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Harmony at Heart

By Lisa Calautti


Preventing heart disease and improving the heart health and quality of life of all Australians is at the core of the National Heart Foundation ACT’s mission. For its CEO Tony Stubbs, a vital element in ensuring this quest is a success depends on a united team of staff focused on this mission.



Stubbs, who has been at the helm of the foundation for a decade, manages a mixed team of 12 staff, comprising of part-time and full-time employees, as well as some volunteers and contractors. Respect for each team member is crucial to ensuring everyone works as a team, he says. “Regardless of whether they are a volunteer or a leader of a major project, it’s about listening to them and also empowering and supporting them,” Stubbs explains. “But generally giving people your respect and giving them the opportunity to grow and develop and do the best they can in the particular role they’ve been given is vital.”

That doesn’t mean that achieving team nirvana is easy for Stubbs. Quite simply, he explains it all comes back to process. It is remembering the foundation’s mission, key strategy areas and work plans so people can see how their role fits into the broader picture. Once this is set in motion, bringing all team members together to deliver a strategy is possible. “Once that’s at play, then people get on board and actually start to deliver in their programs as they are clear what they need to achieve,” he says. Once a collaborative effort is put in place, a sense of unity ensues, and a sense of accomplishment is achieved, he explains.



Keeping the foundation’s mission of reducing the impact of cardiovascular disease in the community at the fore of employees across all departments from finance, to marketing to health is vital. “Importantly, it’s about saying to them, ‘What are you doing to ensure you are working towards the mission?’” Stubbs says. “It’s also them being aware of the key strategies and what they are doing to link to the mission and support them to develop their work plans that are linked to these, so they can see what they are actually doing that ultimately goes towards achieving the mission but also the impact it has on individuals in the community.”

For Stubbs, good teamwork comes back to staff understanding how they fit into a ‘bigger team’. “Teams fall apart when there is a lack of clarity around what they are trying to achieve,” he believes. “It’s having that clear process around roles and responsibilities.” Regular performance reviews, staff meetings of all employees and frequent internal communications help foster and maintain a united workforce, Stubbs believes.



Educating the public about heart disease, its warning signs and the services available to those living with a heart condition, has helped inform the organisation’s new One Heart Strategy. “We all work in very different areas,” Stubbs notes. “For example, marketing and health program areas are different parts of the business that do different bits. But, if you allow them to go ahead and do their work alone, they’ll end up doing it solo.”

The key to achieving the strategy is ensuring all teams are working collaboratively together to develop the best possible product and be clear who is leading each process, Stubbs says.



On a personal level, the values of the foundation strongly align with Stubbs. His aunt died of a heart attack on the doorstep of her GP’s practice and the effect her death had on his family was something that had a lasting impact. “She didn’t know the warning signs of a heart attack or that heart disease was an issue for women,” Stubbs says.

While the foundation’s work can be seasonal, with National Heart Week in April and May being a particularly busy period, 2019 has a steady program of events, where Stubbs concedes staff will be quite busy with little breaks between campaigns.

Major campaigns this year will include a ‘warning signs’ campaign and another targeted at people aged 45-plus to educate them about the importance of getting a heart risk assessment with their GP.

The impact the foundation’s programs has on the community, and the feel-good factor of helping others is a shared passion among the foundation’s team, says Stubbs. “In most jobs unfortunately, people get caught up in the day-to-day operations and forget what is at the heart of their work,”

Stubbs says. “For us, it’s really getting back to what are the key things we want to do to achieve our mission.”

Regularly reviewing projects and campaigns and seeing data on how many members of the wider public have benefited, in addition to hearing about specific case studies, is a rewarding aspect for all of the team. “We focus on impact not output, and it’s more about what impact our projects are having on the community,” Stubbs notes.


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