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My turn to lead

My turn to lead

leadershipAs a people-focused profession, fundraisers have a natural advantage as managers: we understand that people drive our projects, and that
success begins with the people that work in our offices, move our mission forward, and communicate our messages externally in not-for-profit workplaces everywhere.

If we are good managers, we think about the connection between these two things – people and projects – and how we can support our staff so that they can contribute as fulfilled, and unique members of our teams.

I sat down with Britt-Mari Sykes, PhD who is a counselor and senior coach in career development at Career Coaching International (CCI) based in Ottawa to talk about how to get the most out of your development team.  I was reminded during our conversation that we must all take the time to work with our people, to connect with them at the most human level. THIS is how we build an amazing team of individuals who, as Britt-Mari so aptly puts it, “are engaged in their own personal striving.”

So where do the seeds of a good team come from?

It all starts with me

Britt-Mari reminded me that leadership starts from within. “People know when their team leads are incredibly enthusiastic about what they do,” she says. “They notice if you’re positive, if you’re human, if your personal values are aligned with the organization’s mission. It’s going to show.”  Her years of experience working with senior executives in the corporate world inform her belief that managers must have the “humility to delegate”  and be able to see themselves as human beings, full of  life experience, and accept themselves as “being wonderfully imperfect.” She coaches her clients to be gracious with themselves, and to use humour in the workplace.

 Get to know your people

So you’ve decided it’s your turn to lead, and you are ready to engage in a two-way dialogue with your team. How do you get to know them? Rather than asking what their strengths are – a common question in interviews – Britt-Mari advocates for a more descriptive approach. “Ask people for illustrations: examples from their work life where they have felt successful or where they have accomplished something that made them feel like a contributing member of the team,” says Britt-Mari. “Take the time to understand their value system. What’s important to them, and how their personal value system might intersect with the mission of the organization? You have to understand the whole person.”

Britt-Mari advocates taking people where they are at in their lives. “Young people have such incredible passions. Taking the time to explore their ideologies will further your understanding of the whole person,” she says. Britt-Mari believes firmly in flipping the conversation. “Ask them as a manager ‘What do you want to develop over the next few years? What could this place give you so that you could have the opportunity to become a real contributing member of this team?’”  Her work with young career-seekers has also highlighted this demographics’ desire to be mentored.

Mentors can come from your more senior staff. “These individuals have a wealth of functional experience and opinions that is really wonderful to include in your team dialogue,” says Britt-Mari. “They have lived through trends, they have seen so much. Take the time to listen to their professional stories.”  Starting with the positive is also important. “Ask your team about the most delightful moment of their week. Were there any surprises, any situations that made you feel inspired, or stimulated by your job?” says Britt-Mari. “Often we think of ‘time with the manager’ as time to talk about all the things that are wrong. Try sharing some highlights: don’t forget to share yours too.”

People and Projects

Given today’s workplace pressure on budgets, targets, and plans, it’s hard to carve out time for people to interact on basic human levels with each other. Balancing these two requirements is one of the signs of a great manager. “Ask yourself: can I be flexible with my people, and still get the work done? Can I customize my workplace to accommodate and include different types of individuals?” says Britt-Mari.

Great managers love people, and love melding these ingredients together into the right recipe. “Being attentive to the connection between people and projects, and articulating your approach to your team is key. Everybody has something to offer­­ ­- contributions will be different from individual to individual. Your goal as a manager is to hone in on how they can contribute. That’s how you have a fulfilled, dedicated staff member,” says Britt-Mari.

Bringing together the work and the people: a winning recipe for your amazing team.

Flickr photo credit: Egorick