Co-ops and Wellbeing Teams – a meeting of hearts and minds?

My colleague Jackie LeFevre is a values specialist, and part of the Minessence Values Framework co-operative. We have been working together to define and demonstrate values within Wellbeing Teams. Here she shares her thoughts on the values underpinning Co-ops and Wellbeing Teams.

In her last blog Helen talked about the benefits flowing from more collaborative ways of working be that as a fully fledged co-op or a self managing Wellbeing Team. Burn out and morale crises are widely reported across health and social care at the moment and it would seem the sector has little to talk about except problems: and yet, the fledgling Wellbeing Teams are doing better than average on employee engagement when compared with a variety of sectors using the Peakon system.

What is employee engagement?

It is more than simple ‘satisfaction’ and runs deeper. Phrases often heard to describe how we see fully engaged people behave at work include ‘going the extra mile’ ‘nothing is too much trouble’ or ‘real team players’.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) puts it like this: ‘employee engagement can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values and a willingness to help colleagues’. Peakon says employee engagement is ‘the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, including how committed they are to the organisation’.

Two things strike me from those definitions. Values matter and it is about passion. So how were the background conditions for a highly engaging employment experience created – I say it all starts with values.

Why start with values?

Well we all have them, whether we know it or not. All groups that come together: be that to learn, to work, to have fun or simply share a moment or two grow a sense of common ground which is founded on their collectively most prized values, whether they know it or not.

Values are a powerful expression of our sense of what belongs in our life and what does not. They drive our decisions, shape our behaviour and determine what we are drawn to or repulsed by, whether we know it or not. So to build a team from the bottom up to share a common cause prepared to persevere through the tough times and celebrate the high times there is no better place to start than by making the most important collective values known.

Which values to start with?

Values are energy laden, emotionally rich, big ideas about how we want it all to work out in the end and how we shall make it happen. Values naturally fall into ‘goals’ which are about the end game and ‘means’ which are about how to get there.

For Wellbeing Teams we knew we needed a goal and some means. We also knew that as a self managing unit a Wellbeing Team would be stronger if it attracted resourceful individuals who lent towards finding answers to questions collectively whilst individually being willing to shoulder their part of the process. We used the Buurtzorg model and the Minessence Values Framework as our raw materials and articulated these five core values:

Compassion actively hearing and sensing others thoughts and feelings, being kind, and finding empathetic ways to support individuals and each other to achieve positive outcomes.

Responsibility initiating ways of working that dignify everyone at the same time as holding self and others accountable for actions and attitudes in relation to our shared purpose and values.

Curiosity feeling energised by discovering new insights, learning, finding answers to questions and wondering at the world.

Creativity capacity and ingenuity to respond appropriately to seize opportunities without needing to be directed or instructed by others.

Flourishing creating the conditions for thriving that reflect aspirations, remove barriers to connection and ensure people choose their own way forward.


What does this mean for organisational fit?

When a team is self managing it needs freedom for team members to find their way and develop appropriate and proportionate ways to be held to account. The team needs scope to learn and develop to make its services better and ensure both its customers and its members are supported. Even though the team is self managing it is not an island and it actively connects with its community to share knowledge and enable independence.

Take a moment to consider the seven principles which set co-operatives apart from other forms of organisation: a co-operative is owned and controlled by its members; it is democratic and every member has a say; it is financed by the pooling of resources; it is independent; it provides it members and staff with learning and development; it aims to work with others to support the wider sector; finally a co-operative works in ways to benefit society and build a better world.

Wellbeing teams cannot thrive in any and every different kind of organisational culture. Command and control leadership is toxic to self management. Looking at co-operatives, however, we feel this could be a meeting of minds around a powerful shared purpose after all, the difficult bit of aligning values is already done.

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