Nick Steele – Deputy Director General – Queensland Health

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Intro  0:13  
Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.

Welcome to the boardroom.

Michael Murray  0:39  
Nick, thank you for joining C-Suite Partners in the boardroom. 

Nick Steele  0:42
Thank you. 

Michael Murray  0:43
Are you to talk to me a little bit about your career journey to where you are today.

Nick Steele  0:47  
Okay, so I guess you’re from my accent. I’m from Yorkshire.

Michael Murray  0:51  

Nick Steele  0:51  
I went to Leeds University, studied economics at Leeds and got onto the NHS financial management training scheme, which was absolutely the best grounding you could possibly get it. Three years actually spending time with cleaners, porters, financial accountants, you name it, you got to experience everything about healthcare. Over a three year period whilst you were getting your accountancy qualifications. Got a great grounding and then I basically worked my way up the I guess the career rungs in finance within the NHS up to Director of Finance, and then probably made the jump over here about 10 years ago into Queensland. And I’m currently the Deputy Director-General for Healthcare Purchasing and System Performance in Queensland, which is probably, I guess, one of the best jobs you can have.

Michael Murray  1:36  
And what’s the budget you look after at?

Nick Steele  1:39  
15 to16 billion. So I have the pleasure of contracting services from all hospitals across Queensland, where all the private hospitals and the NGO sector as well as the really great role and a role that you can influence healthcare.

Michael Murray  1:53  
Was there a mentor that shaped the way that you look at the business?

Nick Steele  1:58  
Probably career-wise, I would say probably the one I’m sharing with them was one of my first bosses, which was I’m probably going back to the late 90s, which was Bradford Teaching Hospitals and we had a superb Chief Nurse there. Who straight out of the training scheme, first permanent job and I worked for her for three to five years and she taught me so much about health care, and how to interact in the health environment. Lots of things about the care that patients receive. What I guess she told me was never lose sight of just good quality patient care by a nurse or a doctor at the bedside. And that’s something very rarely we measure. At this moment in time. That’s certainly one of the lessons that she taught me. So I think he really influenced my skill set my desire to go out and meet people because she was really keen to get visible around the organization and actually make those contacts and that’s something I love doing. Okay, so I certainly made a point within Queensland of going around all the HSS I probably spend a large proportion of my time out with the HHS, and I do sit in an office in Brisbane. 

Michael Murray  3:06

Nick Steele  3:09
Which I think he’s dead, right. You’ve got to get out there and understand the business and that’s what I really try and focus on.

Michael Murray  3:12  
Did you have a moment where you had career crossroads, where you thought, I’m going to stay stick with health, or I’m going to go into professional services, banking?

Nick Steele  3:24  
So I’ve never had any moments where I wanted to go into banking. 

Michael Murray  3:27

Nick Steele  3:28
I guess. I’ve always been passionate about healthcare. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about not working in the healthcare sector. That’s always been the thing that I’ve enjoyed doing. I guess Crossroads was probably 10 years ago, in terms of do I stay in the UK or do I move off to Australia? And that’s probably the biggest crossroads in my career as to whether we stayed in the UK, or whether we actually moved over here as a family.

Michael Murray  3:55  
And work-life balance, you’re talking about family, do you see that work-life balance getting harder and harder? Or easier with experience now?

Nick Steele  4:03  
So I’ve been terrible at it. For 15, 20 years. I love my job, which is a benefit and a problem. Yes. So I have always, and I’m probably not unique, where executives are concerned. I’ll always put work first, which I’m not sure is the right call but that’s what I’ve done for probably the last 20 years. I only probably started to get more on top of it in the last probably 18 months. Okay, that is a strange thing to say after 20 years, I’ve realised you can’t get that time back and you’ve got to somehow get some more balance in your life, whether that’s time with family time to do some exercise. You’ve got to get some more balanced back. So I think last 18 months, I’ve got better. We try and get a holiday once a year where you turn the phone off and you only get disturbed for emergencies but other than that, I think I’ve still got some way to go for work-life balance, but I don’t think you ever turn off. It’s true. You are the role and you are in that role, and you have a personal pride to try and deliver and actually make a difference, kind of thing. So I view it as my responsibility where regardless of whether I’m in work or out of work, that’s my role.

Michael Murray  5:13  
And just staying on that subject was there, it was an actual moment that triggered that it was that self-realisation?

Nick Steele  5:19  
I guess it was the point where we got two kids who were having sort of difficulties. I was spending 90 minutes in a car commuting to work and an hour or so back. Every night and it got to the point where I just couldn’t, couldn’t continue. Yes, I was taking up too much of the day. So we made a decision to move. But I think the trigger was my daughter just finished school, we changed schools for my son, we move really close to the city, the community is now 12, 13 minutes. Well, and that time that we’ve saved we can actually spend as a family so I don’t do any less work, but the commute time has been converted now into family time. 

Michael Murray   5:56
Makes sense. So we’ve talked about levels of care, your mentors, how they approached, clinical care has it, has it changed your perspective on life? Because you work in healthcare, and you’re seeing patients, you’re going out to hospitals?

Nick Steele  6:13  
So I guess I’ve probably if you think about where I started as an accountant, economics degree, Leeds University, a fairly focused on numbers and things like that. I think I’ve changed massively over the last 20 years, my focus is now around care. But I guess it’s taught me a lot about inequity, and inequality in life and that’s probably the thing that I’ve noticed I’ve changed most over the last probably five to six years, I’m much more conscious in everyday life of inequality, different access to care, and I’ve tried to really impart that on my kids worked, sometimes not worked on times. But I think really trying to get over that we’re quite privileged. I think in terms of where we’re at, we live in Australia, we’ve got all the accoutrements, you can access care fairly easily. That’s not the same for everybody. I think I’m getting through to my daughter. So she’s going over to Tanzania in three weeks with Raleigh International to do some building work and think that’s great. She’s into humanitarian work and try and make a difference. So I’m winning on that one. You are a bit more work to do with my son. But I think they do start to understand that more.

Michael Murray  7:21  
And your career in one word?

Nick Steele  7:25  

Michael Murray  7:27  
Nick, thank you for spending time with C-Suite Partners In the boardroom.

Nick Steele  7:30
Thank you

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