Adrian Förster is CEO of Save the Children Switzerland for 100 days now. In the following interview, he reveals how he has experienced this time, how leadership also works in times of home office, and how 2021 is setting the course for the coming years.

Adrian, congratulations on 100 days as CEO of Save the Children Switzerland. How quickly or slowly did this time go by?

I think it’s like always when you experience something exciting, great and new: the time goes by very quickly.

Was there a highlight in these 100 days?

I noticed that, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people and companies are showing solidarity with Save the Children and supporting us because they understand the urgent need and see what great work we are doing for deprived children worldwide. This is not only a highlight, but also a great motivation for me and the team.

Seeing how more and more people are showing solidarity with Save the Children is a great motivation for me and the team.

Adrian Förster CEO Save the Children Switzerland

Have you set up your office yet?

Yes! I’ve made my own office a little warmer by painting some walls myself and putting in plants. Most people liked it – some politely kept quiet.

What is the role of the music box on your desk?

(laughs) Actually, it should make more music than it does at the moment, but through Covid-19, I’m in video conferences a lot. For me, it’s an expression of having fun at work – and sometimes music is part of that.

Adrian Förster at his workplace – music box not in the picture.

How would you sum up your first 100 days at Save the Children Switzerland?

I have a committed, capable and very cooperative team to work with and we have a great vision that is really worth fighting for. Therefore, I can say with conviction: I have the best job in the world!

We have a great vision that is really worth fighting for.

What surprised you after you started at Save the Children Switzerland? 

I was pleasantly surprised by how well, closely and harmoniously Save the Children’s global network works together – and not just at CEO level. A lot of tools have been standardized, people help and support each other at all levels and provide each other with a lot of helpful information. This is very motivating – and ultimately leads to us being able to work more efficiently and thus achieve more for the most deprived children.

Many employees are currently working from home – what does collaboration look like in the Corona-affected year 2020?

It is certainly a challenge to be able to get to know the people you work with, sometimes not in a direct face-to-face situation. But these are ultimately luxury problems and in Switzerland we are still doing very well. What worries me is the situation worldwide, where many years of development are being lost in quite a few countries because of the Corona crisis.

How can collaboration continue to function well with the home office set up?

On one hand, I think it’s important that we keep in touch with each other informally and share each other’s experiences – that’s an expression of appreciation that seems very important to me and that strengthens relationships. Furthermore, I think it helps enormously to have clarity in structure, processes, responsibilities and objectives within an organization. If everyone knows what their tasks are, it eliminates the need for many discussions, which are particularly difficult to have in a home office.

So you’re primarily concerned with avoiding discussions?

No – it’s much more than that: Ambiguities prevent employees from acting on their own responsibility and require a decision from me. However, if I promote clear structures and framework conditions, then everyone can work for themselves – and develop. It is very important for me that people around me can blossom when they are proactive and can make their own decisions. If I am no longer needed for many decisions, that’s fine. I want to help people unfold their full potential.

It is very important for me that people around me can blossom when they are proactive. I want to help people unfold their full potential.

The year 2020 is almost over. What are your goals for Save the Children in the coming year?

We will develop a new strategy both here in Switzerland and in our international network, which will determine in which direction we are going and on which issues we will focus. This is a very exciting process that has to be coordinated on several levels. Ultimately, it’s about how we can have the most impact with the resources we have to achieve our 2030 vision: That every child survives, learns and is protected.

Are there any project visits planned yet?

I would love to be able to exchange ideas directly with other Save the Children CEOs and visit some of our regional offices to better understand how projects are implemented and see the full picture. In addition, we have been supporting a large early childhood development project in Albania for years, which I would love to visit. Also, we have one of our staff in Cairo who is working on an exciting migration project. But I don’t dare to make a plan at the moment. The first thing is to make sure that we all get through the winter in good health, then we’ll see what is possible.