Leadership Worth Sharing, Episode #6: Girish Menon

Welcome to Leadership worth sharing, a podcast in which ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning talks to civil society CEOs about their careers, their experiences and what leadership means to them.

In this episode, Vicky Browning chats to Girish Menon, CEO of Action Aid UK, the charity that works with and supports women and girls living in poverty. They talk about how you run an organisation on feminist principles, reflective leadership and self-doubt, and how as CEOs we all need to be torchbearers for change.

Scroll down for the full transcription of the episode

“I think feminism takes it to one more step because it takes us to think about all forms of exclusion in any environment that you are in. It could be based on age, religion, race, sexual identity and orientation, ethnicity, linguistic background, whatever”  Girish Menon, CEO, Action Aid UK

Transcription

Vicky Browning [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Vicky Browning, chief executive of ACEVO, the association for CEOs in the charity sector. Welcome to Leadership Worth Sharing, a podcast in which I talk to civil society chief execs about their careers, their experiences and what leadership means to them.

So I’m here with Girish Menon, chief executive of Action Aid. You’ve been there since 2015. And Action Aid, you’re an international charity working with women and girls living in poverty, and you work in over 40 countries across the world. So tell me a bit… Well, welcome first of all! Tell me a bit about your background: how you got into the social sector and what sort of led up to taking over Action Aid.

Girish Menon [00:00:20] Thank you very much, Vicky. It’s a pleasure to be here in your office. I’ve been a great admirer of all the work that ACEVO has been doing. So congratulations.

Vicky Browning [00:00:27] Thanks very much!

Girish Menon [00:00:28] So as you rightly said I’ve been with Action Aid for four years now. But this is my second entry into Action Aid. I used to work with Action Aid in India from 1988 to 1998 so I have 10 years experience of working in Action Aid. In terms of what got me into the sector. I came from a family of let’s say just about managing and living in a low to middle income settlement in a very small rented house. I was at this cusp of poverty and prosperity because there were other parts of the neighbourhood that were fairly affluent but I still felt very privileged because every day going to school I had to walk through a slum. And I did that for the best of the 10 years that I went to that school. People from the slum would then come into our settlements begging for food at night. I think somewhere as a child there was this question about why are some people less privileged than you are. Why are some people more privileged than you are. And I suppose that’s what led me to… Some of the school activities were around fundraising. We fundraised for flood-affected people. We fundraised when there was the war between India and Pakistan and for Bangladeshi refugees… So we fundraised for various causes. But just on one hand recognising the privilege you have even if you’re in a just about managing family, and the fact that there are thousands and millions of people who don’t have the privileges that you had because the one thing we did have was good food and good education. So I suppose once I graduated I then went on to do my masters in what’s called rural management. And that took me to rural India. I got to see what life in the rural areas were, particularly in very poverty affected state in India at that time which was called Madhya Pradesh in central India, and that’s where my interest in working on social development started. Soon after I did my masters, I started working in a national organisation which is quite new a fledgeling organisation called Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.

Girish Menon [00:02:23] We worked on livelihoods and income generation, working on land and water resources and then I joined Action Aid. And from there I joined Plan International. I had the fortune of working with the Department for International Development in India. Then I moved to London with my role with Water Aid and that exposed me to the continent that Africa was. The amazing opportunities, the huge challenges. And when the Action Aid opportunity came up I thought that would be great opportunity to re-enter an organisation that I consider my first ever international development University. So here I am four years down the line.

Vicky Browning [00:02:57] So there’s a lot in there about social justice and wanting to see more equality. And I think that brings on to something I’ve been really fascinated to read about. Since you have been in Action Aid, you’ve talked about taking it on a cultural journey. What that has led you to is to embed feminist principles into the way you operate. Now, Action Aid obviously works with women and girls, and you’ve talked about you can’t be a feminist to the people you work with without bringing those values into the place where you work. Tell me a bit about how that came about and your thinking behind it and actually practically how that works what that actually looks like.

Girish Menon [00:03:35] Yes. So it’s been a discussion across Action Aid so I can’t take full credit for that. But it’s been a journey that’s been absolutely fascinating. The one thing that.. Action Aid went through a massive transformation way back in 2000… Was when we said that we are a human rights organisation. That was fundamentally talking about poverty as a denial of fundamental human rights. So trying to understand the connection between the local and the global but also the horizontal linkages and how different things have impact on the lives of people. The next big transformation was, as an organisation, we started looking at the changing world, the changing power dynamics in the world, the fact that there were different countries emerging and there were lots of different discussions in terms of redistribution of power. So the same language of redistribution of power came into the Action Aid thinking as well. And while recognising that we were born in the UK, we were a British charity set up in 1972, we also took cognizance of the fact that there were other countries also supporting the cause. We had Italy, we had the US, we had Greece, we had other countries. But we also recognise that our fundamental legitimacy comes in terms of our work with communities in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America, where there were concentrations of poverty. And we felt that everybody needs to have a seat around the table and therefore there were discussions about power dynamics and sharing of power. This is fundamental in our discussion at the community level as it is within the organisation. And all discussions on feminist principles also essentially emerge from discussion of power and redistributing power. We often talk about checking your power and privilege. We talk about the nexus between power, politics and patriarchy. And if you’re then looking at an alternative construct it’s about feminism. It’s about feminist principles. It’s about understanding why certain people have the power and privilege and therefore why others don’t have power and privilege. For me personally, as I came into Action Aid, it became part of a cultural conversation that we’re having within the organisation, to see if that is our mission. If you’re talking about power and inequalities of power in the communities and the countries that we work in, how do you reflect that in an organisation? Because every organisation has got some kind of a power structure. Some are visible in terms of titles and hierarchy. Some of the more invisible ones and there are different ways in which people use that power and privilege. So that cultural conversation with those feminist principles that are embedded or being embedded is resulting in us taking a fundamental look at how we exercise power, are we responsible in doing so and are we creating a culture that is truly inclusive?

Vicky Browning [00:06:18] Why did you decide, why as an organisation did you decide to use the language of feminism rather than the language of gender equality?

Girish Menon [00:06:26] Gender equality is perfectly fine and I think it’s absolutely important that we recognise the gender inequalities in the world, in our workplace, in our societies and families. I think feminism takes it to one more step because it takes us to think about all forms of exclusion in any environment that you are in. It could be based on age, religion, race, sexual identity and orientation, ethnicity, linguistic background, whatever. And as we look around the world or in the communities in which we live we find that gender definitely is a huge issue where there are deep inequalities depending on which culture or country you’re talking about. But there are other factors which often is referred to as intersectionality. And feminism, it helps us understand and analyse those interrelated factors that causes somebody to be more powerful or somebody else to be more vulnerable. So there is no clear solution to that, but it’s encouraging you to think very differently and understand every single factor or aspect that contributes to systems of power or systems of privilege.

Vicky Browning [00:07:37] And you talk about the three ‘p’s power, privilege and the patriarchy. We do live in a patriarchal society. Are you then making adjustments within the patriarchy? Or are you trying to tackle the patriarchy itself? How do you see those two things being different?

Vicky Browning [00:07:54] That’s a very difficult question and that’s why we try to embed it in the language of behaviours. Because patriarchy is a structure and we recognise that anybody can be patriarchal in the way they treat people or relate to people. Equally, anybody could be a feminist depending upon your own perspectives and how we treat people. So we don’t really want to categorise people into boxes but then look at the behaviours that might perpetuate patriarchy or promote feminism. And I’m talking about it as if it’s a binary. Actually, it’s a spectrum, because again we as human beings none of us is perfect and it’s a question of having behaviours that are better aligned to a certain set of beliefs that you are. We possibly cannot smash patriarchal structures in the world that we live in because it’s too vast. But it has to begin somewhere. And if there’s a growing community of people who really believe that you can change the entire patriarchal structure, and mind that this has been here for thousands of years. So it’s not easy to dismantle it. But the whole journey starts from you in recognising that the way I’m behaving today is because I have a very patriarchal approach or I am a product of a patriarchal society. And if even that self-awareness begins there then you’re trying to work with yourself and with others to change that, which is why one of the key feminist principles that we believe in is self-awareness. Because we all have biases within our mind conscious and unconscious.

Girish Menon [00:09:22] So the first part of the journey would be to say ‘yes, you know, I have biases, some are conscious some unconscious some I know some I don’t know. So how do I go about even recognising acknowledging and understanding that?’. And once that’s done, how do I go about dismantling that bias? So it’s going to be a journey. And one of my reflections constantly is: is that just a label I’m using or how I fundamentally change behaviours or am I being fundamentally different in how I relate with people? I don’t know the answers, I need to ask people around me and I need to trust their judgment. They’re critical of you then yes take it on a chin, accept it and say you need to change. But that’s a fascinating part of this journey. Every now and then you’re learning new things and challenging the way you behave. And challenging how the others behave.

Vicky Browning [00:10:07] I like the idea that you’re taking the old adage ‘charity begins at home’. And you’ve now got smashing the patriarchy begins at home. I love that. You talked about self-awareness being one of the key principles. What are the other key… Can you encapsulate the other key principles that you are working towards?

Girish Menon [00:10:25] Yes I talked about dismantling bias, which is really important. With self-awareness… We also talk about self-care. Because one of the concepts while trying to embed feminist principles is that you bring your whole self to work. Again, our lives are complex and there are very many facets and aspects to our lives. So it’s about being comfortable to bring our whole selves. Everybody knows that you have good days and bad days. And it’s about how you’re able to support and recognise and give each other space so that people feel safe in expressing and they feel a sense of belongingness. It’s also about respectful feedback. Respect is very key. And one of the core thinking behind feminist principles. While much of feminist principles is about challenging the millions of ways in which you can challenge and what we believe in is about the challenge being respectful where the overall purpose is not to put down somebody else but to help somebody understand and recognise the impact that person may have on others in the team or around the organisation.

Girish Menon [00:11:27] There are a number of principles that…I did talk about sharing of power and that does remain the core and essential piece of feminist principles. So for example… You know, I am… I have the privilege of being the chief executive. I really need to remind myself every day, every now and then, during working hours at least, that it’s a privilege. So it comes with a certain power. I may not believe that I have the power but that’s not the perception. So how do you be really conscious of that and how do embed it in your day to day dealings within your organisation with your teams? It all started some very small things. It’s like delivering or chairing meetings not to be the first person to talk. When somebody is making a presentation hold yourself back and create space for other people to respond because you are in a certain space that by the privilege of your title, you have the seat at the table. Many others or a few others around the table may not have that and could be intimidated even if you feel you’re not an intimidating person. The situation could be quite intimidating. So it starts with that kind of a self-reflection so that you’re trying really hard to think about how can you meaningfully share power without giving up your own accountability or your own responsibility.

Vicky Browning [00:12:43] That’s fascinating, and I am wincing as you say that because I’m terrible of stepping in and telling people immediately what I think… And I’m going to have to go and reflect on that myself. In terms of how you take this out into the organisation, then. There’s this sense of sort of reflection, being self-aware. How does this manifest in terms of talking to staff about and colleagues about this programme. Is it about training? Is it about induction? Is it about appraisal? Is it all of those things?

Girish Menon [00:13:12] Across the actual federation, across all the 45 countries, there have been several discussions over the last year or so in terms of what does feminist principle mean. Everybody had the opportunity to input into that discussion because again it is about that shared agenda, the core creation. So across the federation, we have got something called top 10 feminist principles. And these have been approved and adopted by the boards in different contexts. So we took it to our board as well because again as many of the other members we are an independent member but part of a global federation, and it’s really important that the governance of the organisation recognises this as well. And we were very very privileged that our board was very keen to understand but also adopt and now role model. And we just had a board away day last week where we spent a whole half day just on what feminist principles mean in terms of actual behaviours around the board table for instance. As you rightly said a little while ago the term feminism or feminist could mean different things to different people and many people could frankly be put off by that term.

Girish Menon [00:14:12] We tried to be very open about it and put it in our recruitment pack for instance right upfront. So that doesn’t come as an unpleasant surprise when somebody comes in. So it gives potential candidates an opportunity to call up some of the colleagues or the people in the culture team and say ‘hey, you know, that’s a term that I don’t understand or I’m uncomfortable with, can you please help me unpack?’ Because we do feel that whoever comes in the organisation needs to come in with that excitement and with their eyes open it doesn’t matter they don’t know what it is. But even if they have the curiosity and say ‘this might be something that I would really be interested in’, they’re welcome and we make it particularly mandatory in the senior management roles where we do ask a couple of questions on feminist principles in terms of what do you understand by feminist principles. Again, they don’t need to have the right answers. They can turn the question on to us and say ‘I’m sorry I don’t understand that. One of the reasons I came to this interview, so I could ask you that question’. We’d be very happy to answer that. We then have as part of corporate inductions we do have a session on feminist principles.

Girish Menon [00:15:17] There are discussions that happen in different teams. And very recently we have now launched what’s called my feminist behaviours. It’s a behaviour framework that embeds principles into your day to day behaviours. And that’s now being rolled out and everybody will have an opportunity to have a session on that. There are online modules that people can do it in their own time. But very importantly this will become part of a quarterly conversation between a line manager and a direct report. And to say how has your quota generally been, what have you done, what have you achieved, but also how did you practice or how did you demonstrate those behaviours? So again reminding everybody that it’s really important and that will form part of the performance discussions at the end of the year which builds on all these quarterly discussions. Anybody is free to come up and then still say, you know, either I’m uncomfortable or I don’t understand and we will do whatever needs to be done to support people. We are also quite fortunate that within the organisation we have got different groups of colleagues who are self-formed groups and in certain interest areas. So we have Feminist Women’s Forum. We have an LGBTQ+ forum. We have a forum on diversity and inclusion. We have a mental health group and we encourage these groups to really create that space and also try to think of how they can champion, lead, contribute, support the whole process of embedding feminist behaviours.

Vicky Browning [00:16:39] This is a significant cultural shift within the organisation. And two things: one is culture is always a risk. Hard things to shift and takes the longest. And the other is that this is change and people find change difficult. Have you found that the typical kind of change curve with this? So, some employees or some staff and colleagues absolutely racing ahead, loving it, others kind of waiting to see and then some reluctant and resistant?

Girish Menon [00:17:04] Yes obviously there are some colleagues who are more attuned to the idea, either because they have been in the organisation longer and understand that or they have come from other organisations where they had a lot of exposure to feminist discussions. So one of the reasons why we probably recruited them was also to bring in that expertise. So there’s definitely a set of colleagues who are much more interested, knowledgeable…

Vicky Browning [00:17:27] A bit of a champion.

Girish Menon [00:17:28] Kind of a champion. Yeah. The good thing is that they don’t call themselves champions but just because of the way they engage in discussions people look up to them. And if I am stuck on something I could go and have a quiet conversation and say I don’t quite understand that. How do you… How do I see through this particular challenge. I think a large number of group of people are somewhere in the centre, where they are interested and potentially excited and they want to know more. I don’t think at this point in time there is anybody who is resistant. We may have had the resistance about three years ago when we first talked about it. There might still be some areas of reluctance, and I suppose a reluctance might stem more from ‘I still don’t get it’ or ‘I still don’t understand it’ rather than ‘this is not for me’. A colleague of mine said isn’t it great that even though we talk about feminist principle we still have a large number of male applicants for different roles? And they are asked these kind of questions and they do feel that, you know, this is something that they’ll be excited about. So that that seems to work well.

Vicky Browning [00:18:26] And what about you as a leader. You’re obviously someone who understands the need for self-awareness. You come across as very reflective. In your Twitter profile you have four words which I really enjoyed: optimist, feminist, father and dreamer. Now… Feminist we’ve talked about. Father I think probably speaks for itself, optimist I understand. Tell me about being a dreamer. How can you be a dreamer and run a 55 million pound organisation?

Girish Menon [00:18:50] I think it’s about being aspirational and you do need to have a dream. Vicky, you would know very well because you interact with so many other charities day in day out that the world out there is tough. And it’s very challenging and sometimes you wonder whether is it a case of two steps forward and four steps backward. You look at the global politics, you look at national politics, you look at what’s happening when you talk about any social area. You know, be it at the community level, be it in religions, be it among the youth or the media. You know it’s so easy to be very depressed about what’s happening. And I think it’s really important to have that dream and say that things can be better. And the very fact that things are very challenging out there demonstrates a need for the sector to be there. I’m not saying that from a moral posturing or positioning but the one thing that’s common across all the people work in the sector is this seeking a fairer world, a more equal world, a more just world. When you look at world leaders who… You know who I should be talking about. But you know let’s talk about Trump for instance. It’s not a very hopeful world out there and it’s really important to say people need to have the dream, people need to have that hope and be optimistic that it can change.

Girish Menon [00:19:59] And for me the best sources of continuing to want to dream is… When you see acid attack survivors in Bangladesh, who have had such horrendous experiences but have come out very strongly and say ‘you know what we have gone through experiences but we’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen again’; or you go to Kenya and you see so many girls who have gone through FGM but same girls now standing up and saying ‘we won’t allow our younger sisters to go through that’; or when you look at girls in Ghana who say ‘you know I don’t care if it’s the headmaster was molesting girls, we are going to file a case and that that guy is now going to court’. But you see when you see of all those voices and that resistance you then think that it’s not then a pipe dream it’s a dream that’s very much possible. And we just need to hang in there. And it’s that kind of stories of courage which we see all of the world and in this country that makes you feel that you know, you should continue to dream. Let’s not lose sight of that.

Vicky Browning [00:20:55] Yeah I think that’s really important, that role of the leader in organisations to be the torchbearer for change, to say, you know, we can see how things could be better. We can see how things could be different and however difficult it is for ourselves sometimes to keep that going. I think allowing the good work really, I suppose, to sort of feed in and keep that flame alive. This is part of our responsibility. Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the findings that came out of the Oxfam inquiry. Not specifically about Oxfam but about all responsibility again as leaders for safer cultures. Particularly, I’m interested in how we as chief executives need to not just look at our own organisations but other organisations that we work with, partnering, seeing. How do you see our responsibility as individuals to changing cultures across the sector? Should we just be focussing on our own organisations?

Girish Menon [00:21:52] My answer is a bit of both. I think that’s an individual responsibility and a collective responsibility. What’s interesting for us at Action Aid is, working across 45 countries, the whole issue of safeguarding hasn’t impacted any other country the way it is impacted here in the UK. It’s been a major uphill struggle for colleagues and this is reflected in many other international organisations that I speak to, the focus of the spotlight that we have seen in the UK is far more than in other countries. And I think therein lies this point about the UK sector having been leaders in international development. So I think it’s not just a sectoral issue in the UK but it’s about how UK can be a leader in reflecting on those cultures and changing those cultures across the world. To some extent it may have affected or come up in discussions in some of the Western European countries and probably Australia, who have always been strong on child protection, but not generally across the sector. Definitely not as much in Africa or Asia that I’m aware of. I might be completely mistaken but that’s what my understanding is. So I think it’s a big leadership question for the UK international sector for global organisations. But including in the UK for the whole sector to come up because what happened or what happens in organisations is definitely not acceptable. Absolutely applaud the response that Oxfam… Having welcomed their own acknowledgement of the need to investigate, focus, reflect and reform. And we all are in it together. And I think my message to Oxfam would be don’t feel that it is just about Oxfam but because we all come… We are all part of the same culture, so we all have that moral responsibility to have thought about something or done something before or the issues came up but now that they’re out on the table we again have a collective responsible to say what is it, how is it that we can support each other, how is it that we can challenge each other, how is it that we can collectively think about good practices and especially on culture and governance that brings about… Or some of the work that you have been doing on diversity and inclusion, so those eight principles that you talk about, how can we bring that more into the forefront? Because many of us… For various reasons and by definition tend to be what I would refer to as being very mission-oriented, because we have a mission we need to deliver. And therefore what we deliver becomes important, the resources that we raise become important. But equally, it’s about how do we also look inside and say is our internal culture in alignment with the world that we want to see outside? And if we had held that thinking consistently, all of us, then all of us could come out better out of it. But well, it’s a wake-up call. It’s been fairly unpleasant in very many ways in which it has caused anguish to people who have been involved, who have been affected, who have been impacted in different ways. But that’s what we need to acknowledge, that’s a turning moment in our lives. So we need to take individual responsibility within our own organisations but collectively, working peers asking for help. And that’s one thing that really happened, well, over the last 15 months many of us were talking to each other not just as CEOs but across the organisation. And trying to find out what is it that you are doing that we can learn something from.

Vicky Browning [00:25:03] And that sort of sideways into another area of kind of collective responsibility which is climate change and the kind of global crisis. Now I know that in your 2017 strategy you do talk quite a lot about the impacts of climate change on people living in poverty. And so in a sense for you it’s that is directly connected to the cause. Other charities may not see quite such a direct correlation between the mission as you talk about and this kind of global emergency, but it is something that we all need to be stepping up to. So in terms of how you as an organisation tackle the challenge of the climate crisis, what are your kind of policies around that?

Girish Menon [00:25:44] Are you talking of policies at a programming level or are internal policies?

Vicky Browning [00:25:47] I think internal policies I’m quite interested in, because at a policy level in a sense that’s the work on the ground. So I’m quite interested in the internal work around what you see as your responsibility on the environment.

Girish Menon [00:25:58] I suppose as an organisation which is international, which involves a lot of travel, the first thing is about focussing a lot on the travel. Not just from a financial perspective but what does that travel actually mean in terms of carbon footprint that you leave. And is that something that’s essential? So that has got us to use technology much more vigorously. Anytime you come into our office there are all kinds of people sitting and making Skype calls all over the place. And we have really invested in that so that you reduce the carbon footprint and do not undertake travel. Paper is another thing. Again we have used technology and we are driving towards paperless office. So for example, it’s ages since I printed out anything and we try not to print out anything. Everybody has a laptop. So you work online and you cut down on that printing. We actually monitor that. A couple of years ago and we realised that just because our pulling on printing we had saved sixty thousand pounds on our budget, at a time when, you know, we’re looking at all kind of cost savings, you’re doing something good for the environment and you’re also reducing your costs. So I suppose it’s about the practices that we have. [Paper] Bits are absolutely fine but we had a system that people for even ordinary management meetings would print out 50 80 100 copies and would come and sit and then you know it goes to the bin or even our annual reports. We stopped printing annual reports, our annual reports are now online. You know, of course there are essential stuff that you do need to print you know, on the off chance that you may not have Wi-Fi access but that’s exceptional. So I think we would have reduced our overall paper consumption by 80 per cent. But of course, you know as part of the mission we are constantly looking at what does climate change mean in the communities that we work.

Girish Menon [00:27:44] And again since our focus is on the rights of women and girls we have been looking at climate change also from the perspective of women and girls. When we look at migration across different parts of the world be it Africa, Asia, the Middle East in particular you can find the clear links between climate change being one of the key drivers for this migration, which then further impacts on women and girls and therefore the need for that to be much more visible. But equally the leadership that they contain the local communities especially in countries or communities where men migrate in search of work. It’s all part of the same conversation but obviously looking at it from different perspectives.

Vicky Browning [00:28:21] Now you talked about technology there which kind of leads me on to digital. You are very active on Twitter, you’re one of the top 25 social CEOs. How do you see social media? How does that influence the way you lead or how do you… How does that reflects the way you lead?

Girish Menon [00:28:36] I think social media has been hugely exciting for me, and just the other day I was reflecting on the amount of information that you get through social media in bite-size modules. You know, like you literally see a tweet and there’s a link and you click on the link if it’s interesting and you quickly have access to a two-pager or an 80 piece document depending what you’re looking for. And I think that has helped me feel much more connected with what’s happening in the world around me. A quick example: actually being in the sector of international organisations our peers often tend to be international organisations. So we have a fair idea of what’s happening in the international sector, international development sector, that is I don’t have much idea of what’s happening the national sector because I don’t work in the national sector. So when I look at social media and that’s where I get all the wonderful tips of what’s happening across mental health charities, across homelessness charities, the whole issue of how charities are dealing with the austerity cuts on one hand, its impact on the communities. How do they work with local governments. Otherwise, unless I actually work in that situation it would be very very difficult for me to really understand. But just the fact that I have access to social media and I just almost recklessly start following people just because I find some of the tweets interesting and exciting, and that opens up a whole world of information for me. So social media is a treasure trove for me and I think it’s really really encouraging.

Vicky Browning [00:30:02] Just in terms of you as a leader then, what do you see as your kind of challenges going forward in your own kind of developments in your own career? Where are you headed?

Girish Menon [00:30:13] So I’ve been in this role for four years. If you’d asked me four years ago I would have thought that at this point in time I’d be very confident and very clear in where I am or what I need to do next. But I must confess that at this point in there’s a lot of self-doubt in my head. And the self-doubt is constantly looking at some of the challenges we have as an organisation and looking at the challenges in the external environment. And again being very honest and recognising that this is a podcast but still to say that you do worry. Are you doing the right thing? Are you doing enough of the right thing? Other things that you must be doing that you aren’t doing. And I really don’t have the answers for that because every time you think you are sorting out something or you have sorted out something else comes up. And it’s a constant. I haven’t really thought about what would be the next big thing other than the fact that I feel that the self-doubt then results in me asking a lot of questions to myself and asking a lot of questions to my peers. Which is why I always try and go for a number of external events just to listen to what people have to say. Many times I have catch-ups on a one to one basis. When I am asked to speak at an event I very much accept the opportunity because it then results in people coming and asking you questions either from the floor or on a one to one. And those things I find it really enriching. Sometimes is very encouraging to know that many of the peers are pretty much where you are. So it’s not that you are alone in this. But to me that’s the biggest challenge, constantly asking yourself and constantly therefore seeking some kind of a reaffirmation. From my board, from my colleagues, from the wider team, from my other peers within Action Aid, from my peers within the sector. Do you think Action Aid is headed the right way? Do you think we’re doing the right things? Do you have any feedback for me? I take that very seriously.

Vicky Browning [00:32:01] Having a certain level of self-doubt or certainly questioning makes you a better leader. I think any of us that go… That can sit down and go ‘Yeah I’ve done it. Everything’s great and I’m perfect’ are probably the worst leaders of all. It’s actually a huge credit to you that you keep those questions, you keep asking those questions and you keep seeking feedback from it and I’m sure that’s part of what makes you the kind of respected leader that you are.

Girish Menon [00:32:24] Thank you.

Vicky Browning [00:32:25] Girish, thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed talking to you and I look forward to seeing Action Aid going from strength to strength, and you continuing to develop that culture and for the rest of us in this sector to learn from you and I think follow in your footsteps. So thank you very much for joining us.

Girish Menon [00:32:41] Thank you very much, Vicky. Pleasure talking to you.

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