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Business Insights



The one question you always want to ask a successful person in a senior leadership role is “How did you get there?” In developing your own career, you learn more from hearing what worked – and didn’t work – from senior leaders and hearing their wisdom than from any other source.

We are embarking on a series of interviews with leaders who exemplify success for us. In their words are insights that can give you direction for moving your own career forward.

Quotes131To read a summary, written by Michael DeVenney, of the past 12 interviews this year - click here. 

Stuart Pinks - Maximize Your Learning Opportunities

Stuart Pinks:

CEO of
Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board

Insights from Stuart…

Bluteau DeVenney and Company (BDCO): What did you do to move to a leadership role?

Stuart Pinks (SP): When I look back over my career, there are a few attributes that enabled me to progress to the role that I am in today. It was commitment to the company I worked for, continually seeking new challenges within the company, and focusing on developing my interpersonal skills. People want to promote individuals that they enjoy working with, individuals who get along well with other people and those who can work well in a team. I consider those three attributes to be the building blocks of my career.

(BDCO): What is one thing that developing professionals need to do more of?

(SP): They need to have patience. You can't expect to take on the world in the first day or year of your career. You'll get there eventually, but in the meantime, be sure to maximize your learning opportunities, both inside and outside of your job scope. If you want to move on and develop as a leader, getting experience and an understanding of all aspects of the organization is important. Also, seek input and advice from experienced staff members on decisions you are making or recommendations you are putting forward, instead of assuming you have all of the answers.

(BDCO): What about doing less of?

(SP): I believe in having work-life balance. In saying that, recognize that the key word is "balance'" and be careful not to draw a hard line between the two. Balance only works if there is flexibility and give-and-take at both ends. There are going to be times that you will have to make compromises on both sides of the equation.

(BDCO): What experience helped you the most in your career and why?

(SP): Getting involved in international work probably helped me the most. I worked overseas for almost ten years on major energy projects. Being part of an international project team really challenges you to think on your feet and to deal with people of different mindsets and belief systems. When you're a small group of people placed overseas in different environments, you have to deal with a multitude of obstacles you come across with far fewer people and much less of a support system than what you may be used to in your home country. You quickly gain experience in all facets of the organization and learn how to overcome obstacles in diverse and challenging environments.

(BDCO): What was the greatest challenge moving your career forward?

(SP): I feel that the greatest challenges often result in the greatest rewards. It's always a challenge to leverage your skills to ensure you get that broad base of experience that is often needed to move to leadership roles. Throughout my career I have managed to leverage skills I have developed in each of the various jobs that I've done and then looked for opportunities to apply those skills to new areas and new experiences. I started my career in the energy business as a materials engineer in a quality assurance role. I quickly realized that wasn't the career I wanted for the long term, so I looked at how I could apply the skill set I had developed to a different career path. My company at the time had an international consulting division providing engineering services, so I searched for opportunities to apply my quality assurance skills within this area of the company. That led me to an opportunity to get involved in a business marketing role. From there I moved on to project management and contract management roles with different international project teams within the energy industry. Along the way I also gained significant exposure to health, safety, and environmental protection, which is what my original position focused on when I first started with the CNSOPB. I have had many new and challenging experiences throughout my career, but when the CEO role became available for this organization, it was that broad range of experience that played a big part in helping me move into the role.

(BDCO): What is the greatest strength of your approach to leadership?

(SP): Listening to the feedback I get from others regarding my leadership, one of my main strengths is my approachability and openness. I believe that people want a leader they feel they can talk to, someone who will truly listen to their ideas and incorporate those ideas whenever possible.

(BDCO): What has been the biggest surprise you have had since attaining a senior leadership role?

(SP): I have been surprised by the impact and attention that is paid to every word I say, or conversely, what is not said. Communication cannot be taken lightly, especially in a leadership position.

(BDCO): What is the greatest benefit to you in attaining a senior leadership role?

(SP): A sense of accomplishment, as well as the enjoyment I get from watching the people around me grow and develop. I really believe in trying to design jobs within an organization to best fit the interests of your people. When people are challenged in areas that interest them, they often produce amazing results that exceed everyone's expectations.

(BDCO)What is the next achievement you want in your leadership career?

(SP): Coming into a leadership role with the background that I have has forced me to focus on building my tactical leadership skills and expanding further into strategic leadership. In terms of my achievements, I would like to continue to broaden my strategic leadership skills within both the organization and the business community.

(BDCO)What is the biggest challenge you face in achieveing results in your work?

(SP): We have a very strong senior leadership team, comprising people who are great leaders in the areas in which they work. Similar to most organizations, many people on our leadership team are at different stages in their careers and have different leadership styles. As a result, we are always thinking of ways that would help us work even more cohesively to provide the best leadership we can for the organization.

(BDCO): What is your greatest opportunity/goal for providing value for your organization?

(SP): In leading a regulatory agency, the greatest opportunity I have is to provide a vision that is measurable, relevant and based on excellence. In addition, it is my role to ensure that employees know how they contribute to that vision through their daily work.

(BDCO): What added support or capability would help you most in delivering on your goals?

(SP): Similar to many leaders and senior team members in other organizations, I feel that most people in senior leadership roles, myself included, could benefit from ongoing leadership training. Often people get moved into leadership positions because they excelled in their technical roles. Being a leader is a whole separate skill set. For some people it comes more naturally than for others. I think most organizations could benefit from further leadership training, and it is something that I hope to focus on in our organization going forward.

Tell us your progress – we want you to succeed.



The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board is the independent joint agency of the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia responsible for the regulation of petroleum activities in the Nova Scotia Offshore Area. The Board reports to the federal Minister of Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, and the provincial Minister of Energy in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

You can find out more about Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board at www.cnsopb.ns.ca.

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