Monday, 28 October 2013

Goal setting through well formed outcomes

I recently spoke at the Fundraising Conference of a well known charity, and in about 90 minutes I managed to cover a whole load of stuff about personal and professional development. Most importantly I spoke about the need to take personal responsibility, as the fact is if you don't no one else will. During the session I spent time with the group (80 or 90 of them) doing some goal setting, but I would like to have spent more time, as I think this is an area that many people find difficult. 

I thought I would share here what I might have covered if we had had that time.

One type of goal setting that I have found really helpful recently is based on the concept of 'well-formed outcomes'. Developing such outcomes helps you define a goal and how to reach that goal. You can do this as part of a process with a coach or mentor, your line manager, or with one of your team.

There are a number of different stages:

1. Set the goal or outcome in a positive way and at a high level
For example if your goal is: 'I don't want to be negative about x any more', that is not a positive goal. If you rephrase it: 'I want to be always positive about x in the future.' that is a bit more like it. Another example. If you have a fear (or even undesired nerves) of public presentation (many people do!) your positive goal might be: 'I want to feel relaxed and confident when speaking in public.'

2. How will you know when your goal is achieved from a sensory perspective?
We all know how we feel physically when we achieve something. But have you ever thought about breaking this down into what you see, hear, feel, smell or taste? Taking the example from above, how do you feel when you speak in public? Do you feel sick, do you need to go to the loo, do you see a sea of faces out there all looking critically at you? Do your shoulders feel tense, do you clench your fists, do you shake? Does your head feel dizzy? Does your sight go blurred? 

Well these are some of the potential negative sensory feelings. But how will you feel when you have achieved your goal? How will you know when you feel relaxed and calm. How will  your breathing feel? Will you have a sense of clarity that allows you to focus on your audience? How will your stomach feel? How will your posture feel? How will the sense of satisfaction manifest itself in your body when you deliver a fantastic presentation? Imagine those feelings now for your particular goal.

3. Break down the steps that will help you get to your goal or outcome
It is your responsibility (and yours only) to ensure you achieve your goal. You may have support along the way, but it is ultimately down to you. So how will you do this? Think about the small steps that will help you get to your goal. When you break things down into small steps things suddenly seem more achievable. 

Continuing with the example of having a goal of being a calm and confident presenter, what are the steps you can take. How can you master the content? How can you test the content? How can you test the style of delivery? How can you make your visuals and examples and anecdotes better? How can you take steps to relax before and during the presentation? How can you measure your success? How will you feel during and after the presentation?

4. Think about the context in which you want to achieve your goal or outcome
Carrying on with the example we have already used, in which context will you be delivering presentations? Is it for a wedding speech, speaking to colleagues at an internal event or meeting, speaking to people you don't know, e.g. at a conference? Where will you be when you make this speech? make your outcome context specific; it will help make it more achievable.

5. Think about the positive effects of the current situation and the consequences of reaching your outcome
Let's take a different example here. Say you are thinking about applying for a promotion to become a manager or head of a department. What are the things that you currently have that you might potentially lose? For example you might not to be able to interact with your current colleagues in the way you do now. You might not be able to go out and get drunk with them! You may no longer be seen as approachable. You may have less time for your family and friends. 

You need to think about the positive effects of the status quo, what are the 'must haves' and what are the 'would likes' when you reach your goal? If you need to give up any of the 'must haves', what can you put in place to replace them? 

6. Set your goals
Just do it!

7. Letter to yourself
One final tip you might find useful. This is about using the future to help you reach your goals. Have you ever tried writing a letter to yourself? Imagine, once you have achieved your goal, in one year, two year's time, whatever. What might you write to yourself? 

"Dear Paul, It is 28th October 2014. I present regularly in public, and I am rated consistently as one of the top ten speakers. I have learnt how to relax before presenting. I feel relaxed, confident and at ease in front of an audience, large or small, and I am constantly aware of their presence and gain feedback from them."

Seeing yourself in the future helps make it real. By saying 'I am', you are more likely to achieve your goals.

8. In summary
Think about your goals. Think about how you might break them down in the way I have described above. This is a really useful way of assessing and setting your goals and putting together a road map of how to get there. I hope you have found this useful. Let me know who you get on!

Friday, 13 September 2013

A dozen tips on delivering bad news effectively and humanely

We keep hearing in the news that the recession is over and that things are getting better out there. I am not a conspiracy theorist but I am not sure how true that is. It's a bit like the weather forecast - I am always deeply suspicious as to whether good weather forecasts for bank holidays are more related to influencing spending and travel over the holiday period rather than the weather itself. 

But one thing is for sure. Organisations will always need to look at how they spend their money and, from time to time this will mean looking at structures and whether they could be more effective. In some organisations this happens more often than can possibly be constructive, whilst in others the structure should have probably been changed before they got into their current set of difficulties! Change is here to stay, to use a very old cliche.

Now I've been around the block more than a few times and I have seen restructures done very well and others done appallingly badly. One of the common failures in making change in staffing levels and structures is poor communication with the staff team at the time of giving the 'bad news', so I thought it might be helpful if I highlighted what I think is best practice so that, if you need to deliver bad news, you have some helpful hints. The same tips apply whether you are dealing with one or 101 people.

  • For me the key thing is preparation. You need to prepare what you are going to say, so that you are confident, credible, concise and congruent. If you fluff your lines and appear nervous and uneasy staff will pick up on this. They need to understand what you are saying rather than be distracted by your demeanour and behaviour. Digesting bad news is not easy when you are on the receiving end so you need to ensure you are as clear as possible. You also need to be prepared for anger and disbelief, and to have prepared for any question you are likely to be asked, including any curve balls.

  • Choose the right setting. Ensure you choose the right place for the meeting, and that it is confidential and as comfortable as possible. 

  • You should try to assess the feelings of the group early on. Are they surprised by this news or do they seem as though they were expecting it?

  • Don't delay giving bad news. In almost every situation, the longer you leave it, the worse it will get. Thou shalt not procrastinate! 

  • Don't hide the facts. Do not gloss over the reasons behind the bad news. This just causes suspicion and mistrust. If the bad news is as a result of poor organisational decisions, you need to acknowledge that if you want to maintain trust. At the same time don't bewilder people with too many facts and figures, as they will just be overwhelmed.

  • Put it in writing. As we have already acknowledged, hearing bad news is tough and people can only take in small amounts of information. Putting the facts and the rationale behind the bad news is easier to digest after the meeting, and you can also provide helpful Q&As.

  • Don't use manipulation. Be as straightforward as you can be. If you need to take personal responsibility for the bad news, do this. Don't blame it on a third party, or treat it as though you are delivering the bad news on behalf of someone else, unless of course you are. Whilst researching this blog I came across a piece of work by Michael Grinder called 'How Not To Get Shot'. I normally like Grinder's work; he has done some really good stuff on communication skills, but I think the approach he takes to delivering bad news is just a bit manipulative. The link I have provided is only two pages, so make up your own mind.

  •  Be congruent. You are delivering bad news - now is not the time to be bright and breezy and to be making pleasantries or joking. Make sure your voice tone is credible rather than conversational, don't smile or laugh nervously and be concise and direct. Treat your audience with the respect and dignity they deserve.

  • Always justify the reasons behind the bad news. Give concrete reasons, not waffle.

  • Look for the positives. Don't try to put a spin on it; you will not get a good response. But if there are any positives, make sure you include them. 

  • Similarly be solution focused. If it is likely, for example, that someone is going to lose their job, point out what support can be provided, talk about what other opportunities there might be in the organisation. Explore the alternatives at the appropriate time. 

  • Finally, follow up. If you promise to do something after the meeting, e.g. circulate a briefing, do it straight away. If you said you will be available to discuss things individually, make yourself available.

The above tips are all tried and tested by me. They work. Delivering bad news is never easy, but it it it can be far less stressful and deliver the desired results if you do it well. We all like to be liked, even though I have heard many a manager say 'I'm not here to make friends'. Delivering bad news effectively can also help you maintain good relationships at work. 

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Some useful links:

Friday, 23 August 2013

Do you have to have done something first to train others?

Ok, let's get a controversial one out there and please feel free to shoot me down! I'm prepared to be challenged on this one as I am on all my blogs. And remember, this is my personal opinion rather than that of my employer!

There are lots and lots of consultants and trainers out there in our sector who have set themselves up as experts. My question is, have they ever achieved personal mastery in the subject in which they claim expertise, or have they simply learnt it through researching the subject? Or maybe a bit of both? And does this matter?

Some will argue that if they are a great presenter, an inspirational speaker, an effective facilitator, have plenty of case studies and anecdotes, bring out the best in their students, does it really matter if they have never done it or been very good at it?  I think there are some real exceptions to the rule, and it is certainly possible to study mastery and describe that to others, and perhaps that is what some do.

There's an old saying along the lines of 'those who can't do it teach it.' Well I have always thought that this was a load of rubbish, and I would like to think that in the majority of cases, in a sector full of highly intelligent people, you would get found out very quickly. In my opinion the best trainers and consultants are the ones who are 'doing the do' as well as 'talking the talk'!

For me it's a bit like asking people for money. How can you authentically do this if you are not already giving to the cause yourself? Yet lots of people do, especially professional fundraisers but also trustees. I always make sure I give to a cause before I ask for money on their behalf.

Similarly I can't see how you can train someone on something you have never done your self, or have not got a great deal of experience in. For me it's all about credibility. What happens if one of your students asks 'Can you tell me how you have personally ....' What do you do if you don't have that experience? Lie? Therefore I personally would not be happy to teach something I have never done.

So what would I do if I wanted to hire a trainer or consultant for my organisation? I would want to see their CV to ensure that they had the experience they claim to have had. If they say they are an expert in major donor fundraising, how much have they personally raised? If they say they are an expert in direct marketing, what type of campaigns have they managed and delivered and what size. If they say they are an expert in leadership, what leadership roles have they held? In addition I would ask for a free demonstration session to make sure I was happy with the standard of their training. Any trainer worth their salt would do this as it would pretty much guarantee new business if they are as good as they say they are. It's also good to see them in action first; just because someone is a subject matter expert, that does not make them a great trainer! This is certainly how we hire our trainers at the Institute of Fundraising.

I think there are some exceptions to the rule. These are the teaching of qualifications, where I think the most important thing is knowledge of the subject. Of courses it helps if this knowledge is combined with practical experience and skills. The other area is coaching, where it is the skills of the coach rather than their subject matter expertise that counts.

So what do you think? Let me know!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Heaven or hell, or maybe somewhere in between? The crucial relationship between Charity CEO and Chair.

I'm going to put to one side my continued frustration about the highly distracting and damaging public debate about about senior executive salaries in the charity sector. I, like many others, have said their bit. 

This week I wanted to focus on the crucial relationship between a Charity CEO and her or his Chair of Trustees. 

Why have I chosen this subject? Well, I have just been elected as Chair of Trustees at the charity at which I have been a trustee since 2009. It is a wonderful international children's charity called ChildHope and I am proud and very honoured to have been given this opportunity. After our last trustees meeting, where my election as Chair was formally announced, my CEO Jill Healey emailed the outgoing Chair and I a paper entitled 'A Marriage Made in Heaven. The Relationship Between Chairs and Chief Executives in Charities' by 2011 Fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme, Penelope Gibbs. This coincided with me having read the previous week an article in Third Sector entitled 'Chief Executives Under Pressure'. So I thought this would be a good subject for my weekly blog.

I was struck by the statistics quoted by Jenny Berry of ACEVO in Third Sector, that almost 50% of the calls to the ACEVO CEO crisis helpline were from CEOs who had a problem with their relationship with their Chair. Penelope Gibbs' paper helps to provide a really good explanation for what can go wrong with the relationship and what can go right, as does Jenny Berry's frequent recommendation to CEOs that they need to work on the relationship 'like a marriage'.

It seems like there are some key factors to the relationship working. The first is a 'flexible understanding of roles and responsibilities'. Now this for me is crucial. The relationship with my CEO will change from how it is now as a trustee to how it will be when I am an experienced Chair. The fact is I have never chaired a board before, so this will be a massive learning curve for me. I am quite clear about my role and how it differs from that of the CEO, but we will need to agree these roles early on in our relationship. My CEO will also have to accept that the way I want to run the Board will be very different to the way it was managed by the previous Chair, as will the way I want to manage her. Note to self: agree the ground rules, roles and responsibilities and keep them flexible.

The second factor is the 'ability to challenge and accept challenge'. Again this is crucial. Going back to my own situation, I am confident that Jill will allow me to challenge things where appropriate and likewise I would expect her to challenge me. We have different backgrounds and areas of expertise and experience, and we need to make sure that the way we lead the organisation takes full advantage of these differences. I look forward to this dynamic greatly and will enjoy the learning I gain from it. Note to self: challenge! If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got!

The third factor Gibbs identifies is 'skills of empathy, communication and managing the board'. Well I would like to think I have these qualities and skills. I use them every day in my life as a senior manager, and feel I can transfer them to my role as Chair. The bit I have no prior experience of is managing a CEO. Yes of course I have managed CEOs 'upwards' but never in a formal relationship. Again, I am looking forward to the learning this will give me and I am hoping that my learning will benefit me in my day job as well as as a volunteer.

The fourth factor is 'skills of  on the part of the CEO'. I would have thought this applied to the Chair too. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a Chair who is passionate about the cause they represent and wants only the best for the organisation to be faced with a CEO who does not have these qualities and skills. What this can cause is conflict between the CEO and their staff team and the CEO and the Board. One hears about these so-called 'psychopathic leaders' and I can only sympathise with the organisations that have to work with them. I am grateful that in my first role as Chair I will not have to face such a situation, and that my CEO has humility, communication and self-awareness!

'Commitment to the cause' is the fifth factor and this goes without saying. I would be surprised if commitment is the issue, but a mutual understanding of the vision and mission might be. I can think of organisations where the CEO and Chair have a differing views on the mission of the organisation, and this can cause issues for both meeting beneficiary needs and trustee and staff morale. A similar situation might exist where the Chair and CEO disagree over vision and mission. Note to self: Make sure we have a common understanding of the vision and mission (I am sure we do, but useful to check!)

The final factor is the rather hard to describe issue of 'getting on'. Now this is about personal chemistry. Do you get on as individuals? You don't need to have anything in common but the organisation itself, but the CEO and Chair need to get on as individuals, and as we saw at the start of this blog, one needs to work on this 'like a marriage'.In my opinion, and that of some that Gibbs interviewed, you don't need to be friends although you do need to be friendly. In fact being friends can make it harder, because at some point as a chair you will have to make a difficult decision or say something that your CEO will not want to hear.

In addition to these factors I would like to look briefly at a couple of things that I think will help make the relationship work. Firstly the Chair should have a good induction. They should meet key staff members to learn about what they do, and what their priorities are. This should at the very least include the entire Senior Management Team. Secondly there should be formal 1:1 meetings between Chair and CEO; action points should be agreed and minuted. Thirdly there should be a formal appraisal process, providing the opportunity for the Chair to collect feedback on the CEO from their team and also for the CEO to give feedback on the Chair. Finally I think there should be a clear 'contract' between the CEO and Chair; this will clarify respective roles and responsibilities and also clarify the level of support the Chair is able and/ or expected to provide. 

I'd love to hear from you if you have any hints or tips about how I can be a better first-time Chair!

Friday, 9 August 2013

A salutary lesson on why bureaucrats should keep their mouths shut unless they have something useful to say

The subject of my blog today was going to be on the crucial relationship between the CEO of a charity and the Chair of the Board of Trustees, but I will write this one next week. So watch this space!

However my attention has been distracted over the debate spurred by the Daily Telegraph's 'revelations' about the salaries of charity leaders, and the subsequent inappropriate (some might say inept) comments of the Chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross. He is reported to have said that large salaries paid to charity staff would "bring the sector into disrepute"and that organisations must ask if their pay levels are "really appropriate."

There have been a flurry of articles, comments, tweets and blogs on the subject from various sector figures and umbrella bodies, and not surprisingly the general feeling is the same. Firstly, it is up to the Board of Trustees of a particular charity to decide the salary levels in that organisation. Secondly, we are talking about highly skilled and experienced people here, running large and complex organisations with turnovers of hundreds of millions of pounds and thousands of staff; why should they not be paid a salary to reflect this responsibility, expertise and experience? Thirdly there is the social return on investment angle; after all these people are doing a job that actually makes the world a better place;  they already work for considerably less than they would earn in the public and private sectors; why the hell should anyone be questioning that?

I am summarising here a number of points but generally there is broad agreement across the charity sector and the sector media that pay of senior charity staff should be proportionate to their experience and the size and complexity of their role. I could not agree more.

To say I feel sorry for those who are the subject of this non-scandal would be over-egging it. I think these individuals have broad enough shoulders! And I do sometimes wonder, if I were earning over £150k, what I would do with all that money! I would like to think that, after I had paid my bills, supported my family and secured a reasonable but not excessive lifestyle, I would try do social good with this money. I am sure that this is exactly what does happen, but it is certainly not up to me to make judgments.

What is most amazing to me, however, is that a non-executive bureaucrat being paid £50k for just two days work a week (yes, that is £125k pro rata!) feels either qualified or able to make judgments on the amount that charities pay their staff. Secondly and more importantly as a senior figure in the charity sector (albeit the regulator) why would he make the mistake of saying something that could potentially damage public confidence in the sector? I would like to hope that he has been misquoted or taken out of context, but I fear this is not the case. I think he is simply guilty of making an unwise comment to the media, and is now living to regret this. The worst case scenario is that he actually does believe that charity staff should be expected to subsidise their own lifestyle just because they want to change the world.

The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and many other popular papers love to uncover a scandal, and Shawcross has helped provide them the ammunition they need. If he had taken the line that Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO and many others had taken, the story would have probably gone back into the gutter where it deserves to be. Instead of which there are probably a large number of people out there who may be considering their support for their favourite charities. Although donors are far more savvy than they ever have been, and let's not forget that, there will be those who believe that charity staff are doing it for the love of it, and that they should earn a mere pittance to do so. And this story simply fuels the fire that charities are profligate spenders that not only hassle them on the streets every time they try to go shopping, but now are paying their executives outrageous salaries!

Interestingly, and I accept that Telegraph readers are a special breed, (!) but in a poll on the paper's website 72% have voted to say that they do not believe that charity CEOs should be paid £100k. The choices given for the poll were 'No. Donors want their money to go to the poor, not executives. Comparisons with what people might earn in the sector are wholly false.' and  'Yes. These people manage huge budgets and make life-or-death decisions. You have to pay for talent.' The result of this poll worries me. I hope it is giving Mr Shawcross a few sleepless nights too.

Let's just hope this is silly season and the story goes away. Some of the charity leaders named in the Telegraph article are giants in the sector, none more so than Sir Nick Young, CEO at the British Red Cross. This is a man who has given his life to the charity sector and led huge organisations like the British Red Cross and Macmillan to greater and greater things, improving and saving thousands of peoples lives along the way. And that on a salary less than the average CEO of a local authority in the South East of England. I know who gets my vote for the highest salary!

Friday, 2 August 2013

'One size fits all' management does not work

You may be surprised (or not if you know me!) to hear that I find it hard to read text books. This is not because I am not interested in the content (I am, and I buy them all the time, in fact I have a stack on my dining room table right now!) but because I have a low attention span, and I get easily distracted. I can easily read an entire chapter  without taking anything in. This is why I use mind maps to help me retain the information. (See my short video on this subject). I've always been the same, so I have always been a fan of the One Minute Manager series of books. In fact one of the reasons I invented the Five Minute Fundraiser series of videos for the Institute of Fundraising was because I think a lot of people learn in short simple bursts like me.

So I was pondering on a particular management situation the other day when I was inspired to re-visit my well-thumbed copy of  Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, which really helped me. You can read the book n a couple of hours tops, and it is brilliant. What it reminded me was, not in these words, that 'one size fits all leadership, simply does not work, but that situational leadership does. Put very simply, as a manager and leader you need to be able to adapt your style to the situation, to the individual and the stage of development they are at. 

Now this sounds very obvious, but I think a lot of leaders forget to do it, or maybe even don't know that they should. It is interesting that a frequently asked question at interview is 'How would you describe your leadership or management style'. So I thought it might be useful to summarise the concept of situational leadership, and if you are interested it is something that you could look into further.

So to start with there are four styles of leadership within situational leadership:
Style 1: Directing
The leader provides specific instructions and closely supervises task accomplishment
Style 2: Coaching
The leader continues to direct and closely supervise task accomplishment, but also explains decisions, solicits suggestions, and supports progress
Style 3: Supporting
The leader facilitates and supports employees' efforts towards task accomplishment and shares responsibility for decision making with them
Style 4: Delegating
The leader passes over responsibility for decision making and problem solving to employees

Now I have experienced all of these styles of leadership (often used inappropriately!) and it can be completely demoralising. I'll give you an example. I have managed close to a dozen Royal events of one sort or another in my career. A previous boss, who did not have this experience, tried to manage me down to the real minutiae on what I saw as quite a simple event at Clarence House hosted by HRH Prince of Wales. It was not well received!  We have all heard of 'micro-managment' and probably have experienced it. But a directive style with a member of staff who has little experience in a particular task really is essential, and then as that staff member learns how to master that task the style can move through to coaching, supporting and onto delegating. The mistake that managers often make is to delegate before the staff member is ready. 

So it is really important to not only consider and use the correct leadership style, but it is vital to consider the stage of development the staff member is at, not just overall, but for a particular task. For example if I was asked to prepare my organisation for its annual audit I would need a different style of leadership to if I was asked to introduce a new income generating activity. It's quite obvious when you think about it.

In situational leadership the four styles of leadership therefore need to be linked to the right level of development. It also needs to be acknowledged that people's level of motivation differs with the level of development. For example when you are learning something new you are fully motivated to learn, when you know partly how to do something but not fully your motivation level may drop or be variable, but when you achieve mastery you will be fully motivated again. See below:

Level 1: low competence, high motivation (Directing style required)
Level 2: some competence, lower motivation (Coaching style required)
Level 3: high competence, variable motivation (Supporting style required)
Level 4: high competence, high motivation (Delegating style required)

So hopefully you can see that when it comes to managing people, it should not be an automatic process. You need to seriously consider where that individual is at with their mastery of their role, and elements within their role before you choose the appropriate style of leadership. It is also helpful (if you are a leader being led) to look at why you are happy or unhappy with the way you are being managed.

Good luck with this and let me know how you get on.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Home working is not a charter for skivers

There is no doubt about it, as the summer goes on, and the longest period of decent weather we have had in years takes us into the school holidays, the debate over home working continues in certain quarters. 

When a forward looking (or at least that's what we thought!) company like Yahoo bans its staff from remote working with comments in its memo to all staff saying: "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings," and "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home." it is certain that there are many skeptics about the benefits of home working. Unbelievably Google's CFO Patrick Pichette had a similar view, saying that "as few as possible" Google staff work from home!

I have heard of situations, in organisations where there is an issue with trust, that there are hoots of derision from staff when they hear that a colleague is working from home 'again'. In my view this is a very unhealthy situation. Just when I thought we were getting somewhere in this country, where in 2011 30% of UK employers allowed remote working (compared to 25% in 2004) it seems that the benefits of home working are being forgotten and the skeptics are being allowed to rule the roost.

Ultimately this is all about how you measure your outputs as an organisation. Surely if we are setting people the right objectives and managing them against these objectives, then this should be sufficient. It should not be about measuring the number of hours they work or their physical presence. It should be about whether or not they deliver.

So what are the benefits of allowing or even encouraging home working? Aside from promoting work life balance (probably a separate Charity Coach blog some time in the future!) I think that it encourages autonomy and entrepreneurialism, it demonstrates trust in your staff, creates a happy and engaged workforce, and enables staff to focus on areas of work on which it may be hard to concentrate in the office. For example I use my (infrequent) working at home days to carry out complex pieces of work that I simply could not do in the hustle and bustle of the office, for example writing a board paper or designing a presentation. Therefore working from home can increase output and productivity. 

So what are the down sides for an employer? Well, it could be argued that one less person in the office puts the burden on other staff to answer the phone, deal with visitors, etc. It can also be the case that employees who work frequently from home miss out on contact with colleagues and therefore become less engaged in the social side of working and perhaps even the organisation itself. I would argue that it is the employer's duty to minimise this through making sure that contact is maintained and that employees are not left to work at home with little or no interaction with colleagues. In that respect it is a bit like managing geographically dispersed staff.

So as an employee how can you work at home most effectively? Here are the Charity Coach's top tips:

1. Dedicate a workspace to home working. Not everyone has a study or spare bedroom, so if you are using your dining room table, make sure everyone in your family knows that. Clear the space and make it seem as much like a desk as possible. Ensure you have everything you need around you.

2. Avoid distractions. Don't combine the working day with domestic chores, caring for pets or children, eating loads more food or drinking more coffee. Take breaks as you would at work. 

3. Get dressed. I will never forget an Area Fundraising Manager at a previous charity telling me he worked in his pyjamas! He wished he had never told me that! In contrast one of his colleagues told me he put on a suit and tie for working at home even if he was not meeting with anyone that day. How can you expect to get into work 'mode' if you are not dressed for it!

4. Create boundaries. Let family members and friends know that, even though you are at home, you are working and not available for social contact.

5. Proactively stay in touch with colleagues and your boss, not just by email but also by phone. Don't wait for them to contact you. Use Skype to join meetings you cannot attend. (Now that definitely reinforces the need to get dressed!)

6. Make sure you adopt the right posture when using your computer. If necessary do a work station assessment to make sure your screen is at the right height, that you are sitting properly and, if necessary make the required adjustments.

7. Don't feel guilty for working at home. You are doing this to complete a specific piece of work or for a specific reason. You will almost certainly get more done if you follow the tips above and that will please both you and your boss.

Home working is a great thing. Technology has made it possible to work as well remotely as you can do in the office. It is down to the employer and the employee to make this work for mutual benefit.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The seven habits of being a great charity trustee

During my time in the non-profit sector I have come across some great trustees, some average trustees and some not-so-good ones. So what makes a great trustee? In this blog I draw on my experience of being a trustee of two organisations and my observations of trustees in charities I have worked in or been involved in. This blog may help you to be a better trustee, to see whether trusteeship is for you, or simply to confirm you are doing a great job. If it does any of these things, my Saturday morning has been worthwhile!

My first observation is that trustees should choose the right cause. You need to be passionate about the cause you volunteer for. You need to be able to demonstrate that passion to fellow trustees, charity staff and volunteers and to the outside world - supporters and potential supporters. If you are not passionate about the cause, wait until an opportunity comes up in a cause you really do care about. But please do not apply to be a trustee simply to develop your own brand or profile; I have seen this all too often!

Secondly you need to decide what you can bring to the board table. What expertise, support and advice can you add to the current skills mix on the board. Are you an HR expert, a communications guru, a technical geek, a great fundraiser, a finance wizard? Whatever your professional expertise and experience, plus what you have gained in the past or in your personal life, can all be valuable to the mix. So conduct a skills audit of yourself to see what you can bring and then match that to what the charity needs.

Thirdly, a great trustee needs to have a huge amount of commitment. No matter how busy your day job, being a trustee is a big responsibility and you need to be able to commit to this. So what might this look like? Well, most trustee boards meet at least quarterly, in many cases more frequently. This may be a 3 or 4 hour commitment in addition to any preparation time. Many trustee boards also have an annual or bi-annual awayday, which you need to be at. Often this is a great opportunity to meet and work with the staff team. You may also be expected to sit on a sub-committee - typically these include finance & resources, fundraising, programmes, etc. You should also be prepared to attend fundraising events and other charity activities. Finally you may be expected to coach or support a particular member or team within the charity's staff. For example I work very closely with the Head of Fundraising in the charity I volunteer for.

Attending meetings in your role as a trustee is not just about being there! You have to be able to make intelligent input and to make key decisions. This is simply not possible if you have not put in any preparation time. I cannot tell you the times I have seen trustees in organisations I have worked in as a staff member making comments or asking questions that made it obvious they had not done their prep. And saying you are a volunteer is not an acceptable excuse. Either you are in the game or not!

Fourthly you need to be knowledgable about the charity's work. At the very least this means reading and understanding the annual review and other publications, talking to the staff team, attending briefings and presentations, but preferably you should see the charity's work first hand, although I appreciate this may not always be possible for international charities. You need to know more than the donors you will undoubtedly meet at events. They will expect you to, as will staff. There is nothing more frustrating for staff to feel that a trustee does not understand the work of the charity. 

You also need to have a firm grip and understanding of the charity's strategy and finances. Ultimately these are the responsibilities of the trustee; this is what good governance is all about.

Fifthly you need to understand the boundaries between staff and trustees, and I think this is where many trustees get it badly wrong. Many trustees over-step the mark and get bogged down in the details of what are staff responsibilities. You are there to support, advise and to ensure the strategy is delivered, not to interfere!

Sixthly, you may get involved in recruiting key staff.  This has massive potential to go wrong, especially if you are recruiting a new CEO or director. The best trustee boards also involve the senior management team of the charity in these decisions. In the small charity I am on the board of, all the staff team met potential CEO candidates before the ultimate (good) choice was made. To do good recruitment you need to make the right choice based on where the organisation is now, and where it needs to be. This should be based on the the charity's strategic goals, not your personal preferences.

And the seventh habit (and this is the one that is most controversial!) is that trustees should give and get. By this I mean you must be prepared to give money at a level you can afford, and also help the charity raise funds, either through fundraising yourself (see my previous blog) or by asking your contacts to support your cause. I am not interested in trustees who say they are doing enough by giving their time. How can you ask others to give if you are not giving yourself?

I am sure there are loads of things I have missed out, and this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to trusteeship. you can get that elsewhere. The Charity Commission and NCVO websites are a good place to start. But hopefully there is something here that will help you have a better understanding of what makes a great trustee. Feel free to comment.

Friday, 12 July 2013

How to fundraise over £2000 for a charity cycling event with the minimum of effort

Yes I admit it! I am a MAMIL! A middle aged man in lycra who rides an expensive road bike (one of three bikes I own!) mainly for commuting, but also on the occasional longer foray out into the Surrey hills. In fact I have been known to ride up Box Hill on the odd occasion- yes that's the one that thousands of other like me regularly hold up the traffic on a Sunday morning in a vein attempt to emulate their hero Sir Bradley Wiggins. But I don't do this because I think I look good in unfeasibly tight clothing (not possible unless you have the physique of an Olympian!) or because I am going through some middle age crisis (I did that when I bought a motor bike some years ago, now the proud property of some other middle aged geezer I am sure!). I do it because I love cycling, I love the freedom it gives me on my commute. I can now get to work (10 miles ride) in well under an hour and be sitting at my desk by 8.15, having had a shower, and with a nice coffee and a bowl of Oatso Simple in front of me. I also do it because it keeps me fit; I have lost two inches from my waistline and a couple of stone over the past two years. Can't complain about that can I!

That's enough self indulgence, but I hope you can tell I am passionate about cycling! In fact apart from moving to the charity sector over 20 years ago and meeting my wife just before that, cycling is by far the best thing I have ever done! What I really wanted to do in this blog is tell you about how I successfully fundraised for a London to Paris cycle ride I completed last August in aid of ChildHope, the children's charity I am a trustee of (soon to be Chair). I like to think I did this efficiently, effectively with the minimum of effort, but in a way that respected and valued my supporters.

I have been a trustee of ChildHope for almost three years. Whilst I make a monthly donation via payroll giving and the occasional one off donation, buy Christmas cards, sponsor people occasionally, etc. I thought I was not doing enough. As I had just taken up cycling, I signed up for an open challenge event with Discover Adventure, almost a year before the event itself. I figured this would give me plenty of time to get fit (cycling 300 miles over 4 days was something I had never dreamt I could have achieved!) and to start fundraising (I thought this might be a challenge). I knew I did not have the time or the patience to be doing cake bakes, boot sales, street collections or selling my body (that might have raised 10p!), but I did want to raise a reasonable amount of money. I thought £2,000 would be reasonable and achievable.

So how did I go about this, given that I have no rich friends or family members, and wanted to spend more time on getting fit than raising money?The getting fit bit was the easy one. I enjoy cycling, so I cycled into work as often as I could (the 2011/12 winter was appalling if you remember, so this was not as often as I would have liked), I bought a rowing machine that now sits proudly in the spare bedroom, and I took part in two sportive events. I ate carefully and tried not to drink much alcohol. I did not stick to my training plan but I knew I had the fitness to complete the ride. The fundraising bit was the thing that scared me more. Even though I have raised millions as a professional fundraiser over the years, this was different and I knew it would require careful planning.

I drew up a table of gifts. I know this sounds ridiculous for two thousand quid, but it really helped. I knew my maximum level donations were going to be probably £100 and I knew the minimum might be a fiver or a tenner. I worked out how many gifts at each level I would need to reach my £2000 target. In fact I set my target at £1600 on my JustGiving page so that I knew could beat it!

I then drew up a list of everyone I know, family, friends, neighbours, contacts and everyone I have worked with in the past, including two chairs of committees I have worked with in previous jobs with whom I am still in touch. I figured they might be at the top of my gift table! I emailed all of these contacts asking for their support for me and ChildHope. I posted the fact that I was doing the ride on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I put a footer at the bottom of my work email. I talked about the ride with everyone I came into contact with.

At Christmas I sold ChildHope christmas cards at work and pledged to match the value of the cards with a donation to my fund. I sold things on ebay that I did not want and that I would not miss. This generated a couple of hundred pounds. But by far the majority of my money came in by my email campaign.

What was interesting was the way the money came in. As I have already said, my 'major gift' amounts were £50 and £100. I was surprised and delighted by the number of these I got from people who I really do not know that well! By far the bulk of my income came from the £10 and £20 donations but it was the bigger donations that were the ones that made the difference! 20 £50 donations are a far quicker way of generating £1000! I was also surprised by those who do not give! This included friends and colleagues I thought I could count on. I did not take this personally; I think many people just forget to give, even though they have every intention of doing so.

Every donation I received I wrote a personalised email. I did not think that the automated email generated by JustGiving was sufficient. I wanted my donors to feel really good about supporting me. And I actually got feedback from several that they really liked getting the personalised email!

When I had completed the ride (different blog, different time) I wrote to all my donors with a detailed description of the ride and reiterated the difference their donation would make to the children ChildHope work with. Of course I also sent them a copy of the picture of me standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, biker aloft! Again I got good feedback on this letter.

All in all I raised £2500 for ChildHope. I was proud of what I had achieved and the difference this will make to our beneficiaries. I was proud that, as a trustee, I had done something that many of my peers had not yet done.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Interns in the charity sector. A good or a bad thing?

There has been a debate raging for some time now about the use of interns in unpaid or low paid posts. This is not just restricted to the charity sector, but also the private and public sectors. I've been thinking about whether as a sector we should encourage or discourage internships. This is a controversial area, so I am sure not everyone will agree with my views! My motivation for writing this blog is not simply to muse over whether this is a good thing or not, but also to see if I can encourage organisations to develop best possible practice - because one thing is for sure, internships are here to stay. I'll state my view up front. Interns are a good thing only where the needs of the intern are given equal consideration to those of the organisation. 

It is a fact that there are more graduates in the workforce. In 1913 there were just 9,000 graduates in the workforce, whereas in 2012 the figure had increased to 408,000. As a result of this increase four in ten graduates are employed in non-graduate roles. It is therefore not surprising that there there is both a demand and supply for interns. Graduates want experience in the workplace; employers want to take advantage of this. In fact Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson has recently compiled a list of organisations using unfair or exploitative practice in relation to interns.

So what is bad practice in relation to interns in our sector? Firstly where the intern has been taken on to replace a paid post that the organisation can no longer afford. This is unacceptable and in my view exploitative. Secondly if the intern is being used to undertake boring or mindless work, that anyone could do. How are they gaining form this personally or professionally? Thirdly if the organisation provides no learning opportunities or professional or personal development. Fourthly if there is no formal beginning and end to the piece of work, and no induction. Finally where no expenses are paid and the intern is expected to fund travel to and from work or rely on the bank of mum and dad. 

So what does good practice look like. To state the obvious it is the opposite of the above! But perhaps I should be a bit more explicit. The role being given to the intern should be interesting and, if possible, project based. It should be time specific, preferably no more than three months.Objectives should be set and monitored throughout the internship. There should be personal and professional development provided throughout. This should start with an induction, during which the intern's personal needs and expectations should be identified, as should the needs of the organisation. It should end with t a final review of the intern's work, the project and what they have learnt. The intern should be assigned a mentor, or at very least a buddy, who can support them and also act as their advocate if necessary. Expenses should be paid for travel and lunch at the very least and any training should be funded. Finally the intern should have an equal opportunity to employees to apply for any internal vacancies.

I have had the experience of managing some exceptional interns and it is a joy when you find one who really gains from their experience. In many cases this has led to paid work opportunities in my own or other organisations. The charity sector is an incredibly hard sector to get into without relevant work experience and an internship is a useful way to gain this experience. I think there is a lot of ill-informed criticism of the use of internships, but I think if all employers saw them as a two-way relationship much of this criticism could be avoided.

Friday, 31 May 2013

How to manage your domineering committee chair

Have you ever had to manage a high net worth volunteer who was 'impossible' to manage? Ever had staffing issues as a result of their behaviour? Ever dreaded meetings with the volunteer? Ever avoided telling them something because you could not bear the thought of their reaction? Did they sometimes act seemingly against the interests of the charity?

Well I can say 'yes' to all these things! So if you can identify with any of these traits in your committee chair then read on!

Firstly, although it is sometimes hard to recognise and accept this, there is a positive intention behind every behaviour. In this volunteer's case they are utterly passionate about the cause, they want to raise money and awareness of the charity but they also have other motivations that are non-altruistic, and there is nothing wrong with this. What might these be? Well to start with, my volunteer wanted to enhance her social status through the connections and networks that she was able to make through her involvement with a high profile charity. Secondly her life as a volunteer and her social life were one and the same. It is about recognising that there is absolutely no problem with this, and accepting that these are motivations, but as long as they are not against the interests of the charity, why bother?

Secondly, you need to lead from the front and stick up for your staff team. In my case I actually lost staff as a result of this volunteer's behaviour and that was hard to deal with. You need to be the front person dealing with the volunteer, not delegating it to more junior staff. You need to put up with sometimes unacceptable behaviour and take it on the chin...that's what you are paid to do. You need to be the person who sometimes have to deliver bad news, and do it in a way that is acceptable to them.

Thirdly, pick your battles. If your volunteer chair is approaching the charity's corporate partners for sponsorship for their event, this will be a priority. If however they are not consulting on the choice of florist for their next event, this might not be your priority. So choose carefully what behaviour you do challenge, commit to challenging that behaviour, and be prepared to give ground on lower priority areas. But stick to your guns on the important things.

Fourthly maintain regular communication. Meet regularly with your volunteer, even if you can't bear the thought of it! It is your job to manage this relationship. Make sure that you use these meetings to update the volunteer on all relevant issues and ask them to update you. Try to enjoy the meetings rather than dread them and the volunteer will see that in you. If you are smiling and relaxed, they will relax and give you an easier time.

Fifthly, make your volunteer feel loved and valued. I always used to send a thank you card after each event my volunteer organised, and regularly send hand-written thank you letters (yes fountain pen is best!) and on occasions flowers and small gifts - nothing over the top! Make them feel acknowledged in public. Big them up within your organisation, so that your colleagues and bosses understand the contribution they are making. Make sure your CEO or Director also thank and acknowledge their work. Always talk positively about your volunteer to colleagues, even if they are a complete pain in the ass!

Sixthly make sure your volunteer is briefed properly on the work of the charity. Make sure they are up to date on all new areas of work and that they are better informed than any of their committee members. Have your senior programme staff make friends with them, and invite senior programme staff along to committee meetings, so that they are also well informed. Try to get your committee chair to see the charity's work first hand, even if that means an overseas visit. Once they have seen the work they will be even more committed!

Finally agree targets for the year up front. Meet with them at the start of the year and agree which activities they will be doing, and also be clear with them about what you can and can't resource within your staff team. Agree financial targets and agree what they have the authority to do and what they will need to run by you. Having this kind of agreement is a great reference point over the course of the year.

Does any of this ring true? The important thing to remember is not to try to change your volunteer. You never will. But you might be able to change their behaviour for the better and that can only be good for your charity, for your team and for your own sanity. Good luck and let me know how you get on.