Author: Susie Kay, MD of The Professionalism Group and a MemberWise Ambassador.
Choosing a consultant from the sector makes a lot of sense.
In a recent article The Guardian printed a lurid piece in their Voluntary Sector Network, as part of their ‘Confessions of a charity professional’ series, supposedly written by an individual who told us that, ten years on, he had seen the light and wished that he had been held to account and made to do some actual work for his salary. I see no professionals here. According to him, the organisation was responsible for allowing him to contribute nothing on a daily basis and, worse, was allowing people to behave disgracefully by bullying and throwing tantrums whenever they felt like it and with no expectation that management would do anything to control these excesses. He asks us to extrapolate, as he has, that the Third Sector is a shambles, limited by incompetence and comparing us unfavourably to the corporate world where everything is wonderful and everyone behaves as they should.
I beg your pardon???? I have worked in the Third Sector for decades and I do not recognise his version of the world. The organisations I have worked with and for are populated by incredibly committed and professional people who are capable of achieving miracles with the resources at their disposal.
The article has since been shared 213 times and 29 people have felt the need to comment. The comments themselves were split in tone and were equally interesting. Some responders clearly felt that they would like to offer the individual concerned some home truths while others were split between those who believe that trustees/boards still have a lot to answer for and those who also said that the article bore absolutely no resemblance to the Third Sector they had been involved with over the years. Most didn’t recognise the laxity and incompetence described and were determined to say how well things are run currently in their experience and that the article says more about the individual writing it than the sector as a whole.
But there is a tragedy here. These negligent, publicity hungry ne’er-do-wells can do so much damage to any organisation’s reputation. Granted that in this case the article was apparently illustrating small charity problems but they are, nonetheless, third sector organisations and the media are currently looking for poor or even tragic examples with which to tar everyone. Witness the hounding and damage being inflicted by the fundraising epics currently playing out on the front pages of the national press and the recent, very public and disturbing failures of some organisations.
So, if ever there was a reason to put competence at the top of our sector’s agenda then this disgraceful article is it. Professionalism demands that every employee should be responsible for their own performance and outputs. Individual employees should not be allowed to blame their organisations for letting them get away with it. Although each of us contributes according to our own abilities, the overall output of any Third Sector organisation is, and should be, driven by a range of competences all working alongside each other in harmony and in pursuit of a detailed and well understood strategy translated into an operational plan which gets results.
No organisation is without its issues but I strongly believe that MemberWise Network and those which work alongside it have some of the very best examples of professionalism and occasional brilliance which the Third Sector can offer. It may well be time to enjoy these successes in a more public arena.