In a new series, we put ten questions to leaders in everything from fashion to architecture, in association with Huawei. Next up Xero's NZ country director Craig Hudson.

Craig Hudson is accounting company Xero's managing director for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. A former rugby union player, the executive turned his hand to business in the mid-2000s. He most recently entered the public domain with a declaration he had suffered from mental illness. He has since championed overhauling the way kiwi business tackles mental health.

What has been the most surprising response to you raising the issue of mental health in the workplace?

The most surprising thing for me that's come out of my mental health discussions that I've had in the media and also within the building is that there are so many stories. Every single one of us has a unique story that comes with baggage and we need to understand as a corporate how do we deal with that for our people because we've got 380 in the building here. Everyone needs to be able to come in as their true self or we're going to really struggle.


What about the corporate culture what is the most negative thing about corporate culture?

The most negative thing around corporate culture in terms of mental health is about getting people to put stuff in a box and leave it at the door. We're trying to champion being able to bring your true self to work, but to do that you have to be able to be open and transparent about what's going on in your real life and sometimes there's some pretty big stuff to deal with.

How do you handle stress then?

I do a little bit of mindfulness. I like to handle stress in a proactive way so going and doing walking meetings, getting out into the sunshine a little bit. It's great being [based] here in Parnell to be able to get into the rose gardens and walk around by the tennis club at the top.

Do you like the idea of the four-day work week?

Personally I don't. A large number of my staff are on four days and champion that. That fits in with their lifestyle. I'm a bit of a workaholic and like to be able to be here and involved in the nitty gritty.

So are you a saver or a spender?

I have changed. I used to be a spender in my younger days, but I am now very much a saver and will wear things out until they are broken. Having four kids does that to you.


Street smarts or academia?

It's an interesting question. I think it has to be a mixture of both. But there is traditional academia and new academia as well and I think that needs to be blended together a bit as well. There is multiple different ways to be able to learn stuff now, there are podcasts everywhere, there are books up the wazoo. I think it's a mixture of both.

Do you wish you would have done anything differently in your life?

I try not to look back in regret. I don't think so because I have learnt from everything and evolved into who I am today by everything I have done today, so I don't think so.

How did you go from Rugby player to corporate executive?

It has been bloody hard. I retired in 2006 so it's been a long road. A heck of a lot has gone on in that time. It's come with a lot of personal doubt and dealing with the imposter syndrome a little bit, which I've learnt to deal with a lot. But it's been hard and quite isolating at times as well because there's a lot of people that have been able to come into that trusted circle, but now because I'm comfortable in my skin I am able to talk about my journey a lot more which has meant that others have felt that they're able to have those kind of conversations as well which is really cool.

Do you have a lot more out there that you want to achieve?

I've got heaps more that I want to achieve. Not only for this business here, but for New Zealand Inc. I am a real, true proud kiwi and think that we can really create something that is awesome here, from a little set of rocks in the South Pacific. [We can] export so much cool stuff to the world and really change the perception of what a small economy is. I think we can really own business innovation because of the way we are.