Mark Winder is the CEO of Goalball UK. Goalball is a Paralympic team sport for people who are blind or partially sighted. He is presently leading the charity in transforming the lives of blind and partially sighted people through goalball. Their mission is to be world-leading in promoting and providing sporting opportunities for blind and partially sighted people and to make goalball a universally recognised sport in the U.K.
Non-Profit Leadership Lessons
“Will you write a blog on non-profit leadership lessons?” asked a former colleague.
“Wow,” I thought, “I’ve not been asked to do that before.” The person in question was a very clever marketeer who I learned a lot from. But not enough, as they left the organisation I was working for to take up a better opportunity.
I have a strong desire to help people and a great deal of respect for the person who asked me, so I agreed. I then spent three days considering (panicking) about what to write and not wanting to come across as pretentious know it all.
But here goes…..
Lesson 1: Learn From Others
We have two ears, two eyes and one mouth. I try to listen and look, to learn. Learning from people helps you to make good decisions and create a successful culture.
I have held several roles within education and third sector rugby league and I like to think I have learned how to, and how not to, behave in each and every role. These learnings have come from cultures and individuals. Have I made mistakes? Yes. Have they damaged me? Yes. However, ultimately, they have made me a better leader.
I am in the fortunate position to be a CEO. I feel strongly about the use of the word ‘leader’ as opposed to ‘manager’. I try to lead the teams I work with. I watch and listen to the team around me and we make decisions together.
I believe if you are the cleverest person in the room you are in the wrong room. The ability to draw on people in your team has to be seen as a skill to master and you need to feel comfortable doing so.
Yes there are times I need to make final, unpopular decisions. However, I make decisions I think are right. I try to look at the many outcomes and unintended consequences of decisions I, or we, make.
Lesson 2: Don’t Be Pretentious
Adages become so because they are generally true. I have heard many and there are learnings from them. However, I am also mindful of a coming across in the wrong way. Melvyn, the misanthropic main character in ‘As Good as it Gets’ said, “People who talk in metaphors should shampoo my crotch.”
Should one listen to a fictional character who is unlikable to the point of offensive? Generally, no. However, everyone says things you can learn from. When you think about some common overused business phrases:
‘Let’s tee up a meeting’
These have led to people like Bob Mortimer mocking them on his hilarious sketch featuring the Train Guy.
By all means do these things. They are good business practice. Just don’t say them. In my opinion it makes you sound pretentious. Be genuine. Be honest. People respect this.
Lesson 3: Be Honest If You Don’t Know The Answer
I started my career as a teacher. I was clearly told, “You will not know all the answers to all the questions.” I didn’t. How did I deal with it? I was honest. I would say. “I am not sure, let us find the answer together.” This led to respect. And, guess what? It works with everyone. Be honest.
Going back to the blog challenge from my former colleague. He said, “Can you focus on finance?”
Finance. A thing, a word, a department, a team that has struck fear into me. Why? Because they talk in their own language. However, another person said, “If you need some plumbing doing in your house get a plumber. If you do it yourself it will end up costing you more money repairing the damage.” This is, of course, obvious. So I recognise finance is an area of development for me. Maybe it always will be. Therefore, the greatest advice I can give is to make sure one of the clever people you surround yourself with is a Finance Director. Listen to them, learn from them, trust them. But also challenge them.
Lesson 4: Take Time To Reflect
I have also learned, the hard way, to take time for me. In a leadership position, time is needed for contemplation. I neglected to allow for this and burnt myself out and made myself ill. I now try my hardest, although am still learning and sometimes fail, to put in the diary time for me to consider the myriad of problems we are dealing with. I also speak to people about these problems.
Another good friend signs off his emails with ‘Take and Give Care.’ Not a bad way to live your life. Whatever business you are in!