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Remembering the Key and Common Purpose

I was a School Governor i.e. on the Board for a School for close to 10 years. As I was a Founding Director not only did I share in the privilege and responsibility for setting the vision and direction of the school, I also had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people – both members of staff and fellow board members. Without question I learnt from each and everyone who all brought something special and unique, but the most tangible lessons came from two particular fellow founding board members.

First was a lovely, honourable gentleman who had very prestigious and senior level experience working for organisations both in the UK and further afield. He rarely spoke of his past experiences; he just came along and used his expertise to do what was required of him with full dedication. He never dominated discussions during meetings, but he was never afraid to express his point of view – even if he was the lone voice expressing a particular opinion. He would stick to guns to the very end – clearly articulating his reasoning unless he was convinced otherwise. However, once the board voted on a decision, he would go along with the majority consensus and not one outside of the room would know that he had, had a difference in opinion.

Then there was a lovely, forthright lady who had worked in education for most of her life. As you may have already gathered, we had some very robust debates – especially before making key decisions. Everyone was encouraged to express his or her point of view and for the most part we did. Often, we would get to a stage where the lady I refer to would declare – “Hang on a minute, its all about the youngsters, what is best for the youngsters? That’s what we need to really consider!”

From that point onwards the discussion – which would have been very useful, would take on a new, focused tone. Philosophies, experiences, preferences, views on the what’s and how’s and what have you all became secondary to what would ultimately serve the interest of the students and benefit them.

These are fundamental lessons that I have learnt from people that are much older than me. In generational terms they would be referred to as Traditionalist, Maturists or the Silent Generation i.e. people born before 1945. Maybe they both represent and present values we no longer adhere to and that are rapidly being forgotten; yet I believe that with the world that we live in they become more important than ever.

I have been observing the British labour party’s leadership contest in despair. A candidate appears – as if from nowhere. He expresses his position and points of view. He rapidly gains support. The other candidates and the party establishment are horrified and the whole campaign seems to now be focused on why people should not and would be foolish to support him. I would have thought that they would have in the first instance taken the time to understand what it is that is leading people to support him and then to work harder at given people clear reasons to vote for the alternative candidates since they are convinced that he is the wrong person to lead their party.

The Labour Party’s leadership contest has not, however, brought me to tears as the closure of the UK Charity, Kids Company did. To be honest, I’d heard about someone’s negative experiences of working at Kids Company a number of years back and there were clear signs of trouble emerging in the media in the last year or so. The closure of Kids Company therefore didn’t come as a total surprise to me. I was, however, surprised at how quickly it came to a close and how little preparedness there seemed to be to support the young people dependent on the services from those in key positions who would have seen clearer signs of trouble than I who was observed from a distance. I can say whether the charity should have stayed open or not. If there were serious problems with the way in which it was being run, duty of care to the young people and to how they were being supported, then it may have been best for the young people for the charity to be closed. With Kids’ Company, of most critical concern to me was the fact that after the sudden closure the focus seemed to be s on who was right and wrong, the problems of management, the approach of the leader, complaints that may have been made etc. rather than what immediately needed to be done to safeguard the interests of the young people that may have been dependent on the services of the charity.

There are always exceptions, however, I believe that if a lot of us look closer to home – sometimes with families, but not wanting to get too personal, I’ll focus on the workplace and just say even at work similar attitudes and behaviours are often exhibited. When we go to work, do we remember the common purposes that we are all there for that extend beyond just making money. Are we really ready to pull together to achieve that common purpose even if it means at times taking the time to see things from other people’s point of view; accepting other people’s point of view; making compromises or even swallowing pride and apologising.

I know that in sports teams, everyone is working towards a common goal, the minute that is forgotten things begin to go array.

I’m in no way coming from a place of perfection, but I have been privileged to have been shown some great practices which when adopted lead to greater productivity, success and happiness.


Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, an HR firm focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation for Innovative, High Potential organisations..  She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.

Copyright 2015. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

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