Chorus Voices Ep 8: Pathways to Community Service
This time, we’re doing something a little different – an exploration of community service and Chorus through the eyes of the leadership team – our hosts Louise Forster and Dan Minchin. Today, Louise and Dan share some of the stories and experiences they have enjoyed along their paths to becoming Chorus.
Work experience, motivation, challenges and triumphs – listen in to see what lessons they’ve learned leading a community service organisation with more than 1,000 employees and volunteers.
Louise Forster’s Pathway to Community Service – [2:00]
“I grew up thinking I wouldn’t work in community services!” Louise chuckles.
But despite travelling across the globe, working in several different industries, and all the while considering options outside community service, she found a happy home making a difference at Chorus.
Louise grew up in the UK and her first exposure to community service came early. Her parents provided respite care for children with disabilities. She later enjoyed some work experience in community service at age 14, but aside from that, didn’t aim directly at a career in the sector.
A move to Australia in her early 20s found Louise doing community service on her pathway to permanent residency, and from there she moved to a position managing houses for people with disabilities in Sydney.
Marriage and a shift to Perth led to work with several more community service organisations, culminating in her position at Chorus. (More on this later!)
Dan Minchin’s Path to Community Service – [5:20]
Like Louise, Dan didn’t start out with his heart set on community service.
Dan grew up in Perth and earned a degree in Philosophy. “Doing something like that teaches you how to think morally and conceptually – but it’s not very useful in a business sense,” he laughs.
Perhaps that’s why his path was wandering; Dan worked first as a Journalist at the West Australian, then in the field of microwave electronics, followed by a stint in Melbourne in biotechnology and eventually back to Perth for management consulting.
“I’ve had as many careers as I’ve had jobs.”
– Dan Minchin
As a management consultant, Dan worked increasingly with major home health care organisation Silver Chain. He went from consultant to employee, helping the company during a phase of rapid expansion from Western Australia into New South Wales and Queensland.
“I joined because I was interested, and I stayed because I cared.”
– Dan Minchin, of his time with Silver Chain
Dan became part of Chorus technically before it existed – he joined as the CEO to help solidify the merger between three separate community service organisations that combined to create Chorus.
For both Dan and Louise, it was not short-term goals like career advancement, or external motivators like financial gain, that led them to community service.
It was an alignment of values and a desire to make a difference.
Motivation in Community Service – [14:50]
What motivates Dan and Louise now? The short answer for both interviewees consists of two simple pieces: being challenged, and making a difference.
For Louise, the challenge has always been to keep a community service organisation organised and properly motivated. One of her most exciting difficulties came when she took her first leadership role in the sector at a place called Care Options in June 2016.
“Within weeks of starting at Care Options, there was a merger on the table,” she remembers.
Some would be daunted (you never know if you’re going to have a job after a merger goes through), but Louise was excited. “I just completely took to that, it was a great challenge!”
Louise’s motivation comes from the difference she makes on a daily basis at Chorus, and from the inspiring people she works with.
Dan has found challenge and excitement as a leader for Chorus. He cites providing motivation as one of the most stimulating obstacles.
“People can deal with a lot if they can see the light on the hill,” Dan says. “What we’re working hard to do at Chorus is to make sure that light on the hill is always clear.”
The Sweet Spot Between Opportunity and Risk – [20:00]
Every non-profit has a tremendous opportunity to do good, but each one also faces the challenge of complexity, longevity, and in some cases – eventual failure.
When asked to think about what’s most difficult in the community services sector, Louise and Dan both cited the tricky balance between challenge and impossibility.
Dan comments on setting this balance:
“Most of us want to be challenged, but just enough. Too hard, and you’re setting yourself up for failure. Too easy, and you’ll get bored.”
– Dan Minchin
Louise comments on how to shift the balance from ‘too hard’ to ‘challenging and rewarding’:
“You can get very bogged down in tough conversation, but if you look to the future, remember the vision, and come back to how everyone can connect in realising that vision, that’s when the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.”
– Louise Forster
Tips and Takeaways – [24:00]
Dan and Louise speak from their experience, their years of work in the community services sector, their recent journey through a complex merger and the formation of a new organisation that solves problems in new ways – and share some of their learnings.
- Stay true to yourself, be honest with yourself and others.
- Find safe people to talk to.
- Don’t get bogged down in argument or complaining.
- If you can build a place that people feel is safe to communicate in, and a place full of trust, you can always find a way over any obstacle.
- Be true to yourself and authentic with others, as a starting point.
- Make a decision to be the authentic version of yourself.
- If there’s nothing to hide, a lot of the challenge goes away.
- If we can share that knowledge with a whole workplace – to be your whole self – we can achieve just about anything.
- And creating THAT place has been a motivating aspect of work for Dan.
Thanks for Listening!
Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Chorus Voices Podcast. If you find yourself inspired by these stories, head to our website and learn more about what we’re doing.
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Mentioned in This Episode
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