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Behind the Desk - The Yard

18 Jun 2018

‘Behind the Desk’

Name:             Celine Sinclair

Position:          Chief Executive

Company:        The Yard

Number of employees – 28 FTEs

Short overview of organisation:

The Yard is an award-winning Scottish charity running adventure play services for disabled children, young people and their families. It offers creative, adventurous indoor and outdoor play experiences in a well-supported environment.  Since 1986, set up by a group of parents, teachers and social workers who recognised the need for a safe place to play, the Yard’s services have grown significantly, but retain the ethos of child-centred and -led play. The flagship Edinburgh centre was refurbished by BBC DIY SOS in 2012. The Yard Dundee opened in 2015, followed by The Yard Fife in 2016. The Yard now has over 600 members and is supported over 1000 families in 2017.

Trust in your staff and foster a ‘can-do’ attitude to make a difference, says Celine Sinclair, winner of this year’s IoD Scotland Director of the Year – Small Business.

1.  What is the greatest recurring challenge you come across in your role, and what’s your strategy for dealing with it?   

The greatest challenge in The Yard is saying no. We are offered so many opportunities which represent real growth on an annual basis. I am surrounded by a team that are truly invested in making a difference to the lives of disabled children and their families. This can-do culture creates real dynamism but with that comes constant change. Growth and change have to be measured if you are going to succeed and good strategic planning and broad team consultation are essential if you are not to become derailed.

2.  Who, or what, drives you or inspires you?

Everyday I am humbled to witness the dedication and selflessness of parents and the spirit and determination of children and young people who face real challenges in their lives.  The chance to make life more fun and more fulfilling for those families is the key driver as well as the sense of achievement derived from knowing we are doing it well.

3.  What is your long-term vision for the organisation that you lead? 

We want all disabled children and young people in Scotland to have opportunities to have fun and friendship and the chance to play. 

 4.  What keeps you awake at night?

It is often an individual story that will keep me awake. If you keep the individual at the heart of what you do you are much less likely to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve when your daily working life is all about the bigger picture.

 5.  What makes a good leader great?

The ability to build strong teams and the confidence to let them flourish. Trusting your staff will allow them to fly.  I believe that integrity and openness combined with commitment to good governance are also essential in all business.

6.  Have you had a mentor, and what did he/she add to your development?

They taught me that we are all learning all the time and it is okay not to know how to do something. Not knowing does not mean you cannot do it; it just means you have to learn how to do it.

7. Even leaders aren’t the finished article.  What’s next in your leadership development journey?

I have learnt that trusting your gut instinct in a leadership role is invariably correct but the discipline of always doing the analysis pays dividends. The quality of our service is built on good reflective practice and I would like to learn how to better embed this culture of reflection and evaluation into strategic planning.

8.   What is the ‘next big thing’ that will transform your sector? 

The shift in Scotland towards community empowerment will see the birth of many new small charities and a focus on good governance will be essential if we are to retain trust in the sector.

9.   What piece of technology do you rely on most?

i-phone. I feel lost without it. 

10.   What is your favourite social media platform, and what does it bring to your business/organisation?

Facebook and Twitter have allowed The Yard to increase its reach and supported communications before we had a team.

11.   What needs fixed?

Funding cycles for the voluntary sector. They need to be longer in order to plan more effectively.

12.   What leadership advice would you give your younger self?

Warmth and kindness are underestimated qualities in leadership but bring great loyalty from teams. I believe when you are in the business of improving lives organisational culture is the cornerstone of success.

For more information, please contact

0131 557 5488


Branch and staff contacts can be found on the main Contacts tab

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