November 29, 2017



Values, Volunteers


VALUES – extract




Stating one’s values is a way of describing what is important in life. Stating an organisation’s values is a way of helping employees know what behaviours are expected and what principles underlie the policies and actions of the company. They help organisations because they encourage consistency, clarity, decision-making and autonomy (Hewison & Holden 2011). Values provide a shared framework within which people can  make decisions and act. Phills (2005, p.197) gives some simple examples such as intellectual freedom for a university, innovation for a high tech firm, meritocracy for a professional service firm and aggressiveness for a professional hockey team.


When the major performing arts companies were learning about strategic planning with some Stanford University academics in the 2000s, the direct question we were asked to help us unpack the values of our organisations was:


‘Given our purpose or our mission, what are a couple of things  – philosophies, guiding principles, things we believe in – that we would never compromise?’


Autry (2001, p. 32) says that you find out what values people want by asking people to finish the following sentences:


“We want to work in an organization that values ___________”

“ We want to work with people who value___________”


And then use the same sentences to check congruity:


“This organization values ___________”

“ These people value___________”


A more indirect way of finding out about the company’s values is to ask people about inspirational moments they’ve experienced in the company. It’s in the heart of stories about how people interact with or experience an organisation that you’ll find the enacted values. Because that’s what you’re looking for – not just words but words that are turned into action in the day-to-day operations of the company. For example, a value such as ‘concern for others’ needs to be turned into a series of policies and actions that ensure a workplace where people are treated with respect and allowed to fulfil their potential (George et al, 2011).


One of the best stories about values in an arts organisation can be found in Hewison, Holden & Jones’ (2013) story about a change of leadership at the Royal Shakespeare company. The RSC has traditionally been an ensemble company of actors but the new leadership team of Michael Boyd and Vikki Heywood used the idea of ‘ensemble’ to guide their decisions. The company understood the qualities of an ensemble as it was experienced in the rehearsal room and on stage and so it was a transparent metaphor standing for the values of trust and mutual respect, transparency and collaboration. What Boyd and Heywood did was apply these qualities to the new organisational structure and culture. They streamlined processes, opened up silos, broke down hierarchies and got people on board for the change in collaborative and participative ways. There was no dissonance between values and actions.




Autry, JA 2001 The Servant Leader, Three Rivers Press, New York


Covey, SR 1992, Principle-Centred Leadership, Pocket Books, London


George, B, Sims, P, McLean, AN & Mayer, D 2007,’Discovering your authentic leadership, Harvard Business Review, 85(2):129-138


Hewison, R & Holden, J, 2011 The Cultural Leadership Handbook, F Gower, Farnham


Hewison, R, Holden, J & Jones, S 2013, ‘Leadership and transformation at the Royal Shakespeare Company’  in Caust, J (ed) Arts Leadership, Tilde University Press, Melbourne, 144-158


Phills, JA 2005, Integrating Mission and Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations, Oxford University Press, New York