Interview with AHRI’s 2011 CEO of the Year Patrick Greene
SS: You started your career as an archaeologist doing field work, how did that experience contribute to your leadership capabilities?
PG: I started work as a volunteer on archeological excavations while still at school and then at university. Before long I was given positions of responsibility as supervisor. I found that if I shared as much knowledge as possible with them about the task to be completed I could persuade them to work to the standards required. A few years later I was director of a monastery dig in Cheshire working with a party of prisoners who liked the idea of being out in the sun but weren’t necessarily turned on by archeology. To get them to work I would get them enthused by telling them about the importance and value of what they were doing.
SS: Museum Victoria has enjoyed record attendances year on year. What were the strategic imperatives that impacted this result?
PG: We never embark on any major development until we know how the public is going to respond. One of the important pieces of research we did was looking at motivational groups. We’ve split the population into four groups who all look for different things when they go out for the day. We can then analyse the developments so we know what will appeal to whom. Museums today are participatory places; so we’ve taken initiatives in multimedia and communication technologies.
SS: Was the vision for Museum Victoria always clear to you?
PG: When I arrived, the museum was in a lot of trouble because there wasn’t an articulated vision for the whole organisation. I engaged in a comprehensive consultation exercise with the people working in the museum and came up with five words to describe what we are about. The result was: ‘Exploring Victoria, discovering the World.’ As somebody with fresh eyes I could see that we had a great opportunity to reflect on the diversity of Victoria while placing it in a national and international context.
SS: How did you bring your staff on to all of the changes?
PG: Melbourne Museum had opened in October 2000 and the public was underwhelmed by it. We boosted morale by having clear strategic, corporate and business plans and though this sounds bureaucratic but it has the opposite impact because when people know what’s expected of them, they can get on and do it.
SS: How would you describe your leadership style?
PG: I think it’s a case of being consultative and listening to people. It’s also about being decisive, but the driving force for me is a passion for what the museum does.
SS: Who has shaped your ideas about leadership?
PG: I would say my father. He was an Irish migrant to England, a psychiatric nurse who gradually made the transition to nursing management. He had a very warm and involving management style and was widely admired for it.
SS: How do you keep your people motivated?
PG: We just finished the Tutankhamun exhibition, which broke all records with 796,277 visitors and that’s been a thrill for everyone in the museum. We’ve also won nine local, national and international awards in the past three to four weeks.
SS: Do you make time to walk round the museum?
PG: I make sure I do. I would be extraordinarily frustrated if I was stuck in an office all the time.
SS: In what way do you believe the HR function in your organisation has contributed to its overall success?
PG: It’s very important. In the UK I ran the first museum to be recognised as an Investor in People. This was a scheme that was launched about 15 years ago by the UK government as a way of encouraging businesses to develop their staff.
About Patrick Greene
Patrick Greene became CEO of Museum Victoria in August 2002. He is a member of the Executive of the Council of Australasian Museum Directors and of the Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee. He is an adjunct professor in the Centre for Cultural Heritage of Deakin University Asia-Pacific and a Professorial Fellow of the University of Melbourne. He is an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and became an Australian citizen in 2007. In May 2010, he was appointed chair of the National Cultural Heritage Committee.