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Detailed reference by Leslie Mackay

RE: Wendy Quinn’s nomination for the 2017 AIM Leadership Excellence Awards

It is a pleasure to provide a reference supporting Wendy Quinn’s nomination for the 2017 AIM Leadership Excellence Awards. I have provided just a few examples of my experiences of the depth and breadth of Wendy’s approaches to leadership, and would be happy to provide additional information if required.

I first met Wendy approximately 15 years ago when, as a relative newcomer to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), I was seconded to Mental Health Services to manage a project to review the Huntington’s Disease Service in Tasmania.

In her role as the State Manager of Mental Health Services Tasmania, Wendy was the project owner. From my first meeting with Wendy I was impressed by her capacity as both leader and manager.

Two previous reviews of the Huntington’s Disease Service had resulted in significant stakeholder resistance, and membership of the project Steering Committee was decided as part of the resolution of a complaint about the findings of a previous review made under the Tasmanian State Services Act Grievance Procedure.

Committee members held divergent expectations and views, and key project stakeholders were deeply divided regarding project processes. Wendy’s steadfast support of her project team, sustained focus on achieving a positive outcome for Tasmanians affected by Huntington’s Disease, insightful contributions to strategy and keen appreciation of project issues and risks were critical factors in the successful completion of the project.

Project outcomes lead to greater consistency in the delivery of Huntington Diseases Services in Tasmania by resolving long standing, highly contested questions about the directions, purpose and beneficiaries of the service.

A few years after the completion of the Huntington’s Disease Service Review, I had the opportunity to work closely with Wendy when she accepted the role of Director, Disability Services where I worked in a policy and planning role. Wendy was the first manager I encountered who made leadership explicit in our day to day work.

I recall the first State Meeting under Wendy’s leadership. During the meeting Wendy delivered a presentation about leadership metaphors and opened my eyes to the field of leadership thought and studies.

From that day on, whether in routine work day conversations or large formal settings, Wendy’s commitment to personal growth and inspiring leadership excellence in others was clear to all.

Throughout the time I worked to Wendy, it was not unusual to find she had left a well-chosen article or book on the topic of leadership on your desk in response to a question or issue that had arisen. Wendy has been a significant influence on my approach to leadership ever since.

A little over a decade after our first meeting, I was working in the community sector and found myself in need of a skilled facilitator to work with a small community Board of Management.

The Board was inexperienced, had little knowledge of governance and its members were initially resistant to any suggestion they might benefit from governance and leadership training. Naturally, I enlisted Wendy’s support with this task. Wendy initially met with Board members and then presented a highly tailored, and heavily discounted, training proposal to them.

Wendy secured the trust of Board members by demonstrating she heard their concerns and needs during their initial meeting. Wendy conducted a series of five workshops with the Board, and members thoroughly enjoyed learning more about their leadership role. Following the training, Board members made wide-ranging improvements in areas such as financial management systems and reporting, conduct of Board meetings and relationships with paid staff and volunteers.

That the Board later invited Wendy to participate on a selection panel to recruit a new manager was a testament to the trust and confidence she established with the organisation in a relatively short period of time.

Approximately two years ago I was considering a career change, and I engaged Wendy as a personal mentor. I will always look back on the work I did with Wendy during this time as being transformational.

Her capacity to distil the complex issues I was facing, some of which were not immediately obvious to me, helped me successfully make a major change in my professional life.

Rather than attempting to solve problems for me, Wendy guided me to my own approaches and solutions. Her coaching and support was invaluable, and I have continued to benefit from Wendy’s skilled mentoring since.

I consider it a privilege to have worked with Wendy in a range of settings and contexts over a substantial period of time. She is an exceptional leader. I commend her to you.

Lesley Mackay
General Manager Tasmania, The Smith Family