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What’s the value of a value?

Values are everywhere. Companies have them on their website, schools have their own as well as teaching about ‘British Values’ and we talk about our own personal values. The core, foundational things we individually hold dear, qualities or attributes which come from our heart or guts rather than our heads. My personal values include honesty, integrity, loyalty, and relationships. All things which help me to feel confident about who I am and how I act, both alone and with others. They also feed into my decision making around where I put my boundaries and why.

Values are important and they bring us together. In the context of an organisation such as The Centre for Emotional Health, they help give us our identity and confidence in who we are, what we do and how we go about our business. Values which are identified and developed well mean that those who are part of an organisation are on the same page, heading in the same direction, values bring us together around a consistent approach.

You may have noticed I said, ‘values which are identified and developed well’ and this is key. Values which are simply pulled from a generic list or chosen from a list of current trendy words and delivered by a senior team mean nothing.

Here are The Centre for Emotional Health’s top tips for developing a set of organisational values which can bring people together:

  • Make sure everyone is involved in producing them and I mean everyone – it is worth the time and effort because then everyone owns them.

  • Stick to no more than 4 or 5 – any more than that and they become confusing and meaningless – remember these are the core foundational values not a list of everything you’d like to be.

  • Start by asking the question “What are we like when we are at our best?” – this is really the core of the endeavour.

  • Our values should emerge from who and how we are, not necessarily what we would like to be.

  • A value sometimes needs some explanation or context – don’t be afraid to state why you’ve chosen that value. Here are ours as an example:

Nurturing - Nurturing ourselves and one another is key to good emotional health and is the foundation of all we do. We are aware of our own needs and feelings and take responsibility for them as well as being aware of the effect of our behaviour on others.

Transformative - Our aim is that every interaction with us builds good emotional health. Our training, based on the Nurturing Programme, is instrumental in transforming lives for the better. Self-reflection and evidence help us to continue to learn and develop.

Empathic - Empathy means tuning in to someone else’s feelings, understanding their emotional point of view and it is the cornerstone of our Nurturing Programme. We will always try to respond to others in an empathic way.

Playful - We create inclusive, motivational working and learning environments through our collaborative, playful approach. This builds positive relationships and develops confidence and enthusiasm.

All of our work is based on our Nurturing Programme which has four constructs as its foundation. These are Self-awareness, Appropriate Expectations, Positive Discipline and Empathy. It is no surprise therefore to see these constructs represented in these values, they are part of who we are, our organisational DNA.

The power of these values is not in each one individually but rather in how each value interacts with one another – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts! Regular check ins with the whole staff team to explore how these values are lived out is also a useful exercise. In this way they don’t become meaningless and can be developed as your organisation develops.

The Centre for Emotional Health produced these values a year ago now following a long process of conversation and deliberation. Today everyone in the organisation knows them and can identify how they are lived out in their role.

Identifying what we are like at our best, reviewing and living this out means these values have value and are a useful means of being able to strengthen the existing relationships within our organisation.

Peter Leonard, Chief Executive


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