In today’s episode of OTMO, we are talking to Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Independent Age.
Deborah joined Independent Age as Chief Exec in October 2019. Founded over 150 years ago, Independent Age’s mission is to ensure that as we grow older, we all have the opportunity to live well with dignity, choice and purpose. The charity provides a free helpline, information and advice, friendship services through their volunteers and actively campaigns to ensure people can enjoy a financially secure, healthy, active and connected older age.
Deborah began her career in publishing and has subsequently worked in the voluntary sector for around 30 years, working with a broad range of organisations from academic think tanks to charities working on international refugee and human rights issues.
Prior to joining Independent Age, Deborah worked for Bowel Cancer UK for eleven years including ten as the Chief Executive. Deborah was awarded an MBE in 2016, in recognition of her service to bowel cancer patients and she was named Charity Chief Executive of the Year at the Third Sector Excellence Awards 2017 as well as Charity Principal of the Year in the Charity Times Awards 2018.
In this episode, Deborah shares what’s going on in her constantly churning brain, from stepping up to challenge ageism and discrimination to how Independent Age behaves like a 100-year-old startup!
She shares tips for working through any challenges (pandemics included) – breathing through the fear, keeping momentum going and how a good walk with the dog always helps!
On leadership, Deborah talks about not pretending or fobbing people off, surrounding yourself with brilliant people (who can fill the gaps in your own performance) and that there’s nothing like a crisis to bond a leadership team.
Deborah believes in our work tackling social injustice we are right to feel hurt, angry and passionate about the work we do, in her case addressing the terrible treatment of many older people in our wealthy society. But she also finds it is people that give her great hope for the future – as during her career, not least previously at Bowel Cancer UK, she has witnessed so much generosity of spirit and the astounding kindness of strangers.
Other topics include encouraging tears in the office, the hover and dive theory of leadership and “sustaining the hum” of a great team.
Date of Conversation – 02/10/2020
The Key Takeaways From This Episode[02.50] Interview Begins
[07.44] Not losing your strategy in the midst of a crisis
[13.37] Planning for the future with flexibility for crisis, pandemics, Brexit and the economy
[14.10] Learnt from working with refugees and asylum seekers – the one thing you can factor in your plans is change
[16.40] Keep on planning as the world context changes all the time
[18.02] Recruiting people who fit the context you’re in
[20.23] Wanting to do the right thing as a leader and building a brilliant organisation
[30.20] The tragedy of an elderly person ending up out of sight out of mind
[38.15] Understanding the complex challenges you’re dealing with and looking ahead
[40.20] Allowing people to have ownership and grow
[41.25] Effective senior leaders hover and dive!!
[49.38] The importance of social connections at work – especially during a pandemic
[54.24] Learning through doing and experiencing
Resources From This Episode
- Independent Age – independentage.org
- Bowel Cancer UK – bowelcanceruk.org.uk
- Bowel Cancer UK Podcast – Bowel Cancer UK Podcast