Q&A with Shaun

We coach, develop and work alongside leaders and teams to shift ideas on leadership and provide the skills and tools needed to grow teams.


We are really thrilled to be able to tell you that Shaun Sheldrake has agreed to step up to the new role of Chief Executive Officer at Updraft

Shaun, you have always talked about your passion for seeing people get better at things.  Tell us about some of the forms that has taken in your career.

For many years it centred around two of my passions – sailing and cars. I get a lot of pleasure watching people get to grips with how to harness that invisible power that is the wind, in some cases that was with kids in Optimists and at the other end of the spectrum I got to work with a keelboat crew over a couple of years as they trained and prepped for National regattas. It was in that latter example where you could say I first cut my teeth in team coaching, using debriefing to help them find think critically about finding efficiency in their crew work and therefore fewer mistakes on the race course. Sailing is a sport where results improve as mistakes reduce, with that piece of the puzzle sorted, then you can move on to boat speed and race strategy.

Not dissimilar to building a high-functioning team in a workplace setting; first work out what’s holding the team back, get those things resolved and then shape a path to where you want to be.



On the water racing my 12 foot skiff

Will you still be ‘on the tools’ helping people get better at work in your new role?

Absolutely – although it will take a different form across our two core services:

•           I get a real kick out of finding the elegantly simple solution in the leadership development work we do, so I mainly working as a sounding board and idea tester/refiner with the rest of our talented team who are bring far more to the table than I could ever hope to do.

•           To keep me close to the challenges executive and leadership teams are facing, I’ll continue to work with teams who are ready to take bold steps as part of achieving what would have previously seemed out of reach.


And why ‘CEO’ – it’s a very serious sounding title.

Good question – it’s not a title I’m 100% comfortable with, but I think that’s the point, if I didn’t feel some tension and stretch about it, it wouldn’t be the right move. I see it as part of signalling our intent for Updraft, we’re approaching our 10th anniversary and I’m motivated to ensure we thrive on our journey towards our 20th.

We’ve been doing some work recently to grow clarity on our purpose and I’m excited about where we’ve landed – Whakamana te tangata – connecting, uplifting and unleashing the awesome potential in people. With that piece of the puzzle in place, the title lines up with my belief in our ability to bring this to life in everything we do, and the positive impact that creates for those we work with.  

Pausing to enjoy Ōtaki sunsets

Covid was for us, like for many organisations the trigger for big transitions. What have you learnt since then that you couldn’t have guessed?

Just how seismic the shift in the way we work would be; as we went into the lockdowns, the idea of working from home was seen as something temporary, just a thing we’d all do to get to the other side of the Covid interruption to life. What I didn’t see coming (and maybe this talks in part to my own preferences) was how quickly society would adopt the hybrid way of working that we now all embrace as the norm.

As a business that pre-Covid delivered services 100% face to face, the re-think (of how we worked), and then the opportunity that hybrid working has created for us has been one of real change for Updraft, we now support leaders and teams who are located all over the motu from our spot here in Wellington.

Lastly, when you leave this role, you are feeling totally delighted about what has happened on your watch, what would we see?

A creative hothouse of talented & fabulous people who are having a meaningful impact on the leaders and teams engaging with Updraft; whether that’s through a direct interaction or through something that’s been created for self-driven development.

Either way, their ‘path to our door’ would have influenced by referral, a colleague or a friend backing Updraft to have the right people and/or experience to help them take that next step. 


Working outside in and with nature


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