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Debbie Chin is the Chief Executive of Standards New Zealand. Before this Debbie was Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Health. Previously she worked in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and at KPMG rising to the level of Partner.
When I asked Debbie to give her advice to someone aspiring to be a chief executive, she said: "Be true to yourself". it's interesting that these were exactly the same words used by Geoff Bascand to the same question.
Debbie says this means being genuine about what you are seeking to achieve, operating with integrity, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It's partly about knowing herself and doing things accordingly. Then, according to Debbie, others will also act the same way.
Debbie says that it's through trust that people will engage with you. First you need to trust them, their honesty and integrity, and be respectful. This includes working to overcome fear so people feel they are allowed to make mistakes. Trust has far more to do with what you do, than what you say. When talking about values she says: "It's how you live them! It's also about what you condone and what you don't condone when people fail."
"Achievement in Standards New Zealand is a consequence of the passion of all 50 people plus many volunteers, not just Debbie Chin", she says. This passion comes from a core belief people have that they are contributing to the betterment of New Zealanders. "I genuinely believe that passion comes when people believe it's the right thing to do and they want to do that also," she says, "There is a lot of energy there, we need to use it, value it and cherish it."
Debbie says she is not a dictatorial leader nor autocratic. "I preferred to bring people along and harness the potential of individuals and teams. This doesn't mean I'm afraid to make decisions."
She says she is high EQ. She enjoys networking, "It's fun to talk to people and understand them and to learn from them. It's amazing what you can learn when you take the time to listen."
"I'm a glass half full person. There's always a way. I'm persistent, I don't give in, I'm always trying to find a way through. I enjoy thinking outside the square."
She believes in karma, what goes around comes round.
Debbie says, it's important to clarify the organisations vision and strategies about what you want to achieve and why. This then underpins what you do, and drives the messages you send both inside the organisation and with stakeholders outside. Strategies need to be achievable and doable.
Debbie has a clear detailed vision of what Standards New Zealand will look like, however, the path is more emergent. She says, "It's not linear. It's about adjusting to the environment and positioning the organisation to be resilient and adaptable."
Debbie thinks it's harder to manage in the public sector than the private sector. In the private sector it's easier to have a single minded objective around the bottom line and more clarity in decision-making. The private sector tends to work at the level of the individual organisation while the public sector also works at the level of the system and overall economy.
Interestingly, part of the difficulty of managing in the public sector, is the passion people have. They tend to become advocates of the cause, rather than just managers of the business. They have a view about how things "should be". Their personal beliefs may not always align with those of the organisation or the government of the day.
When I asked Debbie about the glass ceiling for women she laughed and said, "Women and Asians!" She thinks there probably is a glass ceiling for women, however, because she wasn't looking for it she didn't find it. Her advice is to have the conviction that you can do it, be focused on what you want to achieve, and then go for it.
The glass ceiling is mostly in the mind. When Debbie was a little girl she wanted to be a secretary, so took shorthand typing. As she grew up her dreams expanded, however, Debbie says it's perfectly okay to be a secretary or anything else as long as that's what you want. "The main thing is, if you're going to do it, do it well!"
Interviewed by Bruce Holland
Virtual Group Business Consultants
Phone +6421620456 or Skype Bruce.Holland