Leeds Women’s Aid (LWA) is an independent charity, formed in 1972, providing services to women and children affected by domestic, sexual &honour-based violence and abuse; forced marriage; trafficking; stalking and harassment; and to women and girls with complex and multiple needs, along with being a voice and leader in women’s centered work.
Since 2017 LWA has trebled in size, merged with another organisation and been successful in winning large contracts and securing additional funding, becoming the largest women’s charitable organisation in Leeds. This resulted in many staff going through a TUPE process and included people moving from a small organisation to a larger, and vice versa. Following this, significant work was undertaken to set out the 3–5-year strategic outlook, including reviewing and co-producing the new organisation’s values, and rebranding.
LWA were presented with a number of challenges:
1) New project implementation.
As the external demand for services and information grew, new practices and functions were developed, eg online live chat, to help meet service user requirements and a move towards more electronic ways of working. In addition, with funders refocusing their priorities, access to funding also changed.
The impact of the pandemic increased demand meaning the capacity within the organisation was stretched and extra staff were required to manage the additional workload. With some staff on furlough, some working from home and others on site in the refuges, pressures, perceptions and assumptions impacted on staff wellbeing and motivation.
3) People and culture.
With several different workplace cultures coming together, managing people’s differing expectations and alignment with essential ways of working, created a challenge of how to successfully embed new practices and bring everyone on board, including those who had preferred previous, less formal ways of operating.
The Association of Chief Executives in Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) also set out clear expectations in their statement that there was “an absolute requirement for charity leaders to put in place robust and effective systems for internal leadership and management to identify, report, investigate and deal with misconduct, and to remove wrongdoers”.
With this in mind, and the challenges being presented, LWA recognised that they needed to take a proactive approach to prevent friction and conflict arising which could have led to behavioural and conduct concerns.
Working with Conduct Change
As a people centric organisation, both in terms of staffing and the ‘service users’ they serve in the community, LWA required objective and expert insight to help align their organisational goals and objectives, values, policies and processes with their actual behaviours and conduct. On that basis, Conduct Change were engaged to support LWA develop and access the most appropriate conduct frameworks and interventions for the context of their organisation. It was recognised that this was a multi-disciplinary approach and there was a need to engage all levels of the organisation for it to succeed which is where LWA needed greatest support.
Following an audit, Conduct Change commenced a consultancy programme with LWA which has included recommendation and implementation of initiatives, policy review, tailored training to raise awareness and close skills gaps, as well as launching a pioneering Conduct Agreement across the entire business.
Audit to establish organisational context
Action planning and review sessions
Conduct Agreement (Charter) drafted and implemented linking values, behaviours and activities
Senior leadership team embarked on EQ development and coaching
Psychological Safety awareness and training rolled out across organisation with survey and measurement to follow
Values embedded into supervisions and appraisals
Launched Leadership ‘Behaviour of the month’ with the permission to challenge expected at all levels
Benefits to LWA so far
Positively impacted wider strategic plan, improved engagement, inclusion, and teamwork.
Prioritised the development of a psychologically safe environment as the foundation for cultural change.
Improved EQ awareness of Senior Leadership Team. Recognition that leadership behaviours have changed and given staff permission to hold them to account.
Improved collaboration between trustees, managers and staff in considering how to relate values and behaviours in determining organisational goals and objectives
Despite presuming a positive culture was already present, staff feel more able to express themselves freely. Staff are more considerate in their interactions with each other and with service users; they are more confident in challenging wider injustices outside of the organisation and are more confident advocates.
Provided a ‘spark’ of excitement and a sense of togetherness throughout the whole organisation.
CEO shortlisted for Charity Leader of the Year in the Charity Times UK Awards https://www.charitytimes.com/awards/shortlist21.php
Comments from LWA
“I am not stating this too strongly but there is no way we would have done it or even realistically started it if it had not been for Conduct Change. We are much more together as a leadership team, everyone wants, and has bought into it. We have the tools to be able to change our own behaviour, which is where we need to start, and most of us didn’t think we needed to”
“The conduct agreement is BRILLIANT”
“.....a breath of fresh air”
“We have observed staff using positive behaviours in refuge with residents”
"... so valuable not only to me, but to the team and it will be to the whole organisation. Thank you"
Conduct Change provides organisational behaviour and leadership development expertise. Our consultancy, coaching and training solutions operate at the core of behavioural impact which improves organisational profitability, team effectiveness, employee and customer experiences and social purpose, working from the inside out.
Supported by a network of business leaders, senior academics, legal, HR and occupational health and safety professionals, our work helps organisations and individuals assess and understand the impact of behaviours on their working environment.
The work we do is rooted in the prevention of workplace bullying; we are part of a growing global community committed to improving the employer/ employee relationship.
Conduct Change was founded in 2019 with the express aim of reducing the 27% of workplace bullying incidences affecting the UK workforce alone. We do this by creating more courageous and compassionate workplaces for the future.
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