Workplace Mental Health

#64 Building connection and belonging, Amanda Cattermole, CEO, Australian Digital Health Agency

May 7, 2024

Amanda Cattermole is the CEO of Australian Digital Health Agency. She believes that a safe workplace is key in allowing our people to thrive and feel valued. A place that truly cares is fueled by passion and commitment. For Amanda, it's essential to view most things as fixable. Reflecting on her own experiences, she found that the moments that initially felt overwhelming were often retrievable in some way. She shares how this has worked for her in the past, and reflects on the value of a positive mindset even on a bad day.
"When our people come to my agency, it’s a place they feel safe. And when I say ‘they feel safe’, I mean, they come knowing they're supported."
- Amanda Cattermole


  • What caring in the workplace means for Amanda
  • Providing consistent support and understanding so our people can thrive and feel valued
  • The significance of caring for our team’s growth and wellbeing


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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Amanda Cattermole


Graeme Cowan  00:06

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Amanda Cattermole from the Australian Digital Health Agency, the CEO, to the caring CEO podcast. Welcome, Amanda.


Amanda Cattermole  00:16

Thank you so much, Graeme, it is lovely to be here.


Graeme Cowan  00:19

What does care in the workplace mean to you?


Amanda Cattermole  00:25

So for me, Graeme, when I think about care in the workplace, there’s a range of things that really matter to me. So one of them is that it’s a safe place, that when our people come to my agency, for example, that it is a place they feel. And when I say that they feel safe. I mean, that they come knowing they’re supported. They come knowing that it is consistent, I think that is one of the really critical hallmarks of a safe place, that it can stay, understand that there’ll be engaged with consistently, that their leaders will behave consistently, not just on a good day, but consistently, and that they are able to thrive in that place, that it’s a place where they know that we want them to do well. And that can mean wanting them to go off to the next great thing, hoping they might come back one day, but not expecting it necessarily, but wanting to be proud of that happening because we’ve helped our people to flourish. And it is also for me, a place that cares is one that’s fueled by passion, and by commitment, where people are coming there together. Because we together believe in what we’re doing. And we’re walking in every day, wanting to fulfill that purpose or that vision, and that we’re creating an environment where that is possible for everyone to do together.


Graeme Cowan  01:46

Yeah, this psychological safety has become a huge thing. Probably not the last, what actually remember, I remember when I first read of the article, I think it was in 2016 in New York Times. And it was called what Google learned in its quest for the perfect team. And that was the first time I heard the term psychological safety was the first time I read about Amy Edmondson and her work at Harvard, and that sort of thing, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? You know, if we, if we do feel safe, we can try things we can bounce off each other, we protect we don’t pretend we know everything we strive to, to get the best answer. And, you know, heard Ray Dalio you know, very successful hedge fund manager saying that we should strive to have a culture where the best ideas win, and leave. That’s a great, great


Amanda Cattermole  02:40

way to think about it, isn’t it? I agree, and to do that you have to have that doesn’t happen. It has to have there’s a whole range of things that go into a place where that is, is possible to happen. And yeah, I that’s interesting that term psychological safety. I agree. It’s certainly become one of the the sort of framing pieces but and even long before I heard that coined, one of the things that I guess I’d always felt really passionately about, and I think is implied in that is this notion of we can all be great leaders on a good day. It’s what happens on a bad day. That I think tells people whether it’s really safe. So if you get the same Amanda, when someone says, Now listen, I need to talk to you, I think we’ve got a problem. And if you start with Okay, walk me through it, let’s see, let’s let’s get to the heart and work out what we can do. Or do you hear? Oh, my God, not again? Or I thought, What do you mean, I thought we’d once you get to that you’ve already lost the psychological safety. And it didn’t matter whether I was cheery and chipper the day before when we were celebrating a success, or that I sound okay, the next day, I reckon if you get that moment, the safety isn’t there. It’s not in the fabric, it is just a veneer. And that’s I always try to think, say to my people, what, that how do people experience you on a bad day? Because that’s what really tells you whether it’s actually safe. Yeah.


Graeme Cowan  04:02

How do you keep that positivity? Because we’re all human. We all have our ups and downs, some days are better than others. How do you strive to be good on those bad days?


Amanda Cattermole  04:15

So I think I feel really passionately about it. So so in a way, it’s, it’s a deep part of how I bring myself every day. And so it is about it being my North Star. It absolutely is. I would hope that no one has ever said about me that I wasn’t there for them in that right way on a bad day. But to think about that, you’ve got to feel like most things are fixable. And so my view is most things are fixable there. I think if I think back over my working life and all those moments where your heart sort of drops they’re all mostly your I can’t think of one that was not retrievable in some way. And so it goes to proportionality it goes to externalizing anxiety Sorry. And it goes to managing that your that self talk we all have about those things going wrong. And so I always in my head, just remind myself, okay, this doesn’t sound great. But in the scheme of things, where are we in my head? Okay, this is not this is a fixable issue, proportionally, it’s not, you know, it’s not on the terrible scheme of things. Let’s just work it through. So I think a lot of leaders because you know, we’re caring, everyone’s carrying a lot of stuff, when, you know, we’re trying to do a good day, we’re trying to do the right thing. And we’ve got lots of lots of balls in the air, that I think sometimes proportionality is lost, which makes a smallish thing suddenly, in that moment, feel like an enormous thing. And so if you can kind of keep that in your head, and then sort of carry that as your Northstar, I don’t ever feel like it’s hard to be to go to the right place. Now, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to do. And your heart might be, oh, my gosh, we have got a lot to do here. But it’s how you go about it, and how that first moment resonates. Because I reckon that’s where you lose your people when they see your face, and your reaction. And they know it’s going to be quite awful for quite some time rather than, okay, she didn’t fall apart, we’ve got some ideas, we’re gonna, you know, it’s okay, we’re going to work on it together, you know that it says it sets the tone in a very different way.


Graeme Cowan  06:24

How do you keep fueling your own tank? How do you what do you do to make sure that your as much as possible in the green zone?


Amanda Cattermole  06:34

So one of the no magic to this, we’re all you know, juggling and trying to find balance and all that stuff. And even balance is a funny term. I think I was thinking about this, over the last few weeks, actually, is people asked me about balance. And I think it’s not so much balances, making sure that almost sort of quadrants, all might be the parts of me, I’ve got a feeling up, you know, in a sort of fairly consistent way. So no magic on my end, other than the one that I think I would say that I hear other leaders talk about that I’ve thought long and hard about is I don’t lose sleep over most things. And I think sleep deprivation, when coupled with anxiety about stuff, worrying about what the next thing is, and then then that moment comes the next day, when someone does give you the phone call. It can be a bit of a heady mix. And I think I genuinely, you know, when people say to me, don’t lose sleep over and I say I usually I won’t. Because I genuinely don’t, or there are very few things in my working life that have really, really kept me up. And I think just trying to get that, you know, feeling again, it’s about proportionality. You know, that’s a worrying thing. We’re going to need to work on it, but I’m not gonna lie awake all night about it, that ain’t gonna help. And then and then that sense of making sure that all the parts of me of who I am, get some attention, you know, because otherwise I think you risk, you know, again, you risk it all being all in your risk, that sense of yourself and your risk, a sense of being able to just say, hey, you know, in the scheme of things, we can work this through together.


Graeme Cowan  08:04

I also don’t like the term work life balance, because to me, it implies that, you know, life is good work is bad. Yeah, exactly. But for many people, it has a lot of fulfillment. They sit they sit, I think part of their contribution, what the, you know, the contribution of the world through through what they do. And so I think a better term is integration.


Amanda Cattermole  08:25

Yeah, it’s a lovely term. I was funny, you should say that I was thinking about that recently. Why would I say instead? And yeah, integration is nice, because I agree, work life balance suggests, and it suggests something a bit binary. And I think one of the most fascinating things about what’s going on in in the way work is inhabited at the moment is that it is very much more fluid. And now there’s risk for that there’s risks I think, frequently for people, you know, doing too much work. Because we can do it all from our, you know, home offices frequently. Eat, you can, you can just keep going right? So you’ve got to you’ve got to find different disciplines. But I like the notion of integration, because it is part of if I if I put in place all the little Amanda pieces, it’s absolutely one of them. I’m proud of my people. I’m proud of what we do. It does, it gives me absolute fulfillment, but I don’t eat but that’s not who I am in my totality either. I’m, you know, and I don’t ever want that to end up over, you know, with with that bucket being too filled and the others less filled. Yeah,


Graeme Cowan  09:30

yeah, I really liked that. We talked on air before we started this today, a little bit about your career, and what you’ve done and where you’ve been. And as a former recruiter, I would describe it as an interesting career and interesting. Careers are always very, very fascinating to me. So would you mind giving our listeners a bit of an overview of how you got to your current role?


Amanda Cattermole  09:56

Oh, thanks, Graeme. Yeah, it’s um, it’s one of those funny things where you know people off to look back and say, you know how you sort of did you did your plan at? No, definitely, definitely no. And for me, just a couple of sort of, I suppose funny stories in a way to illuminate what kind of where I’ve come from, that probably the only thing I ever plan to be is the one thing I didn’t do in the end. So that shows you my plan is clearly not great. But so when I, as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. So and that goes all the way back to I did work experience in year 10, in a legal firm, so it was a pretty, it was pretty baked in. And I wanted to be an employment lawyer because I felt very passionately about, you know, supporting workers in the workplace, I came from a family where, you know, lots of passion and commitment around social justice around the dinner table, very much kind of, you know, baked in who I am, and I’d set my heart on, on on that. So all through uni, you know, that’s, that’s what I did. And I was lucky enough to win the sort of whatever the top mark for one of the labor law subjects and the person. And when I when I the uni I was at the person who got top marks was invited to be a judges associate for a judge who was a very famous labor lawyer. And so you know, I prepped, as you can imagine, every bit of employment law I’d ever read in my entire life and rocked up to this to this meeting with the judge, pretty terrified. And he asked me a few questions about employment law. And then he said to me, so can I just ask you a question, you know, do you like camping? And I was like, and I’m thinking, I don’t know where this is going. But I think the answer has to be yes, no. So I said, I look, I love camping. Now, the truth was, I’d never been camping in my life at that point, because my parents didn’t do camping. So I’ve always described it as the most productive lie I ever told, because the reason he had asked me was because he was also the Aboriginal land commissioner in the Northern Territory. And so six weeks later, when I joined his team, I found myself sitting in the dirt outside of Alice Springs, hearing Aboriginal people tell their stories of country. And that yo is going to be theory actually does it to me to this day, it changed my entire working life. So I had a year with him. And I was great, this extraordinary privilege of being part of that land claim process that he was the judge for. And so at the end of that, I did my articles in the labor law firm that I had signed up to, and then the minute I got articles, I resigned and moved to Darwin. So that was, that was the only plan I ever had in mind. That was I never never became an employment lawyer. Although I did do that lovely year, working in employment law, when I was doing my articles, but and that really, that really sort of it I spent many years with the great privilege of working on land claims and Native Title claims, when as non native title was given effect to during that time by the High Court after the Mabo case. And then I did a lot of work in then I did a lot of work in Western Australia, also with the great privilege of working with Aboriginal communities there on land and heritage matters, and more and more broadly on social justice matters. And then I moved to Canberra, and was did a lot of work there on a big remote housing program that was beings to try and really reduce overcrowding in remote indigenous communities. So it was an extraordinary part of my working life. And to this day, probably a great passion that drives me but that sort of other the other key moments, then that really kind of took me on the next paths were really came from leaders, really amazing leaders who cared about me in a very deep way. And and each of those two leaders at two points kind of subsequent to that pressed me to take on roles that I would never have taken on myself. And the reason they did that was because they could see that I had some attributes and skills that were not just about what I had done, but were about how I brought myself to roles and how I lead in roles. And on both occasions, I really resisted this notion that I would go and do these roles that were very different. So the first one was working on at the anti Problem Gambling laws. And the second one was working on going to Treasury and doing broad broad work within the budgetary context. And they were both things that I couldn’t imagine myself doing. They seem so far out of where I’d come from, and I resisted deeply. And on both occasions, I went to do those roles. Because both leaders said, Well, you’re going anyway. And they were two of the most extraordinary jumping off points in my career. They changed everything about my understanding about who I was, in a role, what I brought to the roles and that I could lead in in areas that were not necessarily my deep expert knowledge background. I could lead with a bunch of skills and attributes that were broader than that and I’m, I’ve said to both those leaders who I’d resisted quite deeply at the time, I’ve said both of them, dang it, you’re right. Thank you for being right. I’ve told them both on many occasions, because it changed everything about my ability to understand what leadership looked like, and how I could bring that in. And from that I’ve taken, you know, a couple of things. One, I tried to be that same leader, so that really fuels the way I engage with my people, how do you help your team to see things because you can see it in them? How do you support them to take those leaps that are going to really, you know, in illuminate their, their careers and their leadership? Even more fully? And, and also to, to be ready to face the path? least comfortable? Yeah. And having been a person who found that really hard myself? Yeah,


Graeme Cowan  15:50

yeah, that is a wonderful example. And I once had a lead like that as well, it was quite early on in my career. And I’ve worked at Johnson and Johnson, very professional organization, and then went to a smaller company, which was a division and Pfizer was a, a surgical products company. But he just kept giving me things.


Amanda Cattermole  16:12

Exactly. Doing this,


Graeme Cowan  16:15

I’ve never done it before, he said, I’ll do your best. And, you know, sure enough, it was a very, very fast way to learn, fail and persist and to and to work it out. And I think you highlight, you know, some wonderful attributes of a very caring leader, because not only they see things in you that you can’t recognize yourself, exactly. But they’re also willing to lose you. Somebody who’s very competent, but they’re willing to lose you, because he can see that they can make a better contribution somewhere else. And so yeah, so I absolutely


Amanda Cattermole  16:48

agree. And it’s that sense of Yes. That for the broader purpose, yeah, that you take those steps, because that will add something to leadership generally, which adds something to the work the work lives of others, and then the the programs and, and delivery that were engaged in whatever that might be, that this is going to add something more in a broader sphere, it is it’s very, it’s a really powerful moment of thinking about what how we’re going to add something, you know, what’s the broader contribution that’s going to be made through these organizations and these leaders. And I really, it really has become the centerpiece for me, those that I saw, and experienced leaders who were prepared to make that kind of profound, you know, pushing for me, and to make that sort of change.


Graeme Cowan  17:47

And tell us a little a little bit about the Australian digital health agency and how you came to join it, and what does it do.


Amanda Cattermole  17:56

So our the stranger telehealth agency is the national steward for digital health infrastructure in Australia. So our job is to set a national strategic direction for health infrastructure, and to work with our colleagues in the states and territories who are along with the Commonwealth Fund the agency to knit that infrastructure together together in a way that will support information sharing, in the hands of Australians, with them at the helm, so that they can access the health information they need where and when they need it. And that’s given. It’s manifested, for example, in the My Health Record system, which we are the steward of, but also in a range of other products and services that are designed to make sure that information can be shared with clinicians and with Australians in a way that is going to add something to their the quality, access, equity and engagement of their health care. Yeah. And so and also to set that national strategy because we don’t wait, you know, obviously, there’s innovation going on across the healthcare sector all the time, extraordinary innovation. And it’s not our job to do much of that. But it’s to have a sense of what that strategy should look like at the national level, and how we help affect the change nationally, that will, that will harness give effect to that innovation, but also make sure that it doesn’t fragmented helps connect the system. Yeah, so that’s our job.


Graeme Cowan  19:21

And the whole COVID experience Buster really fast track that or creating greater urgency for it


Amanda Cattermole  19:29

100% It turbocharged people’s engagement with digital health, people’s understanding of what would what a health system that could support you, in a digitally enabled way might look like, and how it can actually be really critical at moments of care when people needed vaccine, you know, to show vaccine results when they needed immediate access to COVID results when it was going to support you know, their ability to work, their ability to travel their health. And so yes, it has it’s changed the national conversation Mmm. And our job really is to help support that, you know, what, what is it now that Australians expect? How do we give life to that? But how do we do so in an environment where they know that they are also, that we’re also holding a system that is trusted and safe and secure? Because that is also a deep part of what we do. Is that that the we can assure Australians that that we have we are holding a system that they can trust.


Graeme Cowan  20:24

Yeah. So your leadership, when that suddenly hit and hit so quickly, you know, people had to work from home. How did that challenge you?


Amanda Cattermole  20:38

So it was an interesting time Graeme like like it was for everyone, we all you know, so it’ll be profound for all of us, I think through, you know, forever. But I took up this role in the middle of COVID. And when I, so So one of the challenges for me was to step into a role as a CEO for the first time. In an organization that I knew a little bit about, I sort of worked alongside because I, I’d been leading Medicare delivery prior to that in Services Australia, but I didn’t know well. And I was going to do it from my lounge room. And I was really worried about how do I lead? How do I step in at that moment? And how do I how can I affect culture? How can I help delivery, you know, when we had a lot to do with government was, you know, looking to us as part of the national effort. And what I discovered, like all so many things in COVID, of course, was all many of my preconceptions were completely wrong. And one of them, the one that I loved, the most being wrong about was that I thought about how do I how do I start engaging in all the parts of the organization. And so what, what I said to the teams was, it’d be great if people could bring me chunks of the organization, you know, each day, and we’ll sort of start to build up my store of knowledge. And we’ll talk about things in a needed. And of course, what would happen as it all as it did for all of us is people would pop up on the screen all day, every day, and they a bunch of people would say, hi, Amanda, I’m blah, blah, and we’re gonna talk about this. And I go, Wow, that’s fascinating. I love that. Thank you. And then the next thing and, and what it did is it democratized my my engagement with the organization because in those early days, I had virtually no idea who was who I didn’t know, where the hierarchies lay, I was often just people sharing. And of course, their whole notion of ideas come from everywhere, was just rich in the on the, you know, on the screen, it was bursting out of the screen, and I go, Oh, that sounds great. And what a great idea. And, and it just really, and it doesn’t, you know, it’s not that hierarchies aren’t, you know, important, and all that stuff. And structure is important. But it’s with all the will in the world, there’s often a bit of a diffusion that happens as messages come up to you through the leadership group. And it just was raw and passionate and democratized. And in fact, I think it set the tone for my engagement with the organization, probably better than I could ever have imagined. And I got to know people in a really different way. And, and it was so wonderful. When we all started to get to meet each other, there was just this sense of Oh, my gosh, you know, across the whole place, because it felt like a very diffuse ideas, rich, you know, hierarchy, low organization, and we’ve kept that vibe. So I think in many ways, it was a wonderful start, and, and allowed us to generate ideas and engagement in which we had to do super fast in the environment, we were expected to stand things up really quickly. Yeah,


Graeme Cowan  23:34

yeah. What are the values that you like to really embed in an organization? What are the things that are really true to you that you think are important for a high performing organization?


Amanda Cattermole  23:51

So for me, I think the deepest one for me is the one I’ve already spoken about the notion of leaders as consistent and reliable. It really does drive the way I expect my teams to lead and, you know, and I talk about it frequently, and I deeply believe it, that there’s that sense of consistency and the safety that comes with that. So that’s one. The second one is that leadership is open and vulnerable. I, you know, my team would know it’s not the I do get teary from time to time I’m quite, I’m quite open about things that really affect me. You know, I talk sometimes about about the privilege of work I’ve done with Aboriginal people and we’ve got some wonderful Aboriginal leaders. And it still deeply affects me and I, I, and it drives the way I think about our engagement is, you know, digital enablement needs to be inclusive. It needs to be equitable, it needs to, you know, support people no matter where they are, who they are in their health care journey. So it matters enormously in what we do. And I think that sense of seeing vulnerability in whatever way it is, is really important that I think you touched on it before with, you know, not knowing all the answers, you know, there’s no question I subscribe to a view about leadership where you’re listening and learning all the time. And I rarely come with answers. I often come with ideas on my team or below, you know, another idea. But my team come with answers, you know, they’ll often go well hang on, what about this? And what about these, so that vulnerable open leadership, I think is the other one I would probably deeply hold dear. And the third would be that way, as a, as a group leadership and across the place, reflect the community we serve. And that we are genuinely a diverse, open, engaging group that really make sure that we think deeply about about Australians across, you know, right across the spectrum, and that all of our work, is going to make things better no matter what, who you are, or where you are. Yeah, you can’t do that unless you reflect the community that you’re part of. Yeah.


Graeme Cowan  26:08

How do you encourage collaboration across divisions sort of thing? You know, you’ve obviously got streams across the organizations is the typical structure. How do you how do you encourage that Cross? Cross Border? Collaboration? Yeah,


Amanda Cattermole  26:24

it’s a great question. It’s one of the hard ones, isn’t it? My team? So interestingly, I reckon one of the things you might want to ask my team is, how do we, in a way, in a way, get lines along in amongst that, because I think we have gone on a big journey about a matrix management model. So we run a deeply matrix organization. And the reason for that is, there’s virtually nothing that my teams can do without each other, at least, and usually within with, you know, with the medical software industry, with healthcare providers, and with Australians, but internally, we’ve got, you know, lots of clinicians, because obviously, we’re a health organization, we’ve got a, you know, deep cyber and other, you know, ICT expertise, because we hold systems that we need to hold on behalf of the nation. We’ve got, you know, and we’ve got a huge number of people who deliver big products and services and programs. So each, you can’t touch any of that without touching the other pieces. And they’re all equally critical. But so sometimes, I think one of the challenges my team would say is that that’s wonderful, because there’s no question we consult broadly, we bring groups together in a very fluid way on a daily basis, in a sort of agile when not always Agile methodology in the way you might know it. But in in sort of agile mindset. The challenge with that, I think my team would say, yes, that works. Well, it, we definitely get rich consultation and collaboration, the challenge can be a little bit of a sense of chaos. And I think if my team were to, you know, if you were to say to them, you know, tell us about working with Amanda, they might say that, that’s the challenge is sometimes a little bit of those sort of structured lines can just give you a breath in amongst that very rich fluid environment, which I think we have to have to get done what we do. But it’s a it’s finding the right balance amongst those things that I think remains a challenge. And we it is a dialogue that we have as an agency all the time. 


Graeme Cowan  28:22

Yeah, yeah. It is. So important now to have that sort of matrix structure. And to be able to move quickly, and to move quickly. You just can’t have all the answers. Can you can’t be 100%


Amanda Cattermole  28:38

Sure. Absolutely. Card. Exactly.


Graeme Cowan  28:42

Yep. And it was interesting. I recently, a little while back, interviewed Amy Edmondson, and she talked about people should be lead like scientists. And what she meant by that is that you just got to have a hypothesis, you form information, you get a hypothesis, then you prove to us what works, what doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, you gotta,


Amanda Cattermole  29:04

you gotta come to something else. That’s a really interesting way to think about it, actually. Is that isn’t it? You’re putting something up? And then and also, you’re then getting it tested from a whole range of different perspectives? Yeah. Yeah, that is an interesting way to think about it. I think the other challenge with the Matrix Model for all of its goodness, and I do very much passionately believe, is, people say, a lot of meetings. So you’ve also got to give people that breathing space to get the things done. And I think, again, that’s a work in progress. We talk about that frequently. We need everyone to come together because we need that rich engagement. But we’ve got to give them breathing space as well, to get on with stuff because each of them then has roles. They’ve got to actually, you know, sort of deliver on it. I think the thing for me is to have a debate about the philosophy that underlies your organization, within the organization as a key dialogue is a really critical part of the way we can Do you need to manage it?


Graeme Cowan  30:00

Yeah. You’ve obviously been a very good collaborator, you know, over the years, and that’s probably what there’s two great bosses who are new. And they said, it’s not just about your hard skills, it’s about what I like to call strong skills. soft, soft is strong skills. How do you go about chairing a meeting where you’ve got people from your organization, but your outside stakeholders as well? What’s your plan in in, in preparing for that meeting?


Amanda Cattermole  30:37

So it depends, I guess, how, what sort of issues there are at the table, but let’s say we’re trying to bring a bunch of stakeholders along with us. I, what I really what I feel really passionate about is, there’s no one who comes to the table with us who doesn’t have something really important, that needs to be considered or perspective or, you know, an approach that needs to be considered. So what I’ll tend to do, and I always love my people to be able to articulate what it is we’re trying to do. So I’ll, I’ll try and set the scene and the tone, we’re really wanting to listen and learn, we’ve got some ideas, we’ve sort of gone on this path, but we genuinely need to hear from you. We don’t wanna go any further until. And I’ll be really open about where the parameters are. So look, this one, we kind of have to go here, but we’ve got a lot of leeway here, or this is open, this is completely open. And we absolutely need you to help us fill the gaps and work on a way forward. I think one of the things and when certainly we hear criticism within government, it may be broader than that, but a criticism that sometimes consultation isn’t consultation, sometimes it’s information sharing, sometimes it’s a genuine co design. What I’m very clear about where we are what what I think the degrees of freedom are, because I think it’s respectful. You know, I can’t move on this, I don’t think, but I really need to work this through and we need your expertise. Or sometimes it’s this is a genuine Kurdistan, we’re starting from scratch, we absolutely want to build this together. And and much of it is in our space, but sometimes there’s government exigencies, or there’s, you know, there’s policy positions that we’re already working through. And then I really asked my people to kind of share where we are. And we usually try and I’m really keen on visuals, whether they’re, you know, if we’re in a digital environment, we’ll do it, you know, we’ll bring it up. If we’re not we’ll have we’ll have things with us. And then I try and facilitate a really open engagement, I tend to be asking questions. Can I hear that? You know, can I, I think I’ve heard you saying this? Is that right? Can we what do you reckon? Oh, that sounds like a great idea. I’m not sure we could do that. But we could certainly do that. So I try to be very, in the moment in in affirming what I’m hearing affirming people’s positions and ideas and being frank where I think, I don’t think we’re gonna get to that. And I and the reasons for that are this, I don’t think we can get there. But gee, there’s a lot of room here. So trying to shepherd I suppose and find points of commonality. And, you know, as much as possible, it’s not always the case, sometimes you’re walking away with different positions, and you accept that. But as much as possible, getting common ground by the time, you know, we leave, we leave our time together. And I think in our environment, where we’re looking for we are we’re genuinely looking for innovative solutions to help, you know, continue the journey of a transformed health system. We are mostly being able to step forward each time, you know, we want to be able to step forward, it’s pretty rarely that we’re saying well, that’s, you know, that’s absolutely, you know, we’ve got nowhere to go here.


Graeme Cowan  33:36

The whole Gen AI thing must be approaching your agency like a freight train. How do you what’s your thoughts about that about, I guess, capitalizing on the advantages of it, but also being aware of potential downside as


Amanda Cattermole  33:54

well? Absolutely. No, it is like it is where everyone is at the speed of this as there’s no question unprecedented, you know, and that’s that’s saying that in an environment where we’ve already seen unprecedented change in the last few years, this is this is just exponential. And it’s happening as we speak, you know, absolutely everywhere, not least in health care. I mean, we’re seeing an enormous amount of extraordinary possibilities. innovation that is just blooming in clinical decision support in tools that can support clinicians in getting precious minutes back in their day help with diagnosis, you name it, it’s there, you know, and beyond. And so it’s an exciting time in that in that sense, but as you rightly say, so what’s so on the positive side, really just part of our role is to engage with and to listen and learn and know what’s out there and, you know, really support and champion innovation. But but also, of course, those the frameworks for decision making. The frameworks for introduction of these tools are really critical and As a government organization, which we are, as I said, funded by the Commonwealth and the States and Territories together, we are really keen to to make sure we, we play a role in that framework, that framework making ethical frameworks for decision making clarity about when tools are being used, and why. And working right, as part of the cross government thinking about how we make sure that we can harness the best and, and minimize some of the, you know, the risks. So, we’re trying to do both those things now as part of a pretty big whole of government approach to making sure that we can get the frameworks in place while we also harness what is going to be absolute transformation through some of these tools and processes.


Graeme Cowan  35:41

And there’s a bit of a missing piece at the moment, because you know, people are working really hard. We’ve got this unbelievable evolving technology. And yet, Australian productivity dropped the last time it was negative. What do you think is a disconnect?


Amanda Cattermole  35:56

Yeah, it’s I think it’s hard to say. I mean, I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity. And, you know, in terms of how we measure it, what do we mean, and what is going on? And I think the answer is different in different places. You know, I think certainly, you know, if you look at, I think some of the challenges, I think it’s different in different places. I think some of the challenges are still we’ve got outdated business processes, in many ways, we’ve got to really provide enabling tools that support our people to work smarter, not harder. And health is a great example of that. I mean, there’s just no question health, workforces are, you know, extraordinary in their output and their dedicated delivery. But they are not always supported by the kind of processes and systems that are going to take, give them back the minutes they need to really be most effective in their days. And I think that’s the case in a whole range of industries. But in health, part of our role is how do we do that? How do we give them the tools 21st century tools that can help drive that productivity? Because I think often they’re stuck. And certainly, you know, the other piece is disconnects between systems. So if you look at health as a good example, transitions is one of the most critical points in any health journey between an acute setting back to a GP, between a residential aged care facility into an acute setting. And those transition points have traditionally been the clunkiest. And the least providing the least information at the point of care, that that what is needed. And so fixing those transition points, and enabling clinicians to have better information when they need it. And for those patients to have what’s needed as I pass into different parts of the system will make an enormous difference. Because those those slice moments with all the will in the world, and all the extraordinary output that our health care teams provide, are just not enabled in the way they need to be. And that’s part of what we need to do. And I suspect that, as I said, it’ll be different in many places, but I suspect there’s lots of parts of business where there’s got it, we’ve got to do better work at that enabling those enabling tools and systems.


Graeme Cowan  38:09

Yeah, yeah. It’s been an absolute pleasure, pleasure catching up today, Amanda, and I love how your career has evolved. You know, I love what you’re really passionate about. And it’s obviously so important for work to remain meaningful to people. And also, you know, where people can really feel a sense of contribution, and they’re making a difference. I always finish by asking the question, what do you know, now that you wish, you’re totally or you would tell your 80 year old self?


Amanda Cattermole  38:49

I think I would say, and again, you know, in keeping with the theme, this is something that was said to me. So by someone way, much, much wiser. That it’s a long game. So I think it my 18 year old self, maybe even my 30 year old self, I would say we’re in a hurry. And I think in a good hurry in that I wanted to get stuff done, I had a great passion that might change. But with that can come in, in patience, and perhaps even you know, not pausing to enjoy and reflect and stand in the moment. And I had a wonderful leader who said that to me, as I sort of debated, you know, the next thing and the next thing and what I wanted to do, and they said, Amanda, it’s a long game, and I remember thinking, well, it might be for you, but I’m, I’m in a hurry. I’ve got stuff to do. I’m just gonna move on. And I really remember viscerally reacting to that. And then you know, of course, sort of some time later, thinking it’s a long game. He was absolutely right. If I think about the many things that I’ve had the privilege to be part of since I don’t take back I wouldn’t regret a single one. I’m glad for all the twists and turns And I’m glad things happen in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined I wouldn’t change a bit of it. And I’m glad that I’ve sort of been able to take those moments along the way. So I’d say to, to my eight year old self and others, it is a long game. And so just make sure you’re in habit, every single bit of


Graeme Cowan  40:17

  1. Yeah. And you just as you’ve learned that in your career, you just never know what could come up and where you might end. That’s right.


Amanda Cattermole  40:26

And you don’t want to be being so impatient on one thing that you missed the moment that you could have gone for, you know, that one where that person said to you, I really think you should go and do that. You don’t want to miss that moment. Because you, you know too much on the path of the thing you thought you had in your head.


Graeme Cowan  40:40

Yeah. Thanks so much for being part of the caring CRM. And I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

Amanda Cattermole  40:45

Thank you so much, Graeme. It’s really been delightful. I appreciate it.


Graeme Cowan  40:52

That was great. It was great.


Amanda Cattermole  40:55

Thank you thank you really appreciate I hope that um, I hope I’ve given you enough there. I’m never quite sure.


Graeme Cowan  41:00

Yeah, no, lots and lots of great stuff. And I think, you know, all the stuff about the rapid change, and the collaboration and matrix structure it all organisations, as, you know, grasp blink grappling with that sort of thing. It’s, and, yeah, you know, and just the approach you take with that, and just being so open to suggestions and open to ideas and encouraging. That’s what we need.


Amanda Cattermole  41:34

Yeah, and it is hard, because matrix are definitely a hard my team would say it’s hard. I love it. I personally love it. And I love the way that our people just there’s so many interventions that come in, like I can feel confident about codesign. But they do say to me, it’s exhausting. Yeah. And that has to be bought. Yeah. How do we how do we find the you know, the balance in that, you know, they’ll say, Amanda, I just, you know, I’m going to explode because I’m trying to, you know, offer something in all these different domains. And I’m going well, that’s wonderful. But yeah, I think it’s a constant channel. I think it’s still better than silos. I don’t I don’t regret that for a second. Oh, for sure. But yeah, just it’s like it comes with its own heady mix that you got to work through, you know,


Graeme Cowan  42:14

Definitely, definitely. All right, Amanda, thanks so much for your time, especially on a Wednesday afternoon before a public holiday.


Amanda Cattermole  42:21

Oh, gosh, not at all. And Graeme. If you’re when you’ve worked at Ulta. If there’s anything you need me to redo or that you’d write, you know, if you haven’t quite got what you wanted, don’t hesitate to let me know. And we could cut 510 minutes if you need I’m done. I want to make sure that are really great privilege to be asked. So I want to make sure that it fits with whatever you need. Yeah,


Graeme Cowan  42:39

no, it’s really good. We need from you a portrait photo. Have you seen that yet? Or not yet? Oh,


Amanda Cattermole  42:44

I don’t know. I can check for y’all get the team to have a pic. Yeah, so


Graeme Cowan  42:47

a portrait photo and your bio. These are things we want. And we’re probably looking at publishing, I would say to probably about four weeks, I would say that four weeks from now. Okay,


Amanda Cattermole  43:01

I’ll make sure those come through. And if there’s anything you need, or you just you know, you’re not quite sure you’ve got the slicing of what you need. Just please let me know. I wouldn’t hesitate to help out.


Graeme Cowan  43:10

No, it was a very rich discussion. Thank


Amanda Cattermole  43:13

you. And I love your questions too, by the way, just the way you you bring yourself to it. It’s fantastic. You clearly feel really strongly about it. So it really comes through. Right.

Graeme Cowan  43:22

Alright, thanks. Take care.


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