By Chris Gandy
The National Disability Services NSW Conference this week focused on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which is slated to be up and running in around 500 days. As with most of these sorts of events there were a number of quotable quotes. One which struck a chord from a seasoned provider was that the “NDIS is being designed to ensure people with a disability are no longer treated as consumers but as contributors”.
If the Scheme achieves this, I my view it will be three parts of the way to a raging success. The comment also had me thinking about a post I published about 18 months ago about one of my first contacts with a person with a disability. Here is that post again….
When I was a Psychology undergraduate I was required to do a one week work experience assignment in a large mental health facility. On my first day I was asked to report to the Clinical Services Manager.
When I arrived all bright-eyed and busy tailed the receptionist directed me a large waiting room. The room was empty of people except for one fellow in his mid 30’s who was diligently sweeping the floor. I sat there for probably 10 minutes without uttering a word as the chap glided by with his broom. Then on one of his transitions past my feet he said in a confiding manner:
“Just remember it is the 28th July and you will be fine”
I knew that was today’s date but my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why and he said…
“That’s the first question they always ask you here”
I said thanks and that was the end of our conversation.
Eventually I was summoned to the manager’s office and with a mixture youthful bravado and a nervous wish that he didn’t confuse me with a new admission I not too subtly dropped something lame into the into the conversation like:
“I can’t believe how quickly July has flown. Gee its the 28th already”.
The manager chuckled immediately and said:
“So you have met Vince”
He then proceeded to tell how Vince told every visitor the same thing and that it was his way of contributing. It made him feel good.
That was my first time I seriously thought about the human need to contribute and it has stuck with me ever since.
As a species we are hard-wired to contribute to, and accept contributions from, others. And that it a pretty commendable feature of us humans (though the way some behave you might think it has been lost somewhere along the way).
We feel good when we give. Our own self-esteem goes up and on occasions we learn to appreciate what we have.
Leaders of organisations are in a great position to get a contribution fix – leading a group of people towards a shared goal is a great experience.
But with this satisfaction comes responsibility. As a leader the way you structure your organisation and develop, train and communicate with your people can have a tremendous impact on whether your staff share the same exhilaration from having that sense of contribution.
Regrettably it is an area where leaders often fail. How many times have you read an exit interview report where a departing employee has said something like:
“I didn’t feel like I was making a difference” or “My job seemed pointless”
So ask yourself:
Are our employees able to see how their daily efforts contribute to the cause?
If not why not?
And more fundamentally if there is no link whatsoever, why does that position exist in your not for profit?
Chris is the founder and a director of Cause & Effective. We guide not for profits through tricky leadership transitions – minimising the risk and capitalising on the opportunities that arise.