To celebrate International Women’s Day, we caught up with one of our very own inspirational leaders: Jenny Hand, CEO of Reaching People. Read about how Jenny is leading her organisation with resilience and great leadership through the pandemic, and how her role in the voluntary and community sector has been a lifeline for many others in the VCSE sector.
Name: Jenny Hand
Organisation: Reaching People
“It has been through hard work, passion, and collaboration that we have been successful in building partnerships to be able to make real impact”
Who are Reaching People, and what do they do?
Reaching People is both a charity and a registered company. It makes me proud to be part of a charity that is a true collaboration and how it was established collectively; it is a unique partnership of local member charities, and social businesses that share the same commitment and values to work together – our aim is to create lasting change and benefit people in most need.
Our aim is to create lasting change
This has truly been my dream job as it brings together everything that I have been passionate about throughout my career – equality, creating positive and sustainable change, empowering people to improve their quality of life. Throughout my career I have been a champion of equality and believe that this is not possible without collaboration and sharing – this is how I approach any new opportunity and challenge that comes my way.
What is the best part of your job? What do you think has made you successful?
My love for coordinating and facilitating new ideas and projects has meant I get to do the best part of my job every day.
My role as a CEO has meant that I have supported not only the Reaching People core team, but also other VSCE leaders through weekly network meetings, mentoring, and coaching new CEOs. The last year has been especially challenging due to the pandemic and this has had an impact on everyone – new and experienced. Our sector has been pushed to the extreme which has highlighted to others that the need for the voluntary and community sector and the services it provides has been essential for the community, and recognition of this has been slow.
Don’t jump to the easiest or most obvious course of action
In my role I have been able to coordinate with local organisations, authorities and funders to ensure support is provided where needed, and that authorities have recognised the importance of the work this sector does. It has been through hard work, passion, and collaboration that we have been successful in building partnerships to be able to make real impact.
I would attribute my success to hard work, determination, vision, and creativity.
What has been the biggest lesson and challenge in your career? How did you manage this?
Over the years challenges have arose many times in various situations. I have found that my steadfast determination and core values of equality, trust and partnership have been powerful when dealing with challenges and driving change. I believe and have seen that resilience shown through consistently displaying positive characteristics has a stronger impact than negative behaviours – and crucially this has a lasting influence for all involved.
Honesty, transparency, and a supportive environment is key for success
In my career I have witnessed the detrimental impact a culture of distrust and dishonesty has and have always been a believer that honesty, transparency, and a supportive environment is key for success in the sector, and again resilience.
What drives your passion and determination to succeed?
Again, I go back to my core values I mentioned earlier as to what drives my passion. I would also add there is a unique sense of satisfaction in seeing individuals thrive, learn, and grow especially when you have had a part to play. My determination comes from seeing the positive impact my work has on others, and I will always help others achieve a change that improves their situation or environment even beyond my role as a CEO.
How have Reaching People adapted to COVID-19? What are the main needs identified in the community?
Moving online to keep staff safe and taking the time to have conversations with people and invest in equipment, so staff are adequately supported.
In terms of provision of service, we have been flexible to respond and adapt to new opportunities and demands – linking up more across the projects to provide a holistic service for people in need. The key areas highlighted are more people experiencing food poverty, and more support is needed for families.
What advice would you give to future leaders?
- Take opportunities when they arise, not just at work but in your personal life too – learning is continuous, training and development can happen anywhere.
- Do not be afraid to take a step into the unknown. You may need to step backwards or sideways to be able to move forward.
- Be open, honest, brave and challenge yourself as well as others.
- Do not be afraid of rejection! When the time is right you will be ready, but if you do not try at all you will not succeed.
Leadership is not all about you – it is how you interact with others
- Leadership is not all about you – it is how you interact with others.
- A healthy work life balance will support your leadership skills.
- Learn to delegate and build up the staff you have. Give them opportunities and challenge them appropriately.
What three tips would you give to those starting their careers in the sector?
- Listen hard and be open to learning – nobody knows everything!
- Take a wide view of what is around you and do not jump to the easiest or most obvious option.
- Make time to reflect on yourself and others:
– What are you doing?
– Where are you going?
– What impact does this have on those around you?
Final words from our inspirational leader
I started my mission at an age when I did not even know what lay ahead; from the Brownies, to Chair of a local orchestra – grassroots leadership to CEO… I have spent all my life in the sector, and it has never failed to provide me with opportunity, challenge and reward.
The Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is vibrant with variety, opportunity, and great causes. The sector offers voluntary and paid roles at all levels just like any other business. We come across projects that are so vast and varied and this is a time when true talent, passion and knowledge is required to sustain the heart of every community through our community organisations.
Our future focus is to continue the work that we do and create a more sustainable sector so that we can continue the much-needed work to support our communities. There are many initiatives, networks, and opportunities – so next time you are looking for a career move, or a new challenge, get in touch!
For those who are already working in the sector, take a look at our leadership project for opportunities for self-development, and development of your teams from new recruits to CEO’s and Board members Leading in Leicester and Leicestershire.
If you would like to learn more about Jenny Hand you can find her on LinkedIn.
You can also connect with Reaching People through their social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with the latest.
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