Leadership Matters – A response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care

Posted on: 30/04/2020

Over the past 2 decades I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most effective and inspirational leaders within Australia. Providing executive coaching support to a wide range of sectors, from high level sport, oil and gas construction, local government and many others, it’s been my experience that some of the absolute best have been leaders of Care Organisations. Working with Dr Penny Flett AO, former CEO of the Brightwater Group and current CEO Jennifer Lawrence over the past 14 years are great examples of why I hold this view.

Despite the presence of some fantastic leaders in our Care Industry, unfortunately they are the exception rather than the norm. The unfortunate reality is that across the sector, leaders, particularly care facilities and frontline supervisors, have had a neigh impossible task. Whilst often well trained clinically, (degrees, supervised placements, continuing professional education etc….), our people are often promoted into supervision and management positions with little to no qualifications, experience or on the job training and support about how to lead and manage people. Instead, they’re thrown into an often under resourced and incredibly challenging workplace environment and expected to miraculously perform.

I recently co-facilitated a high-performance leadership development program with around 15 wonderful Care Facility Managers. Whilst chatting with the group before the 2nd session I noticed that one of the managers had a massive ‘shiner’ and swollen cheek bone. She informed me that she’d been belted by one of the residents with dementia. Whilst I was shocked by this, what was more shocking to me was the other manager’s response. Not one of them were surprised by what had happened and instead said “yeah, it goes with the territory”. The group then shared various recent “war stories” with each other – their way of supporting each other, normalising such events and building resilience in the process.

As a community it’s time to get real and face up to the fact that many of our care facilities represent an incredibly challenging environment. Our leaders of our frontline workforce need extraordinary skills and training to overcome these challenges and provide the type of quality care for our loved ones that they deserve. If we continue to fail in this area then unfortunately it’s a grim future, because as Donoghue and Castle’s (2009) research showed, frontline staff turnover is at least four times higher in facilities with poor leadership.  And of the 2,900 facilities surveyed, nearly 70% of them had substandard leaders in management roles.

Nearly ten years ago now, my beautiful mum was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, a beast of a disease. We spent the best part of the next 3 years in a range of care facilities and ultimately in a palliative care facility. My mum (Eleanor) was a special woman (guessing that most sons would say they same about their mum), she loved people and loved ‘her’ nurses and doctors and anyone else she came into contact with no matter how poorly she was feeling. Each Christmas, she’d knit everyone in the facility, and I mean everyone, various crocheted gifts. I spent a lot of time at mum’s new ‘pad’.

Whilst in the most part, we were lucky and her facility enjoyed a relatively speaking ‘good culture with good leaders’, it wasn’t without drama. One of the managers was perceived by most to be a bit of a bully and super autocratic. The amazing thing for me was that without even knowing which manager was on shift, the vibe and energy of the facility hit family members at the front door like a bat. When “she” was on shift everyone felt it and everyone walked on tender hooks.

None of what I’ve said above is really news to anyone in the Care Industry and in fact many great leaders such as Penny and Jennifer were involved with a Federal Government Task Force back in 2014 committed to addressing this issue. The task force produced a solid aged care leadership competency framework that was intended to be rolled out across the industry. Unfortunately, the money dried up and the framework was in the most part ‘shelved’.

That is, until recently, when CILCA 360 was born.

CILCA 360 is the Care Industry’s Leadership 360 Capability Assessment and our intention is to support leaders to grow. It was born out of the care we have for care leaders and our knowing that leadership is the key to transforming the care industry and supporting our most beloved older generation.

We’ve been using CILCA 360 to help organisations, like the Brightwater Group, to identify their leader’s key strengths and gaps so that they can be supported in the areas they most need. It was a highly cost effective way for them to identify their highest leadership capability priorities and target their investment funds accordingly.

Baptcare has also just finished their CILCA program. Lindon, a key leader, shared their reasons for why they chose CILCA:

  • They “were looking to inject a little more science” into how they created their individual development plans for 19/20
  • They wanted a tool that was specifically for the care industry:“The reason I like CILCA is that their questions are based on the national Aged Care Leadership Framework and the new quality standards.”
  • They wanted each person to develop their own individual targeted development plan
  • They didn’t have a lot of spare time or funds
  • Leadership development and investment was a key priority area from their RAC/RL strategy
  • Loved having the support of self-directed resources to ensure the execution of the plan “I’m loving the resource guide. Giving myself an hour each weekend.”

John Murray, CEO of RAAFA, shared at the ACSA National Summit, now asked to nominate for an Ageing Asia Award felt that “CILCA provided a unique opportunity to have a 360 review of our leadership capability which also reflected the new Care Standards. The value of the tool for the Executive Leadership Team and their profiles at RAAFA has enabled each individual to identify areas seen to be strengths and areas for improvement.

My biggest personal takeaway which came from my team and my board is the need to focus on my health not being compromised during this challenging period in Aged Care.”

In January 2020, we are opening up a very unique opportunity for care organisations to receive a personalised presentation from one of our team to learn more about how CILCA 360 could work for them. To learn more or join the waitlist for these presentations, please click here.