“The change starts with me: Separating organisational goals from your own goals”. Laura Sullivan, Director for Europe and the Americas, ActionAid International
Laura Sullivan is a passionate social activist with 15 years experience in NGOs and the EU institutions. She started working for ActionAid International ten years ago and she has been the Director for Europe and the Americas these last couple of years. She is about to leave her job soon, but she will stay on as Vice President to the Board of Concord, the Confederation of Development and Relief NGOs in Europe, acting as their main EU spokesperson.
Concretely, she specialises in campaigning and in rethinking NGO organisational strategies to effect change globally. Beyond that, she is a big fan of language and all things musical!
What are your main strengths?
“Public speaking; political strategising; facilitation; leadership skills: I’ve been using most all of them in my more recent roles with ActionAid and hope to keep that up. Public speaking and strategising have been pretty constant over the last 12 years or so. Leadership skills and facilitation are newer.”
Do you have other talents that are not a passion for you?
“Yes, writing. I was tempted to focus on writing and go into print journalism but ultimately decided against it because I’m not good with tight deadlines and felt that I may not get enough space to write about social justice, as I would want to. So I basically chose an alternative route going into NGO communications!”
Do you have any other passions that are not talents?
“Local politics and community organisation (I keep them as a hobby to be developed).”
Which industries do you have experience in?
“I have experience in NGOs and state/public institutions, but I would also be interested in working with foundations.”
Which positions/roles do you have experience in?
“NGO leadership: I would like to pursue this further as I’m only getting started.”
Please describe an ideal working day.
“Preparing and delivering a speech for an event with high potential to influence decision makers.
Lunch meetings with colleagues on designing/delivering a strategy.
Speaking to journalists about what we are trying to do, a particular justice campaign.
Speaking to a class of university students about the same.
Writing a blog to tell a story of change.”
Please describe a nightmare working day.
“Dealing with a conflict driven by egos and power games!
Working on a detailed log-frame or spreadsheet for a donor funded project.
Attending meetings that are poorly facilitated and prepared/do not have clear objectives or outcomes.
Facilitating a 3-hour plus Skype call for 20 colleagues across 4 continents and dealing with technical problems that disturb the flow and ability of people to participate.”
How do you obtain well-being from your professional life?
“I put in place barriers to ensure that I find the right work-life balance (that sometimes work!)
I write and agree clear plans with my boss that focus on my talents, passions and what needs to be done, drawing from the 80-20 principle: 80% of it motivates me, 20% is what I just need to do to get the job done!”
What are the key benefits that you obtained from OrientaEuro’s coaching?
“1. Very practical support to deal with leadership and management related dilemmas that are occupying a lot of my time and head space.
2. Pushing me to look beyond me as the organisation to me as a person, who also has objectives and development needs!
3. Really simple and creative tools to help me think about the next steps, that turned out to be extremely useful (particularly as a major restructure was announced 6 months after I did the course!)”
How does your professional well-being affect your general well-being?
“I take great pride in my professional work and put a lot of emphasis on my professional well being so they bleed over to a great extent.”
What are the biggest challenges for your professional well-being?
“Finding the next role that will maximise on my talents, passions and contributions to the world!”
Any other comments that you’d like to add?
“Simply that I have been recommending OrientaEuro’s coaching to people for the last year, since I did the course, and I will continue to do so!”
What is your LinkedIn public profile?