No matter where and how we are involved in our Australian aged care sector, 2019 was a tough year. The sector ended 2019 with one-word ringing in our ears – Neglect – being the title of the Interim Report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

What a tough end to 2019!

How do we emerge from 2019 into a brighter and stronger 2020 given that the Royal Commission continues to march on? How do we turn Neglect into respect and rise above the negative views of all that 2019 revealed about our sector?

I suggest that we should at least consider the following seven factors:

      1. Continue to develop your leadership skills: Leadership is an art as much as it is a science. You lead people and you manage things. Part of your leadership can be allocated to getting to know your people better – including all your stakeholders.
      2. Become increasingly comfortable listening to and acting for all your clients: Grow your skills and abilities. And develop the team/s around you. If you do not feel you have the skills in-house to accomplish that, allocate specific funds for that purpose. Seek to see individuals grow in their leadership, management and care capability, and ensure that your overall team benefits from growth and development. After all, the longer-term benefit is a better outcome in care for all your clients;
      3. Transition into new roles: I suspect there will be much more change in our sector during 2020, and this may affect you and those people – personnel – around you. Learn how to transition with change. If the change does not directly impact on you, be prepared to assist those for whom change has a major effect;
      4. Be confident about the future: None of us can know exactly what change will happen, and we may not entirely agree with regulatory changes as and when they occur. But we can still lead with confidence, empathy, and transparency;
      5. Maintain your level of resilience: But become more transparent with all your stakeholders. I cannot imagine that the pain of commentary around our aged care sector is going to decrease that much during 2020. The Royal Commission continues. You must maintain your vigilance and your resilience. Wikipedia, defines resilience as ‘the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses ‘mental processes and behaviours in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors’. Whilst I don’t believe we can ever return to the pre-Neglect status of aged care in Australia, we must move on to a better future. That future will almost certainly require us to have greater regard to the needs of our stakeholders, particularly those that directly receive services from us, and implement positive change for their sake. After all, I genuinely hope that they are the reason we exist to provide services;
      6. Take opportunities for growth: Organisationally and personally – opportunities for organisational growth will undoubtedly arise during this calendar year. Be prepared for such opportunities. Know when and how your organisation wants to grow. Do you know what growth can be managed by your organisation? What about the additional workload demands for you and your team? Has growth been truly understood and accepted by your governance group? Does that group understand the cost of growth versus the opportunity cost of doing nothing? Spend these first one or two quieter months of the new calendar year fleshing out some of these questions into your strategic plan;
      7. Innovate: This has become such a buzzword … Essentially the heart of innovation is the development of a new idea, method of product. Perhaps take some pressure off yourself and fall back onto another well-worn phrase – “continuous improvement” – which is still at the heart of the accreditation requirements in our services. As part of the training and development programs you hold for your staff during 2020 why not have a renewed focus on continuous improvement? Involve your teams and hold all accountable for project development during 2020;
      8. Persevere with business optimisation and execution of strategy: These activities are inescapable requirements for leaders. Whilst we might not need to sweat the small stuff, we do need to be all over it and understand how small improvements can cumulatively bring efficiencies to our operations. That is an expectation from our role. In spite of the uncertainty around us lead through execution of your approved strategy.
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