Overcoming a crisis of trust in an international NGO
1. The challenge
The organization, an international NGO with offices across Europe and Asia, faced a severe crisis of trust after revelations about the founder and original leadership team’s misconduct surfaced, relatively shortly after he had handed the reins to a new executive team. These events, and the issues they revealed in the broader organizational culture, triggered media scrutiny, confusion, and disappointment among employees, members, and donors.
2. The response
The new leadership realized the need to do the hard but essential work of getting to the root of their cultural challenges. We helped them assess the health of their culture and work on integrating new leadership habits to shift their culture. A critical step was the leadership owning up to the lack of health in their culture, apologizing, and addressing it openly with their organization. We then developed a leadership program focused on accountability, values dilemmas, and speak-up culture. We created forums for employees to have open and honest conversations with leadership about their concerns, and the organization made significant changes to governance, policies, and processes.
3. The journey
Over time the leadership saw trust restored, and the culture shifted towards inviting concerns and encouraging speaking up. Staff members raved about a healthier environment. A major project stalled because of the distrust and lack of internal commitment was finally launched. The media wrote positive stories about the changes that had taken place.
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