“What are we not willing to give up?” This question marked the beginning of NEW’s core values refinement process. I had the privilege of helping guide our team through this process, and I learned a lot. Initially, when we launched this work, I thought we could wrap it up in three-to-six (3-6) months, tops. But as we began, it became clear that this endeavor was far more intricate than we had envisioned. Keeping the process inclusive meant making space for the diversity of experiences on our team. It took peeling back the layers and exploring the depths of our work candidly. It wasn’t just a matter of reviewing our current values and editing our previous work. It was about crafting an updated version of a rhythm that we’re all willing to dance to. I quickly became aware of what the scope of this work entailed. It felt important to slow down and give ourselves grace.
For me, this journey was about being honest with our beliefs and allowing them to guide our actions. It has been a journey of discovery and transformation to remain relevant in the ecosystem we serve. This path demanded great patience, thoughtfulness, and a strategic approach. Together, we crafted an expression of our organization’s soul. It may not be perfect, but I feel pretty darn good about it.
What does it take to create a positive work culture that feels good for NEW Staff, board members, and our clients? These are the insights and experiences that shaped our process, and, ultimately, our revised values.
Our Journey Towards Values Refinement:
Develop a Shared Understanding
For us, values are more than words on paper. They are the beliefs that guide our actions and decisions, the principles we uphold and refuse to relinquish. We found inspiration in Patrick M. Lencioni’s insights on values (Article: Make Your Values Mean Something) as the cultural cornerstones of a company. This understanding united us in a commitment to embody NEW’s values at all levels of our work.
Embrace Inclusive Dialogue
We made sure to center the voices of our staff and board members in defining NEW’s beliefs. The Annual Staff Summit became a platform for open and valuable dialogue. Staff meetings became hubs for activities and discussions, helping us rethink how our beliefs have evolved with our work. We involved our Board of Directors, seeking their insights, too. What excited them about these values? What potential costs or challenges might arise in embracing them?
Nurture the Seeds of Reflection
We encouraged individual reflection. How did personal beliefs and the day-to-day work align with organizational beliefs? Then we collectively reviewed each value. We examined their presence in our daily work, and identified areas that need to shift. Most importantly, we focused on ensuring that our actions aligned with our beliefs.
Respect the Current Work
Honoring the concurrent efforts of each of our team members was imperative. An internal group, Culture Cultivators, held NEW’s values refinement work. This team is dedicated to creating a positive and inclusive work culture, nurturing change and development. From there, we established the Values Committee, a subgroup of the whole. The committee streamlined this work by, processing feedback, crafting meeting agendas, and crafting drafts for folks to react to.
Patience as the Key Instrument
Recognizing the value of time, patience became our key instrument. It ensured each step was carefully orchestrated, and allowed the process to unfold organically. Recognizing the significance of this work, we dedicated purposeful and concentrated time to this endeavor. This gave us all the space to contemplate, assess, contribute feedback, and immerse themselves in the process.
Try It On
Inviting staff and board members to “try on” our new rhythm was a liberating experience. We understand that not everyone would find a snug fit with each value immediately. Therefore, we are fostering a culture of experimentation. We are encouraging staff and board members to explore, test, and witness how our values show up in our work.
Our core values define us, representing our shared humanity. They guide us toward our vision of empowered leaders, flourishing organizations, and vibrant communities – the soul of NEW.
After many months of hard, slow work, these are the values that are guiding the NEW team in the current chapter of our work:
- We value each other’s humanity. We believe in treating people with dignity regardless of their role(s).
- We value justice. We believe that repairing harm – to people and planet – requires addressing the root causes of inequity – systems and structures.
- We value collaboration. We believe that the best processes and solutions are built with input from the diverse folks they’ll impact.
- We value relationships that connect us. We believe that embracing diversity and working across differences requires trust and accountability.
- We value learning and growth. We believe that transformation requires continuous development of self and organizations.
- We value collective liberation. We believe that the only way to free ourselves from oppression is to do it together.