CEO Spotlight: April Baker, Together Co

What’s Together Co all about?

Together Co is a leading loneliness charity based in Brighton that creates connections to change lives. We do this through our befriending, social prescribing and buddying schemes, and by sharing our ideas and expertise nationally. 

Why is the work you do important?

We are witnessing a loneliness epidemic, which is growing exponentially. The Campaign to End Loneliness found 45% of adults in England feel occasionally, sometimes, or often lonely.

Within a world of hyper-individualisation, we work to establish social ties to rebuild a community of hyper-connectedness, full of joy, fun, meaning, purpose and hope. 

How did you get to where you are today?

I was 23 when I accepted a graduate scheme in the charity sector, and within two years was running a large homeless hostel in central London. Since then, I’ve led various mental health services and day centres for people experiencing homelessness. I’ve worked across a range of areas, each time becoming more senior.

Leading in areas including business development, operations, and property development, combined with my frontline experience, gave me the knowledge and confidence to apply for a CEO role in my mid-30s. Yet, still to this day, I am mindful of that inner voice that says “you can’t do this”. 

I address this imposter syndrome through trusting myself and my ability. Mentoring, coaching, and building relationships with peers gives me the space to reflect and find my own answers, and to support others. I’ve developed coping strategies that help me work under pressure, and learning from my successes and mistakes helps me build resilience and adapt my approach. 

What are your top three values and how do they influence the way you lead? 

Kindness – Being kind is often underestimated or dismissed. However, it has true depth and often requires courage, as sometimes, to be kind is to be honest. (Kim Scott’s ‘Radical Candor’ was highly influential for me.) When I have to make difficult decisions or hold difficult conversations, I strive to consider and uphold people’s dignity and to be kind first, always.

Autonomy – The more you empower and trust people to do the right thing and work in the way they want and need, the more everyone gets from their working environment. 

Learning – Leadership is a never-ending journey marked by challenges and lessons. Beyond this, organisational growth is reliant on investing in people’s learning and development. Alongside my CEO role, I am studying for a Masters in Positive Psychology and Coaching to advance my own learning and leadership skills, with the goal to help empower people to realise their potential.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt on your leadership journey?

Being a leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers all the time! By moving away from a top-down, hierarchical approach and instead listening deeply, asking powerful questions, and working with people creatively, you’ll generate more informed and innovative ways to develop organisations together.  

What leadership development do you think you and your staff need most right now?

Equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. We must continuously review this in how we work and lead, critiquing our approach in partnership with others. 

As a young, female leader, I’ve been spoken over and my opinions disregarded. I’m grateful to those who pulled up a chair for me, believed in what I could do, and mentored me. This led to me becoming Chair of the Board, aged 33, at homelessness organisation JustLife.

Equally, I am aware of my privilege as white, cisgendered and non-disabled. There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to workplace culture, and it is essential we have more discussions around this to intensify the energy on diversifying leadership and changing the cultural landscape.

What’s one piece of advice you wished you’d received 10 years ago?

Boundaries are a vital form of self-care. Working more hours, saying yes to everything, and losing sight of what you want will inevitably lead to burnout. You can avoid this by knowing what is important to you, making time for real breaks, and not overworking.

One piece of content you’d recommend – book, podcast, newsletter, film etc

Brené Brown’s ‘Dare to Lead’ podcast. An expert in vulnerability and leadership, Brené Brown hosts a range of brilliant guest speakers, with key themes including leading with authenticity and being brave. A great listen! 

How can we support the next generation to develop into leaders of the future?

Many people are already leaders in various areas of their lives, some without knowing it. Through mentoring and coaching, we can work with future leaders to identify their existing values and strengths, and encourage them to use these skills to lead. 

Leadership styles shift across generations. When considering the next generation, I think current leaders have a responsibility to prepare future leaders and show them the organisational systems and processes they’ll use. By developing more open, reflective and inclusive organisations, we can pave the way for diverse and innovative future leaders to shine. 
Want to stay up-to-date with Together Co? Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. And connect with April on LinkedIn.

Related resources

image

How to create a vision board

image

Check out this inspiring podcast on Happiness from Dr Laurie Santos

image

Have you ever thought about what you are bringing to work?