I have just been appointed director, straight from the commercial sector. What would be your top tips for getting to know the third sector?
Now that is an easy one! My three top tips are:
- ruthless networking
- constant networking
The temptation in starting a new job at the top is to get your feet under the desk and concentrate on the internal workings of the organisation.
This is a mistake.
It is essential that you exploit every opportunity you can outside the organisation to meet your stakeholders, attend seminars, workshops and conferences and meet up with leading figures in the sector.
You need to be making your 'business' connections now, and get you and your organisation known. You don't do this sitting at a desk. The connections you make will help you to influence, campaign, develop ideas and win people over to your goals.
As you are from the business sector, you may well know the brilliant book by Dr Clive Morton on the fundamentals of business sustainability.
He says the key lies in "being an extrovert organisation with keen antennae sensing trends and opportunities ..."
By attending external events, you are going to be talking to people in the sector and picking up their passions and concerns, and probably a lot of gossip too. And, of course, read all you can about the sector and join your professional body.
You need to develop a campaign plan for your first six months in the post. You should discuss this through with your chief executive and get them bought in. Indeed, you should be trying to steal some of the chief executive's invitations or at least persuade them to take you along to events.
- Get yourself a trustee post in another charity or seek out a volunteering opportunity.
- Find yourself a mentor within the sector.
Don't be too cowed by some of the sector's 'political correctness' - don't fear controversy; speak out and get known.
- Finally, show your effectiveness as a professional. There are a lot of woolly amateurs around - you can show that your reputation is for delivery.
And as you are new to the sector, you probably have not come across a guide just written by myself and Hamish Davidson called Only connect - A leader's guide to networking. You can order a copy from the Acevo website at www.acevo.org.uk.
Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).
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