Stephen Covey’s timeless classic text has still a place and deserves our attention in spite of its age, particularly where the human resource in the voluntary non-profit industry is concerned. It cannot be denied that there is evidence of discrimination by comparison with the for-profit sector based on career prospects, earnings and functional ability. Whether we like it or not, those of us working predominantly in roles depending on voluntary funding without the expectation of measurable economic benefits do not receive the same recognition in order of importance as our incentive based counterparts working for commercial and public sector organisations. This is reflected in the employment choices of millennials, as well as the attitude of decision makers and influencers. Their opinion is influenced to some extent by a perception, sometimes warranted, that voluntary organisations are functionally less efficient and randomly operational in their direction, management and administration. To dispel this myth can be difficult if the majority of us work longer hours for less reward than comparable business executives and public servants, in our case with limited resources and without the full-time support of owner/directors and professional advisors. The ability to improve our image and with it the recognition we deserve requires some self-education without the need for a formal qualification, however desirable. Stephen Covey’s seven timeless lessons could be a preferred option.

Be Proactive –Take the initiative. Don’t wait for things to happen. Make them happen (Provided you keep your board in the picture and obtain prior approval).

Put First Things First – Prioritise what is important, not just react to what is urgent. (This can be difficult, but is achievable in being more assertive with external demands)

Think Win-Win – Consider the impact of your actions on all stakeholders, how you deal with superiors, subordinates and peers and how you handle conflict. (How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, another timeless classic, provides all the answers)

Begin with the End in Mind –Define the outcome before you create the process. (Begin any major activity with a thorough plan, giving consideration to all the alternatives);

First seek to understand and then be understood – Don’t offer solutions or assume your approach is the best. (Understand the problem first before finding a solution);

Synergise – This is team effort on steroids, working with, influencing, coaching and guiding people. (Get everybody on the same page and suitable prepared for the task);

Sharpen the Saw – To stay on top of your game calls for constant self-improvement to have skills and knowledge that is relevant and current. (Keep abreast of new developments).

In essence all the above are leadership traits that have a place in the voluntary sector and place the practitioner at a par with colleagues on comparable career paths in other industries.

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