Sophie Tibbets: “Charity CEOs: you don't need to have all of the answers”

As winner of Charity Times' supporting leader of the year, Sophie Tebbetts from Food Cycle discusses what makes a good leader within the sector, particularly during the recent pandemic.

Melissa: As winner of the supporting leader of the year at the 2021 Charity Times Awards, what do you think made you stand out?

Sophie: FoodCycle started in 2009 with one venue and now we have over 40 projects around the UK, but our team is still relatively small. This means we all work extremely hard to make sure that tasty community meals get to our guests every week. This inevitably comes with a few stressful moments but I do the best I can to ensure that the team feels not only supported but empowered to give our communities a positive experience.

Melissa: What do you think makes a good leader in the charity sector?

Sophie: I think being a good leader in the charity sector is all about working closely with your team, recognising the individual expertise and strengths, and allowing everyone to be included and contribute.

There are so many diverse perspectives, talents and ideas that can help strengthen an organisation and being able to give an outlet for those and focus on help bring them together so that everyone has a clear idea of what it is we are all working towards makes leading a team in the charity sector a pleasure!

Melissa: As a leader, what have been some of the challenges the pandemic has brought and how have these been overcome?

As a leader during the pandemic the frequent and fast-paced changes were certainly a challenge. Ensuring that the team, our volunteers and guests felt support with the right information. Overcoming this meant lots of communication, being open for people to ask questions and ensuring that the changes were communicated in a number of different ways.

It worked by breaking down the frequent changes into smaller chunks of focus and work and ensuring that even in the fast-changing environment there was still space to recognise how fantastic everyone was doing. No-one had experienced anything like this before and I am still in awe of everything they achieved in this short period of time.

Melissa: What advice would you give to other leaders in the sector?

You don’t have to have all the answers! Being open to learning from others will help you gain trust and support within your team. People all have different working styles and ways of feeling motivated and supported.

The best thing about the third sector is that although we are all different, we are all working towards positive changes within our communities and the people we serve. If you keep this at the heart of everything you do, it makes leading a team or organisation really enjoyable.

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