Connie Fair isn’t interested in settling into a comfortable routine.
Perhaps that’s not surprising for the president and CEO of the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA). Like many successful leaders, Fair has no intention of slowing down. She isn’t inspired by prestigious titles or a corner office; instead, she wants to know that she is having an impact and making a significant contribution in her own way.
In fact, while Fair is the winner in the Public Service category of the 2019 BC CEO Awards for her work at the LTSA since 2016, this isn’t the first time she has been at the helm of a major British Columbian public institution.
Prior to accepting her current role, Fair served for eight years as CEO of the province’s 10th-largest Crown corporation, the BC Assessment Authority. Before ascending to the position of CEO, Fair successfully fulfilled numerous key positions within the organization after originally being hired for contract work. She could have stayed in an organization and role that she was both familiar with and successful at, but that wouldn’t be Fair.
For an ambitious leader with a desire to constantly learn new things, there is no satisfaction in a role where the opportunity to gain new insight is limited.
“I think staying curious is very important,” Fair said. “What’s helped me stay current, stay ahead of the curve, is just that desire to always be learning.”
The motivation she gains from reading, taking courses and otherwise keeping abreast of new ideas has not only aided in her success but also encouraged her to set and achieve new goals.
Fair grew up in the Vancouver Island town of Ladysmith together with her six siblings. Her mother was a nurse; her father, a carpenter, built single-family homes. Fair had a relatively independent childhood, running around the small town with her brothers and sisters, while both her parents worked.
She remembers spending lots of time on the construction sites of half-built single-family homes her father was working on and seeing blueprints and building plans spread across her kitchen table. She and her siblings knew all the homes in Ladysmith that their father had built.
Growing up in a big family and eventually raising a family of her own taught Fair not only the value of helping people but also how to be a successful leader in the province’s public sector.
“There’s no question that the people skills you learn at your work help you in your personal life and the personal skills you learn in your personal life help you at work.”
While it wasn’t clear then, watching her father build houses for her community is what first attracted her to the real estate sector. What was most captivating for her was the industry’s ability to help people.
Fair’s attraction to the industry was evident as she earned her university degree, preferring her real estate classes over other business courses. Rather than focusing on bond yields or other esoteric financial instruments, Fair favoured real property, something you can touch and feel, a physical place where people go to live or work. That a building could represent a new home for a growing family or a new facility for an emerging business allowed Fair to feel more connected to her work than she might have working with just numbers.
But Fair wasn’t attracted to the typical jobs – such as realtor – that one would associate with real estate, and instead has spent her entire career taking on more unique roles within the industry.
While the tangible aspect of property and buildings was appealing to her, she was also fascinated by the long-term personal connections she could share with others. Working at some of the largest public institutions in real estate would present that opportunity in spades.
After 23 years at BC Assessment and helming the organization for the last eight, Fair felt that she had taken the organization as far as she could. She recognized that it would be challenging for both her and the organization to continue to grow without a change.
She decided it was time to put her stamp on another project.
The LTSA presented a unique opportunity for Fair to take an organization to the next level. When she got there, it wasn’t about fixing a problem or changing the direction of the organization but rather about figuring out what was next and helping to shape its future. As president and CEO, Fair has the opportunity to use her experience and skills toward that goal. •
What sort of leadership style does a CEO have to cultivate in the 21st century?
Agility and resilience to handle constant change.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Working with the board to develop a strategy going forward that has positioned the LTSA to assist the province in fulfilling some of its mandate and restructuring the organization so that it will provide better services to its customers.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Finding and attracting the right talent.
What career decisions would you make differently were you starting out today?
I would spend more time listening.
What is the one business lesson you’d like to pass on to others?
Making the shift from being someone who feels like they need to have all the answers to someone who appreciates that the answers will come from their team.
Join us to celebrate this year’s honourees at the 2019 BC CEO Awards November 13, 2019, hosted at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info, visit www.biv.com/ceo.