Values and Engagement: When the rubber hits the road

by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Strategic Communications + Engagement

It seems to be the time of year when organizations are rethinking their strategic plans or announcing new ones. 2020 was a year of exceptions and so perhaps 2021 feels like a good time to assess one’s “North Star”, which is what a strategic plan should be. We help many clients with their strategic plans through engagement and sharing information with their communities, stakeholders, partners and funders. Typically, the first element of a strategic plan is the values of an organization or its guiding principles.

Here’s what I’ve learned to be true:

  1. The values or guiding principles of your organization can evolve over time, but they shouldn’t dramatically change.
  2. It’s critical to link your values or guiding principles to your vision, mission and initiatives or priorities.
  3. Values or guiding principles need to be deeply held internally.

Like Jon Stewart said: “If you don’t stick to your values when they are being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.”

Engagement provides an awesome opportunity for organizations to live their values. If you value inclusivity or collaboration, then engagement can bring those values to life and help you really walk the talk. But here’s the thing…when your actions or lack of engagement are in direct conflict with your values, it is a major reputational risk. What arises is a case of the Emperor having no clothes.

Before an organization sets out on a path to develop a strategic plan, I ask them what’s most important, what do they hold dear, what do they know to be true? We engage in understanding those values or guiding principles for which they will seek every opportunity to bring to life. So, please don’t rush the “first part” or what someone once said “was the easy stuff” in a strategic plan. Build a solid foundation that excites and awakens your team to their North Star.