Advisor Insights with Cynthia Payne

Advisor Insights

Published 29 September 2022

After working in the aged care sector as an executive for more than twenty-five years, Cynthia Payne founded Anchor Excellence in 2018 to fulfil her aspiration to give back and create a legacy of improved capability and outcomes for aged care providers. In four short years, her business has become a national provider of professional services, supporting leaders at governing, executive and management levels. With the 2021 completion of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality & Safety and the subsequent reform agenda, Anchor Excellence has gained particular notoriety in compliance.

Having several board engagements already and with her own board chair being a Certified Chair™, Cynthia completed our executive program to esteem her company’s professional value of leaders enabling leaders – effectively anchoring excellence, as the company name states. Knowing that legislative changes were coming, Cynthia could envision Anchor Excellence as being part of the solution; offering a validated framework for large corporations, small standalone communities, and everything in between.

With the “reform train chugging along,” Cynthia’s focus has turned to the new regulatory requirement of aged care providers to utilise advisory structures encompassing independent experts and consumer opinion. Due to her experience and passion in the field, earlier this year Cynthia was invited to join the Advisory Board Centre’s Aged Care Project Advisory Board to forge a roadmap in response to the legislative changes.

In this Advisor Insights interview with Advisory Board Centre’s Director of Talent, Brendan Logue, Cynthia discusses the shifting (and very welcome) change within the aged care sector, and how her long-term experience with advisory boards has empowered her and Anchor Excellence to be a pillar of support for the journey of positive transformation ahead.

For those on a governance board – they’re not being replaced, they’re simply provided with tapping into a set of resources for whom these people are uniquely well placed to support. [An advisory board means] getting the most out of a supplementary thinking system, so that when the governance board is offered an opportunity to make a decision, perhaps it’s a better-informed decision.


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Brendan Logue: Hello and welcome to Advisor Insights. My name is Brendan Logan, Director of Talent with the Advisory Board Center. Today I’m delighted to introduce Cynthia Payne. Welcome, Cynthia.

Cynthia Payne: Aw, thank you for having me Brendan and hello everyone.

Brendan Logue: Cynthia’s day job is the founder and managing director of anchor excellence. And I let her speak to that in a moment. She’s also a certified chair, a speaker, a coach, a Yogi, and a, and a mindfulness practitioner. So plenty to unpack there, but I thought Cynthia for the sake of brevity and the fact that the time that we’d allocated for this conversation at worthwhile, we can focus on one of those interests. I hope to focus on the age care sector, obviously, and the reform that re that is, has come about in that space that requires some changes to this sector. So maybe is a nice starting point for context’s sake. Would you mind explaining a little bit about your background and your practice and your interests in the aged care sector here in Australia?

Cynthia Payne: Thanks Brendan. So for our listeners, I founded anchor excellence in 2018, and that really came off the back of, you know, a 20 odd 25 year odd year career as an executive working in the aged care sector. So I had been leading a fabulous organization as CEO for nearly 16 years and, you know, asked myself the question, what did I wanna be when I grow up? And I decided that actually starting a consulting practice was, you know, my way of, I guess, giving, giving back and using my skills in a, in a different way now, as it happened, this was before the Royal commission equality and safety was actually announced. So some would say that was just fortuitous and, and, and I think in some part it was and so I guess anchor excellence, what are we, we’re a team of 22.

So in four short years, we’re about to celebrate our fourth birthday. We are a national provider of professional services around the country, and I think it would be fair to say Brendan, we support leaders at the governing level as well as at the executive and the management level. And we have a range of programs. I think the one that we are probably the most famous for, if I can use that language is in the compliance space, because it would be fair to say that the landscape for the age care sector, since the Royal commission equality and safety, we’ve seen the reform agenda, really bringing a very strong focus to compliance. In fact for those people who are not part of the aged care industry wouldn’t necessarily know that this has also been the greatest period of compliance activity by the regulators.

So we saw some fundamental changes as part of the reform flowing from that Royal commission into quality and safety. And that, that reform train, if I can use that analogy is still chugging along. And I think this is where the Advisory Board Center and age care advisory boards become very important because they are connected now to the reform agenda. So nurse originally, I wouldn’t claim myself as a nurse today. But that’s the foundations of my background with a long executive career and particularly passionate about supporting organizations in their transformation and particularly the alignment to customer need and value propositions. And so I will just say outside of the best practice model for the certified chair program, our meta frame as a business is the Australian business excellence framework. And for people who are familiar with that framework, leadership is a driver. So governing leadership management must be mapped and aligned with the drivers coming from customer in this case for an aged care provider. It’s not just older people, it’s their family members and it’s the broader ecosystem of the regulatory environment. When we map those drivers using the business excellence framework, that’s when we support our clients to move through transformation into ultimately to sustainability.

Brendan Logue: Thank you, Cynthia. It’s interesting to hear, you know, terms such as drivers when you’re talking about, you know, shifting change within an individual organization or sector, because it does at the end of the day, still come down to individuals choosing to act in a particular way. If I can take you back to the sort the highest level what are your thoughts on the opportunities and risks presented by the various obligations, which the age care reform guidance is handed down?

Cynthia Payne: I know. Yeah. So the first thing I would say, Brendan, that the age care landscape is enormously complex. So for governing bodies and persons. So in this case board members or members of advisory bodies, the complexity of what it means to be an approved provider today in Australia is definitely more complicated. And if I look at the latest reform bill, there’s quite a lot coming in further complexity for aged care organizations. So outside of we are just honing in on quality care advisory bodies and consumer advisory bodies. There’s a whole lot of other stuff that’s actually coming. So organizations are needing to really uplift their understanding of what good governance is and good governance and customer stakeholder engagement go together. And I think that’s a really important element of what we are seeing in this reform agenda. So for the very first time, and I think this is the case for any sector, Brendan advisory bodies have been embedded into the legislation as part of best practice and really expecting approved providers to put in place these requirements.

And this is a first I think, for any sector. So I actually think there’s a real positive here because I think we know that organizations that are led from the top and obviously the governing body is the ultimate accountable you know, group of people team, if you wanna use that language that are oversighting the organization. And so I think what’s pretty clear is from the Royal commission, the voice of consumers and how organizations can bring that voice properly to the table will clearly benefit approved providers, but it will also have quite a driving change that comes with risk and opportunity. So the opportunity I think is we see an age care system around Australia become more in tune with the needs and preferences of consumers and their organizations, not just being driven by the regulatory levers, but really leveraging that stakeholder value proposition better than what they’ve done in the past.

And I think that’s an important change in gear that I think needs to happen. But the risks is if we don’t fully understand the role and purpose of an advisory body, we run the risk of not getting it quite right. So I wanna kind of really call out Brendan a, a quality care advisory body is not the clinical governance subcommittee. So if we think about governing and that accountability of executing strategy, that role is probably the subcommittee of the board. But as we know with advisory bodies and boards, they’re, they’re different. They have a different terms of reference and the way that they’re constructed can really add value to the governing boards, if that makes sense. So what we wanna make sure, I think at the outset, Brendan, is everybody getting an understanding. I think this is where the advisory board center and the certified chair program and, and the work in, in, I guess, creating a specialization for age kids certified chairs really can support the industry on that journey of transformation and really coming to best practice, much quicker around what actually is an advisory body.

How do you put them together and how can you work with this element of best practice and get the outcome much, much quicker downside if you tackle it. I think from the wrong perspective, you might not get the outcome that you hope. And I think that that is that’s kind of an important piece right now is helping uplift the understanding of what actually is an advisory board. So if I just Brendan with your permission, kind of please go, go to the legislation, cuz I think it’s really important. I’m actually gonna be looking at my second screen here. So it’s really important when we look at the term advisory bodies, there are some musts that have been built into the legislation. The approved provider must establish and continue in existence. A body called the quality care advisory body it’s required to meet at least every six months and it should be giving the governing body a written report about the quality of the age care provider.

Now, if you are a governing body, you’re beginning thinking, geez, what actually is this organization? How am I going to set it up with it’s mix of members it’s charter? How will I get that set up in a way that we get a good outcome? Not only for the organization, but for the consumers of our organization. And I think this is this is where the advisory board center’s very well placed because we know that we’ve got the tools there, ready to go. On the consumer advisory body, it’s a little bit different. The approved provider must offer at least every 12 months care recipients and their representatives, the opportunity to establish one or more advisory bodies, the consumer advisory body. Now we know through best practice, there will be elements where some consumers may not be able to participate. So having a proactive way of engaging with a consumer voice, I think is again, the real opportunity, but to underestimate the importance of how you structure that an approved provider could be a small approved provider or even a large one could end up a little bit caught up in, you know, some confusion about perceptions, about what is the role of the advisory body.

And of course it’s not being the governing body. So we wanna make sure that we get those kind of foundations, right. Pretty quickly.

Brendan Logue: I think an important distinction that you’ve highlighted there that’s worth reemphasizing is the advisory board – an advisory body is a thinking system that supports the governance board or the executive. Whereas, you know, a sub-committee of the governance board is, is really delegated responsibilities for decision making. And I think there’s important distinction to be made there. So that for those on the governance board, they’re not being replaced, they’re simply provided with tapping into a set of resources for whom these people are uniquely well placed to support them with yeah. Getting the most out of this supplementary thinking system so that when they’re offered an opportunity to make a decision, perhaps it’s a better informed decision. And, and I to, you know, to pull on another, a string there that you’ve mentioned my thinking through and, and having been involved with nearly a thousand advisory boards in establishment, the risk is if not done well, they just become a talk Fest. And in particular, the customer, yes. You know, the consumer advisory board, there is a huge risk there that those who put up their hands are just the loudest amongst the crew or, or the group and, and, you know, trying to yes, influence or, or work as an activist to achieve their end, which is certainly not the purpose here.

Cynthia Payne: And it’s not another form of a complaints management conduit. I think it it’s really made well there, Brendan, because part of that engagement with these bodies is, you know, creating a great voice of feedback and really helping not only the executive, but the gov governing body to really understand a different perspective. And I think that’s what is the great opportunity that can be explored here and being supported with the right tools. And I think, I think that’s the thing that I like to emphasize you know, I’m very structured. We’ve just been doing team management systems profiling and anybody who’s done that kind of profiling. You kind of get an appreciation of where you are at on a continuum. And I am a very structured person. And I think for organizations, when you are getting governing and engagement, right, you do need good structures to start things off.

If you start with just a blank page, goodness knows where you end up. And I think that’s, again, the opportunity and anyone who’s undertaken, the certified chair program has a deep understanding of the toolkit that’s available to really set up the mix of not only the advisory board, but also getting the right mechanisms in place, really putting in place the tools and the structures that will actually get the outcome, which I think is the intention of the legislation. So the legislation will always go to some specific inputs, but at the end of the day, there’s an outcome of intention that the legislation is hoping to achieve. That’s the whole point of a reform agenda is to create an outcome. What’s the outcome that’s trying to be created here? And this is a more sophisticated aged care industry that is enhancing its governance, but it’s also coming into a best practice framework of how it can design and engage not only its quality care. So the lived experience of the people that you are serving, but also that consumer broader, what is it important for preferences and needs and aspirations that the organization can assist with?

Brendan Logue: I think it’s a huge and most important point to emphasize that, you know, it’s about an impact on people’s lives at the end of the day and, and, you know, for, for some of those that truly most vulnerable amongst us. So, so I think if, if done, well, the, the point of advisory boards is to shift the needle rather than have the same, you know, five years that have just been had. And, and I think it’s, it’s fit for purpose can, you know and, and believe that it’s I agree with you and I believe it’s, it’s the right structure for the intent behind not enforcement, but on let’s, let’s go on a journey together. Which is, which is a nice perhaps segue to get a sense of what motivated you to get involved with this sector to begin with and, and in invest in an understanding of best fit as it related to, to advisory boards and, and the Advisory Board Center community that you are, you’re now a big part of.

Cynthia Payne: So I’ve always worked. So in my previous career, as a CEO, I worked with an advisory board. So as a CEO in a privately held business, I understood the value of what an advisory board. I am also an advisory board member. So for example, a large national construction company total construction, I am a member of the advisory board. And so I realized that I came across, for example, the Advisory Board Center, I was alert to the reform agenda. And when I saw the opportunity that there was a credentialing of what it meant to be a certified chair, and when I investigated it, it made sense to me because we, we anchor excellence. We, we are about embedding excellence. So we talk about validated approaches. We’re not just coming at it from a fluid perspective. We want to use evidence based best practice in our practice.

So I make the reference to the Australian business excellence framework the aged care standards, where advocates of helping providers to really understand the legislative framework that they operate in. But we also want to use really robust frameworks. So my own board chair is a certified chair. So we had the conversation about the program. He talked about how it was very beneficial. I then investigated it and signed on. We now have in anchor excellence for members of our team who are certified chairs, because part of our whole remit as an organization is we are leaders, enabling leaders. We’re very specific that our remit is working nationally with age care providers and our client mixes from the very largest to little standalone community based called communities. Those with a you know, a diverse community that they’re, they’re caring for. We knew that this legislative change was coming through, and we want to be part of the solution.

We want to be to offer validated framework. So as a team, we’ve committed to using best practice in the work that we do. So there was a natural fit. Brendan, I think when I met with Louise had the interviews and obviously people who go through the certified chair program know you need to go through a screening process. It’s not just an open course that you simply just register and, and you run along to, there’s quite a, there’s quite a bit more to it. And then of course, after attending the program, I could see the vision impact of how this would need to be contextualized for the aged care sector. So very pleasingly Louise created the aged care project board, which I got the benefit of being a member of with some other amazing certified chairs. And together we’ve supported the advisory board center to have those tools ready to go for these legislative changes.

So what I love about that is, you know, the organization, I’ve had an influencing factor in a small way, but we’re also helping the age care industry. And I think that for me, that’s, that’s my purpose. That’s me being me. And so we see the great synergy of the two. So we are really looking forward to, as the reform agenda comes through my colleagues who are certified chairs, being able to support our clients on this journey and again, using a best practice framework to support them. Why, because we want them to be getting the best out of the reform agenda, but also supporting the best life of the consumers that they’re delivering care to. Because at the end of the day for our team, that’s our true north. So whilst we’re all leaders and we’re all executives at the end of the day, what brings us together is we care about leaders.

We care about supporting their capability and the uplift of capacity, but we care about the consumer lived experience. So if we can uplift the two and there’s a better outcome, not only for organizations, but the I guess the brand representation of the age care industry, then we would love to see that because we are pretty, we’re pretty passionate about the great work that goes on in the industry. And Brendan, it would be fair to say the public persona of age care has not been positive. So we want to be proactive in, in changing that as well.

Brendan Logue: Fantastic. The common thread, there is the capacity building, right? At every level, whether it’s an individual, you know, the leaders of these businesses as a collective or the industry as a whole. So yeah. Want to thank you for your time and congratulate you and certainly would welcome any opportunity to support you on, on that effort and crusade and looking forward to continue working with you, Cynthia, thanks so much for your time.

Cynthia Payne: My pleasure. And thank you so much for having me, Brenda. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a delight.

Brendan Logue: It’s been fun. Thanks, Cynthia.


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