Friday, August 10, 2007

Learning through a crisis - the best way to learn

Well … what a three weeks it’s been.

I am Chairman of a local Voluntary Organisation and sadly, we, as a Board made a decision earlier this week that the organisation will have to close down after much soul searching and various discussions and meetings in the last three weeks.

This is devastating news for all involved – not least the 11 staff who run the organisation.

My Simplicity Blog is just not the right place to discuss all the intricacies involved in this.

I can say that the time I have had to dedicate to this work over the last three weeks has been incredible. Most of my paid work has been put on the back burner because the best I have been able to do is ‘bits and pieces’ at time I have been able to 'grab' that has not been dedicated to the Voluntary organisation.

Don’t misunderstand – this is not a plea for the sympathy vote.

In my opinion ‘putting in the hours’ goes with the territory as Chairman and it has been fantastic learning for me. I do however have a message to anyone out there contemplating putting themselves forward as a Chair, Director, Board Member or Trustee in a voluntary organisation.

My message is …

Don’t do it lightly.

If you want a quiet life and you want to be associated with a charity simply as an ego trip then please don’t bother to do it. You must be prepared to get your hands dirty when the going gets tough.

You will have to ‘get in there’ among the muck, blood and the bullets. You have to get alongside the staff doing the work and support them in whatever way you can. And still you will get it wrong sometimes. And then you have to bounce back and try again.

Just in the last two weeks I have sent hundreds of e-mails, I’ve made probably 100 phone calls; the Board has had a telephone conference for two hours; we have had two Board meetings each lasting over three hours; and we have another Board meeting on Monday next week.

My fellow Board Directors have put many hours in too and I have been very grateful for their support. All of us do this for no financial reward - we come completely 'free of charge.'

The Chair role seems to be where the buck stops and where people look towards for leadership.

I am not sure whether I am a good leader or not but it has felt in the last three weeks that I have been the leader by default for a variety of reasons. It is a time of the year when many people are on holiday
, so the communication has been patchy at best and that is through necessity rather than by design. People are just 'not around' at the moment – and that goes for staff as well as Board Directors.

Stress levels of Board members and staff have been at peaks and troughs throughout our crisis and at least now the decision to close has been made, people seem committed to an effective, and painless as possible, closure process.

As a result my Blog has suffered because of these other priorities ... something has to give.

I see another week of ‘busyness’ associated with this and a few weeks/months of managing ‘down’ the organisation making sure we meet all our legal obligations to our employees at a very difficult time for them.

I became Chairman about four months ago and this situation was in the background then but it has been brought to a head in the last three weeks and now we have to support our staff and the families who use our services more than ever.

I apologise to regular readers of Simplicity Blog that I have not been able to post as often as I normally do but it has been exceptional circumstances.

I am grateful to David Wike for his great posting and for keeping the ‘good ship Simplicity’ afloat in the last few days. I miss posting my thoughts and I hope to get back to normal with my Blogging in the coming days.

The greatest thing about this crisis is the learning. As long as I keep reminding myself of that I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel.

We are all learning and I am sure the 17 people involved – 11 staff and 6 Board Members with the benefit of hindsight as hugely educational – it just doesn’t feel like that for some of them at the moment.

Thanks for your patience.


David Wike said...


I am shocked and saddened by the news about the charity. Not knowing the detail of what has been going on, I suppose that I was anticipating that there might be a need to tighten belts a little. The fact that you can see no way forward other than to close completely must be desperately disappointing for you and your fellow board members, and even more so for those working for the charity and those benefiting from it. Having being part of an organisation that folded, I have some idea as to how they must feel.

My good wishes to you and all involved with the charity – I will follow up by email soon.


ruth said...

Very sad news.

I too would like to pass on my best wishes & hope matters finalise quickly for all concerned.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks both - we are now over the worst bit I think.

The closure must be handled professionally, efficiently and with support to the staff involved. Another challenge but at least the decision now enables us to focus our efforts.

Mark said...

Really sad news. For me the leader is, one who motivating their fellow peoples, giving his complete try until the result come even he don't get any benefit.So you're real leader.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Mark - appreciated.