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Lia Daborn

Chief Executive Officer, Professional Engineers & Geoscientists NB (APEGNB)

Q: What three adjectives would your colleagues use to describe you?

A: Conscientious, quiet, dedicated.

Q: What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

A: Detail-oriented, multi-faceted, introverted.

Q: Do you have a hobby or non-work-related activity that you think benefits you / enhances your effectiveness at work?

A: I have two hobbies that keep my “non-work” brain active. For the past two years, I have been the provincial representative for a non-profit wine-buying club based in Canada. It is a membership-based organization, which is likely what appealed to me when I applied to be the representative. I have come to learn that I am driven to provide member service, and my goal is always to ensure that members are getting the value they seek. In addition to this role, I have been studying for an internationally-recognized designation as a wine specialist. I achieved my Level Three from The Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London, England earlier this year.

My other hobby that I love is baking. I need that creative outlet after being away in meetings, and it gives me the quiet time to recharge in my kitchen – downtime is really important for introverts! – and I realized that this is my favourite way to recharge. My son generally loves it and, if I’m making something he likes, I don’t feel bad about taking time to do that when I get back from work travel. I just have to try not to eat it all myself!

Through the wine club, I continue to focus on member experience and I actually have members who are part of the club and also part of the membership that I serve in my day job. The baking is likely just for me: it is a great stress reliever and allows me to recuperate from meetings, and feel revitalized and ready to take on new challenges at work the next day. I know that my brain tosses all kinds of things around when I’m in the kitchen and I am often writing down notes of things to check into when I get to the office the next day.

Q: What do you see as the most pressing challenges to the association sector currently? Do these keep you up at night – or do you have an approach to build resilience and stay ahead of the curve?

A: My career has been focused on self-regulated professions. Over the time I have been involved in these particular associations, I have seen the concern over self-regulation and the threat of the loss of self-regulation, come up again and again. It has happened in some other professions, where the government has created a new regulatory regime to oversee the particular group. In some of those cases, the move was precipitated by a specific situation; in others, it has been the government believing that the organizations are not meeting their legislated mandate and regulating the profession in the best interests of the public. It is a tricky balance, particularly in professions where one organization tries to be both regulator and advocate.

I believe that it comes down to being very clear about mandates and also making sure to take every opportunity to demonstrate that the organization is meeting its regulatory requirements. It also means that members need to understand that the organization (association, society, regulatory college, etc.) is there to serve a greater purpose that is not always in alignment with what the members believe they need.

The situation continues to evolve across Canada, but when you look around the world, many countries have changed their approach to self-regulation. It is incumbent on all of us in this country to ensure that we are doing our best to protect the public interest while at the same time ensuring members understand the power they have been given to be self-regulated.


Q: What to you are the most important qualities of a strong leader?

A: I think that a strong leader needs to listen – to the board, to members, to staff and anyone else who might have something to contribute. You never know when you will learn something that you did not already know (or assumed you knew).

A leader also needs to trust. This means allowing staff to make decisions, and to attempt things where they may succeed or fail (within reason of course!). The only way for people to grow in their roles is to have experiences in both instances. Simply telling someone that an approach will or will not work is not necessarily teaching them anything. We need to trust that our staff has good instincts and to allow them to do their jobs.

Q: Is there something you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self as you looked ahead into your future life and career?

A: I would tell her that not every defeat is negative; there are always unanticipated opportunities for growth that come with being unsuccessful at something – it is a matter of figuring out what that opportunity is, and turning the disappointment into a positive experience. It is a hard lesson to learn when you are in the middle of a difficult situation, but one that you learn mostly through hindsight.

Q: Favourite quote?

A: Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” is something that my father always quoted in pieces at various times throughout my childhood. I have come to find out that it actually has a deeper family history, so that has brought greater meaning to me. It has always been my touchstone – particularly when things at work are not going the way I want them to! The first lines are the easiest to remember:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you” The entire poem is instruction on ensuring you remember your values and keep confidence in yourself and your decisions and experience. All good lessons that I struggle to remember sometimes!

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