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Board Member Q&A – Geoff Fary FAIM

Monday, September 21, 2015

As part of our regular series where we introduce the AIM Group Board, we recently sat down for a chat with the Deputy Chair of the AIM Board, Geoff Fary FAIM to hear how he got involved with AIM and what role he believes AIM Membership can play in the careers of Australia's managers and leaders.

Geoff is currently the Chair of the Federal Government’s Asbestos Safety & Eradication Council and is a former Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, Ex-Chief of Staff to a Federal Government cabinet minister and was a senior executive at George Weston Foods Ltd and Nestle Australia. Geoff’s working life has been devoted to Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations and his career moves have given him the unusual perspective of corporate, government and union experiences.

Tell us about yourself and how you became involved with AIM?

I’ve got a fairly unusual and eclectic background for an AIM Fellow. I started out my working life many years ago as a farm labourer and a shearer in Northern Victoria and I’ve held a variety of positions in government, private sector and professional associations as well as the trade union movement. In addition to extensive work in the food industry and human resource management, I was also for a time the Assistant Secretary to the ACTU. Probably a bit atypical of the general background of the Members and Fellows of the Australian Institute of Management - but I think it’s a good thing that an organisation such as ours has a diverse membership base.

I first became involved with AIM back in the mid-1970s when I was something of a tub-thumping, firebrand union official and was invited to come along and address courses that AIM was then running for aspiring young  managers and leaders. It was the start of a long and passionate belief that I’ve had that a constructive, cooperative and engaged approach to industrial and workplace relations is eminently preferable for everyone involved as opposed to the traditional adversarial approach.

That early AIM involvement also included a joint exercise that was conducted between AIM and the Industrial Relations Society and continued when I was the Executive Director of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers of Australia. I was invited to join the Board of the former Victoria/Tasmania region of AIM about five years ago.

I fairly quickly realised that it was something of an anachronism that the organisation continued to have almost a colonial era federal structure, despite the fact that we’re in the 21st century. I was amongst the people in Victoria/Tasmania who were early advocates for the merger of all of the organisations into what is now the AIM Group.

Why do you believe professional memberships are important for managers and leaders?

The Australian economy is in a bit of strife. Following both the decline in the manufacturing sector and the downturn in the revenues that our mining and resource sector is earning, we find ourselves at an internationally competitive disadvantage - and the days of a quick fix solution are gone. Just about any study that’s been done into the capacity of Australian industry over the last two or three decades, dating all the way back to the Karpin Report, has identified a deficit  in the area of leadership.

When the people who established AIM more than 70 years ago were doing so, they identified the importance of leadership to Australian prosperity and the Australian quality of life. I think AIM is uniquely placed as a professional organisation to continue to be an advocate for the importance of stimulating, encouraging and nurturing leadership at all levels in the Australian community.

What is the key benefit that AIM offers to its Members?

Certainly advocacy around the importance of management and leadership as I’ve mentioned is one of them. Encouraging, recognising and developing leadership is another. The sort of work that we do through the Excellence Awards is particularly important. The education programs that we run through our sister organisation in AIM Education and Training continue to be critically important.

I think there is also enormous potential for AIM to assist our members by partnering with other likeminded and interested stakeholders, particularly in helping areas of the economy and regions respond to the extraordinary changes that are taking place. For example I look at sectors  like the automotive industry and how we might be uniquely placed to assist with the transition that’s going on there.

Which Membership initiatives are you most enthusiastic about?

I mentioned the Excellence Awards already as I think that’s a splendid initiative that can be developed further. I think our ability to act as an advocate and a champion amongst governments, other civil partners, community organisations and industry for the importance of management and leadership as a profession and the contribution it can make to the future of Australia and Australia’s quality of life is particularly important. I also think initiatives such as our mentoring program as well as providing cultural change management assistance to organisations and industries will be important in future.