In this first instalment of The GC People Leader Series, we meet Water For People chief executive, Eleanor Allen
Eleanor Allen wants to provide every human being with access to safe water. As chief executive of social innovation leader, Water For People, Allen leads teams in nine countries to provide access to long-lasting clean water sources and adequate sanitation.
Prior to joining Water For People Allen had a successful career in consulting in the global water sector with Arcadis and CH2M/Jacobs. The journey has had its highs and lows, like any, Allen notes, but newly equipped with self-knowledge means all her energy goes into the right projects – and means her team get safe water to those in need as quickly as possible.
THE GC INDEX: ELEANOR ALLEN
Eleanor, what does your GC Index profile tell us about what underpins your success?
My GC Index shows me to be a strong Game Changer, followed by Play Maker and Polisher. I also have some Strategist and Implementer, so I can do those tasks when needed. However, what I love most is coming up with new ideas! My GC Index means that I now know I should always have a team of Strategists and Implementers around me to make ideas happen. Being a Play Maker also allows me to bring a team together and keep us all moving forward in a (hopefully) harmonious way. Interestingly, being a Polisher, too, is sometimes a help (things need to look great!) and sometimes a hindrance (if someone else’s things don’t look great I can always – unsolicited – help to them to polish their things!)
What skills have you had to develop along the way to make the most of your proclivities?
The skills I have had to develop along the way are to make sure that I do have Strategists and Implementers with me on my team. However, I can’t have a team of just Strategists and Implementers or we get bogged down with the details and lose momentum and I lose my energy. Balance is needed to keep things exciting, inspiring, and moving forward in a thorough and well-rounded fashion. Plus, I have had to keep my Polisher in check at times to not undermine my team, as I mentioned above.
At what point in your career have you felt ‘in tune’ with your proclivities?
I have felt “in tune” with my proclivities several times in my career and none more so than here at Water For People. This organization has a truly ‘Game-Changing’ impact around the world. I am fully “in tune” when I take on a new challenge or role and must develop a new vision and ideas. Then I build the plan and the team around the vision to make it happen. I love doing that!
When in your career have you felt your role was least ‘in tune’ with your proclivities?
My work is the least aligned with my proclivities when I am required to be a Strategist or Implementer, and nothing else, for extended periods of time. That drains my reserves. I fully appreciate the need and contribution that colleagues bring with these proclivities, and together we can do, and have done, some really great things. However, if I am personally needed in the Strategist and/or Implementer space for too long then, quite frankly, people are not getting the best from me. The GC Index is a really good framework for setting individual and collective team expectations around how everyone can best contribute and be valued. It would have been extremely useful to know about these things earlier in my career!
Who do you like to have around you, people who complement your proclivities and get the best from you?
I like to have a team around me that has all people that represent all the proclivities. That keeps things lively and balanced, and we complement each other! I love working with people with the same proclivities as me (Game Changer, Polisher and Play Maker) as there is a shared energy around possibilities and doing things differently together that I find really energising. By the same token as above, I really need the Strategist and Implementers to help our teams ground new ideas into a reality that everyone can understand and move them to tangible outcomes. That is how we change the game!