I helped to manage the production of a conference in Hull called Making Values Live – featuring the work of Mathew Smerdon and Geraldine Blake from Community Links. At the conference they provided an introduction to their report – Living Values: A report encouraging boldness in the third sector
The value-driven ethos of third-sector organisations is often cited as their distinguishing feature. But is this really the case?
The third sector has no monopoly on ‘values’. But are certain values more prevalent in the third sector than either the public or private sector? I have worked in all three sectors and from this personal experience – I doubt it.
Excellent organisations exist in all sectors. And excellent organisations always have strong values – a consistent set of values that runs through all of their work and helps to recruit, retain, and inspire talented people. The challenge is how to build an excellent passion and vision led organisation – regardless of its legal structure or the sectoral label it attracts.
The conference raised some further interesting questions – perhaps the main one for me being:
Is working explicitly with values worthwhile – or does it lead to hours of navel gazing with little real performance gain?
Can you work directly with something as abstract and ‘slippery’ as values?
How can you make the concepts involved more concrete and action oriented?
The best managers focus on working with behaviours, actions and results. Things that they can directly observe rather than infer. They then give affirmative feedback when these reinforce and express organisational values – or give adjusting feedback when they undermine them. This keeps the process of working with values very practical and action oriented.
In my experience though few managers give regular and rigorous feedback and many of those that do feel uncomfortable referring explicitly to values.