Thanks for visiting this site to gather a bit more information on what you heard at the recent presentation. You might be looking for the detail behind the leadership points I discussed, you might be interested in joining me on one of the bike rides, perhaps the stories of Hands Across the Water spiked you interest or you might be wanting to learn how to turn your business or personal relationship with you chosen charity into a profit centre, something that is equally as good for you and your business as it is for the charity you choose to support.
Working in times of crisis, be that internationally or domestically, I learnt that crisis is really just the critical testing ground for leadership. It becomes less about the position you hold and more about your actions and reactions. Leaders become defined by what they do and not the title or position they hold.
When I reflect on the people I have worked with in these various locations there are a number of consistencies:
My five key default responses are:
No surprise the first is Speed. When there is an opportunity, when there is a gap in the market so often it is the first to move that will hold that position of leadership. If you wait until you have all of the answers to all of the questions - before you move, someone will beat you to it. Clarity comes with action, the more you do the clearer you will become. In the immediate aftermath of a crisis there is no time for working parties, focus groups or steering committees, the demand is for a leader who takes action. You don’t have to have all of the answers you do need to take action.
The second might be a surprise but it is Sensitivity. This might seem a contradiction to the first response of speed, but you can absolutely make decisions, and in times of crisis lead with sensitivity. Change upsets people, most of us like a level of consistency, so when we are dealing with significant change if we can understand the likely resistance and deal with that prior to implementing change then we have a far better chance of being successful in what we are trying to achieve as leaders. Sensitivity to change will allow us to bring people along the journey with us. When you are sensitive to the implications of what you are doing, when you give information, you will get understanding. We might not be able to remove the impact but we can elicit understanding by leading with sensitivity.
The third is Structure. Acting with speed doesn’t mean that we act without caution or recklessly. We need a structure to guide us and often to comply with regulations or legislation. However, we often impose too much structure and over complicate our tasks. Creating too much structure takes away the creativity and imagination of our teams. It says we don’t trust you to make the right decision so we are going to tell you how to do it. The more policy and procedures we put in place the more opportunities we are creating for non compliance. We need to find the balance.
Simplicity is my fourth response. In times of crisis or disaster we need our leaders to make decisions and make decisions without undue deliberation. The time to send the tough decisions off to a focus group or working party are gone. If we act with good integrity, good intent, if we consult where we can and make a decision but get it wrong, we will be forgiven. However, we don’t forgive our leaders who fail to make decisions for the fear of making the wrong decision. By keeping it simple, by accepting the responsibility we have been entrusted with as leaders enables us to respond and keep moving. If we get it wrong, acknowledge it, redress and go again. Making a wrong decision just means we will be closer to getting it right than having not moved in the first place.
And my final and most important of the five is Presence. We don’t expect all of our leaders to have all of the answers all of the time. But we do expect them to care and we do expect them to understand the challenges we are facing, and the best way for our teams and communities we are leading to believe in us, is to see us. Too many leaders underestimate the significance of their presence, too many leaders spend too much time behind a keyboard thinking if they can be across all of the information they will have all of the answers. Of course that’s valuable but that is not going to build your following, that doesn’t instil confidence in your leadership, particularly in times of crisis if you are not seen. If you want to be closer to the teams that you lead, the clients you have or the clients you desire, spend time with them.
Clarity of Purpose
I spoke about the value for business and organisations to have a clarity of purpose. This is about the alignment between the values of the organisation and the actions of those within. My belief is that if we have a congruence between the actions and what we say we stand for there is a better than even chance we will be successful. Usually it is not until our resolved is tested, as a business or as an individual that we are truly challenged on what is fundamentally the most important thing for us. When we are clear what is most important then it is easier to make those informed decisions.
The value of Shared Experiences
My five tips to building engagement within our teams either in the charity sector of for profit space are:
Ask the question, “Is what I am asking our employees/volunteers to do, likely to add value to them and if so what value is it adding”
Are we appropriately acknowledging their commitment and effort;
Are they advised and do they understand the difference they are making to the end process - whatever that might be?
Is it something they are likely to want to return and repeat; and
Most importantly, Does it feed their soul?
We need to look to leave our employees with an experience or story of how they contribute, the difference they make, that they are likely to want to talk about. We want them to be able to tell the story of the difference that was made as a result of their combined efforts.
We all want to feel part of something and to belong, we all want to feel as though we are making a difference in our own way and engineering shared experiences is a key to building engagement within our teams, be they in the for profit or for purpose sector.
Hands Across the Water
There are normally a number of questions that arise when following a presentation about Hands?
Can I join a ride
How can I get involved
Do you have the opportunity to sponsor the children
How do you run the charity without spending donors money on administration
Why are the children in the home?
They are all great questions and our website has a number of the answers, but yes you can join a ride, yes there are opportunities to get involved and finally yes you can sponsor the children on a monthly basis.
The two remaining questions invite a bit more detail. When we started Hands, I didn’t need to take a salary as I was still full-time with the police and therefore made a commitment that 100% of donors money would go to the projects. The supporters seemed to like that so we kept it. How do you maintain that position now that we are bigger, surely there must be costs? Sad to say there are plenty of costs, but in 2011 we established a company that undertakes it’s own commercial activities to raise money, not using donors funds, and it’s these funds that allow us to operate the charity without using donors funds on administration or fundraising.
The other question we are often asked is about the kids, or if we are not asked, people are often thinking are homes like the ones that we run really the best place for the kids and are they still needed. The answer is no, they are not the best place for kids. Without question the best place for kids is in a family home, but when that option is not available then we provide a solution which is relied up by the Thai Government.
We have three categories of kids living in our homes:
Those who have no family to care for them;
Those who have family often for a series of reasons they are not capable of providing a home for the kids;
Those who were living in a family unit but have been removed from that household, by the police or government officials as they were abused, neglected or at risk of suffering abuse and neglect.
To find out more about Hands Across the Water head to www.handsacrossthewater.org.au
Presentation Summary - illustration by Rebecca Lazenby
Presentation Summary - illustration by Guy Downes
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