Tag Archives: community

My 5 top digital tools

My 5 top digital tools I use for (UK) business are;

1. Contracts Finder www.contractsfinder.businesslink.gov.uk- For organisations that are ready to contract with local and central governments to build their income generation, Contracts Finder is a good way to find opportunities, to see what the government is buying and to set alerts to keep you updated on government buying.

2. Yortender www.yortender.co.uk – the Yorkshire and Humber procurement sites for local authority opportunities, you can set up your organisations profile, search for local opportunities and set up alerts to make sure you have up to date information on new contracts.

There are a variety of procurement sites for your area. Find them by googling ‘ (your local authority) e-procurement’.

3. Funding Central http://www.fundingcentral.org.uk/ – is a useful site for finding funds and updates on new contracts. It’s not always as comprehensive as it could be, but it is improving and definitely a good starting point for your funding searches.

4. Dropbox.com – this is a great storage and file sharing option, useful either as an individual or as a team. I use it everyday for file storage, and when I’m working on specific projects I can file share with the teams to make sure everyone who needs the information has access to it. You can start with a free storage option which is ideal for cash strapped third sector organisations.

5. Google Drive http://drive.google.com – another file sharing option that is really useful, particularly when you have a team putting information together for a project or a bid. You can create and share presentations, drawings and forms which has proved a great addition for working with remote teams.

Also Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram are the best ways of keeping in touch with friends, family and having a creativity fix!

What horses have taught me about being a good leader!

What horses have taught me about being a good leader!

I’ve been horse mad since a very early age, and I was finally allowed riding lessons at 8 years old.   The first few sessions were a bit shaky, with a few nose dives as I fell off on a couple of occasions, but I was determined this was my sport. Although I was not allowed my own horse until I was 15, I made maximum use of everyone else’s, and was soon competing.

At the time I was totally unaware of the skills I was developing and it’s only now, 30+ years later that I appreciate what horses have taught me about being a good leader.  When I first started in a leadership role it never occurred to me that being around horses could impacted on my career.  More recently my new horse has reminded me about being a good leader.  Here are some examples;

Preparation and Planning:

There’s a lot of work involved in caring for horses, and this can be less or more according to the type of breed.  For example a slinky thoroughbred needs more care than a robust cob type due to their different genetics and origins of the breed.  I’ve benefitted from the company of cob’s, thoroughbred’s and anything in between, over the past 36 years.

Planning all the necessary requirements of a horse into my already hectic day is an absolute must.  My children and my business activities also have to take priority, which means everything has to be planned and organised to perfection.  My horse would not forgive me if I failed to make time for the gallops or arrived late with her tea, and my family are not too great when hungry either!

The planning process includes everyone who needs to be involved, whether I’m planning the business requirements, family activities or horse duties, those who play a part will be included in the planning. I make sure I am clear and concise in sharing my expectations and I always double check everyone is prepared and understands their part, no matter how small.

Understanding Personality:

In the equine world the difference between the personalities of mares, geldings and stallions is well documented, suggesting that geldings can be managed, mares will negotiate, and stallions rule the roost!  However the personality of the horse is actually not so stereotypical, for example some geldings refuse to accept the lower status, and mares often have days when negotiation is not on the agenda.

Training ex race horses and unbroken horses has helped me to understand that there is so much going on inside someone’s head that we do not know about.  With people, we expect to be told they are having a bad day (how many of us will admit that to the boss?), whereas horses will not vocalise their feelings, apart from a whinny when they’re happy to see you carrying breakfast. It’s up to us, as leaders, to feel the changes, learn empathy and to be observant, look out for the signs of what colleagues are feeling.

Understanding mood swings and how personality plays a big part in leading teams is vital to good leadership, with a good leader having the ability to read the atmosphere, pick up on body language and distract away from major issues.   Taking time to learn about personality and how different types of personalities interact with each other can make major improvements in productivity and reduce the fight for power (either in the board room or in the paddock!).

Build confidence to improve performance:

I’ve spent many hours repairing ex racehorses who have experienced hectic athletic careers, and suffer mentally as well as physically from their extreme workloads.  Working with a horse to build trust and confidence through a safe environment helps to reduce the damage and stress, providing a nurturing environment to make subtle changes and improve performance.

I set achievable targets and allow for mistakes to build confidence.  Allowing time for practice of new skills or new ways of working, within a non judgemental environment, will nurture and build confidence. The smallest change should be rewarded immediately, increasing the move towards improved performance.    Good leaders use rewards effectively and genuinely, encouraging small steps of change to improve performance.

My latest horse love project has almost reached a year with me, straight from the race  track to my caring, empathic family, where she has repaired, grown in confidence, and learnt a whole new world of work and fun.

I have been lucky to work with some fantastic teams, both in the equine world and in business. I’ve watched them out grow their confidence issues and go on to achieve great careers. I’ve come a long way from those days of my first few riding lessons, and although falling off is still part of the action, my leadership skills are on top form.

I aim to be learning from horses for a long time into the future.

Reaching Communities and making a difference

I do feel inspired when I look through videos like this one. These little clips are a fascinating reminder of why we get involved in community activity, and spend all night writing funding bids!

This is a fantastic example of how organisations can really change lives.

Well done to all!

With the most recent welfare to work programmes that I’ve been involved in over the past two years or so (it may well be a lot longer since the early planning days, but life whizzes by in such a rush these days that I can’t keep track of time!), it seems there is a lot of debate about whether or not work placements and volunteering is of any use.

I’ve always encouraged my children to volunteer and try work placements because of the three main factors. 1) It helps to develop a whole range of skills; 2) It gives something back to the local communities; and 3) It makes you feel good about yourself.

I’ve heard people talk of volunteering and work placements as ‘slave labour’, ‘unethical’ and ‘pointless’,  but this is only from people who have not participated themselves.  Does that make a difference to a persons outlook? Actually experiencing the outcome or activity?

My volunteering efforts have always been positive experiences, working with like minded people to support a cause.  I’ve carried out work experience as part of almost every job I’ve had or qualification I’ve trained for, as an excellent way to build my skills and experience, learning on the job. I wouldn’t have the skills now if I didn’t put the effort in then.  It’s all about building blocks of experience.

When I look at all the great work being carried out in our communities, I feel a sense of pride, but also a sense of sorrow for those who will not allow themselves to take part, lost in their worlds of ‘self’. Hopefully clips like the one at the start of this blog will remind us all that there are some fantastic projects out there making a real difference to the community.