Louise McCathie has worked everywhere – from charities “so small that the marketing budget was coloured paper” to the British Heart Foundation. On the 9th of July, she kindly agreed to meet our mentees to share her wisdom in the form of a leadership Q&A with Sue Morgan.
Across the session Louise shared a huge variety of anecdotes, quotes and life lessons. Here are the three key tips we took from the session.
Know that your career won’t be linear:
Louise spoke through her seventeen year career in charity in less than ten minutes, making the point to highlight what moved her between roles – whether it was the opportunity to progress or a desire to work on more than one fundraising stream, a desire to be in Birmingham or being in the right place at the right time. She said that some of her roles she had sought herself, some roles she’d been headhunted for and some she’d “just been lucky”. Amongst other great tips, she pointed out at the end of this that her career seemed linear in hindsight – but that she’d mostly followed her gut at the time – advising our mentees to follow their hearts and not put too much pressure on themselves to achieve certain promotions in certain timeframes.
Know when to move on:
Following on from this, when Louise was asked how long she expected fundraisers to stay in a given role, she said it was important to know when to move on. She stated that in junior to m id-level roles she tended to see a “two to five year cycle of opportunity”, whereas “serious leadership positions need five years to see through properly”.
She then went on to say that there are notable exceptions to this. She warned mentees that it’s important in interview processes to spot warning signs (such as not meeting potential colleagues, potential cultures of fear, etc) and that there was no shame in leaving an organisation that wasn’t the right fit earlier than this, as long as you learn from it. She detailed one particular experience and said that though it’d been a really hard time, it taught her “about the leader [she] didn’t want to be” and how this had crystallised her experience with imposter syndrome. Which brings us to her final top tip…
Know that imposter syndrome is real, and doesn’t go away:
Louise touched on the profound impact that imposter syndrome had had on her career – and her advice to mentees to avoid this. A growing topic in the fundraising sector, we’re increasingly aware how hard we all try to please everyone – and Louise was able to track times this had held her back. She encouraged the room to praise themselves more – to keep a bank of positive feedback and small wins – and to ensure they had a tribe around them.
Louise detailed that imposter syndrome scales as you rise within an organisation – particularly when you become reliant on a single person for feedback – and encouraged us to hold on to the feedback we get from others around us (peers, supporters, reports) to get around this.
With scores of other pearls of wisdom – from the importance of hiring on behaviours rather than experience to the importance of having a self outside of work – we know that this was an incredibly useful session for our mentees and hope you’ve got something from it too.
Many thanks to Andy King for reporting on the seminar day and writing this blog for us – it’s the first in a series of three from Andy on the Tony Elischer Foundation summer seminars which all mentees on our programme are invited to.
If you would like to be involved in the programme and learn from our brilliant mentors, think about applying to join the next programme. See www.tonyelischerfoundation.org for more details.