Values and What We Do

By    Jul 7, 2015

It’s pretty easy to identify the values of a cultural organization or initiative. Most mention them somewhere on their website, if not have an entire web section dedicated to this. We talk about values often, too. Inclusivity, equity, excellence are all frequently discussed at our conferences.

Values are important to identify and certainly important to name, discuss and debate. It’s helpful for potential stakeholders to know what you stand for and for the world to know what we stand for, as a field.

But I’m less interested in talking about what those values are and more interested in learning about how they show up in the work we do. After all, stating your values on your website isn’t worth much (and is potentially harmful) if, both internally and externally, your organization’s actions don’t reflect those values.

Becoming a leader that “walks the walk” takes courage, focus and creativity. Often the balance becomes tipped towards either integrating your values into your programs and things that benefit external stakeholders, but fall short of coming into your internal structures and policies. It’s easy to see where this is happening – organizations creating award-winning programming or services but have totally burnt-out, uninspired staff.

This is one of the areas Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman’s wanted to focus on in developing his line of businesses. One of his guiding principles is to make his deli just as great a place to work as it is to eat. He didn’t just “talk the talk”. He put it into action. In fact, he put this value into everything that Zingerman’s does. You can see it in their open-book accounting systems and approach to leadership. You can also see it when visiting their restaurants, where just about everyone on staff looks energized, invested and proud. We’ll feature a video with Ari on Field Notes this week so you can learn more from his perspective.

One of the things NAS achieves that I’m most proud of is giving leaders the tools to make choices that are more closely aligned with their values. Whether it’s creating a new staff-training program that reflects values of ongoing learning or designing a pricing structure that integrates a value of social equity, these leaders are doing tremendous work.

We believe that aligning work with values is essential. We want to know how you achieve this or where it’s particularly challenging. This week, we’re sharing some of the perspectives, examples and stories we’ve gathered from leaders and colleagues in the field.

We’ll start the week by sharing what’s in our archive, our favorite resources and tools on this topic. We invite you to ponder: How do you bring your core values into your work? Use the content this week as inspiration and craft a response to share. Send it our way and next week we’ll feature your responses.

Follow us on Twitter this week (#ValuesNAS) as we explore this question in depth and join us for a live Twitter Chat on Tuesday, July 14 from 1-2PM Eastern.

We hope you will share your story and join the discussion.