Jane Ide joined NAVCA as Head of Member Engagement in September 2016, and in 2017 took on the role of Chief Executive for this national charity and membership organisation. She is able to draw on a substantial career leading engagement and communication at the most senior level, across the NHS, the Civil Service, and the public and private sectors.
How do you ensure you continue to personally grow and develop in a senior leadership role?
It helps if you have the sort of personality that gets bored easily because you are always looking for new input, new understanding. I always assume I can learn something from somebody else. Mandy Johnson (CEO of Small Charities Coalition) has given me two digital tools this week that I am now using. Hopefully I can share things with other people as well. It’s important to be interested in what’s happening next and not get stuck in what you used to do.
In the context of the sort of work I’m doing and the organisation I work for, there really isn’t space or time or budget for formal professional development. I don’t have thousands of pounds at my disposal to do an MBA. You have to be creative! It’s something I am talking to my Chair about at the moment. What are the gaps I need to fill and how can creatively do that? By the same token, I am having that same conversation with my staff. What do they feel they need and how do we make that work? It’s a work in progress and it should always be.
I’m very lucky that my first experience of being led in an organisation was by a really good leader. It was all about open communication and taking a genuine interest in what other people think. He used to say it was his job to think and he needed time to do that. He would carve time out of his diary and protect it at all costs and that’s one thing that I haven’t quite got the hang of yet. As a leader, if you don’t take time out to think and reflect on what’s working, you’re not going to do your job as well as you could.
There is definitely something to be said about honest and open leadership. I did a blog recently for Third Sector about mental health and gave my account and experience of panic attacks. In my early twenties I barely left the house for three years. I did think twice about sharing that because I didn’t want it to have a negative impact on NAVCA, but I think it is important to be honest and have those discussions. Mandy Johnson did a brilliant blog about imposter syndrome, which we all have!
There’s a different model of leadership that isn’t just about following ‘me’, although you do need some of that too. It’s about striking the right balance.
You have to be able to give your team and the people around you confidence, a sense of security and the understanding that you have everything under control. You don’t want your team to waste time and energy worrying about things when they don’t need to. Equally, especially in collaborative teams, if I’m not able to be open and honest I can’t get the support I need (if I’m having sleepless nights about an event I want to be able to share that!). It puts the team in a position of not being able to tell you things if you aren’t sharing with them. Getting that emotional intelligence right is really hard, but something you need to always be aware of. Protecting yourself and getting the work-life balance right is a hugely important part of being a good leader too.
Much of your team aren’t based from the same geographical location and flexible/homeworking is becoming more and more common. What is the secret to building a loyal, happy team of remote workers?
I made a really clear, strategic decision the day I found out I had got the job at NAVCA that I would be recruiting a team that was mobile, flexible and not office-based. We are a national body and we need to be able to get around easily. I also knew that would create a different dynamic. If you going to have one member of the team working remotely, it is much easier to have everyone doing the same thing. It really opened up the opportunity to make sure we got the best possible candidates because we weren’t restricted by location and that really paid off.
If you have the luxury of starting virtually from scratch as I did, you are recruiting people from the start who know they will be working this way when they apply for the job. They therefore have a desire and willingness to work this way. You have to literally equip them with the right tools for the job, which may mean making an investment. You also have to equip them with the right knowledge and understanding.
It is important to spend time early on talking and listening with a thorough induction because they will not be in the office to ask questions further down the line. You have to be really clear about what you are asking them to achieve. Regular one-to-ones and appraisals are crucial too to make sure people know they are heading in the right direction. I have yet never worked with anyone who wasn’t interested in coming to work to do a good job. People will always want to do a good job given the right opportunity.
Giving people a sense of the shared goals and vision is important. What is your individual role and where does that fit into the wider team? Going back to the honest piece, I need to be clear about my role too. Something I am just starting to work through is getting the team to a point where I am not the hub of the team with everyone linking into me. I am working quite actively on the team becoming truly collaborative and inter-dependent so that they are having relationships with one another, as well as with me. The thinking being that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’m not always going to be around and it isn’t an effective use of our time for me to lead on everything.