Bringing values into focus

browningyork General communication, Organisational culture

Focus groupI’m currently in the middle of helping one of my clients to run focus groups with their employees and volunteers, which is a role I love. Being a facilitator and enabling the people in the group to articulate and present their views is really important. It’s great to be working with people who understand the value of really listening to what others around their organisation have to say.

We are testing out some brand values that have been developed with input from employees and volunteers at each stage. These are the words that everyone will use to consistently talk about their charity, the work they do and why they do it. So it’s vital that everyone has the chance to make their mark and have their say – they need to recognise themselves and their work in the words and feel comfortable using them to describe what happens.

As you would expect, we have a plan for each session to ensure that the feedback is being gathered in the same fair and transparent way. Every group, no matter where they are based geographically and no matter what roles the attendees play in the charity, is being asked to consider the draft wording and how they feel it relates to the organisation’s aspirations and the difference they make to others’ lives.

One of the things that I find particularly fascinating is the consistency of feedback from very diverse people. Although they are looking at the words from varied perspectives and imagining what they could mean for different roles, their feelings about the charity, what it does and what it should do, are remarkably consistent. This has enabled us to refine the values half-way through the process so we are testing out an even more advanced version.

What is also interesting is the way in which workshop attendees are keen to know what happens next. It seems that having taken this opportunity to say what they think, they now feel an investment in the values and want to ensure the process continues. They want to know that their views are making a difference and that the values themselves will make a difference to the future development of the charity. It is important to them that their beneficiaries continue to be impacted in a positive way and that the focus groups are more than just a talking shop; that their time has been used wisely and positively. Of course, some attendees are finding the workshops a less positive experience, for a variety of reasons. But they are still choosing to take part in the exercise and have their say.

Put simply, all attendees genuinely care, about their service users and each other. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be facilitating groups like these.

The values are due to be signed off by the trustees shortly. And then the work to make these values meaningful really begins!

I’d love to hear about your experience of developing organisational values – use the comments field below to let me know what happened.

Until next time
Sarah