Tuesday 7 July 2009

So what's in a name? Benn and Bubb

I hope we are not about to embark on another game of "what shall we call ourselves"? Not content with the diversion of expenses, some appear to want to move onto a spot of navel gazing following the comments of David Cameron. I guess anything other than actually thinking about how we move a sector through a recession into recovery and braced for public spending cuts.

I think the term third sector is good partly because it avoids all those arguments about whether we are social enterprise or community, voluntary or charity or non profit or civil society. I've probably used them all in my time. In other European countries people use different terms so I go with the flow. Whatever. Will a single life be improved by changing our name?

As you have probably noticed we in ACEVO like the term third sector. But that didn't mean we wasted time or money on moving from "ACEVO" to "acets". And we won't change it with the next turn of the fashion wheel and become acecs or acenp or acevcs or .... but you get the picture.
Is this a debate that will grip the public imagination ? Will anyone care?

So we will be taking a rain check in ACEVO on this and get on with the job. I had an email recently from a prominent sector figure who asked "is there anything that ACEVO is not leading on at the moment?". A huge compliment. But very much a compliment to a highly talented and dynamic staff. If you look around at what is going on, it is ACEVO staff at all levels who are involved and getting stuck in. They have a level of enthusiasm and creativity that is inspiring for a CEO. And the sector has noticed that talent at the many meetings and events, the consultations and articles and in the sector press.

Any CEO knows that part of the leadership job is to catch, retain and motivate talent. I've come to realise that old fashioned sterile public sector type approaches to recruitment can be fairly useless in catching talent. You need to search. (Using headhunters like Tribal for the Top Jobs to talent spot.) And when you have netted a brilliant person you make sure you coach and develop them. I'd argue it has been one of the secrets of my success leading ACEVO. That, and being able to move on people who are not performing. You cannot afford to carry passengers if you want a top performing organisation. If nothing else it really gets in the way of being able to motivate and promote the talent you have hired.

It means stepping back and allowing your people to lead as well. Be in the press. Speak at conferences. Be the front person. That is why you will see ACEVO people much in evidence and not always the CEO!

On Friday it was Tony Benn at Kensington Town Hall. Last night Prince Charles at Clarence House, but I admit of the two events Tony Benn stole the show. I was speaking with Tony at the 25th anniversary celebrations of "Staying Put", a plucky West London charity dedicated to supporting old people in their homes rather than in care. It was rather a thrill to see the printed invites proclaiming - "Guest Speakers, Tony Benn and Stephen Bubb". I was but a warm up act. Benn was spellbinding. A great orator of charm and wit. He makes his political points with aplomb and conviction. It was a privilege to speak with such a true star. He had the audience eating out of his hands. And at 83 shows there is real wisdom in old age. He announced he was in favour of huge spending cuts.....Trident, ID cards etc. He has a point!

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