President, World Help
Noel, congratulations on your new role as president of the Forest-based World Help (spring 2018). First off, take us back to the beginning of your career. You could say humanitarian work runs in the family?
I started traveling internationally when I was 11 years old. My dad had always been involved in this type of work in some capacity, so at a very young age I was exposed to the needs of the world and became very passionate about them. When I went to college at Liberty University, I studied International Relations. While I was there, my dad was working at LU but left his position to start World Help. In college, I worked part time wherever help was needed—stuffed envelopes, etc. Now we are now in our 27th year and I’ve pretty much been here from the beginning.
And since World Help was founded in 1991, you’ve slowly worked your way up?
Right, I’ve been involved in almost every level of the organization so I’ve really been able to learn and grow into the role I’m in now. Currently, I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations. I also oversee our leadership team, who are each responsible for different areas of the organization. We have a strategic plan and I make sure we are reaching those goals. My dad is still CEO/founder so he is driving the vision, and my job is to make sure we meet that vision.
World Help assists with everything from child sponsorships to providing clean water. Explain how you all approach each initiative.
Everything we do is about help and hope—help for today and hope for tomorrow. We believe that without food, clean water and medicine, then faith means very little to people in these desperate situations. But without faith that feeds our souls, then meeting all of those other needs is a short-term fix. So we focus on both. It’s never one or the other for us.
Is there one initiative that really speaks to you?
I’m really involved in what we call our Freedom initiatives. These are women who are trapped in trafficking or the sex industry. I’ve realized that even people who care about issues around the world don’t really understand what’s happening and on the level that it’s happening.
In India, we are working with a community of people called the Banchara—they are in the lowest caste system. They practice the 500-year-old tradition called Narimata. It means when the eldest daughter in the family turns 12, she is put into the sex industry and the family and community live off her earnings. Now, it pretty much affects all of the girls in the community. This happens right under the nose of the parents, even to the point where they will sometimes build a room on their home for the daughters to do their work.
When visiting the area, I clearly remember talking to this young mom who was trapped in this lifestyle. As I’m talking to her,
her young daughter walks in the room. I was shocked when I heard the mother say that unless something drastically changed in her situation, she would have no choice but to put her daughter in the same work. This is never a choice these women would make. This is a choice because they have no other choice. One of the big things it taught me is how much choice is tied to freedom.
Here in the U.S. we have so many more freedoms as women. But in the workplace, what kinds of challenges do you think female leaders face?
There still aren’t enough women leaders, so there aren’t a lot of role models for women to look at. I feel like it’s changing so quickly but in the moment, right now, that is sort of a challenge. Another challenge for women is gaining the respect they need as a leader. The flip side to that is that sometimes as women we are our own worst enemies, because of the messages we tell ourselves. It sounds a little cliché, but if you don’t give yourself the respect you deserve then no one else will either.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Situational leadership with an emphasis on really listening to my team. I like to understand a problem before we make a decision and I only like to make a decision if we have to. I think some of this goes into having the right team in place. Then you can listen to the feedback they give you and make decisions from there. To me, leadership is about people—I think you have to choose your team wisely and invest in them.
How do you deal with conflict?
Just deal with it. Of course, you have to listen and make sure you have all of the data. But then you need to deal with it and move on and not let it linger.
How do you stay organized?
I’ve been listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt called “Lead to Win.” He challenges the idea of how digital we have gone when organizing our lives and how that can backfire. I’ve kind of gone old school with this printed planner of his. What I love is it forces you to hone in on what he calls your “Daily Big Three.” What are the three things I have to make sure I accomplish today? Because as a leader, your time is constantly being interrupted by people who need your help or input. If you aren’t careful, you don’t get those important things done.
What’s life like for you outside of work?
I have a son in college in Nashville so I try to visit there as often as possible. I have another son who just started high school who is very involved in sports and travel sports. So you can often find me on a ball field supporting him. That’s kind of the stage I’m at now in my life balance. It’s a full and fun time.