A Day in The Life of Listening Books’ Director
Bill Dee, the Listening Books Director, gives us an insight into his role in the charity. From managing staff to seizing opportunities, here’s what he had to say about what he does day to day.
A Typical Day?
As Director of Listening Books, I’m often asked what a typical day is like. Some CEOs will tell you that no two days are alike, but that claim has always sounded suspicious to me – as though they’re mostly concerned with impressing with tales of constantly shifting priorities in a complex and unpredictable environment, where no two days could ever be remotely similar. The truth, I think, is that most CEO roles should have both consistencies and some elements of variation.
Some aspects of my role are typical of any company – managing staff, reviewing finances. Other aspects are typical of any charity, for example guiding policy development with Trustees on future improvements and developments. But the nature of Listening Books means that there are some parts of my days that are rather atypical.
Listening Books is a charity that provides audiobooks for everyone who can’t read in the usual way, from youngsters to the elderly. We want to help people read for leisure and for education – in the broadest sense. Our members have a variety of different lifestyles and needs, and although Listening Books is small, relying on the hard work of a core team of 11 people, the truth is that you do not have to have a huge organisation to have a huge impact: the intelligent use of new technologies has enabled us to reach some 51,000 people who struggle to read print books.
To serve the diverse needs of our members, we have created new service delivery models – both online and with physical media. In practice, this means that we work with a broad range of specialist organisations concerned with supporting and promoting both our online streaming and downloading services, and those associated with our more traditional services to hospices or to schools. I, therefore, interact with a wide range of different organisations from one day to another.
Across all of our activities, Listening Books has a very large community. This is comprised of members, both individuals and a range of organisations; commercial publishers who provide much of our stock; companies and foundations who support our work; the professional actors who read in our recording studios; various technical support partners; staff, volunteers, interns and our Trustees; and many others. I will often become associated more directly with a specific area – say relations with publishers, or IT, or strategic fundraising – where my input is required for a while to reshape or accelerate what we are doing.
In the broadest sense, a key part of my role is to act as a hub that connects the various parts of our community, and to manage issues and exploit opportunities that arise across these various boundaries: between external and internal interests, between the artistic and the technical, between policy and operational levels, and ultimately to ensure that we are moving in a coherent way towards realising our strategic objectives.
So, although this means a lot of variety and that there may indeed be no typical day in my role, there are always some recurring general tasks and themes in conjunction with a mix of newer and more exotic challenges. This mix is a dynamic and very enjoyable one.
This article was written by William (Bill) Dee. It has been edited for style and length.
You can find out more about Listening Books’ staff here.