Lisa MacCallum On What Her Favorite Boss Taught Her About Email

The founder of Inspired Companies and the former Vice President at NIKE Inc shares the last time she felt she failed and the quote that gives her strength.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed? 
Lisa MacCallum: Make it. 

TG: What gives you energy? 
LM: Beach running, ocean swimming, yoga, inspired people.

TG: What’s your secret life hack? 
LM: Always having sneakers in my handbag. 

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 
LM: Fully Alive by Timothy Shriver.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
LM: It’s my multi-tasker, not my friend. I turn the ringer off a lot. I charge it on a separate floor overnight.

TG: How do you deal with email? 
LM: Email can bury your day fast with nothing to show for it. One of my favorite bosses once said to me, “only send me one email a week – and make sure it’s important.” It was a little extreme but it put a high bar on communications. We got a lot done.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? 
LM: Go for a walk, grab a good coffee or call someone just to say hello.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why? 
LM: 2009 when corporate politics and leadership territorialism obstructed the pursuit of big, important ideas. At that time I didn’t have much else to match the energy I got from the work we were doing. It was so big and inspiring but I let it become everything. Turns out bursting the bubble you’re in every so often helps you see the sky again.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it? 
LM: In 2011 I gave birth to our son Joaque and simultaneously founded a new organization for Nike with a mandate to solve global physical inactivity. I was well practiced at the second and a total novice at the first. I eventually took a time out and got some sleep. It’s worked like magic.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace. 
LM: “Well behaved women rarely make history.”

Formerly a NIKE Inc Vice President, Lisa has built and run businesses across industries in several parts of the world. Now as founder of Inspired Companies, she is an independent advisor and brand strategist working with companies on purpose-driven business transformation.

As part of Nike’s Corporate Leadership Team (2001-2014) Lisa held executive roles in Strategy and General Management through to leadership of the Access to Sport Division and Nike Foundation. During her tenure she led major business turn-around offenses in Nike Retail, USA Sales and 2X Growth initiatives for Nike’s $12bn USA Footwear, Apparel and Equipment businesses. She has won several awards for founding large-scale global advocacy and investment alliances that have united corporate brands, governments, multilaterals and civil society organizations. As part of these alliances she co-authored the Framework for Action Designedtomove ( and launched the multi-award winning girleffect concept (

Prior to joining Nike, Lisa co-founded a Tokyo-based multi-media and broadcasting company, Business Breakthrough, Inc with Dr Kenichi Ohmae. She began her professional career in Accounting and Consulting with KPMG in Australia and the USA.

Lisa is a Board member of British Telecom (BT) PLC and Special Advisor to BT’s global “Purposeful business’ strategy. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Advisory Board member; Board member of Bond University Limited; Founding Chair of the World Sporting Goods Industry’s Physical Activity Committee; and Commissioner for the Aspen Institute’s “Information Needs of Communities Living in a Democracy”.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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