Rebecca Skinner’s ‘baptism of fire’ as CEO of Services Australia

Rebecca Skinner, CEO, Services Australia

Rebecca Skinner, Chief Executive Officer, Services Australia.

Rebecca Skinner, CEO of Services Australia, was interviewed recently for the WORK WITH PURPOSE podcast.

During the bushfire crisis Rebecca worked as both the Associate Secretary in Defence and acted as the Secretary of Defence throughout the summer bushfire crisis, working closely with Services Australia.

She was working on the COVID-19 response in Defence when the Government announced her appointment as CEO of Services Australia:

‘I rolled up on my first day. And you do the first thing, and you welcome the leadership there and you say “We are going to all work really closely together, and it’s going to be terrific”.

And then by Wednesday you could see that the world was really going to be something different.

And then I sat up on that Sunday night…  thinking, “This is going to have a really big impact on me”.

Asked about how she managed the build up of pressure — coming from the Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office and everyone — Rebecca said:

‘It was a moment that the leadership team worked as a team.

And the best thing to do is acknowledge the pressure, and share the pressure, so that no one feels more under pressure than the other. Acknowledge that this is difficult, acknowledge that this is hard, but know that, “Well, we are the ones who are here, so we will just keep focusing on delivery”.’

Rebecca was then asked a series of questions from IPAA ACT’s Future Leaders by Kat Terris — an IPAA ACT Future Leader and Services Australia’s staff member.

The focus of Kat’s first question was around what Rebecca had found work well.

Part of Rebecca’s response focused on the importance of internal communication:

‘…The other thing, I think we stumbled into, was that when there is a big crisis going on — one clear authoritative point of communication worked well.

…I began about in the middle of the second week, or maybe early in the third week, to communicate every single day to every single person in Services Australia, including all the workforce that was flowing in from both the broader APS and from service delivery partners and other reserve workforce that we pulled in…

…It seemed to be able to keep people clear about what the agenda was. And it helped us celebrate a lot of our success, and keep people motivated.’

Other questions explored what Rebecca would have done differently, what she does to support her own wellbeing, and whether the COVID-19 response may help the increase staff mobility and opportunities for emerging leaders in APS .

WORK WITH PURPOSE is produced in partnership between contentgroup and IPAA ACT, with the support of the Australian Public Service Commission.

The podcast can be accessed from the link below and is also available on Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes.

Work with Purpose

Episode #15: Under Pressure - Chief Executive of Services Australia, Rebecca Skinner