The passion, determination and creativity of social entrepreneurs are qualities to be celebrated. They are driving the growth of the sector, and broader social change.
My experience as co-founder of a coaching and training social enterprise, and in coaching leaders and teams in organisations, has taught me the critical importance of sustaining these qualities in the long-term – particularly in the face of complex challenges like accessing finance to scale up, managing cash flow, or recruiting and retaining the right people.
Most social entrepreneurs have shown they have the capacity to deal with tough challenges, otherwise they wouldn’t have got their businesses off the ground in the first place. But we all have our breaking points under pressure – in the worst cases leading to total burnout or going bust.
So how can you and your teams sustain energy and inspiration year after year, even when the going gets tough? That’s what I’ll be exploring in this blog series. I will set out three key foundations:
- authentic vision and leadership;
- mental resilience;
- strong relationships.
Starting with the first: authentic vision and leadership. Every business needs a clear vision to provide ongoing focus and motivation to its people. This is particularly so for a social enterprise, as delivering on its social mission is usually as important as the need for revenue. So it’s vital to ensure your vision and mission statements fully and accurately reflect your original inspiration. They should be clear, heartfelt expressions of the social impact you want to achieve and why. Crucially, they should feel authentic and uniquely yours – rather than a worthy but bland general statement that you can’t really connect with.
On the theme of authenticity, let’s turn to leadership ethos. An easy trap to fall into, particularly in challenging times, is to think you must master new leadership models or skillsets. Of course there are always useful new tricks to learn. But often striving hard to reach a ‘corporate’ ideal can leave you feeling stressed and exhausted – preventing you from thinking clearly and acting decisively.
It’s far better to lead naturally, as yourself, based on your own distinctive leadership style and inspiration – trusting you’ve got what it takes to succeed. I’ve seen this many times in my work with leaders and teams: things run more smoothly when people play to their strengths and make space for their completely human imperfections.
None of this means that you should be complacent or resistant to learning and change. Successful social enterprises adapt to their environment – shifting focus and strategy, and evolving their business model. I’ll be exploring exactly this in more depth in my next blog, in the context of my second foundation – mental resilience.
Tim Segaller will be running a workshop on ‘Sustainable leadership and team-work in social enterprise’ at the Social Enterprise Mark Conference on 20th June 2019. Book your conference tickets here.
To find out more about Tim and his leadership coaching and training, go to www.enlivenedminds.com