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EmilyPetty
Emily Petty

Nov 13, 2019, 9:20 AM

Week 3 - Grow: Give your team the confidence to tap into their talents

In the third of four articles on overcoming the cultural barriers to fundraising, Action Planning Associate Emily Petty prepares the ground for growth.

Over the past few years I’ve been putting a lot of thought into culture and have spent a lot of time reading about it. There is one word that keeps coming up again and again: TRUST

If leaders don’t encourage and trust their teams to take risks, they will never succeed.

Simon Sinek gives an example of an airport gate agent, who shouted rudely at a passenger who attempted to board the aeroplane before their row had been called. Sinek spoke up and asked the lady why she was treating the customers so badly. What she said was very telling.

“Sir, if I don’t follow the rules I could get in trouble and lose my job.”

She didn’t feel safe, she didn’t trust her leaders and, therefore, she didn’t have the confidence to prioritise the customer. Her number one priority was to protect herself.

At the other end of the spectrum, remote working is on the rise. This is considered to be a good thing for employee wellbeing but, having managed a remote team, I know that it also brings its own connection challenges. Really small things can become big barriers. For example, if you have regular conference calls it is important to notice if someone isn’t contributing and find out why. It might be that they feel unprepared, they don’t have the agenda or they don’t know who else is in the room. Small things that are easily overlooked can increase the sense of isolation and loneliness.

The value of growth mindset

Staff who trust their leaders feel safe and have the confidence to respond to situations as they see fit. This empowers them to make the most of new opportunities. For fundraisers, that means taking risks, trying new things and being supporter focused.

So if your team culture isn’t right, if there is a breakdown in trust between you and your team, you are never going to succeed in delivering your fundraising goals.

That is where growth mindset comes in. Growth mindset is a term made popular by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. She describes growth mindset managers as people who:

  • are committed to their employee development and to their own
  • notice improvements in employees' performance
  • welcome critique and feedback
  • build a strong sense of trust, connection and corporation in their teams

It is about two-way coaching and development, showing your team that you too are still developing and growing and learning from others. A work in progress. Growth mindset is a skill you want your team to develop.

How to develop a growth mindset

One way to develop a growth mindset in your team is to create a curious culture. By that I mean a culture in which staff are continually looking outside themselves for ideas, inspiration and learning.

Why is curiosity good? In a recent article from the Harvard Business Review, behavioural scientist Francesca Gino puts forward a number of key benefits:

  • Staff and leaders in a curious culture will think more broadly about their decisions and will be less likely to fall into ‘group think’.
  • Leaders and teams will become more innovative and creative
  • Conflict will be reduced as teams become open to exploring new ideas, rather than shutting them down.
  • It will create better communication, as teams explore options and seek to understand each other better.
  • Ultimately, it will improve team performance.

I admit to having been a bit fearful of curiosity in the past, nervous that it would lead to random ideas, loss of productivity and constant questioning of the status quo. I had a classic fixed mindset. But I learnt first hand that people perform at their best when using their skills alongside a deeper curiosity that helps them to explore new opportunities and work with others to achieve an end goal.

We need to shift mindset from thinking about formal training (although this is good) to a culture of continual curiosity; one where there are regular conversations about what you are learning both informally and formally, rather than waiting all year for an appraisal.

So how do you breed curiosity?

  • Encourage your team to attend networking events. Ask them “Who did you meet?” “What did you learn?”
  • Read blogs, articles and listen to podcasts. Better still, write them yourselves. Look far and wide, read, listen and watch content from outside your sector.
  • Attend webinars and Facebook live events – even if the content isn’t completely relevant you never know what you will learn or who you will connect with.
  • Read reports and trends – report back on key insights that could impact your work.
  • Follow your competitors – mystery shop, build relationships with staff members and go for coffee and lunch.
  • Celebrate and encourage ‘side hustles’ and projects that staff are doing outside of work. Talk about it as a team. Encourage them to share learning and give them time to take part in this activity. It will enhance creativity. Knowing and valuing what your team are interested in will help you to understand them better and unlock potential.
  • Cabinet of curiosity – have a virtual or physical place where people can share what they have found out while they are being curious.

There will be a number of readers who don’t want their organisation to grow; it’s big enough as it is. But growth mindset isn’t all about the physical growth of the organisation, it’s about doing your day-to-day business better, making everyday life easier and more stimulating, achieving better results with less struggle… and being kind to passengers!


Read the rest of the series

Part 1: Reboot: Overcoming cultural barriers to fundraising

Part 2: Reconnect: Overcoming cultural barriers to fundraising

Part 3: Grow: Give your team the confidence to tap into their talents

Part 4:  Re-energise: Sometimes we all need to switch off and start again


Emily Petty

Emily Petty is a fundraising and charity consultant, helping charities explore challenges and prepare solutions. Having drawn her experience from over 19 years working in communications, marketing and fundraising, Emily works with leaders and teams to identify how to manage change and maximise fundraising potential.

To request a chat with Emily about overcoming your cultural barriers, call Action Planning.