Workplace mental health

#62 The science of care, Dr. Martin McNamara, CEO Sax Institute

Apr 8, 2024

Dr. Martin McNamara takes a very structured approach to building a culture of care across their not-for-profit organisation focussed on using evidence to develop policies to improve health and wellbeing. A recent engagement survey shows they are on the right track with 86% of staff saying they know what they need to do to be successful in their role and 91% say they are proud to work for the Institute. Martin believes that these high scores come from active listening and encouraging all to share their ideas and opinions. Martin shares what they have done to keep those scores high in the new world of hybrid work. Martin is also the Chief Investigator for the 45 and Up Study, one of the largest studies in the world, tracking the health and wellbeing of over 267,000 people in NSW.
"For me, it starts with paying attention. It starts with listening. It starts with being connected to the people you work with day to day, really understanding what drives them, and what their concerns and fears are. But most importantly, their interests, and really being clear about that, so that you can build the trust and rapport with the people that you work with."
- Dr. Martin McNamara


  • What caring means in the workplace for Martin
  • Taking structured approach to building a culture of care across the organisation
  • The importance of evidence-based policies in improving health outcomes


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Transcript from the interview

Disclaimer: The following transcript was generated using a specific tool. It serves as a convenient method for converting our podcasts into text and allows for easy text searches. However, we kindly ask for your understanding if any typos have inadvertently occurred as a result of the tool’s usage. SPEAKERS Graeme Cowan, Dr Martin McNamara Graeme Cowan  00:06 It’s my pleasure to welcome Matt Martin. Do that again, it’s my pleasure to welcome. It’s my pleasure to welcome Martin McNamara, the CEO of the Sax Institute to the Caring CEO. Welcome, Martin.   Dr. Martin McNamara  00:22 Thanks, Graeme. Very nice to be here.   Graeme Cowan  00:25 But what does care in the workplace mean to you?   Dr. Martin McNamara  00:28 Yeah, great question. I think that, for me, it starts with paying attention. It starts with listening. It starts with being connected to the people you work with day to day, and really understanding what drives them, what’s their concerns and fears, but what’s their interests, and really being clear about that, so that you can build the trust and rapport with the people that you work with. And I think cares does start from me from the position of having a high degree of trust, having a really strong report on the organisation. And being able to use that, use that connection with people to really understand how they’re traveling, what’s happening for them, how you can best support them to get the best out of themselves, and to get the best out of the organisation. And I think part of care for me is ensuring that you’ve got a really engaged organisation, that people are really connected, and wanting to deliver against your organisation’s priorities against your mission. And I think the way to do that is to sort of maintain that trust and rapport and, and really look for ways to connect and build connection within the organisation.   Graeme Cowan  01:41 The last four years have been a real adventure for all of us, you know, so many online, so many changes, organisations going through fully remote to fully back work to hybrid, where has the SEC’s Institute landed with regards to the best way to work?   Dr. Martin McNamara  01:58 Yeah, look, it has been a roller coaster. For us, as well as other organisations. Clearly, we moved into a new premises in early 2020, with the intentions to work there five days a week and the normal working week, and that was thrown on its head. And within a couple of weeks, actually, we’d barely got accustomed to that new premises before all the lockdowns started to come into effect. So you know, it’s been an interesting period, I think we’ve learned a lot. And there’s still a lot of learning to do about the right settings around a hybrid working model. And we’re very much in a hybrid working model at the institute, we’ve got no particular mandated amount of time in the office. But we do have expectations around how you might connect with your peers, how you might collaborate internally, and how you might build a culture that’s going to support us to deliver as an organisation. And that those settings have all been created in partnership with the staff across the organisations, we’ve, we’ve developed policy and sort of guidelines for people about how we might work effectively together. But I think we are still in a period of testing out what’s going to work and what’s going to be most effective for everyone. There’s still different groups within the organisation that have different appetites about how much they want to spend time together in the office, how much they want to be able to continue to work from a remote side, perhaps at home or in other places. And I think, to date, I think we’ve we’ve demonstrated that we can do that sort of mixed hybrid model with a really highly productive output for the Sax. But I think we’re still learning about how we deal with people that maybe you’re having more trouble connecting to others in the Sax, how we deal with our appetite to collaborate across the different parts of the institute, that is harder when you’re working in a in a more hybrid environment. And this is no different to what lots of organisations are confronted with at the moment. And so I think it’s a it’s still a work in progress. But there’s some important benefits from the hybrid working model. And people really highly value those benefits about the additional flexibility and autonomy that they have. And of course, we want to make the most of those benefits. While I think dealing with some of the challenges and those challenges are about remaining connected and, and feeling part of the whole. And I think that does remain a work in progress for us.   Graeme Cowan  04:16 With people that are working remotely have you found what, have you found ways to you know, to improve that sort of connection and sense of belonging when they are in a room with you.   Dr. Martin McNamara  04:27 I think it’s it is hard. I mean, we do have town hall style meetings that are held online, we do have opportunities to connect with what’s happening in the organisation generally. We do talk a lot, a lot about things like our strategy moving forward and some of our key policy priorities for the organisation. And we find ways to seek feedback on those things in in online forums and in perhaps in smaller group discussions as well. But but this is a challenging area to get right. I think what’s been important for us in the last few years is to be really deliberate about how we seek some feedback from staff about how things are going for them. We’ve got a series of staff surveys that we’ve been engaged in over recent times. And that’s giving us a really good insight into how people how engaged people are in the Sax Institute itself, and how they’re feeling about things like their ability to collaborate, their ability to connect with others. And so what we’re finding through some of those results is, is people feel really highly engaged with the Institute, it’s around 90% of staff that are that are engaged at a really high level 91% saying that they’re really proud to work for the institute, these are really great outcomes for us. I think we are also getting some really important signals around areas that more efforts required. And I think there’s a particular effort we want to make in the coming years around things like how we support people’s development, how we support people to connect to the strategy of the organisation, and how we find the right mechanisms, actually, to build collaboration across different parts of the institute. I think we can, we can build some of that through different forums and events we hold. But some of it does come down to how individuals across the organisation interact with each other. So we’ve been talking a lot about what sort of individual commitments people can make and what they can sign up to themselves to help grapple with this challenge of how do we interact, where you can’t have the corridor conversations or the opportunities to connections that you might have had in a previous working environment. And again, I think we’ll learn a lot in the next 12 or 18 months about the success of that. But to me, it seems like the combination of effort here is going to be really important things we can do to bring the whole organisation together in terms of structured sessions and, you know, building insights from staff surveys, along with things we can ask people to do on an individual and team level, what commitments can they make? Where are the opportunities that they see? So I do see it as a combination of things   Graeme Cowan  06:52 You shared previously 91% are proud to work for the Sax Institute. Could you just explain to our listeners, what the Sax Institute is? And what’s the main outcomes for the work?   Dr. Martin McNamara  07:03 Yeah, so we’re a non government, not for profit organisation with a mission around driving the use of evidence in policy and decision making. So we’re mainly focused on health and well being. So what’s the evidence base, that should be better utilised to drive improvements in health and well being in the Australian population, that’s our main focus. And of course, lots of different inputs go into decisions by policymakers, governments, NGOs, and others. Lots of different inputs go into those decisions, we think evidence and tools to better use, the evidence should be a bigger part of those decisions. And obviously, they’re not going to be the only part of those decisions. There’s other factors that are always at play. But the SAS Institute’s mission is to better utilise the evidence that’s out there that’s available to drive improved decision making and better outcomes in health and well being for the country. And I think one of the key ways we do that is apps is working with the research community. So there’s a incredible investment Australia makes in in research and academia every year, there’s always a debate about whether that investments at the right level, but what we want to ensure is all the insights and intelligence that’s coming out of the academic and research community can make its way into the decision hands of decision makers and can be accessible and useful. In making decisions that can improve health outcomes for the country. Rather than it being locked up in journal articles in inside academia itself. We want to liberalise information and make it more accessible and useful for decision makers.   Graeme Cowan  08:34 And I understand that 45 and Up was one of your key programs. Just explain a bit more about that, and what that means to the research community.   Dr. Martin McNamara  08:44 So 45 and Up is a large cohort study. So a study that follows people over time, they were set up back in 2006. So back in 2006, we recruited over 267,000 people in New South Wales to take part in the study. And since that time, we’ve been following that group of people up, so we’ve been surveying them routinely. We’ve been connecting bits of data on the participants in the study together to understand the different changes they’re going through as they age, what sorts of experiences they’re having when they access the hospital system, for example, what sorts of what sorts of health outcomes they’re having, as they move through different stages of their lives. And what’s really important about this study, is it’s a national resource. So researchers, policymakers, governments can use the data that’s collected through the study, to help inform their research in the case of academia, in the case of government to help inform policy and decision making and reform, particularly in the health sector. So over the course of the last almost 20 years now, we’ve got an incredible amount of depth and insight into how Australians have changed over that period, how the health services that they’ve had access to have performed what has that meant for their health and well being and also some really great insights, to guide the next phase of reform in the health sector. These people that are in 45 and Up, were at least 45 years of age when they commenced in the study. So many of them are over 60 years old now. And some of them, we’ve even got participants that are over 100 years old that are still completing their surveys and active participants in the study. So it’s a really rich source of evidence about what’s happening in our communities, and how people are responding to changes in the health sector to the changing nature of the diseases that they’re experiencing.   Graeme Cowan  10:37 It’s, you know, obviously, a huge project, can you give some examples of some of the findings that have led to change in policy, that’ve come from analysing that database.   Dr. Martin McNamara  10:51 So it’s been really widely used really broadly applicable in lots of ways. And I think one of the most interesting recent examples is some of the debate that’s happened in the last couple of years about the value of a lung cancer screening program. So there was a lot of work done with a 45 and Up  study data by researchers at the Daffodil Center at the University of Sydney, looking at analysing the benefits that might be derived from a lung cancer screening population, or lung cancer screening program in the Australian population, which did lead to lots of interest in the policy community about starting up a screening program focused on lung cancer. So really important reform for the country. There’s also been some really interesting insights in areas like the amount of green space people have access to in their local environment, and how that affects their mental well being. And it’s a really great set of insights that have been developed that show the importance of access to green space, to sustain, mental well being and overall health. And I think that’s really important guidance for even local governments and different parts of the government that plan our environments around us. And there’s lots of different uses of the study like that, that are not necessarily predictable when the study started back in 2006. But it’s a really broad collection of insights and findings that are that are being generated all the time, I think at the latest statistics, we’ve got around 600 different research outputs from the study, just in the last several years.   Graeme Cowan  12:26 And we should just mention that we spoke before we came on air that my wife is Karen Canfell, and she heads up the Daffodil Center, which is a joint venture by Cancer Council, New South Wales, University of Sydney. So I’ve experienced firsthand the value that Karen and her team see in that area. And also, you know, also like, it’s fascinating that something like green space, you know, is being looked into, and I’m a huge fan, we live on the national park the other side of Lane Cove and, and we’re a huge fan of walking in nature. And it’s a big part of actually, Karen and I, when we have our holidays usually go big walks around Australia or in other countries around the world. With inner city places, you know, such as, you know, inner Sydney, and inner Melbourne, in other cities in in Australia, there’s not a lot of green space left. So are there ways that you can facilitate that, given that you can’t create new land?   Dr. Martin McNamara  13:32 Yeah, it was really important point. And I think one of the benefits of a study like 45 and Up is with that volume of participants. So with 267,000 people, you’ve got people living in all different parts of the state with different sorts of access to green space, and in fact, different sorts of environments that they’re living in. And as are all having said, the ability to look at the outcomes associated with things like their local environments, whether they be in a relatively congested part of a metropolitan area, or whether they be in a rural or remote part of the country, you can really look into what are the differences in outcomes of those sorts, those different experiences are leading to, are really powerful in a study like 45 and Up. You can also interestingly, another application of this study has been looking at different levels of pollution and what sort of effect that’s having on health and well being so again, different parts of the state have got a really different experience when it comes to levels of pollution. And what people are breathing day to day in their local environments are a great use of the study is to really understand the long term effects of on that on health and well being and things like hospital utilisation and mobility and, and how active people are when they age. So, you know, there’s a raft of different potential areas to explore with 45 and Up and in many ways, the study is becoming more and more valuable as people age because you’ve got more data over that 20 year period of following people that you can really dive into and understand the connection between different sorts of exposures and experiences and different health outcomes.   Graeme Cowan  15:00 It’s a really interesting area, because you’d need to have, you know, the I guess the leaders necessarily need to have very good strategic overview. And yet they’ve also got to be very certain about the numbers that, you know, that back it up. How have you seen good researchers straddle that, that thing, which is often seen as being almost opposite, the high level strategy versus the nitty gritty of individual people in their situation?   Dr. Martin McNamara  15:29 Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. And I think one of the reasons that the Sax Institute was set up around 20 years ago was to get at that exact question. So lots of the research has been generated from the academic community has had, you know, really powerful potential, but often, the ability to connect that potential to the human impact the the ways that the system now might need to change will be reformed, was maybe not as developed as people would have liked. So one of the reasons the Sax Institute was set up was to ensure that there was a connection between the priorities of policy agencies, the priorities of decision makers, and the evidence base that was emerging, and that those two worlds could could actually come a bit closer together. So the concerns of individuals, the concerns of communities could be reflected in some of the priorities in the research sector and vice versa. And I think that’s why having a study like 45 and Up, being managed by the Sax Institute has been so important. When we go and look at what should go in the next round of surveys, or what should be the focus of the next group of research projects using 45 and Up, we’re very conscious of connecting to local concerns, community issues that have been emerging, and also the needs of decision makers and, and people that are driving health policy or health reform, to ensure that what’s been generated from the study is highly valuable for decision making.   Graeme Cowan  16:55 I know that Dame Valerie Beral played a big role in setting that up, she was for our listeners, she was a very successful, internationally acclaimed epidemiologist and ran the cancer research area at University of Oxford. And she also happened to be Karen’s PhD supervisor and a mentor. And I know that you know her as well, what do you observe as being her strengths that really helped with setting the right foundations in place?   Dr. Martin McNamara  17:29 I think Valerie was a real visionary about what the potential of a cohort study where you followed people across time, what the potential offered for Australia and in improving our understanding of, you know, the sorts of exposures that people might have at different points in their life and the outcomes that they might experience down the track. So at the time that she was prosecuting the argument for a large scale study in Australia, there wasn’t longitudinal studies out there that people could could monitor and track over time, the effect of different sorts of experiences and outcomes, you know, over the life course. And Valerie was, I think, a visionary on the potential of a study like 45 and Up to be really insightful about, you know, what are the the drivers of different sorts of outcomes, health outcomes in our communities, and she prosecuted that argument in Australia, and was part of the reason that 45 and Up were a big part of the reason that 45 and Up was established. She also prosecuted that argument and other parts of the world and had led lots of really large scale studies, including the million million women study in the UK, which were similarly, you know, really powerful in the way that they could connect the experiences and exposures of people to health outcomes across time.   Graeme Cowan  18:46 You were the Deputy CEO, I think for about four years before taking on the CEO’s role. Was it a natural progression for you, did you sort of say, yes, here I go? Or did you have to really think about whether it was the right move for you, or not?   Dr. Martin McNamara  19:03 That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I’d say it was a natural progression. I think over time, I became more and more enthusiastic about the, you know, the prospects of potentially becoming the CEO of the Sax Institute. And I’ve benefited a lot I think, from working with a lot of really impressive CEOs over different parts of my career. I worked with three women who were fantastic CEOs in their organisations and offered me lots of close exposure to things like strategic thinking and how to approach complex challenges. Things like how to be, how to be fearless, how to be leading an organisation with real purpose and how to think about really delivering and leaving a legacy. And I think that exposure over what would have been, you know, over a decade, it was really important grounding in feeling, as prepared as possible, to take on the role of a CEO. I guess many people I’ve spoken to have sort of talked to me about, you know, you’re probably not really ready to be a CEO at any point, you’ve just got to dive in and do your best. And I think, you know, part of the early phase of coming into the CEO role, I definitely had that experience from time to time. But the grounding that I was able to get from, from working really closely with the three CEOs, I’ve talked about, really important, and really great sort of insights to bring to the role as I commenced in it, you know, a bit over a year ago.   Graeme Cowan  20:35 And you mentioned being fearless. What do you mean by that?   Dr. Martin McNamara  20:40 Well, not being daunted by the challenges. I mean, I think, you know, facing the challenge, in a, in an upfront way, and diving into what was involved in, in dealing with the challenges that are that are always coming, as a CEO in any organisation. So they can be multifaceted about different sorts of partnerships, you might have different sorts of challenges in delivering, you know, on your mission, different sorts of financial or cultural challenges you’re trying to tackle, and not shying away from those challenges. Equipping, you know, setting yourself up to be equipped to tackle the challenges. And that can have lots of different parts to it, including building the right team around you. Getting the right sources of advice, looking for diverse sort of inputs, and in your decision making. All of that’s really important. But I think not shying away from the challenge is probably the main thing I’m thinking about there when I’m thinking about being fearless.   Graeme Cowan  21:38 I had previously interviewed on this show, Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard, and she’s probably one of the world experts in psychological safety and author of The Fearless Organisation. And one of the things she talks about now is leading like an academic. And what she means by that is that, you know, academics have hypothesis, you can’t be 100% sure on anything, you have to take a stand, take a direction, see if it works, if it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, you know, if it’s not correct, if you redo and refigure. And it is so interesting in today’s world, that you just can’t have 100% of the organisation to make that decision. And it’s probably harmful to try. And yeah, how do you balance that?   Dr. Martin McNamara  22:30 Well, I think it is a really interesting insight, isn’t it? I think we do operate at the Sax Institute, we do operate in quite an uncertain environment. So working with decision makers and policy makers, their needs and interests change quite quickly. And it’s not easy to predict what their needs and interests are going to be a week from now, a month from now, six months from now. So there is a need to do a couple of things in response to that, make sure that we are able to be agile and responsive and flexible so that we can adapt and remain, you know, relevant and useful and what we do. But I think there’s also a support network that’s required around that too. I mean, that is tiring, we’re operating in that environment. And not everyone is equally comfortable in that responsive, dynamic kind of environment either. So finding ways to support each other is really important. And I think finding ways to acknowledge the challenge that that environment represents is also really important. And I think you’re right, there’s a there’s a series of hypotheses that are always running in the organisation in an organisation like the Sax Institute, hypotheses about what we do that might have most value and who that might have had the most value to hypotheses about the sorts of techniques and methods that we’re using and what might be most useful now and into the future. And those hypotheses often have to be revisited and often have to be complemented by new insights from the partners that we’re working with and the world around us. So in that dynamic environment, it’s an interesting challenge. I quite like it. But I think it’s there’s a level of effort required to sustain oneself in environments like that that is different from a place that might be more static or more routine.   Graeme Cowan  24:15 Ray Dalio, who is a billionaire hedge fund owner and also an author. He talks about striving to have a culture where the best ideas win. And so, you know, although you take note of seniority and track record, also being very open to new ideas from younger people or new people to the organisation. How do you create the dynamic that allows that really authentic discussion to happen?   Dr. Martin McNamara  24:42 Yeah, I think there’s a there’s a few things to say here. Just my thoughts for a moment, sorry. I mean. I think the first thing to say is we deliberately um spent some time in the last couple of years building a really strong leadership team at the Sax Institute. So I’m talking there about the executive team, but also the directors of various program areas and the technical leads within the organisation. So I think we’ve got really strong capabilities and really great expertise across lots of different parts of the institute. And that’s a really important foundation. The second thing we’ve done is we’ve really focused hard on what are the conditions that might best support innovation across the organisation. And I totally agree with your assessment, the things that support innovation, or, or the where the innovation often comes from is fresh thinking from young, enthusiastic people who are bringing new ideas to the table. And liberalising that is a really important role, I think, for the executive of the Sax Institute, and something we’re quite focused on. So we’ve got some ways of thinking about how we mobilise innovation at the Institute. The first one is a big part of our strategy. And we’ve talked a lot internally about the threat of innovation that’s running through our strategy, and what sort of time and effort we’re expecting to put towards innovation in the coming year. So it’s a really important thread of our strategy. The second is we’ve got a lot of internal forums, and I guess, events that that can surface where innovative ideas are coming from, and give people the opportunity to present those ideas, and get some feedback from their peers and colleagues about those. So those opportunities are mainly being taken up by the sorts of people, we’re talking about, the people that have got a great deal of expertise and capability in the organisation. But they’re often possibly in the middle or the middle parts of the organisation. And they’ve there’s a lot that they can offer in terms of fresh thinking and new potential that perhaps people that are more connected to the status quo have trouble seeing. So I’m what I’ve moved away from your question. Now, Graeme, I apologise. But do you want to come back to what the question was..;   Graeme Cowan  24:50 It was just about, you know, balancing, established people that have a track record versus fresh, new ideas? And I think you I think, I think you answered that well.   Dr. Martin McNamara  26:29 The only other thing I’d add to that, which which I didn’t think of in the first part of my answer was what’s really important to Sax Institute is that we remain connected to the different sorts of partners that we’ve established over the 20 years that we’ve been around. And there’s a huge network of established partnerships with the research community that are really important to us. And we’ve now we’ve got a membership structure that includes 72 member organisations, which are all research institutes or academic institutes that have chosen to become members of the institute. And they’re also a really source, a really important source of innovation and fresh thinking and new ideas about what’s going to really help when it comes to driving the use of evidence in policy, and what are the new insights and techniques that are emerging from academia that are going to help bridge the gap between the evidence that’s emerging in the research community, and the needs of policymakers and decision makers. And I think that network of relationships is also really important when you think about where fresh thinking is gonna come from and where innovation is going to come from.   Graeme Cowan  28:14 What do you do for self care? How do you keep fuel in your own tank?   Dr. Martin McNamara  28:19 Yeah, I think it’s a really important issue. And I’ve actually just recently suffered an injury. I ruptured my Achilles, almost six months ago now. And it really showed me what I was what I was taking for granted. So running was very important to me. Breaking up my day by going for a run around the local area was, was was a really important transition point, often between a morning’s work and an afternoon’s work. The Run was a really important stage for me to reset and regroup and I felt entirely mentally refreshed by that but having that taken away from me for the last six months, I really felt the effects of that it’s really hard to replace something like that and physical activity generally, I find really important. Obviously, I find support from my family really important. My wife and son are a great supports to me and being able to spend time with them and debrief with them is also really important, but the physical activity you know, I’ve just noticed how important it is when it’s been missing. And it’s, it’s such a great it’s such a great reset during the workday to be able to go for a pretty intense run and come back entirely refreshed for the second half of the day. Having that taken away. It’s really it’s really noticeable the difference that makes.   Graeme Cowan  29:39 I share your pain I have apparently got a a knee injury which you know, doesn’t allow me to run anymore. Well, at the moment anyway, you know, getting physio and hopefully we come back from that and it’s difficult and one of the things that I ended up doing was was getting some some weights, some hand weights and just finding some very, very good YouTube videos, very high quality YouTube videos on things we can do when we can’t run. So yeah, that yeah, you know, it’s it’s, it’s always been a critical element of my well being as well. Of course, you know, relationships with family and friends is also very high, but it just does knock up when you’ve had something proven to help you. And you can’t do it in the same way. Right at the moment and hope Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Have you had a career setback, you know, something that was really challenging to you.   Dr. Martin McNamara  30:44 I certainly had times where or a particular time when perhaps I had a crisis of confidence, had a real, I guess, concern about where my capabilities might lie, and what my contribution in terms of my career might end up looking like, I definitely had to spend some time reflecting for a period about what sort of role might best suit me and what my strengths might be, and how I might best contribute, actually, and it took me some time to work through that. I mean, I did spend some time unpacking, unpacking all of that, and talking to friends and family, and also even doing things like a lot of reading and reflecting to really land what I what my interests were, and really land where I thought I could make the best contribution. And it did it did take it did take some time to get through that. And it did lead me down a slightly different track than then I was going down at the time. And I think that was time well spent. Probably a pretty high degree of discomfort at various points when I was thinking that through and having that sort of crisis of confidence. And yeah, but I think going through that process probably did help me clarify what sort of organisation I wanted to work work in, and what sort of work interested me the most. And, you know, I feel, you know, really positive and very fortunate to have subsequently ended up at the Sax Institute, where it is really highly aligned to my interests, my values, what I think is really important, and the sort of work that I’m doing is I’m highly engaged in. But yeah, there was a bit of a process to get to the point of clarifying, you know, what those sorts of things are that I was looking for?   Graeme Cowan  32:31 And what was that event that led to the crisis of confidence.   Dr. Martin McNamara  32:35 I’m not even sure it was one event, it was probably just a trajectory that I was going through over time. And thinking about that trajectory continuing and me being probably wholly largely dissatisfied if that was going to be the case. So the trajectory that my career was taking at that point, and we’re talking around, you know, quite some time ago now, but that trajectory, I felt was was going to be unrewarding for me, and I was gonna, I was feeling increasingly unengaged. And so I needed to reset and to think deeply about, you know, what I should be focused on to get to become more engaged and to become more interested in my career again, and, yeah, that important period of reflection are not something not something I was taking lightly at the time, I was, you know, taking that very seriously. And thinking that through, in quite a bit of depth.   Graeme Cowan  33:33 And after, you know, coming through that you said that, you were in a better position to know how to go forward. What were some of the tweaks? What were some of the elements that you said, I want this? And I don’t have it now? Yeah,   Dr. Martin McNamara  33:52 I think I think the sort of environment I was aspiring to work in was a bit different to the one I was in at the time. So   Graeme Cowan  34:00 With the government, working in the government…or?   Dr. Martin McNamara  34:03 Yeah, so I think I was looking for, in retrospect, and some of these things are maybe not even clear at the time when I was going through that. But in retrospect, I probably wanted a much more collaborative environment to work in, then, you know, that I perhaps was being exposed to at that time collaborative, both with inside the organisation I was working for, but also with external partners. I think that was really important to me. I think I wanted an environment where I felt stimulated and engaged in the work and that stimulation engagement was is most driven for me by variety. And I think, an organisation like the Sax Institute, where we’re involved in so many different sorts of projects and so many different topics that it’s very difficult to become bored. I mean, there’s so many different sorts of relationships we’ve got, so many different policy partners, working with the research community. So there’s actually a lot of stimulation for me in that variety and I think those two factors are really important, a collaborative environment combined with lots of variety. And, and the potential to think about innovations and new approaches that and a place to test those out and the Sax Institute offers that as well. And so that’s, you know, going back to the early part of our discussion, a dynamic environment where things are not static, there is change, there is potential for new thinking there is potential for innovation all really important to me.   Graeme Cowan  35:25 Yeah. I always finish by asking a question, knowing what you know, now, what advice would you give your 18 year old self to go back and talk to that person and give them advice?   Dr. Martin McNamara  35:41 I’d say something along the lines of, there’s always going to be uncertainty in your career, and there really isn’t a roadmap to follow. So there’s uncertainty and no roadmap. So, you know, you… one of the things to think about is saying yes to the opportunities that are in front of you is important. Those can lead to places that are unexpected. But that’s that’s a good thing. And that makes your career kind of interesting and full of potential. And you should pursue those those opportunities that emerge, even if you can’t quite see where they might lead at the outset. And I think that being open minded and seizing, you know, things that might be in front of you is really important. And to me, saying yes, quite often, particularly in the first couple of years of my career, or maybe the first decade or so, was really important, exposed me to lots of really great leaders, lots of really great opportunities. And I think there was uncertainty in some of that. And there was certainly no roadmap, but I think that sort of mindset is really important. Well, it’s been really important for me, as I’ve moved through my stages of my career.   Graeme Cowan  36:51 What great advice for all of us. To say yes, more often. Work it out as we go along. Thanks so much for being part of the Caring CEO, Martin. It’s been great having you on board.   Dr. Martin McNamara  37:03 Yeah, great to be here. Thanks for the time, Graeme.   Graeme Cowan  37:08 Fantastic, it was great, Martin. Really good. Really good. Yeah, you know, I’m sure. There’s not much to edit out there. You know, just a couple of little places. But yeah, yeah. Was is, there anything that else that you wish you had have said or had time to say? Just thinking a bit loosely now?   Dr. Martin McNamara  37:30 Um, I think I said the self care one a bit. Sort of? I don’t think I was that good on the self care one? Not sure it matters a lot. But felt a bit clumsy on that one?   Graeme Cowan  37:44 I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Yeah. You talked about the importance of your running and yeah, your family and that’s okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that was all good from my perspective.   Dr. Martin McNamara  37:56 And I think it probably is okay, for the audience that you’ve got, but I didn’t really prepare much around 45 and Up. So hopefully, that what I conveyed there was sort of suitable for your..   Graeme Cowan  38:10 Definitely, you know, we’re not, you know, we’re not talking about…its leaders and all sorts of industries. And I think you conveyed the top level really well, and understanding some of the key elements that are coming out of it. So yeah, no,   Dr. Martin McNamara  38:27 Thanks. You know, thanks for the opportunity. And, you know, hopefully there is enough there to craft something of value. Yeah, yeah..   Graeme Cowan  38:35 Definitely. Definitely. Definitely. It was, it was great. And we’ll let you know, when it’s about to be published and it’ll probably be about three weeks time, somewhere like that. But we’ll give you plenty of notice. And, yeah, it’s yeah, you know, you’re very articulate. And I’m sure you know, preparing some of the advances really helped there. So, well done, that was great.   Dr. Martin McNamara  38:39 Well, um, yeah, thanks for the time. I do appreciate this. This is an opportunity for me as well. I do appreciate that. And I guess say hi to Karen as well.  I will. Alright, see ya. Bye bye.

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