NZIM Young Executive of the Year

Anushiya Ayingaran
Anushiya Ayingaran arrived at the not-for-profit Nurse Maude Association to take up the newly created role of general manager corporate services following major organisational restructure of the association to improve efficiency. Such process creates instability and Ayingaran faced more than the usual challenges of the newly appointed executive. But she quickly demonstrated superb leadership skills with an open and positive approach, winning the respect of the association’s board, its funders and staff.
The Nurse Maude Association is charit-able organisation providing community health services to the people of Christchurch, rural and south Canterbury. It employs approximately 1200 staff and has facilities including an 80-bed hospital and an 11-bed hospice. It is unique in New Zealand as the only private organisation providing community nursing and specialist nursing services to the community. Most revenue comes from contracts with the Canterbury District Health Board, ACC and services to paying clients. Some services are supported by charitable payments.
There are constant funding and political pressures in the health sector with demand consistently outstripping resources. This means ongoing challenges for the Nurse Maude Association to deliver services effectively and efficiently. It was very conservative organisation with much resistance to change in its newly restructured environment. In this difficult setting Ayingaran engaged positively with her staff and lifted the standard of work outcome. She did this by clearly stating her expectations, developing realistic goals and mentoring and coaching her staff to achieve quality results.
She has systems approach to problem solving and her leadership of process improvement project within the association’s Homecare Service is good example. This service has over 600 employees providing personal care and domestic assistance in people’s homes. There is high turnover in this largely unskilled workforce. The service is supported by call centre responsible for rostering staff. Recruitment and retention are critical issues. Ayingaran quickly identified system issues and worked with staff to find sustainable solutions. She demonstrated positive leadership and empathy with staff by spending time fielding calls in the call centre. As direct result staff attitude changed from one of cynicism to support and within eight weeks staff developed and piloted the new processes.
As part of the senior management team Ayingaran led the development of the association’s strategic plan, establishing the framework for the plan and providing support to team leaders throughout the organisation, many of whom had not previously been involved with the process. As result the association has robust plan which is the product of staff inclusive process with clearly identified and quantified goals and objectives.
She is highly motivated young woman whose success thus far she ascribes to the alignment of two core attributes: her technical and personal skill set and her personal values. Values and the opportunity to enhance outcomes for people come up often in conversation with Ayingaran. The latter captured her interest in her first position in the health sector with the Northland District Health Board.
“Once I joined I became captivated by health,” she says. “It’s about people and the outcomes for people.” She was keen to use her financial and general management skills to focus on improving outcomes for people.
Ayingaran says there are more challenges for her to tackle at Nurse Maude. They are looking at expanding and offering some of their services outside Canterbury. “Some of our services are highly specialised (such as the leg ulcer clinic), and there is huge community need.” Some of the services are world class but one of the major ongoing challenges is the need to be financially sustainable. “We’ve been going for 107 years and we’re looking forward to another 100 years.”
She is passionate about health but the biotech sector also holds attractions. “I have no background in it but I am fascinated by the way science could offer solutions to human issues. There is huge potential to influence the total wellbeing of people.”
Ayingaran had career plan mapped out from the age of 14 when, as schoolgirl in Sri Lanka she resolved to come to New Zealand 10 years hence. She set about making it happen, initially by changing to an English-speaking school and sitting University of London exams. She made it here in nine years after studying financial and management accounting and undertook an MBA at the University of Otago. She then became, at 25, the youngest Otago MBA lecturer and faculty member with student cohort aged 32-57 years.
Ayingaran says sometimes people have been surprised by her youth, but she never saw it as barrier. “I have been confident of being able to deliver what I’ve been there to do.” Her career objective is to become CEO or GM of an innovative organisation and she sees herself, “in 20 years from now” in directorships in organisations where she can make contribution and serve the community: “Where my particular background and skills have something to offer – not linked to any particular sector, but aligned with my personal values.”
The judges said all three finalists were excellent candidates, each winner in their field, and would undoubtedly make their mark as future leaders in New Zealand. But Ayingaran stood out as having the capability to be CEO in the short to medium term, and the ability not just to manage effectively, but to be an inspirational leader.

“Anushiya is young woman with extraordinary management skills,” says her employer. “She will become significant leader in whatever field she chooses to follow. I hope it is health, as the sector desperately needs people of her capability and talent.”
Ayingaran is highly effective executive with record of superior performance in achieving results – often beyond expectations. She has held variety of senior management positions in finance and business over range of organisations in New Zealand and overseas, and been responsible for managing number of demanding projects for her employers.
Ayingaran combines high academic achievement and outstanding analytical ability and problem-solving skills with entrepreneurial flair and an ability to move people to action. Her leadership approach is one of empathy and inclusiveness combined with clear direction, goal setting with staff, and clear strategies for achievement. She is an excellent trainer and staff mentor and has outstanding communication skills.
Ayingaran is very self aware and has thoughtful approach to developing her own considerable potential. Her commitment to making difference is strong driver and has motivated her career choices to date.

“An elite young executive who is making his mark as an outstanding achiever in his field,” is the unequivocal backing from Stephen Howse’s employer. He has developed his career in one of New Zealand’s legacy companies – the Livestock Improvement Corporation, making remarkable contribution to the company’s turnaround. He is highly skilled and effective executive with particular strengths in IT, marketing and operations.
Howse has developed and leads teams of committed staff who have achieved to extremely high levels in the complex field of biological sciences and the application of technology to animal productivity and business process improvements.
He is an effective communicator and motivator and has an outstanding record of achievement in meeting the business objectives of stakeholders, the expectations of management for innovation and business solutions, and of his staff for clear sense of pu

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