Designed for the 21st century, Fifty Lessons has developed a comprehensive and compelling resource of management and leadership lessons from some of the world’s most successful business leaders.
Communicating Through Uncertain Times
In uncertain times communication with staff is doubly important – even if there is no update to give them on what they already know. People appreciate a leader who is honest about the lack of news, so keep communicating even through difficult times.
Barbara Stocking CBE ..Oxfam is one of the most innovative .. NGOs, being creatively led by Barbara Stocking, its director...With an already distinguished career in the National Health Service behind her, Barbara is now bringing her talents to bear on the interface between welfare and development. She brings to the development world a pro-active, impassioned and multi-dimensional imagination. With an analytical perspective and a 'can-do' take on leadership, Barbara believes in the importance of bringing out the resourcefulness and capacities of people who often live on the edge, materially and socially.
In her varied work environment, flexible engagement is a key resource. For example, at one moment , she will be engaged in detailed discussion with the Director of the International Monetary Fund and 24 hours later Barbara will be in the middle of a field in a West African country, being followed by a group of smiling, curious children who are wondering, what is this foreign visitor looking for...
So what do the staff on the ground think in the UK think of all this management guff - my mole sends me the latest email from Barbara, below the fold, -
I have just read Oxfam's Barbara Stocking's latest letter to her
staff/volunteers. So horrified by her patronising view that women from the
south need to be mentored by business women from the north. It's a bit odd
that the chief executive of a development NGO should assume that women from
developing countries need to be mentored by British business women. Did it
enter this foolish woman's head that perhaps these business women with whom
she was rubbing shoulders in 10 Downing Street the other day might need a
bit of mentoring by women from the south instead?
If anyone is damaging Oxfam I am afraid it's Barbara Stocking. I wonder
whether Oxfam is past its sell by date, reading the musings (below) of its
chief executive officer!
If you can read through her email without wanting to slap her round the head with a kipper you have a more tolerant attitude than I have.
Subject: A letter from Barbara Stocking
*A LETTER FROM BARBARA STOCKING, CHIEF EXECUTIVE *
*TO ALL STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS*
Please share with all your colleagues who might not have access to e-mail.
Esta é uma carta da Executiva Chefe da Oxfam, Barbara Stocking. Para
receber uma tradução em português, por favor enviar um email para
Esta carta viene de la Directora Ejecutiva de Oxfam, Barbara Stocking. Si
la quiere leer en castellano, por favor enviar un correo electronico para
Ceci est une lettre écrite par Barbara Stocking, Directrice Generale. Si
vous voulez lire une copie en français, veuillez envoyer un e-mail à
*1. Oxfam's UK brand refresh*
I wanted to let you all know about an exciting change taking place to the
way we communicate about Oxfam in the UK, to be launched on 18 April.
Oxfam has many important stakeholders across the world, one of which is the
UK public. We depend on their support for much of our legitimacy and income.
We have UK individual financial supporters, campaigners, volunteers,
shoppers. However, recent research shows us that Oxfam feels distant in the
minds of the UK public. Although they respect and trust us, they do not
understand what we do, or feel close to us - they do not know us as the
dynamic, cutting-edge and passionate organisation we really are.
To close the gap between what people think and the reality of what we do, we
need to communicate differently by refreshing our brand, how we express what
we really are. It is not about changing who we are, what we do, or altering
our logo: it is an exciting opportunity to change how people feel about us _
one we cannot afford to miss. We want to communicate the real Oxfam _ an
Oxfam that is dynamic, engaging and relevant.
This builds on the success of I'm in, which was a targeted UK campaign that
reached its goal of getting one million people to give their names in
support of Oxfam. The brand refresh is much wider and will provide a
framework for all our communications in the UK _ including in our shops,
campaigns, and fundraising initiatives. The underlying feel of it is
So, from April, we will have a new way of speaking to the UK public and
supporters. We will share the new look and feel of our communications with
all staff worldwide in April and May. So, watch out on the intranet and
website for some inspiring new work!
*2. Gender, Let's Talk, International Women's Day, etc*
Sometimes you get the feeling the world is on the move and I think it is on
women's issues. You may remember that in November I went to New York to an
International Women Leaders Conference on Global Security, led by Mary
Robinson. In January at Davos I went to a very high powered women's dinner
on maternal mortality. Then last week Annie Lennox, the singer, hosted a
women's dinner to start The Circle, which is about women for women. That
started off specifically to fundraise for a range of projects for Oxfam and
included quite a few women who are ambassadors for Oxfam or who help us in
lots of different ways, eg: Jane Shepherdson who is helping to set up
ethical fashion boutiques, Zoë Ball, a presenter who has been to Mali and
Malawi for us and got us lots of media coverage. It was clear at the dinner
that the women just wanted to get to know each other and also to think of
ideas about how they could help end poverty as a group. It was very
exciting. After International Women's Day in Oxford I then followed this
with a lunch for about 35 women with the Prime Minister and his wife, Sarah,
in No 10 Downing Street on Saturday. That group was mainly top business
women, about 10 of whom were American and had flown in especially for the
occasion! We discussed two things: developing women's talent and maternal
mortality again (because this is Sarah Brown's key interest). *On talent, I
was able to ask if business leaders were prepared to mentor women, could
they take women from the South. There was lots of willingness and
discussion and we need to think how we can help with this from Oxfam. **
Whenever we talk about maternal mortality, I always think of my visits to
Yemen, and the tremendous work we do there and in Afghanistan and of course
of the huge needs for health services in Africa.
It was also good to hear from some of you around the world about
International Women's Day. Debasis in Kabul sent this on the day: 'We are
celebrating women's day today at Kabul, Afghanistan. The entire staffs have
been invited by a specially designed card to bring their family also. Some
guests from government and other agencies are also invited. I am sharing a
success case study about 'Lijjat Papad from India' on women economic
empowerment. I had another good presentation about god's creation of women,
that will be translated in Dari/Pastu (local language) by national
colleagues and presented'.
Then Catherine Hine in MEEECIS told me about their innovative Gender Idol
contest last week: 'This competition inspired line managers across the
region, to consider what a 'significant contribution to gender equity' would
be for their teams and to nominate team members who have made such a
contribution. Of seventeen nominations received from across the region,
Artan Kapexhui, a logistician in the Albania country programme, narrowly
triumphed over Abduqosim Kayumov and Inobat Rasulova, both from the
Tajikistan country programme. Artan was commended as a consistent and
powerful role model, demonstrating how a man can contribute effectively to
greater rights and fair treatment for women, doing even small things that
add up to a huge difference.'
Thank you to so many people for putting so much effort into women's rights
and also to understanding gender equality. I am pleased a man won the Idol
contest because we really need men to champion the issues, but also to show
how men's lives can change positively, too.
Going back to where I started, if there is so much engagement with these
issues globally, we need to think in Oxfam how we can best use this to
influence the issues we are concerned about.
A few words about our colleagues in Kenya who have been through an
especially difficult time since the beginning of the year. The outbreak of
post-election violence shook the country to its core and affected many of
our staff personally. Colleagues in the Kenya programme and the Regional
Centre have been bravely going about their work, even though at times it
must have felt like their country was falling apart around them. It's hard
to imagine for all of us who are used to Kenya being the peaceful base from
which we visit trouble spots. But it's a testament to our colleagues'
resilience that they've kept going through it all, and have taken positive
steps to address the impact of the crisis in their own office.
This year, Valentine's Day - February 14th - took on a special significance
in Kenya. In many Kenyan media outlets it was used as an opportunity to
promote love and friendship amongst all Kenyans, with a special focus on
ethnically mixed couples. In the Oxfam office the day was celebrated with a
lunchtime event. Staff took part in a quiz on Kenyan history and culture,
and an appreciation event where they nominated colleagues they particularly
appreciate. Small groups then walked down to Freedom Corner in Nairobi's
Uhuru Park which has become a shrine for peace, and laid flowers for those
who all those killed or affected in the crisis. It was a moving occasion -
and I'd ask you to join me in assuring our staff in Kenya that our thoughts
and hopes are with them for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, at least we
have more positive news on that at the moment. It is incredible what Kofi
Annan has managed to do.
*4. The Wyche School _ Cheshire, UK*
I had a meeting with our Youth Team and was really excited about some of the
things they were telling me. Today's children are the opinion formers and
policy makers of the future and making sure they have the skills and desire
to tackle issues like climate change, poverty and injustice is a vital part
of Oxfam's work in the UK. Our Education Team has helped bring these issues
to life in classrooms for more than 30 years by providing teachers with
lesson plans, assembly ideas and resources, which really enthuse and empower
The example that fired me up is Wyche Primary School in Cheshire. Once
judged by Ofsted (the government's school inspection agency in England) as
"causing concern" the school's improvement strategy put Oxfam's Education
for Global Citizenship at the heart of its teaching. Within a year, Ofsted
was describing it as "good_ with outstanding features" and the school is now
hailed as an example of best practice. Children at the school campaigned to
get local shops to sell fair trade goods, held assemblies on poverty and a
series of themed days including children's rights and refugees. A
10-year-old from that school sums up the effect of learning to consider
other peoples' views and make informed choices as getting "a bit wiser and
The next step is to make sure all teachers have the support, resources and
incentives necessary to embrace this kind of education and our policy team
are playing a key role in lobbying government to this end so the next
generation is indeed "a bit wiser" about their role in the world and the
positive difference they can make.
*5. Merger of South America (SAM) and Caribbean, Mexico and Central America
In order to strengthen the work of our teams in Latin American and the
Caribbean, we are merging the South America and the CAMEXCA regions. The
aim is to build a new Latin America Region (LAC) which will give us a
strengthened, higher profile OGB presence, with a greater opportunity for
development, humanitarian, campaigning and advocacy work.
At the end of February, Penny Lawrence, International Division Director
advised Latin America staff of the Corporate Management Team decision on the
new location for the LAC Regional Centre. There was not one obvious
location for the new LAC RC, but there was one that came out best on the key
strategic criteria. We have therefore decided that the location of the core
Regional Centre will be in Mexico, but some Regional Centre posts will be
based elsewhere in Latin America, in a networked structure.
Just to be clear, this particular merger does not mean that we are planning
mergers in other parts of the world.
Please do remember that I welcome your comments. I promise you I will read
them all, though I will not be able to reply to each one individually. You
can e-mail them to me on firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Barbara
Stocking, Letter Comments, John Smith Drive, Oxford OX4 2JY.