Resilience, Friendship and Coffee… The year of 1st’s- CEO Comment

On the 13th December 2018, I started as Chief Executive Officer with Cancer Support Scotland. Starting a new job is always daunting however, being a first time CEO and someone who hadn’t quite reached 30, the nerves were kicking in. To be honest, that feeling of excitement and intensity hasn’t really gone away however I have now turned it into a positive and it keeps me on my toes and keeps me focused on ensuring Cancer Support Scotland can be the best it can.

I had a strong support network around me was important in my first year. Third sector networks, meeting peers for coffee (or just bumping into each other at events), enlisting the support of a mentor and having a tight friendship group (including my understanding other half) helped me navigate my new journey. As I reflect back, this past year was a massive learning curve where I faced a number of challenges and still managed to fit in some amazing personal events: New job, bought first home, first World Scout Jamboree, some medical challenges and the absolute joy of our life- welcoming Winston (Check out #WinstonsAdventures).

2019 has been a difficult year for the charity however it has been a year we have gone through together. We have celebrated our successes and at times I have been left thinking did I get that decision right. On reflection there were areas in which the transformation was difficult for all and I have learned from this. I kept going back to the ACOSVO theme in 2016- ‘Are we human? Or are we Leader’. Leadership is important to me and ensuring I lead a modern, transparent and compassionate organisation is at the heart of that. However, we are human and sometimes we don’t get everything correct and I know that trying to transform an organisation can be challenging for everyone.

There is no doubt a personal cost to taking on such a role however I found it vitally important to always remember that change was needed within the charity to ensure we supported the wellbeing of more people affected by cancer across Scotland. On top of this we had to ensure we were sustainable, this is still a working progress however with many irons in the fire I am confident we will see some financial stability and credibility.

On top of the numerous coffee outings with peers (thank you!), my amazing team and the networks, the one area which has ensured I delivered on the year 1 plan was resilience. At a recent ACEVO conference I sat through a remarkable session on personal resilience. Here experienced CEO’s were sharing their stories of the challenges they faced and how they got through it. As a first year CEO, this session was by far the most rewarding… it’s not just me!

Personal resilience is something I have developed over many years and my development of this came about through my Scout Leaders. If they didn’t provide me with the opportunities to develop my character, empathy and resilience I don’t think I would have survived my first year in post…

A year later, much has been achieved by the team. I could not be more proud of the staff and volunteers within the Charity. We have conducted a strategic review, restructured the organisation, refocused our efforts and rebuilt partnerships. On top of this we welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales to our amazing collaboration with Glasgow MacMillan Libraries Project where he heard about the fantastic work  volunteer Cancer Support Scotland Counsellors and Complementary Therapists do across the nation. Recently we welcomed the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport to the Calman Centre in Glasgow, again showcasing the work we do however also highlighting the need for the Scottish Government to look at investment in grassroots services which support the wellbeing of those affected by cancer.

We have big ambitions for Cancer Support Scotland, 2020 marks our 40th and we will be announcing our new strategy and a new visual brand. We are a charity on the rise again, supporting our staff and volunteers to ensure we are standing side by side with people affected by cancer focusing on their wellbeing. I’m sure year 2 will have its challenges however with coffee, friends, resilience and some fun I am sure we will get through just fine.

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