1 Ellen reflects on the unknown

Please listen to the latest instalment of Ellen’s story.

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Well, I've been in charge of Family Time for a year now. I tend to be quite hard on myself and demanding of the people I work with. I know sometimes I'm teased for not praising people enough. And it's only because I expect the most from people and don't believe in this exaggerated praise stuff, high fives and motivational speeches and-- anyway, we've all worked hard. We've won a couple of important council contracts. Whilst also keeping ahead on our private fundraising.
And we're not the same organisation that we used to be. We are more professional, I think. Which is not a bad thing, right? I mean, the thing about voluntary organisations now is, they have to be able to be good across the board. Because you never know when one source of income is going to run out. But I've been struggling, struggling to find my voice really, in meetings and things around the office.
It's not that I think we haven't done well. I do. We have done really well by anyone's standards. It's just-- you know sometimes you can just feel that you could be doing something differently. And when I first came to Family Time, it was such a homely place, like-- I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's true. It was really like we were part of the community here, like embedded and integrated. And we really knew everyone on first name terms. And people didn't find us threatening at all. And I'm wondering now, is it that we've become too much like the professionals, that people see us this way now?
I've tried to talk to other people in the office about what they think about it, and some of them are more local than me and have been around more than me. I've tried talking to some of our trustees too. Our volunteers just get on with it. They're great. But it's almost like, I've got them all too well trained now, you know? They're so, so diligent, and heads down in the work, and hitting those deadlines, and coming up with ideas that I know will bring in the funding and so on and protect our position. I know it's because they're brilliant, and they're great at their jobs. I just-- I can't quite put my finger on it. Do you see?
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As you have just heard, Ellen is rightly proud of the work her organisation has managed to accomplish in the few years she has been in charge. The organisation has professionalised and the staff are now masters at gaining funding. Yet she still feels uneasy. You can hear that in the pauses and re-directions in her speech. Our view is that such uneasiness is actually healthy, something to confront and build upon rather than to wash away. You will now move on to think about how you can work with language to explore the unknown in leadership practice.

2 Language, identity and exploring the unknown