Today I was shocked to read that Belinda Phipps NCT Chief Executive is leaving. I have known Belinda for about ten years, ever since I first started to train as an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor.
Now wait, don’t switch away. If you’re a passionate anti NCT person (and they do exist), I’m not about to wax lyrical about what a wonderful charity NCT is, and how brilliant they are at supporting parents in those crucial First 1000 Days. Though I happen to believe both of those are true. In my work as a confidence coach working with women, and in my voluntary activity as a breastfeeding counsellor, and my community work as a run leader supporting beginner runners from zero to 5k, I have met many women (and dads) who have done NCT classes, been supported by NCT practitioners, volunteered for NCT, opened their house to other new parents, attended a coffee morning, bought amazing bargains at one of NCT’s legendary Nearly New Sales. I do honestly believe that NCT is a fantastic organisation. I am jealous of those mums who did NCT antenatal classes. I didn’t and perhaps life would have taken a different turn if I had; but then perhaps I wouldn’t be doing what I do today. OK I promised I wouldn’t wax lyrical and maybe I just did!
Stay with me … when Belinda first joined NCT fifteen years ago, the charity was a mess. Seriously in a mess. Both financially and organisationally. She had only planned to stay a couple of years. But you know how it is when you find something that you are passionate about? And the time just flies by? Well I think that’s what happened here, and I am very sad for the charity that Belinda is leaving, but in some ways, I am truly delighted for her that she will find other new exciting opportunities.
I know that not every NCT practitioner will agree with me but I think Belinda is a great leader. She turned the charity around financially – 500%!!! Yes she increased income by 500%. She has worked hard, really hard, to ensure that parents are at the heart of everything that NCT does. She has been instrumental in leading the charity through some very tough times economically but for parents, there have been significant legislative and policy changes affecting the way that women are looked after during pregnancy and birth. For example, it is now illegal to ask a women to stop breastfeeding when out & about. Women are now ‘allowed’ to eat and drink during labour.
During her time as leader of NCT, Belinda has driven some unpopular changes within the charity itself – the way we operate, the way you can access our support, the way you book classes – many of these changes are not obvious looking in from the outside, but internally there has been HUGE change. Mistakes have been made, as in any organisation. But the changes she has instigated have streamlined operations, increased revenue, and reduced costs. NCT is a charity and in recent years, like all charities, has seen its donations drop. Yet Belinda has held strong, maintained that clear vision, and at all times been respectful and approachable.
But to me, Belinda is a great leader. And these are the reasons why:
- She demonstrates passion and conviction
- She develops good relationships
- She builds respect for others, their ideas, their concerns
- She has a very clear and strong vision for the charity
- She empowers her staff
- She avoids procrastination
- She delegates effectively
- She is certainly proactive rather than reactive
Today the charity supports 100,000 parents every year through its courses. That is incredible. There are 300 branches all over the UK with 15,000 registered volunteers who volunteer to help parents in their local community. Any local or regional NCT event that you’ve ever attended, that event would have been organised and run by volunteers, whether that’s a First Aid evening, a Quiz Night, a Toddler Group, a Nearly New Sale. The charity’s online support reaches 3 million parents and parent-to-be every year. These are not SMALL numbers.
And believe me, having spent many hours working alongside Belinda, as an active volunteer, both locally and regionally, I can assure you, that despite how modest Belinda might appear to be, she IS a great leader. One of her strongest qualities is her very clear and strong vision. She knew that when she started, the charity could not survive another three months without changes.
Thank you Belinda for everything that you have done, for me as a parent, for me as a volunteer, for me as a member, for me as a decent human being. You are a true inspiration and I wish you every success for the future. You will be sorely missed.
What about you? Who has been an inspiration in your life?