite a short story because even though I was born in South Africa. You know, I did what a lot of young people do after they finished uni and you go off on your own. And I actually ended up in England backpacking for awhile and I made a lovely boy from New Zealand who happens to [00:01:00] be a fourth generation dairy farmer. And he convinced me that New Zealand was this land of milk and honey. And that’s how I’ve ended up now living in a beautiful part of the world at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand.

Sue : [00:01:14] That sounds amazing and I’m really interesting to understand the leap from dairy farm to being a coach. That’s not what usually people necessarily do.

Loshni: [00:01:24] I got to a point in my life where it was a sort of crossroads. You know, I’d been married to a farmer and unfortunately I can’t take full responsibility for milking 600 cows because that’s mostly my husband’s passion and I’m just more of the business partner. So I married a farmer, raised our kids, stopped doing the law stuff, and I’ve got that stage where the kids were getting older and didn’t need me as much, and I was looking for something more and after a lot of soul searching and try to figure out what really interested me and what made me come alive, I always came back to the fact that it was [00:02:00] people that I loved working with and stumbled across coaching. And that was the transition from being mostly involved in dairy farming to becoming a coach.

Sue : [00:02:11] So when you discovered coaching as a profession, if you like, and something that you could do more of. How did you get into being trained? Learning more about how to coach and even thinking about who your market would be when you’re in the South of New Zealand.

Loshni: [00:02:26] Like I said, it was a pain point for me. It was a crossroads because when I was that farmer’s wife that had given up a big part of her identity and married someone and taken on that whole industry and business. 10 years later, it was a question of rediscovering who I was, what was my identity, what did I enjoy doing? Cause I’d put all of that aside for quite a while because I chose to be the stay at home mum and supportive of farming business. And when I looked around me, I noticed there were lots of other women that were very similar. So in a way, the market was already there. It was something that was very [00:03:00] close to home, and I knew I wanted to work with farming women to help them to rediscover themselves and figure out what they wanted besides family and farming.

And that’s actually what led to coaching and you know, good old dr Google, and I’d been searching and searching and came across this term coaching. ,Back in 2011 in New Zealand, especially, like you say, you know, from a farming background, it wasn’t a very common concept and so the market was something that drove me to find coaching. I already knew it was a pain point. I wanted to try and help resolve. It took me 18 months to build up my self confidence to actually go out and sign up to a coaching course cause it costs a lot of money for someone who was used to not spending money on herself. And then I spent a long time justifying that decision of would I even get one client?

Sue : [00:03:55] So I imagine that you had to have a great deal of belief in yourself that [00:04:00] you would get a return on that investment of learning about coaching, and I know that you are the recipient of the Fonterra Dairy Women of the year award, which is a very prestigious award in New Zealand. Was there any benefit around getting that award and the coaching that you were doing?

Loshni: [00:04:18] Yeah, they’re very much intertwined. In some ways. The award was a recognition of the work that I have been doing for the last five years with women in the farming sector in New Zealand. It’s also brought me a lot more credibility and it’s given me a platform to talk about the things that I’m passionate about. So they are very much intertwined.

Sue : [00:04:38] I imagine then that when you have that belief that something will work out, opportunities come towards you, that you can benefit from.

Loshni: [00:04:45] Yeah. That is such a cliche, but it’s so true too, because sitting there before I started doing my coaching training, and like I said, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a single client, and it is amazing once you take those first steps and [00:05:00] do something that doors open and suddenly seems like there’s a flood of people that are actually interested in finding a coach and I haven’t had a problem with filling my books.

Sue : [00:05:12] In terms of the support that you offer to women in the dairy industry, tell us a bit about the sort of ways that you do that. What are the sort of issues that you’ve come up against that they seek your help with?

Loshni: [00:05:24] I love working with people that are looking to continue thriving before they sort of end up at the top of the cliff or the bottom of her condition. And I like working with people to help them get clarity around what is it that makes them thrive, and also what are the obstacles that get in the way of thriving. So it’s very much a focus on full wellness. Even before health and wellness becomes an issue.

Sue : [00:05:51] That makes sense. And in terms of people taking to coaching in the dairy industry, you talk about it being quite an isolated [00:06:00] remote business in its own right, just because of the geography, et cetera. How do people view it when you offer them coaching? Is it a difficult sell?

Loshni: [00:06:08] I think in the beginning when I started out in 2012 it was unknown and a little bit difficult. And I think what didn’t help was me positioning myself as a life coach because I think that made it more intimidating. And too, I think people perceive that they have to be really vulnerable. What has helped for people in the sector to start taking to coaching. Is what I’ve seen a lot of organizations and individuals do, which is attach coaching as an integral part of leadership. You know, coaching has been attached to a lot of leadership programs in the dairy industry and positioned as an incredibly useful tool for all leaders, and I think that’s really helped the uptake because it’s not being positioned as what we would traditionally consider a soft skill. It’s almost being positioned. As one of the hard skills that you [00:07:00] have to have, and that’s helped with a lot of men looking into coaching as part of their  leadership toolbox, and women as well. I do find that because I’ve also been a coach and a number of leadership programs in New Zealand, even though I started off as positioning as a life coach, I’ve transitioned into more of a leadership and a professional development coach, and that’s what’s made it easy as well, that it’s normally attracted women that want to grow their leadership skills and contribute in the industry, and they’ve been very open to looking at coaching as part of that.

Sue : [00:07:33] So when you say that it’s viewed as a part of leadership and the toolbox that people would have access to, to be more effective leaders, how do you measure the success of the coaching interventions that you have?

Loshni: [00:07:46] It is a good question and it’s a difficult thing to measure in sort of a long term. The way of measuring it is to notice where the people, I actually having positive changes to their lives [00:08:00] and sort of big picture in terms of an industry, what will be great to see is the culture of our industry changing off the farming industry. So instead of us being all about farming and our family, and that’s it if we can start seeing in the next five years or 10 years that our culture is becoming a lot more open and positive and a lot more well-balanced. I think that will be a real indicator that coaching has played a part of that because obviously it’s very multifaceted and there’ll be lots of factors involved. It’s a challenging thing to be able to measure the impact.

Sue : [00:08:34] So I’m hearing you say that it’s around, in a way, changing the individual, so there’s a human element too, an individual element. There’s also a link you ideally would like to see as around the business and society in a way that there’s a greater impact holistically.

Loshni: [00:08:49] Absolutely. It’s one of my pet projects is I would love to see us. I only look at the farming sector, but it’s wider society as well that if we can [00:09:00] get each individual person to be thriving. Then obviously there’s going to be positive ripple impacts on that person’s family, that person’s farming business, their communities that are all made up of farming businesses, and then, you know, the wider New Zealand and then the whole entire world.

Sue : [00:09:17] I was curious to think about what you have learned about you since becoming a coach.

Loshni: [00:09:22] I think I’ve learned it’s more about coaching than me, but it’s very hard to untie the two. But I’ve learned the power and the impact of just listening to someone, the impact I can have by creating a safe and nonjudgmental space and create that space for someone else to get clear on their own thinking. I have learned how powerful that is, and it’s a very interesting thing to learn, especially for someone like me who loves talking, and as you know, when you’re a coach. Most of the time in theory, we’re listening, so [00:10:00] it’s been incredibly powerful to learn about the power of listening.

Sue : [00:10:04] It’s almost the simplicity I’m hearing of that message about really being there and giving somebody their, your full attention is still powerful.

Loshni: [00:10:11] But yes, I think more and more that I coach, the more I learned that our lives are so busy and everyone’s running around all the time doing multitasking. And that people really value and appreciate an hour where they get to talk about themselves and their thoughts because very rarely are we getting that in life anymore an interrupted hour that is dedicated to you. So yeah, that power of being able to listen. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about my own personal development because it’s been mirrored in my client’s personal development, it has been an incredible journey of learning.

Sue : [00:10:48] Do you have any top tips or points that you think our listeners should pay attention to for their own health and wellbeing?

Loshni: [00:10:54] I don’t really like giving advice cause I don’t ever feel like I know more than other people. But I think I’m, one of [00:11:00] the mottoes that I live by that really helps me get clarity and stay optimistic and positive is I try to always anchor myself with the thought that we only get one shot at this life. This is not a rehearsal, so we don’t get to come back and do over. And I think to myself, almost on a daily basis, why not give this my best shot? So I think it’s about creating an awareness and a focus and a clarity about what do you actually want out of life. What’s your definition of a successful life?

And it’s kind of like, what would you like in your eulogy? Looking ahead to the end of your life so you can look back, really helps me stay focused on. Well, I’m here and I want to contribute and I want to serve. But I also want to do it in a way that is fun and healthy and sustainable and flexible. And so if I know what the end goal is, it helps me in my day to day or week to week activities [00:12:00] and interactions. Cause it keeps me focused on what I see as the prize. So even with clients I always try to help them get clarity around what is the quality of life that you are giving yourself permission to achieve that question and that answer I think helps me lead onto a whole lot of other things.

Sue : [00:12:20] Wow. That’s a powerful thought to leave us considering Loshni. Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been great talking to you.

Loshni: [00:12:28] Thank you very much. So it’s been a pleasure.