Bettina McMahon - Chief Operating Officer - Australian Digital Health Agency
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Many aspire to reach the upper echelon of the healthcare industry, but few are able to successfully navigate the corporate ladder. As Asia becomes the world epicenter of the healthcare industry, C-Suite Partners sits down with international healthcare executives asking the tough questions and unpacking the personalities of the top industry leaders.
Welcome to the boardroom.
Michael Murray 0:36
Bettina, thank you for joining C-Suite Partners in the boardroom.
Bettina McMahon 0:39
Pleasure to be here.
Michael Murray 0:40
Where do you see healthcare in the next 10 years?
Bettina McMahon 0:43
I think this is the most exciting time to be in healthcare because we’ve got the confluence of of data, which is finally reaching capacity and saturation point across all sector. We’ve got different parts of the of health community actually making real investment in digital health. And we’ve got some national coordination coming from the Australian digital health agency, from health jurisdictions, New South Wales and Queensland Health in particular in the Northern Territory, and bringing that together is providing such exciting opportunities for so many people working in healthcare, whether it’s managing a hospital, whether it’s a specialist at the top of their field, whether it’s junior doctors coming in for the first time, all of these people have such an important role to play and see great opportunities to be working in healthcare.
Michael Murray 1:28
And what do you think of the three greatest challenges executives face in the industry?
Bettina McMahon 1:34
I think one of the challenges is trying to do too much too quickly. Because there are so many opportunities, and there’s so much that we can do. Often executives look big, they dream big, and they try to bite off more than they can chew. So so one challenge is actually chunking it down into bite-sized pieces, and making stepwise progress. So that’s that’s probably one, a second one is pulling together a team around you, who is empowered to make decisions and is empowered to actually work to their full capacity. We do have across healthcare quite a lot, quite strong hierarchies that come out of the medical professions, that sort of culture. And I think it can sometimes limit people’s ability to really work to their full potential and for organisations to get full value out of them. So that’s the second and probably the third is, is time management. Or someone said to me recently, the work never stops. So you never get to a point where you’ve finished your work. And you can go home, so you just have to go home at some point and be at peace with the fact that not everything has been done.
Michael Murray 2:39
What about influential leaders that you’ve worked with? Can you talk to me about one of them?
Bettina McMahon 2:43
Sure. Someone recently who have been doing a bit of work with this Dr. Michael Brydon, who heads the Sydney children’s networks, that’s the two children’s hospitals in Sydney. And the thing that’s really interesting about working with Michael Brydon is, is he has obviously a very big role in managing those two big hospitals. But whenever you meet with him, he is very focused on the outcome about children. So he’s not talking about how he has to manage his rosters, how he has to manage clinical instance, incidents, how he’s looking at, you know, ramping issues of ambulances, and they all have these issues that no doubt taken a lot of his time and mental capacity. He’s always talking about things like how do we improve the lives of children? How do we make Australia the best country in the world to raise children. And so for me, a senior person who has a really big role, still being able to see why he’s coming to work every day and remain focused on that and to build that into his relationships has been quite inspiring.
Micahel Murray 3:35
And in terms of regrets that you’ve had with your career today, do you have any that stand up?
Bettina McMahon 3:42
Yeah, there’s, there’s a couple. The main one, I think, has been staying in the wrong organisation too long, when I was in a role I kept on trying to make it work for probably 12 months longer than I should have. You know, in hindsight, I just sort of been at peace with the fact that it wasn’t a good fit for me.
Michael Murray 3:59
Was a common problem, isn’t it, at an executive level?
Bettina McMahon 4:02
It is, and people often have a lot of resilience and a lot of commitment to what they’re doing and to their teams and, and feel a commitment to stay and try to make things better. But often, you get 12 or 24 months down the track, and you just think, look at what a lot of sense, actually to leave it at an earlier point in time and to let somebody else feel those shoes.
Michael Murray 4:22
And flip the coin, what do you think your crowning achievement is in your career thus far?
Bettina McMahon 4:28
I think probably the greatest achievement is building teams. And I know it sounds pretty airy-fairy but, but for me, if you can build an effective team of people who are capable and empowered to work to their capacity, then you achieve the greatest things.
Michael Murray 4:44
And diversity in 2018 and healthcare, where are we?
Bettina McMahon 4:48
I think my experience in healthcare is that gender diversity is actually very good. I’ve worked in a number of sectors and the health sector has the highest level of diversity that I’ve experienced. So In my organization, we have more women at a senior executive level than men, we have even numbers of men and women on our board. And in right through the senior ranks, there are a lot of women. So gender diversity, I think we do better than other industries. What I’m not seeing as much is, is ethnicity, different ethnicities, being involved in senior-level management as well, so, so there’ll be quite a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and more junior levels in healthcare. But I’m not seeing that filter through to the more senior levels. And so we get quite a narrow view of what good healthcare looks like, which is, from the perspective often have a white Anglo Saxon sort of background in Australia. Yes, and not bringing in some of those really important cultural sensitivities at very senior levels as well as record.
Michael Murray 5:46
And your thoughts on work-life balance. It’s a question that we’ve asked a lot of the executives in the boardroom here and everyone’s got varying opinions on that. What do you think about it?
Bettina McMahon 5:56
I don’t think work-life balance exists. It’s never been a balance. For me, it’s always felt like a juggling act. And I used to aspire to getting balanced. And I was never able to, I never felt that anything was in balance. And so I felt like I was failing in doing that. By reframing my understanding of working life as a juggling act, where there are some times I do a bit more work and have to make some sacrifices around the rest of my life. And then other times when it’s the other way around. That works better for me.
Michael Murray 6:25
And if you had a 30-second elevated pitch, to tell me what you want your career legacy to be, what would it be?
Bettina McMahon 6:34
I would love at the end of my career for people to be looking at patina McMahon saying there’s a woman who gave everything she had. And she had the effect of improving the way that health care is received by people improving the accessibility of health care for groups that otherwise struggled to get good health care, and that she was able to live a legacy of people being able to make better choices about the health care through a range of channels, digital and otherwise.
Michael Murray 7:03
Excellent Bettina, thank you very much for being part of C-Suite Partners in the boardroom, appreciate it.