#THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Values and Sticks of Rock from Brighton


As I embark on a visit to a cherished, elderly relative living in Brighton and having just delivered training for some inspirational individuals moving into management for the first time in the charity sector, this Pause for Thought turns to the power of organisational values:

§  Why have organisation values?
§  Are they relevant?
§  Do they really have the potential to motivate staff and volunteers?
§  What should they be?

I’ve worked in the charity sector for over 20 years, since creating a charity myself in my dim and distant youth (with a few brief forays into the statutory sector in between).

During that time, I’ve worked in many organisations that have ‘values’ – those ‘buzz words’ typed on a piece of paper which very few staff members can recall within a darkened room in the bright glare of a spotlight!


Organisation Values at the core


Whilst an organisation’s vision and mission statement acts as a compass for its future direction. I believe (with my visit to Brighton in mind) that values are akin to the lettering through a stick of rock from the seaside permeating everything an organisation does. You can feel free to replace Brighton with Blackpool if that’s your preference!

I realised just how powerful organisational values can be when (some years ago) I joined the Senior Management Team at Directory of Social Change – where I learned so much from, probably, the most influential leader I’ve ever worked with – Debra Allcock-Tyler, their CEO. I carry those lessons with me through my freelance work today!

It was thanks to Debs that I learnt that organisation values don’t have to be just ‘words on a piece of paper’ after all – they have the power to motivate and drive high performance.


Values should inform and become integral to an organisation‘s policies and procedures, systems and the day-to-day behaviours of managers, staff and volunteers.
They should permeate everything – just like the lettering in that stick of seaside rock! 

Top Tips

Your organisation values will, of course, be specific and unique to your organisation, its mission and objectives and the image it wants to portray to its beneficiaries and the ‘outside world.’


However, let’s take ‘client-centred’ as an example value – how could this value permeate an entire organisation so that it lives and breathes the value?

§  Firstly, organisation values need to, ideally, be agreed by the entire team for maximum ‘buy-in’ – review them regularly to keep them alive and fresh

§  Decide upon organisation values that actually reflect the vision, mission and objectives of your organisation and your ‘brand’ – the image you wish to represent

§  Values should inform your strategy and annual organisation, team and individual performance goals/targets

§  Individual and team behaviours should be identified that reflect the values
   For example:

«  As a team we will remain aware of our clients’ needs and how we can best meet them

«  Every visitor to our building is a client and we will give everyone who visits a friendly welcome and offer help

«  I will pick up the telephone within 3 rings

«  If a client calls a colleague whilst they are out, we will try to deal with their issue as best as we can, until our colleague returns

§  These behaviours, of course, need to be relevant to the individual or team concerned – the behaviours reflecting this value within the finance team are likely to be different to those who work in the reception area, which in turn would be different within the fund-raising team, for example

§  Recruitment interviews/selection need to focus on the values and include questions that invite candidates’ understanding of them

For example:

«  “In our charity, we believe in being ‘client-centred’ – if you secured this post of Press Officer, how would you reflect this value through your work?”

§  Review your organisation strategies, systems and procedures regularly and evaluate them against your organisation values:

«  The organisation makes all of its resources available in English only, yet 8% of clients are from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

t  “What can we do differently to ensure this segment of our client-base feels more included?”

§  Staff Briefings should review and discuss values:

«  Reviewing organisation targets against actual performance

t  “In May we received 7 complaints across the whole organisation, our monthly target is to not exceed 3, so what could we do differently?”

«  Team meetings and goal-setting should examine organisation values and targets for development.

For example:

t  “We have only responded to client phone calls within 4 rings rather than 3 in the last month. What could we do differently so that we can reach our target?”

t  Solution: Forward calls to colleagues whilst attending meetings

§  Organisational values should form a context and benchmark for supervision and support sessions:

«  Give performance feedback based on observation within the context of values and agreed staff behaviours

For example:

t  “I was really impressed by the way you went the extra mile last week and stayed on late so that you could deal with that client who was feeling distressed. Well done – you really reflected our values there.”

«  Invite staff to reflect on their personal performance within the context of agreed values.

For example:

t  “What have you done this month that reflects our value of being ‘client-centred’? What could you do differently in the month ahead?”  

These are just a few suggestions, of course.
I’m sure you could potentially add a lot more of your own, so let me know your comments and ideas. 

So, to conclude, next time you’re at the seaside and bite into a stick of rock, think about your organisation values.
Do they really run through everything you do as organisation and as a manager, team and individual?

Staying Connected

Contact me for further information about how I can help your organisation ‘live the values’ at mike@mikephillipstraining.co.uk

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