Less than a month into Dame Therese Walsh's term as chair of Air New Zealand, there have been three very big calls.
She led the first one — the appointment of a new chief executive — and was part of a board that has just signed off on the other two: quitting Los Angeles-London flights and pushing into the airline's new frontier, non-stop from Auckland to New York.
Walsh is the airline's first woman chair and right now she is more closely involved with the business than a chair normally would be, given the appointment of new chief executive Greg Foran.
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"In the chair's role over time there are cycles and this is a phase where I do need to spend more time working on the appointment of the CEO and the induction of the CEO," she says.
There's a lot of New Zealand in what Dame Therese Walsh has done in her career. And because of that, she's used to getting her ear bent.
She was at the heart of the 2011 Rugby World Cup here, headed the cricket version four years later, and has led TVNZ's board.
Last month she took on one of the highest-profile governance roles in the country, chair of the Air New Zealand board.
She knows full well what comes with heading a company that has a big presence in New Zealand's corporate landscape and flies 17 million passengers a year.
"When you're in rugby and cricket they'll tell you they didn't like that this player was picked, they didn't like the match time, the price of a ticket. When you work at TVNZ, people say they don't watch [a programme] any more — you get lots and lots of feedback," she says.
It is the same at Air New Zealand.
"I've already had two emails today from friends saying I wish I could fly at this time. It's one of those brands that everyone knows — it's New Zealand's company," says Walsh during an interview at the airline's Fanshawe St headquarters in Auckland.
Air New Zealand is a big step up in terms of scale, with revenue of $5.8 billion compared to TVNZ's $310 million, and national strategic importance.
Walsh told shareholders at the airline's annual meeting last month she was retiring from the TVNZ position to free up capacity for the "very important role".
She's been described by a former boss as having a strong drive to help this country succeed, powered by an enormous capacity for work and ability to make sense of a mass of information.
She became a Dame Companion in June 2105 but doesn't do much in the way of formality. Walsh is a down-to-earth high flyer who says she relaxes with a gin and tonic in the spa at her Wellington home and doesn't do hobby or pastime chat — it's work and family that she's keen to talk about.
Aged 19, she married David Walsh (now chief executive at NZ Post) and they have two children, the oldest of whom graduated last year from Victoria University, where Walsh had studied accounting. As the university's Pro-Chancellor, she was able to cap him.
She spends much of her time working in Auckland, but home is in Wellington, where she was born 47 years ago and grew up in Brooklyn, with three sports-mad brothers and a sister. Their mother was a primary school principal and their father fixed washing machines.
"We were a happy but fairly basic working-class family," says Walsh.
She went on to become one of the most powerful people in sport, but despite playing some netball, tennis and cricket, says she was more academic than sporty.
"I played cricket at high school, out for a golden duck first game. Lots of enthusiasm, no real skill," is her candid self-assessment.
Good at maths, she studied accounting and a job with KPMG followed.
"It was great to work with lots of businesses across the country — you get a really good sense of things."
World Cup wins
Walsh was poached to work for NZ Rugby (around the same time as current rugby boss Steve Tew) shortly after this country had lost the rights to co-host the 2003 World Cup.
"I joined and everything turned to chaos — the chair, the CEO and a lot of the board left."
Chris Moller was brought in as chief executive and steadied the ship, and was to become the biggest single influence on Walsh's career, providing many opportunities.
"He's always been a huge supporter and is to this day. He'll still ring me if he sees something and ask if I'm okay. He's probably the person who has shaped me the most in my career — I owe him a lot," she says.
Redemption came for New Zealand Rugby in 2005, when it won the hosting rights for the Cup six years later.
She was in then-Sports Minister Trevor Mallard's office, waiting for the decision in Dublin at 4am.
"The minute it happened we jumped six feet in the air. It was the one day in your career you were able to drink champagne at 5am."
It was a massive highlight in her career. She went to RWC 2011 as chief operating officer and worked with Martin Snedden, who was chief executive.
They were in uncharted territory in the lead-up to the cup. The February earthquake disrupted plans, but its impact was kept in perspective because so many died, and when the event kicked off there were initially transport and overcrowding issues in Auckland.
"Those days you work 24/7 trying to sort it out."
The glitches were ironed out and the All Blacks won a tense final.
Snedden describes his former offsider as "absolutely outstanding".
He says Walsh dealt with the nuts and bolts of organising the tournament, helped by being a great networker.
"She has an ability to absorb a lot of complicated information and distil it down to something that is able to be understood. She's really good at taking a subject and being able to communicate it."
After the rugby came cricket. A stint on the board of NZ Cricket led to Walsh heading the Cricket World Cup 2015 organisation. The tournament's success relied on some good luck as well as good management, she says.
"We had our fair share of good luck. We had amazing weather, we had some upsets and not just amazing performances from one person in the Black Caps, but everyone did some amazing things at one point."
Walsh says she's enthusiastic about sport and respects it, but is not an obsessive.
"I would disconnect and keep my business brain all the time."
Getting on board
World cups had dominated Walsh's life for a decade and her services to sports administration were recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours four years ago. The citation describes her as an "exceptional leader" and the offers of governance roles came in, including the boards of NZX, ASB, Contact and TVNZ.
Directorships took her back to her days at KPMG, when she had a portfolio of clients.
"You get to look in a lot of windows and see what's going on."
She says the profile she had after working on the world cups, her financial experience and the networks she established, all got her noticed.
And being a woman was "not unhelpful".
"In the time that I've been moving into this there was a move to ensure that women are represented in boardrooms. I don't say that lightly. I'm not there because I'm a woman — I don't think anyone has appointed me because I'm a woman but it's not unhelpful."
Walsh has been on the Air NZ board since 2016 and had a year's transition with former chairman Tony Carter before moving into the top role at the company's annual meeting last month.
She describes her style as encouraging feedback from fellow directors and is determined to get them out into the workplace.
"The tradition of being stuck in the boardroom for three our four hours and then leave to meet again in a month has gone out of the window. "I think to be engaged with the business, you need to get out on the ground."
Milford Asset Management director Brian Gaynor says Walsh is part of a new wave of younger board leaders.
Her rise to the top without having worked overseas was unusual but refreshing. He says the ability of Walsh and the board to recruit Greg Foran is "an enormous achievement".
The airline is 52 per cent owned by the Government on behalf of taxpayers and is a favourite target for politicians wanting to score points. Snedden says Walsh has a great ability "to read the tea leaves very well and understands where the hotspots are".
That will come in handy, especially around election time.
Her predecessor Carter ended up losing patience with Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones' sniping at the airline, and wrote to shareholding minister Grant Robertson to complain.
Walsh says she has spent a lot of time around the Beehive and that she is prepared for all types of feedback.
She chooses her words carefully.
"We have a lot of investors, not just the Government, so we work with [them] to see what is concerning them and keeping them up to date. You'll always have moments where people will have opinions. You get it loud and clear, you learn to take it in your stride."
Walsh says one the biggest challenges facing Air New Zealand, and all airlines, is the growing flight shame movement.
"It has a real and direct impact on Air New Zealand. We're facing into it really well but it exists, we burn fossil fuels and there's a cost."
The airline's carbon emissions grew in the past year — due to network growth and being forced to charter older planes to replace grounded Dreamliners — but she says there's a range of initiatives to cut them, including investigating using battery-powered hybrid planes.
New Zealand, because of its isolation and limited internal public transport network, does rely on air travel.
However, "the impact on Air New Zealand is probably less than if you were in Scandinavia — I think for us it's not impacting right now but it will."
She says the airline needs to look at what more it can do better for customers. All New Zealand businesses face this, she says.
"I think we're in this change period at the moment where the focus on the customer is becoming laser-like — I think 10 years ago that wasn't the case."There's a wave of change facing all New Zealand businesses, and Walsh says her experience of a media company — TVNZ — gave her a good grounding.
"We're all being disrupted and TVNZ may be down one end of the spectrum."
If change wasn't happening now, it would in the future, she says.
And for Air NZ, getting nearly all its Dreamliners back in the air after working through Rolls-Royce Trent engine problems has been a relief.
"You never know in the airline industry but we have got through a really significant challenge, so for the time being it feels a little more calm than it has been."