I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately. Why’s that? Because, after four years of becoming pretty darn good at what I do, 2015 will bring with it the next big learning – in a few months, I’ll be getting my very first full-time direct report.
It may be surprising to some, but I’ve never managed anyone in all my working years. I’m terrified.
Luckily, life sometimes hands you exactly what you need in that moment.
I’ve been so excited over the past few weeks to witness the growing conversation started by Tony Elischer and Rory Green at this year’s IFC (broadcast half way across the world to me through the awesome webinar hosted by Rebecca Davies).
If you haven’t been following, Tony and Rory have identified a crisis in non-profit leadership – as a sector, we’ve failed for decades to properly nurture those in more junior roles to the point where job-hopping has become the norm and charity growth has subsequently suffered. People feel unfulfilled, and they’re leaving.
So I took Tony and Rory’s pledge on their newly created Grow Be Value website, but I’ve also been thinking deeply about how I can personally contribute to the solution in a meaningful way going forward.
I imagine constantly the type of ‘boss’ I’d like to be. I’m so fortunate to have met many exceptional role models since stepping into the fundraising sector.
My own bosses over the past few years seem to believe in me far more than I believe in myself. They fill me with confidence, while being just hard enough to please so that my head doesn’t over-inflate.
My first manager really took my passion for fundraising seriously. I wasn’t the most talented person in the office, but every single request to attend a conference, webinar, write for an outside blog, meet a fundraiser I admired – any interest I showed in the sector was immediately, whole-heartedly encouraged and explicitly trusted. I felt so supported by my boss; it was almost as if they were as invested in my career development as I was. And this had nothing to do with my long-term future with the company. Visa regulations meant that the investment in my growth was simply because they cared and wanted me to succeed. I’ll never forget how that selflessness made me feel – worthy.
There have also been countless ‘non-bosses’ – those in the fundraising sector, seasoned but open to sharing their knowledge with me, and encouraging me in everything I do. Toronto has an especially good community for this, and I could go on for hours about how each person, often unknowingly I’m sure, made an incredible impact on my love of this sector early on.
Not every moment of the past four years has been sunshine and roses, of course. There have been those who tried to put me in my place at the bottom; who told me to shrink out of the spotlight until I’d ‘raised some real money’. But perhaps knowing how this felt will help ensure I never treat anyone like their ideas and opinions aren’t valid.
An article I read and saved a long time ago gets re-read often when my nerves get the better of me regarding leadership. On Being A Boss offers poignant insight into exactly the type of boss I hope to become (and it’s so clearly written by someone from my own generation). I feel like my first manager perfectly embodies this exact description and I urge you to read the article in its entirety. It’s too good to summarize, and it’s pretty short anyways. Go now. I’ll wait.
I also recently learned about The 70 Percent Rule, which makes so much sense and is such a valuable lesson for so many fundraisers. The rule goes “…if the person the CEO would like to perform the task is able to do it at least 70 percent as well as [s]he can, [s]he should delegate it.” How many of us think that if we want something done right, we have to do it ourselves? (“It’s just easier that way.” Right?? Or “It’s quicker for me to just do it myself than to explain it to you.”) But that’s how bosses get too busy to manage effectively (short tempered, dismissive, scattered and time-poor) and reports feel unappreciated, unchallenged and untrusted.
When I imagine my future report, I can only try every day to make fundraising as fun, rewarding, challenging, and fascinating as was done for me. I’ll hope the enthusiasm and passion rubs off, and fingers crossed it’s matched and sent back my way two-fold.
I hope this answers your call, Rory and Tony, in a sense at least. Changing leadership in our sector starts with building leaders. Thank you for inspiring me to strive to be a great one.