(~4.5 minute read)
Kelly Beaumont is an experienced advisory board Chair, leadership coach and strengths profiler with over 30 years’ experience in the non-profit and corporate sectors. She is the Co-Founder and Director of the Non Profit Alliance (NPA), a For Purpose organisation dedicated to building leadership capability within the Australian non-profit and for purpose sector.
At the core of NPA’s success is the belief in developing stronger non-profit leaders, to help build more robust organisations, thereby creating a more empowered sector … and ultimately greater social impact.
Join us as Kelly shares her courageous actions as a co-founder of the NonProfit Alliance.
How would you describe workplace courage?
A truly courageous workplace is one that celebrates mistakes and builds this into future strategy. One that is open to feedback and ideas from team members regardless of their role.
At their best I have seen organisations that put a mistake or innovation budget in place to trial and test ideas, as well as organisations who have KPIs for mistakes and celebrate when the number is high; this means they are learning and growing ideas.
The ability to be vulnerable is also part of a courageous culture … to be able to have a safe place to admit we got things wrong and really look at root cause without making judgements.
But this culture of courage must be integrated through the business, from the very top – from the board, executive and the broader team.
You can’t have workplace courage without courageous and authentic leadership driving this culture.
I think there are a lot of organisations who would say they are innovative, embrace change and allow mistakes, but in truth this is hard.
Most people are simply hard wired to be risk adverse and workplaces are made up of people. We also operate in workplaces that have multiple stakeholders who are invested in the organisations we work for. For the for-profit sector there are shareholders and customers, and for the non-profit sector it is even harder with multiple stakeholders including donors, boards and beneficiaries.
That being said, when you get the mix right and courage is embraced and celebrated, amazing things can happen.
What does courage look like in your workplace?
The NonProfit Alliance is a start-up for purpose enterprise supporting leadership development in the non-profit sector.
As for many great ideas NPA was created because I was told it wouldn’t work, that the non-profit sector didn’t deserve the type of leadership program that was readily available for our peers in the corporate and private sectors. And if it was to be created that the quality of the program should be reduced in order to justify the significantly reduced cost for our non-profit sector leaders.
So NPA was created out of sheer determination and the utter belief in the high quality of the leaders in the non-profit sector and what could be created by bringing our leaders together to support each other and build their capability.
My business partner, Carmel Molloy, and I, had nothing when we started, we had each left senior roles in the sector some months prior, so there was no income. We each invested $10k in the start up and went to the market to test our belief.
I remember saying at our first market testing session with 20 leaders in the room “are we ready for this as a sector?”, “are we ready to invest in our leaders just as we do in other sectors?” and “are we ready to support each other as peers, be vulnerable, share mistakes and learn?” One leader, who has actually now joined the NPA team as a Leadership Hub Chair, stood up and said “yes we are!”
That was a defining moment for the business and since then, only three years ago, we have grown to a membership of over 50 leaders with plans to grow to 120 over the next 12-18 months.
I often reflect on the lack of courage of those who said it could not be done and what they must be thinking now.
“I chose this image to celebrate the amazingly courageous leaders we have in Australia’s non-profit sector who sometimes go unrecognised.” Kelly Beaumont
Please describe 1-2 examples in which you have been courageous. What did you do? Who/what enabled you to be courageous? What was the outcome?
I think starting NPA was courageous, in a market that was still grappling with under valuing investment in the sector as a whole and certainly did not prioritise leadership investment.
We had to begin to change perceptions and advocate for change at the same time as building the business – we needed a dual strategic approach. We had to not only tackle external perceptions, but also the voice of our own sector leaders. Leaders who for years have put themselves last, who have worked in complex and difficult roles, taken reduced salaries, defended administration costs, and achieved amazing outcomes with so little.
The timing was right for change and for us to take the risk.
Research was also beginning to be released which supported investment in non-profit leaders and the benefits of this investment.
We also had people believing in what we were trying to create – leaders who supported the vision, early team members who wanted to be part of NPA and sector influencers who could see the value of the program.
So, after the series of information sessions with hundreds of NFP leaders, and the belief and commitment from some early adopters who committed even before we had a start date, we took the plunge and held our very first NPA leadership hub meeting. A meeting of 12 leaders who in April 2016 came together to share, collaborate and ultimately change the face of leadership development in the non-profit sector.
We now have 50 members, 5 Leadership Hubs and Hub 6 launching this year.
From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?
I think true courage is rare … because its hard and requires people to be ok with failure and to be truly authentic.
In the non-profit sector, leaders and teams are dealing with courageous people every day. People who are dealing with adversity, whether they be homeless, disadvantaged, or sick.
And yet when it comes to being courageous and taking risk in the business they are often constrained by risk adverse boards, stakeholder perception and their own inner voice.
We are thankfully seeing a shift, if not slowly, as leaders in the sector adapt and are more innovative, driven by increasing changes to the funding landscape. This is driving the need for more courage around innovation and adaptive business models.
This can only be great for the sector and for sector leaders as we embrace a new way of thinking and really highlight the amazingly courageous people who have chosen to work in the social sector.
If you would like to connect with Kelly and learn more about the NPA, she can be contacted at:
Kelly has been generous in her advice and support of insium’s “Leading with Courage” initiative, for which we are very grateful. When I first spoke with Kelly she also mentioned being one of the Chairs of Corragio in Sydney. I felt an immediate connection as I had wanted to name our initiative Corragio due to my ancestry. Additionally, in asking Kelly for an image that represents courage for her (above), I felt a further warm glow of connection as it is exactly the same image that we are using for “Leading with Courage.” I look forward to where our further connections will take us.