Happy motivated colleagues working on online project

Fostering trust: how INGO leaders can build a positive workplace culture

In our last blog, we talked about how important self-awareness and empathy are for creating happier, healthier, more impactful INGOs. In this article, we will explore how to harness these qualities to build trust – the lifeblood of engagement and successful, sustainable organisations.

With the challenging conditions many INGOs are facing right now – funding cuts, high levels of stress and staff turnover – levels of trust can go one of two ways. If issues are dealt with in a spirit of openness and empathy, trust can actually increase, thanks to a feeling of mutual support and inclusion. Without that openness, trust can be lost and with it people’s commitment, engagement and enthusiasm.      

The keystone of trust

Trust is built when leaders and managers embody the kind of presence that demonstrates focused attention, curiosity and an open-minded attitude. When we feel listened to, we feel safe expressing ourselves without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. And when we express ourselves, and we feel heard, we’re more likely to maintain trust.

What gets in the way

When leaders are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, the quality of their listening can diminish. Surface-level listening can result in leaders insufficiently acknowledging the underlying feelings and needs that team members might have. This lack of acknowledgement will likely cause team members to disconnect and check out. When communication becomes transactional, trust starts to fray.

Embedding a new approach

As a leader, you might be thinking “How can I possibly exhibit more presence and empathy when I’m already maxed out on all fronts?” We get it. It is tough to make space for any new approach when you have such a heavy workload.

But we’re used to working with people in that context. Accordingly, we’ve developed a toolkit of simple, easy-to-integrate habits that help leaders develop and demonstrate greater levels of presence and empathy. And as people start to experience the impact of this new approach, it will start to spread and become a new model of behaviour that gets replicated across the organisation.

By prioritising empathy and fostering trust, INGOs can more effectively navigate the tough conditions they are facing, bolster morale and cultivate a sustainable workplace culture grounded in mutual respect, collaboration and support.

Join us to find out more

Find out more about how to build trust and create cultures people love being a part of by joining our free webinar Thriving cultures: transforming wellbeing, engagement and performance.

You will leave with a renewed sense of possibility, a compelling case for change and an understanding of how to develop a viable transformation roadmap to create the conditions for your culture to thrive.