“In every position I have held, I always worked hard to bring positive change in the lives of people I encounter,” says Lisa Cassar Shaw, who has experienced academic roles as a lecturer at the University of Malta and other educational institutions; management and executive roles within private businesses; as well as a term as Councillor at the Sliema Local Council throughout her career.
“I have met people from all walks of life and I have always pushed my boundaries to try to help those who are weakest and are experiencing the most challenging and adverse conditions. Helping people in any way I can is my mission in life, and so far, this has yielded the most satisfaction in my career,” she maintains – and it is a mission she intends to continue within her current role, as CEO of the Social Care Standards Authority (SCSA).
Established in 2018 and appointed as the sole regulatory authority in Malta, the SCSA is responsible for overseeing social welfare services and protecting the interests of those making use of them, as well as for encouraging and supporting improvement within the sector.
“Our main priorities stand clear in regulating and updating standards in social care through dialogue and collaboration with all stakeholders. We strive to achieve excellence in welfare services and our mission is to do so by empowering users and inspiring service providers,” she explains, emphasising the importance of ensuring that the standards of social care are of excellent standard.
“We deal with vulnerable end users, and care with dignity, respect and ensuring that all their rights are maintained is our main priority. However, we cannot do this without involving the service providers who create the services and surrounding eco-system for our service users,” the CEO continues, describing the authority’s role of monitoring, exploring and intervening in the case of shortcomings, in order to ensure the best possible person-centred care.
Expanding on this aspect of the SCSA’s remit as well as her role within it, she adds, “my studies and career experiences have empowered me to intervene to introduce positive change. This drive for improvement and introducing small but impactful changes by thinking outside the box and involving the entire team allows for every voice to be heard while also being part of the solution. I am governed by values which place vulnerable persons first.”
Describing her primary areas of focus as CEO, Lisa affirms that keeping up to date with best practises and research in the field of social care regulation is front of mind, and has to be done in collaboration with stakeholders. “I am continuously engaging with service providers through continuous dialogue and consultation, and this keeps me quite busy,” she smiles, adding that feedback is ongoing and constantly flowing, hence the number of suggestions and ideas is impressive.
“My role is to channel all this knowledge, these experiences and feedback into a strategic direction to further empower our service users and ensure that service providers are keeping to their obligations. I am also here to see the maximisation of resources available for our vulnerable clients and their families, and to make sure that all those in social care are being granted all the services they need and require to live with dignity, respect and safety.”
Indeed, the field of social care is complex, with an ever-evolving host of challenges and opportunities dynamically shifting the industry on a constant basis. Without effective leadership, Lisa maintains, it would be impossible to meet the evolving needs of service users, while also supporting hardworking professionals and staff.
Describing the core components of leadership within the sector, the CEO starts with a crucial quality: empathy. “Empathy is non-negotiable in the social care industry. Its value is obvious in clinical settings, but those who handle administrative and managerial functions must also demonstrate compassion. This is true not only in social care, but across all industries. Studies indicate that empathy plays heavily into everything, from innovation to employee engagement,” she says, adding that it is of exceptional importance in dealing with vulnerable persons, allowing you to understand and relate to the perspectives, feelings and experiences of others.
Another important leadership quality is decision-making. “Effective decision-making is a core competency of any leadership role, but it takes on a new level of complexity in the health and social care industry. The most effective leaders can obtain and analyse data from numerous sources, which they then use to make difficult decisions. These choices will ideally be backed by research, employee input, and the leader’s own knowledge and experience. These days, solid decision-making goes far beyond a base-level examination of available data. How that data is interpreted matters as much as what it reveals. Social care leaders can address the potential for differing (and possibly incorrect) interpretations by implementing various sources and mixed methodologies, while also maintaining a clear focus on the future, as reflected in forecasting efforts,” she says.
Effective delegation is another key component for social care leaders responsible for managing large teams of professionals, Lisa continues, as well as self-awareness. “Without constant reflection, leaders may never realise where their weaknesses lie or how they can be addressed. Leaders should also be willing to accept feedback from a wide variety of team members.”
Finally, the CEO believes that powerful communication coupled with emotional intelligence is critical when interacting with team members. “In order to delegate appropriately, social care leaders must clearly convey what they want. This means clearly identifying the scope of a task or project in question, as well as key deliverables. Additionally, effective communication is essential for inspiring employees and providing targeted feedback,” she maintains.
Looking ahead, Lisa highlights several distinct opportunities for the SCSA moving forward, emphasising how important it is that all involved are aligned with the scope and mission of the authority. “I can never stress enough that we are there to serve our clients and we want to ensure that the standards set and advocated are adhered to, and where possible, with less need for sanctioning,” she affirms, adding in no uncertain terms, “if one is not aligned and in tune with the philosophy and mission of providing the best quality services to our vulnerable clients, my advice is, do not look at this sector.”
The CEO adds that the opportunities for SCSA as a regulatory entity centre on working closer with its partners and stakeholders to ensure more care facilities are introduced. “We want to enhance our collaboration to the extent of having all stakeholders onboard with us, celebrating standards of excellence without future sanctioning.”
The challenge, she says, meanwhile, is to continuously remind all involved that they are there to care for their clients. “Care and quality standards are never enough. We are there to ensure dignity and utmost respect to all service users, from the youngest to the most elderly clients in all facilities in Malta and Gozo. For this reason, I take the opportunity to thank all those who dedicate their lives to the provision of these services and to the care of service users. The level of care, love and dedication I have experienced with certain partners I hope to one day instil into all stakeholders in this industry.”
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders project. The online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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