Name: Chris Buxton
Role and organisation: Chief Digital Officer, Stats NZ.
Tell us briefly what your role involves:
I partner with others to provide the digital services to the organisation, and that’s quite a broad remit. I provide everything from our respondent facing systems, our collection systems, our case management workload tools, all the way through to data management, analytics, publishing and websites. I am also the Chief Information Security Officer as well, so I look after the security of all that data and information and everything else we do.
What impact will technology have for all New Zealanders?
Technology has the potential to reshape the way we think about society, the way that we interact as people and the way that we make decisions as a country.
It will impact the accessibility and engagement of people within the population as it provides opportunities to democratise information and to be an inclusive society. Technology is a very strong enabler, but there’s also the potential that it can be a disabler as there are segments of society who can’t interact with technology. We must think about what that means and how we enable a fully inclusive society. In a way, technology can also help us understand New Zealand and target our engagement operations with all sectors of society.
A lot of the time people only focus on technology in a business sense, but it has huge opportunities for how our country operates and how society comes together to improve overall wellbeing.
What set you on the path to becoming a leader?
I think there is a dirty little secret that a lot of people get into leadership because you get paid more money and you get a better desk. I am one of the sceptical people who think that if you want to be a leader for the sake of being called a ‘leader’, then you shouldn’t be a leader.
My leadership path began with a promotion within the military. When I moved to Cyprus, I was promoted to run a small team of engineers. I was always focused on working well as a team and trying to get the best out of people. It was this aptitude that lead to my promotion.
What you quickly realise as a leader is that you can achieve more. My path has been driven by a desire to deliver great outcomes through technology. The higher I have progressed, the greater the difference I can make.
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?
Leaders are a coach more than they are a director. I think the biggest attribute a leader has to have is to be an educator and a communicator. It’s not just about telling people to do something; it is about being able to explain why what you are asking them to do is important, so they can share the vision and motivation. To do that you have to be able to educate people about the reasoning behind some of the things you do and some of the decisions that you make.
How do you motivate your team?
I create a compelling vision and sell the hell of out it. People need to know that they are doing something that will make a difference, in order to be motivated. The way to do this is to focus on the outcome that you are trying to achieve and the contribution that will make to the lives of citizens, and the critical role staff play. It’s hard to get people excited about a website or piece of technology – so as a leader, your role is to create a motivating vision in a language that people can feel engaged with.
The second part is to give staff the freedom to take that motivation and apply their knowledge to achieve the outcome. Motivated technology professionals can achieve incredible things.
Favourite productivity tip?
Empty your inbox. It’s a really simple one, but it’s something that can take over our life and consume time in a non-productive way. I have a rule that I keep my inbox empty. If you can deal with an email in a couple of minutes, just deal with it and get rid of it. Otherwise, create tasks out of the emails that need your actions and then plan you time to work through your tasks. If I haven’t been able to deal with an email by the end of the week, it goes into an archive.
I also tend not to read cc emails. CC’d emails have useful information, but they can be a distraction, so filter emails where you are cc’d to set them aside for later reading. Set aside a time to read them and stick to it. If you haven’t got time to read them all, then learn to accept that and just archive them. This method enables you to focus on the key things you need to be addressing.
Your inbox is effectively your productivity tool – it is what can make your day but it is also what can completely derail your productivity.
Connect with Chris on LinkedIN.