Lorna McCallum’s 25 year career within the private sector gave rise to her passion about all the amazing benefits communication and employee engagement can bring to organisations. So much so, that in January 2014, she setup her own company which specalises in helping organisations manage change through communication-based strategies. That company is called Elephant Intelligent Communications.
I am a woman in my late 40’s. For about six months now, I’ve been thinking I’d like to become a board member of a third sector organisation. The main reason? I’m keen to offer support and assistance to a cause that’s close to my heart – mental health in the workplace. The other reason? Not quite so altruistic, but I’m in the process of setting up my own business. I believe being a board member will give me some real up-to-date insight into the kinds of challenges individuals and organisations face.
The big question is – what do I have to offer?
The introvert in me (who’s definitely in charge today) wants to start with a list of why I’m not suitable. The word ‘Manager’ has never appeared in my job title, far less ‘Director’. I have worked in the private sector for over 25 years (with a little bit of academia thrown in). My only experience of working in the third sector, was for an all-too-brief three year period back in 1990. The differences in terminology sometimes confuse me. In the private sector I’m a consultant. In the third sector, Advisor or Facilitator sounds better – less corporate. I have only a basic grasp of all things financial. I could go on.
Now that I think about it though – there are three qualities that I do possess in abundance. The first is passionate curiosity. I like the term. It comes from an Albert Einstein quote “I have no special talent – I am only passionately curious”. It formed part of my talk to about 100 postgraduate and MBA students last week on the high and lows of writing a dissertation. My particular passion is for individuals and organisations to communicate better. That’s why I gave up a well-paid job in the private sector and went to university for the first time in 2009. It’s why I spent over a year researching and writing a dissertation looking at the importance of communication and employee engagement and organisational change. It’s why I’ve set-up my own business – because I want to help organisations see the benefits that communication and employee engagement brings.
Passion means that I give 100% to whatever I’m doing. My motivation levels last far longer.
The second is I am also a genuine people person. A work colleague once described me as the glue that held the department together. I soothe tempers and disagreements by firstly listening (a lot) and then suggesting options. I go out of my way to help people. Not because I’m looking for something in return but because I genuinely like to help people. I believe in not just talking the talk but walking the walk. A friend has set-up a campaign group calling for all retailers to stop selling energy drinks to children under 16 (it’s an emotive topic right now). She asked if I would help her with the communications. There is no budget. I agreed and now spend roughly a day a week putting together promotional packs, spreading the word around my business contacts and asking for sponsorship.
Finally, I am receptive. I actively listen to what people have to say. I like hearing new ideas, new ways of doing things. I also ask for feedback. I wrote a summary report on the skill sets required by governance practitioners in the Scottish third sector. I conducted interviews (only four I’m slightly embarrassed to admit – but the funding was minimal). I wrote the draft report and asked for feedback. Some of it was positive. Some of it wasn’t.
I re-examined the content – was my lack of knowledge of the third sector painting a skewed picture? The answer was yes, in parts. I took on board the comments that I could and explained why I couldn’t take on others. I am happy because I acted with integrity.
That’s me in a nutshell. So, although I may not know a lot about the third sector, I have a great capacity to learn. Skills can be developed (finances would be a good one for me to start with) but it’s who you are deep down that I think can make a difference to any organisation.
Am I right? Feedback would be most welcome!