Monday, September 30, 2013

From Flipcharts to Initial Draft

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Two weeks ago, in Flipcharts Don't Lie, I continued writing about the process I used to create my association's values statement, despite some misgivings about the value of values statements I've previously shared and still hold.

After facilitating a day-long staff retreat to discuss the results of our anonymous survey and begin framing the major concepts that would go into our values statement, I was faced with a difficult task. We had had a lot of productive and cathartic conversation, and now I had nine pieces of flipchart paper, each covered with bullet points representing the honest thoughts and concerns of my staff, and it was my job to take that information an distill it down into an initial draft that could be used for the next phase of statement development process.

I'll be honest. It was a daunting task. In reviewing the output of the discussion, I was torn between concepts that seemed to address dysfunctional elements of our current culture and those that represented more aspirational aspects of the future organization I wanted to create. I knew that this was my opportunity to bake in some of my own ideas about where the organization needed to go--and I was perfectly willing to do that. This was, after all, a change initiative, and I knew that I needed to push some of us out of our comfort zones. But I was worried that if I strayed too far from what people thought we talked about, it would have a demoralizing effect.

I bounced my first attempt off a colleague to get some unbiased feedback on that very question, and he helped me polish it up in a few areas. Here's the draft I eventually shared with my staff:

NFPA Values Statement – DRAFT, revised 2012.12.16

The mission and strategic priorities of the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) are to strengthen the fluid power industry and its members by:

  • Building and connecting its members to an educated fluid power workforce;
  • Promoting the technological advancement of fluid power; and
  • Serving as a forum where all fluid power channel partners work together.

NFPA staff play a key role in helping to create this positive vision of the fluid power industry, coalescing members and other stakeholders around these objectives and our supporting activities and initiatives. This role requires leadership, not from a single individual, but as a fundamental competency that is exercised consistently across the organization. To help ensure this level of success, NFPA will seek, develop, and reward staff members who exhibit the following values and behaviors.

(listed alphabetically, not in priority order)

  • We bring purpose and understanding to chaotic environments.
  • We think strategically, make wise decisions despite ambiguity, and act with intention.
  • We are concise and articulate in speech and writing.
  • We minimize complexity, and look for efficiencies that can be shared across the organization.
  • We are willing to experiment and try new ways of doing things.
  • We look for and accept new challenges.
  • We identify gaps in our knowledge and skill set, and take actions to correct them.
  • We apply gained knowledge and openly share the results.
  • We engage others in iterative processes that result in higher levels of value and engagement.
  • We challenge prevailing assumptions, suggest better approaches, and create new ideas that prove useful.
  • We take smart risks, learn from our mistakes, and share lessons with others.
  • We exhibit a bias towards action, and avoid analysis-paralysis.
  • We speak with candor, saying what we think even if it is controversial.
  • We question actions that are inconsistent with our values.
  • We concede when we don’t know something, are quick to admit mistakes, and are the first to apologize.
  • We care intensely about our success, celebrating wins big and small.
  • We inspire others with our positive attitude, enjoying the journey as well as the goal.
  • We display tenacity, fighting for the resources necessary to do the job right, and asking the questions necessary to get to the root causes of things.
  • We bring energy and fun to the workplace.
  • We have a calming influence in stressful situations.
  • We address conflicts openly and with tact, directly with the people concerned.
  • We seek to understand underlying assumptions, and focus on resolving rather than blaming.
  • We treat people with respect independent of their status or disagreement with us.
  • We are tolerant and understanding of people’s differences.
  • We listen to other perspectives, and are receptive to constructive criticism.
  • We share information openly and proactively, demonstrating an understanding that our actions impact others.
  • We participate productively in team discussions, collaborating to determine the best ideas, helping to clarify needed actions, and respecting the role of the team leader.
  • We take responsibility for our tasks that support team objectives, and hold others accountable for theirs.
  • We seek to understand others, the world they live in, and the problems they face.
  • We work to establish personal, long-term relationships.
  • We are responsive to inquiries, and are available when traveling or out of the office.

One of the most important things that I added to this first draft which wasn't specifically discussed in our staff meeting was the preamble. It both ties the values statement to the mission and strategic priorities of our association and introduces an overall frame of systemic leadership to the document.

Stay tuned. I'll continue this story in future posts. Up next: My reasons for making the additions I did, and how I framed the next conversation with my staff.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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