Sometimes you can work with the same team for nearly a decade without realising how to get the best out of them.
That was the experience of Jane Stafford, managing director of Child Dynamix, a regional youth charity, before she was approached by a consultancy firm that specialises in performance.
The charity had an annual income of £1.7m in 2012/13 and 90 staff on its payroll, as well as 65 volunteers. In addition to lottery grants, it earns income from contracts with local authorities to deliver youth work and community care contracts.
Stafford had her first meeting with the Community Performance Partnership early last year when, like many charity leaders, she was considering how best to enhance her team's effectiveness.
CPP, a group of HR, coaching and change management specialists, was established last year to help voluntary and community organisations to become sustainable and achieve their goals.
"I was using skills learned in my MBA to move people on in my organisation from middle to senior manager level, but it was difficult, so finding someone externally to support that was opportune," says Stafford. "I wasn't planning on tendering out a contract."
CPP works with a handful of organisations each year and offers them 20 days of tailored support. In return, it asks charities to donate 20 days of their time to support other charities it works with.
However, Child Dynamix, which delivers youth and children's services in Hull and the surrounding area, was asked to be CPP's first case study, free of charge, to demonstrate what the firm could do for the voluntary sector.
Stafford and the firm set about trying to improve the efficiency and confidence of senior staff and making the organisation more sustainable.
CPP ran coaching sessions with each of the six members of the charity's management team, including Stafford, and development sessions with the whole team. Over six months, it aimed to help the charity improve team cohesion and sustainability and worked on increasing the confidence of team members. Stafford thinks all charities could learn a lot from going through the same process.
"I have to manage my team and members of my team have to understand each other, which leads me to ask: how can I tailor their skills to our strategic plan?" says Stafford. "Following this work, I can identify the best people to do specific tasks."
Improvements to the professional confidence of senior team members has been the biggest 'win' for the charity, according to Stafford. "We are working as one team rather than me directing all the time, and that is down to confidence," she says.
CPP's services would normally have cost the charity £21,000, and Stafford says she would have found a way to afford it, if it had been necessary.
"I think the problems we had are replicated in other charities too, regardless of size, and I think many would benefit from this process."
But were the lessons learned not simply a question of common sense?
"They are common sense, but sometimes you can't spot the simplest things and it takes outsiders to help you see that," says Stafford. "We had worked well together for years, but it was only when someone challenged us that we saw how much more we could do."