From the flipchart paper on which we had recorded the output of a staff retreat on the subject, I had created an initial draft of a full values statement. I incorporated both concepts that seemed to address dysfunctional elements of our current culture and those that represented more aspirational aspects of the future organization we wanted to create. And I added some of my own ideas, including a preamble that tied the values statement to the mission and strategic priorities of our association and introduced an overall frame of systemic leadership.
The next step was to share the draft values statement with my staff. I had consciously taken an inclusive approach to the draft, working hard to include every idea that had come out of our group discussion and adding a few of my own. As we had worked together to come up with all the ideas, now I wanted to work together to whittle it down to something that would be memorable and functional within the organization.
Here's how I tried to position the challenge when I emailed the draft statement to my staff:
Attached is the draft values statement I’ve put together based on our discussions.
I came up with 9 core values with 3-4 behaviors aligned with each one, with admittedly some overlap across the board. For our next discussion, I’d like to look at ways to combine/refine the concepts so that we have no more than 6 core values (and perhaps less) with however many behaviors are necessary to fully describe each one.
I would ask everyone to take a stab at creating that revised document, and return that attempt to me so we can review and discuss multiple concepts. Don’t feel bound to include everything on this draft in the draft you create, and feel free to add new ideas if you think they are important.
Four of my nine staff members took me up on this challenge, returning a revised draft incorporating their thoughts on how to condense the statement down. They all edited and re-arranged the behaviors (the bullet-points that are listed under each value that describe how we can observe a person demonstrating the value) to one degree or another, but what I was really looking for was the concepts each person emphasized by observing what they kept, what the combined, and what they deleted to get the list down to the requested six or less values.
Here's a summary of what each staff person did:
A. Cut Clarity, Poise and Service, redistributing some of their behaviors, but left Growth, Innovation, Integrity, Passion, Respect and Teamwork as our six core values.
B. Combined Respect, Integrity and Poise into one new value--Professionalism--and left Clarity, Growth, Innovation, Passion, Teamwork and Service for a total of seven core values.
C. Rearranged all the values and behaviors into five new core values, each with a short phrase instead of a single word to capture its essence: (1) Clear, honest and accountable; (2) Innovative and open-minded; (3) Passionate and motivated; (4) Respectful and team-oriented; and (5) Service-oriented.
D. Nested and combined the nine draft values and behaviors into three broad categories: (1) Growth and innovation; (2) Teamwork with clarity, integrity, poise, respect and passion; and (3) Service.
I found the exercise very illuminating. I saw both the personalities of each staff person shining through in their decisions, as well as some common needs that would need to be incorporated into the final document.
Stay tuned. I'll continue this story in future posts. Up next: Discussing those common needs and preparing the final draft.
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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.