What I’ve Learnt: Paula Gascoigne

July 20, 2019

In 2008 Paula Gascoigne became CEO of Smile For Life Children’s Charity, an organisation that’s dedicated to enhancing the lives of disabled and disadvantaged youngsters across the North East. Paula’s career began in the financial sector, working at Barclays Bank for 18 years and then moving into investment management after having her two children. Four years later she was approached to head up the newly formed Smile For Life Children’s Charity and now provides leadership in administration and financial management, strategic development and compliance

Surround yourself with the best possible people.

When I began my journey with Smile For Life I found myself alone for the first time in my career. I struggled to find the time to learn all the areas of this new organisation. I then met a fabulous mentor, Pete Wilkinson, an award-winning speaker and founder of Reclaro.com. He has taught me many things about planning the journey and achieving the charity’s goals. One of the things that has always stuck in my mind is that if you don’t enjoy a particular aspect of the business or don’t feel you have the expertise, then find someone who does – and pay them! This doesn’t have to involve making a substantial financial commitment – it can simply be paying for a service as and when you need it. But make sure you find the best people who will give their everything to the task, challenge you, grow you and share your passion and motivation.

Lead by example and always be visible within your business.

As I’ve grown older and my career has developed my ethos has undoubtedly changed. In my younger years, it was very important to prove myself – sales targets and business goals created competitiveness within me. Now, leading a team and motivating volunteers and beneficiaries, it’s much more important to be present, listen carefully and understand the people around you. I can be meeting with company directors one minute and abseiling off a rock face with our young people the next.

When running a business, you should be self- motivated and passionate, brave, flexible and a great networker.
Don’t rest on your laurels.

The business landscape is constantly changing and if you fail to react and change with it then you may plod for a bit but ultimately your business will decline. Our board of trustees and I continually work on our strategic development – recognising changes and reacting to outside influences. Not only does this keep our team, supporters, volunteers and beneficiaries engaged, happy and fulfilled but it keeps our organisation fresh, innovative and exciting.

Empowering staff builds pride, motivation and loyalty.

I believe in providing a caring and supportive environment, where employees can be open, honest and play a vital part in the business, creates a powerful team. Investing in quality training and listening to the goals and ideas of your staff ensures they remain passionate about the organisation they work ‘in’ as well as ‘for’. Smile For Life has always been a family- friendly organisation – we believe family comes first and we provide a supportive environment for staff members who have children or other family members they need to care for. Flexibility is vital, although clear and fair boundaries are also important for this approach to work well.

Never lose sight of the need for your own mental and physical wellbeing.

Take time to recharge your batteries – have a massage, meet friends for lunch, take a holiday. If you aren’t happy, healthy and motivated then you can’t inspire anyone else to be.

Smile For Life
0191 2844166

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