Balancing the Grind with Lisa Sisson, Founder of Unearth

Lisa Sisson is the author of the best-seller Risk Starts and Ends with People, speaker and the founder and director of consultancy company, Unearth.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My career over the past three decades includes two decades in technology and services with global brands and niche specialised companies, where I built a reputation for tackling the hard problems, often referred to as the ‘too hard basket’.

Having my efforts recognised within the technology sector, receiving local and international awards for my contribution has been both a rewarding and humbling experience.

Since founding Unearth in early 2013, I’ve worked with national security, emergency services and some of Australia’s largest commercial brands. My background has been with specialised analytics in areas like insider threat and human behaviour, cyber, plus threat and hazards.

Today I help leaders who feel distracted and overwhelmed with “managing risk”, by demystifying and tackling risk within their organisation. Plus, we are doing some exciting work in the Disaster Recovery space, leveling our unique approach to risk, which I share in my recently released book, ‘Risk Starts And Ends With People: Demystifying risk for executives and leaders.’

What I also love and am proud of is the partnership ecosystem we have established where I get to work with remarkable people and businesses, both locally and internationally. These are deep relationships where we have complementary services and offerings, but are connected through a similar purpose to ours, which is to create a safer world. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Most mornings I am up around 3am which I usually prefer to use as my quiet focus time, where I take on large work items or write. Though I can find myself on Zoom calls with the USA, or like the last couple of mornings, attending a cybersecurity event hosted in the USA.

Earlier starts provide the option of an earlier finish too, though my days tend to be filled with meetings, which is why my quiet early morning time is important to me.

My days currently can be long on the computer due to lockdowns, though I have recently started to step away from the computer for 90 minutes during the day to regroup. It helps to reset. I can stretch, move, or just decompress.

At the end of the day and before dinner, I try to walk with my daughter to catch up and we usually take our dog. It is our special time to just chat, take in our surroundings and usually laugh. Mostly at how quirky we are.

Though I have a goal to reclaim part of my mornings and get back to doing sunrise cycle rides again, like I did pre-COVID for a couple of hours, so I can make the most of the mornings and thinking time. Plus, I love sunrises. It is my favourite part of the day.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Absolutely. Wherever I place my notebook, that is my office. Prior to COVID I travelled a great deal, so working remotely is just part of life. 

But working remotely also goes for my team. My team is scattered in different states, and we catch up regularly through virtual meetings. We always kick off the meetings with ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ for the week.

They always prove to be great discussions and an opportunity to connect and support each other. And when borders are not closed, we try to catch up in one of the States for that in-person time. Which currently, unfortunately is impossible. 

I have the most amazing team. I can’t believe how lucky I am. They all come from my personal wish list of people I would like to have working in my business or working with Unearth in some capacity. Not many people can say that about their team. They are remarkable, which is also why, through COVID supporting and caring for each other is our priority.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

What work-life balance means to me is the ability of choice. Relationships mean a great deal to me, so connecting with people, especially those I care for the most means the world. As does the ability to contribute things that are meaningful to me.

The idea of work-life balance is conceptually simple when you can divide the two. But when the work you do is so much about life – including inspiring my daughter to do work that is meaningful; and helping to create a safer world for her and others in her generation – then it is not so easy to draw a line between work and life.

It was like when I wrote my book, which I didn’t have a choice, it literally poured out of me. My whole being seemed to know the importance as I found the energy to take on this intense and meaningful experience.

For me it is not about the hours or checking the clock, it is about doing the things I need to do, for my family, for myself and for my business. It is the ability to be flexible in my life and schedule to do what I feel is important and meaningful.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

The one habit I have been practicing is a mindset shift around acceptance of all that I am, and not the things I am not. 

The new, or older, habit I am returning to is embracing physical movement. I like Kaisa, which looks at movement within movement.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love Belonging by Michelle Obama, her rawness and openness that she shares. She has had me laughing and crying. I have connected to many aspects of her life and journey.

I also really enjoy Brené Brown and when I have new starters, I send them a copy of Dare to Lead. The power of vulnerability is important, which is something Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister demonstrated after the Christchurch attack.

Can I also say, I am proud of the book I wrote, Risk Starts And Ends With People and the contribution I am making in the risk management sector. It seems to be resonating with so many people and opening long overdue discussions. Not to mention soon after its release it became an Amazon Best Seller in three categories. Now that is a humbling experience.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I could live without gadgets. I enjoy my gadgets, but I can walk away and turn off the noise for a while.

I do like the ease of mobile apps, like Spotify, Audible and MyFitnessPal.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

I would be really intrigued to hear Jacinda Ardern’s thoughts, as she was only the second elected leader in modern history to give birth while in office.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

This is your life, so decide what is important to you and where you find meaning. Don’t worry about labels and others’ judgement of you. Be true to your values and beliefs, be your own best friend and give yourself a break. Create your own safe space to work out who you are, who you really are, not a title, and be that person. Be the best of you and show up whole-heartedly.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.