By Christina Chia, Contributing Member, The Brilliant Foundation
Christina speaking at the Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneurs (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration, 22 Nov 2022
It was a memorable night of re-connection, community embrace, and celebration when I delivered a keynote speech at the Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneurs (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration "Living My Very Best Life as We Lead in Constant Changing and Uncertain Times" last year. It was based on my own personal experience, as a business leader during the pandemic.
When I was asked to speak, I did some research - read the objectives, the vision and I truly loved what it stood for. An organisation with the primary mission to encourage small business entrepreneurs from multicultural backgrounds to form an effective advocacy network. Encompassing what it means to be a community and creating new links in Australia’s globalised business landscape.
ACME is a forward thinking organisation, a values-based company established on inclusive and collaborative leadership. It is exciting to see a group of multicultural entrepreneurs coming together, building a connection with mainstream Australian businesses to create opportunities for each other.
This is progressive thinking, and something which truly resonates with my story and how I took conscious steps to embrace multiculturalism as a key component of what I do.
Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneurs (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration.
Post-COVID, we observe the implicit flow on effects - tight labour supply, staff shortages, rising inflation, rising costs of living as well as global political instability.
This makes us wonder and think how are we going to lead, survive and thrive?
Let’s hold on to this.
Work, Education and Giving Back to Community
Currently, I am the Chief Operating Officer of a national education business and it is rare in the earlier years in Australia to see a Malaysian Chinese female in Senior Management and a role in Executive Leadership.
I believe in life-long learning and have completed a business degree and pursued a Masters of Business Administration. I am loving and living my very best life, creating opportunities, supporting the value of diversity, championing equality and fairness.
It is truly a joy supporting community, assisting others to embrace a life of inclusivity and empowerment. I am on several Not-for-Profit Boards and was recently awarded the Victorian Multicultural Commission Honour Roll, recognising the decades of work in this sphere.
Vicissitudes in Life
What you don’t know about me is that – I married my first husband which ended in divorce, after the birth of my two wonderful daughters. As a single parent, I made the decision to move to Melbourne with very little money and low job prospects with my two young girls under the ages of five years old.
When I was hired as a senior executive, the Chief Executive Officer congratulated me and said: “You got the job but I need to let the board and others know that you are Asian.”
I was not given the managerial role I applied for but was given the “second in command” role with feedback that being an Asian migrant would not be consistent with the organisation’s branding.
I also had to contend with a recruiter who suggested I should not take a ‘big role’ as I was a mother of two young children.
I was given projects deemed as “female centric” by my bosses, such as public relations, business development and fundraising – the “soft and lightweight” ones, whilst “the boys manage the ‘heavy’ ones, such as mergers and acquisitions, IT and finance.”
The list goes on and on!
I tell you my story, because all my experiences over the past 20 years have shaped me to be the leader I am today.
Leadership emanates from the depths of who we are. You need to bring the best of who you are and play to your strengths. I have now been in senior leadership roles for over 20 years, and in that time, I have learnt that authenticity goes a really long way.
Think first about a leader that you have always admired from a distance, but never known personally. Has their life had any real impact on the way you live every day?
Then, think about a person who has really influenced you — your ways of being, your values, your life goals — and I bet, it is someone that you know well, someone that has let you know them as a real human being – that person is most impactful to you.
So the story is, if you have any plans to truly influence people, especially in leading an organisation in a multicultural workplace, you need to let people know YOU. Be Authentic - be true to yourself, and allow others to know who you really are.
It has worked for me as I managed to retain over 80% of my staff during the most challenging time of my career. Remember, that one third of the economy is trust! You need to build that by being an authentic leader!
North Shore Coaching College
Lead with your heart and know your ‘True North’
This is one of my favourite leadership values, especially when we are leading in an ongoing crisis and in an environment of constant change.
Have you heard of Bill George’s concept of True North?
· Authentic leaders are driven by a moral and ethical purpose.
· They never lose sight of their core values and principles.
· They lead with their hearts, cultivate long-term relationships, and demonstrate excellence through self-discipline.
True North is your orientation point, your fixed point when there are uncertainties in your workplace; it helps you stay on track as a leader. True North is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level.
I remembered in March 2020 when our Premier announced a state wide lockdown. Boy, it was one of the toughest situations I have ever encountered in my career! We had a lot of uncertainty, We had to shut our operations almost overnight. Hundreds of staff had to be stood down or repositioned. There were emotions of heightened fear and anger, and to be honest - I DID NOT HAVE the answers!
So what did I do? I did what I do best – I walked my talk and led with my heart. "I rolled up my sleeves and wore my heart on them” as they say.
Listen - really listen, with all your heart despite the fact, you don’t have the answers at the moment. Remember, sometimes it's not the words that you use, it is how you make them feel!
Give them time – especially when you don’t have it. They will notice – especially in crisis mode.
Keep your commitments – I could not provide further reassurance, but I did what I could do to continue communications regularly. That was what I promised. And I DID just that!
Show appreciation, respect, encouragement and empowerment - This is particularly relevant in multicultural leadership teams. You need to make the effort to ensure your organisation recognises and respects cultural differences. Have continuous professional and personal reflection on the sensitivities and communicate to ensure your staff feel valued and included!
North Shore Coaching College
Circle of Abundance
Living my very best life as I lead, is about service through ‘giving’ —which I call leading with the ‘Circle of Abundance.’
When you serve and give, you are making a positive impact to those around you. That person, who receives your goodness and kindness, will naturally feel good. When they feel good, those around them will feel it – the ripple effect of what you did, will flow to your community.
I have always believed in the ‘Circle of Abundance’ and I am very happy to see that much of the community already are living and walking the talk. Taking action, connecting, sharing your joy and goodness with your people. Through community and connection, the Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneurs are already embracing the 'Circle of Abundance.'
1. Influence only happens when you are known. Be authentic – Know your True North.
2. Build Trust! Lead with your heart – especially in multicultural teams.
3. You need to recognise and respect cultural differences and sensitivities to ensure your staff feel valued and included!
3. Lead with the ‘Circle of Abundance’
And back to my story…
I remarried, to my dearest soul mate, Roger, I succeeded in educating both my girls and I’ve learnt that all my experiences have shaped me. I am not limited by my trauma and failure in the past. I’ve learnt that "it’s not what you succeed in doing but what you do to succeed."
Christina Chia with husband, Roger
Distinguished reader, before I go, I would like to share with you one of my favourite mantras
“What is possible for the world is possible for me” and remember that this applies to you too!
I wish you all the best in leading and living your very best life!
Copyright @ The Brilliant Foundation
Edited by Dr Renee Ralph, Co-Founder, The Brilliant Foundation and
Josh Galvin, Operations and Events, The Brilliant Foundation