How change in times of crisis impacts leaders and decision-making

The Centre for Charity Effectiveness’ latest Charity Talk welcomed Keith Leslie, Chair of the Samaritans.

The Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE) at Bayes Business School hosted its first Charity Talk of the year, focusing on how leaders and organisations face and implement the challenges of embedding continual change.

More than 105 students, alumni, academics, and senior charity sector leaders joined the online event, to hear the comments of Keith Leslie, Chair of the Samaritans, who discussed the continual and relentless nature of change.

Mr Leslie, a former McKinsey and Deloitte partner, also shared learnings from his cross-sector career and insight from the Samaritans, who support more than 250,000 contacts a month in the UK and Ireland through their helplines.

The event was hosted by Alex Skailes, CCE Director, with a response given by Caroline Copeman, Bayes Senior Visiting Fellow and CCE Consultant.

Mr Leslie’s new book, titled ‘A question of leadership: Leading organisational change in times of crisis’, explores how change has transformed during the pandemic, including how it impacts the decisions and rationale of leaders and organisations, and how to build belonging, inclusion, and mental health.

Mr Leslie said, in his experience, leaders don’t appreciate the different behavioural elements that are needed to embed change, and that they are often not willing to invest their time in such largescale adjustments. He believes more leadership at all levels is important to successfully implement change, with senior leaders and CEOs, frontline leaders and management teams all needing to be on board.

Mr Leslie, who added that an organisation can be as big as 150 people before leaders lose the ability to connect with everyone personally, discussed how the ‘epidemic of mental ill health across the UK’ was impacting all levels inside organisations and needed top level review.

“To successfully embed mental health provisions in organisations, change requires people to bring all of themselves to work. There are a huge range of investments you can make, but the single most powerful one is investing in training your line managers to talk about anxiety and depression.

“Organisations may be rational but they behave as complex systems so you can't foresee the impact of every change that is initiated from the centre. There's a significant danger that changes from the centre will disrupt the day-to-day delivery and that is why you find resistance happening to change.

“I think formal learning as part of change is so important as it brings everyone together on the same basis and opens the door to everyone acknowledging ‘I've got something to learn’.”

Ms Copeman spoke about the importance of being both resilient and agile. From interviews with CEOs and Chairs during lockdown she found that having a strong, shared sense of purpose and values guide and help make sense of things, and building strong inter organisational relationships were critical for success.

Ms Copeman added that leaders and organisations’ ability to transform while recovering is down to being curious and being willing to take risks, being aware of the external environment, taking evidence-based decisions and engaging with others to motivate and inspire, while being self-reflective when receiving feedback.

“Thank you to Keith and Caroline for their words of wisdom, as well as sharing insights and experiences,” closed Ms Skailes. “These discussions make clear the benefit of wrapping our arms around each other and sharing learning, while seeking out those with an approach to behavioural and social change who are doing things differently and nurturing this. It's very easy to get stale and stuck and to seek out those who do it in a tried and trusted way that you're familiar with. This will not necessarily result in those real societal changes that one is seeking to play a small part in creating.”


Featured Bayes Experts