Episode 24: Paul McKenzie – ENERGY and FOCUS. Leadership during the crisis.

Episode Notes

In spite of all the pressures on your team, and even when you’re separated physically, is it still possible to achieve a positive team culture?

This is the second half of my interview with Paul McKenzie, a fabulous fundraiser and an experienced fundraising leader, and the Executive Director of Fundraising and Communications from Depaul UK.

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If you’d like more powerful strategies – including one chapter on ‘Leadership During the Pandemic’, then I’d love for you to make use of my new free E-book : Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise high value income, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power

Paul’s team are doing really well right now, and I wanted to understand his approach to leadership and how that might contribute to the culture where they’re operating at this high level.

In particular, in Episode 24 we look at what Paul does to create a positive, fun energy, even in difficult times, and where we believe many charities go wrong in their attempts to celebrate success. We also explore the Power of Focus, and how he goes about deciding what to focus on strategically, when everything is moving so fast. We also touch on what to say to funders at a time when you just don’t have all the detail on your charities’ evolving strategy.

If you want to get in touch, Paul and I would love to hear from you – we’re both on Linked In, and on twitter Paul is @scotttallpaul and I’m @woods_rob.

Episode Takeaways

1. ENERGY

  • Paul pays attention to energy levels and recognises how important it is in affecting morale and resilience.
  • He believes that especially during these difficult times, it’s important to encourage positive energy and playfulness in his team, though you do need to be clear in signalling which role you are playing at any time.
  • Paul deliberately encourages a culture of celebration and fun in a variety of ways. In a masterclass on leadership and culture that they did for the Bright Spot Members Club, they explained that this was largely achieved by asking the team what kind of culture they wanted, agreeing those qualities, and then asking the team for ideas and rituals to achieve them, leading to an amazing range of fun and silo-smashing activities, which paid dividends in forging a high performance culture.
  • A key element of this now is the strong signal he sends to his team that its important for everyone to celebrate what’s going well, for instance in a Friday afternoon email that has only this purpose.
  • A crucial distinction he makes, and models, is celebrating small things, not just the big results that seem impressive. Why? Because left to our own devices, its human nature to focus too much attention on results, but as all outstanding sports coaches know, you only get results by valuing the process, the doing of small things well, day in day out.
  • Modelling celebration and switching off yourself at the appropriate time are also part of how you keep people’s energy levels going.

2. FOCUS

  • Recognise that you can’t spread your team’s efforts too thinly. Focus is power.
  • Your team is most likely to make the most of a difficult situation if they are clear on what they will and won’t give their time to.
  • But how do these decisions get made? Paul’s process is to regularly listen to his heads of team, to hear what they think the strategic options might be, based on what they and their teams are learning from their activities and conversations with donors.
  • To Paul, his job is ‘not to give direction, but to make decisions about direction.’
  • This is more important than ever at such unprecedented times, when it’s so hard to predict how supporters will react and fundraisers are learning new distinctions all the time.

Quotes

‘I really understand people’s concerns about forced fun…I’m quite a cynical Scotsman, so I often worry about over-celebrating, but in practice what I find is that if we just keep going we’re always rewarded for doing it.’

Paul McKenzie

‘Celebrate people doing the right things, not just when they get the big obvious wins. Make a point of celebrating the small steps.’

Paul McKenzie

Further Resources

There is a full bundle on Paul McKenzie and Liz Tait’s approach to high creating energy cultures – as well as dozens of other training and inspiration bundles and regular live coaching sessions – in the Bright Spot Members Club. Follow the link to find out more.

If you’d like more powerful strategies – including one chapter on ‘Leadership During the Pandemic’, then do check out my new free E-book : Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise high value income, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power