Surfacing collectively-held organisational values

Salzburg Global Seminar and Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron logo

A little bit before its 75th anniversary, Salzburg Global trusted Carl Attiya Swanson and myself to design and hold a Values Process that brings this organisation’s values to the surface.

Knowing SGS through my experience as a Culture fellow, and slowly catching up with their impressive history as global bridge builders and dialogue facilitators, this project brought a sense of excitement mixed with responsibility.

Thank goodness the collaboration with Carl and with the team from SGS was nothing short of stellar, bringing flow, joy and a sense of ease that comes from knowing you have all the support you could wish for.

Together we designed a series of group gatherings, small team conversations, one-to-one interviews and quantitative surveys. We were looking at bringing together values from both Salzburg Global Seminar (the arm that organizes gatherings) as well as Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron (the hotel that hosts the fellows and other guests), two intertwined entities that have many operational differences that needed to be accounted for.

The main challenge was definitely making sure that the hotel staff were included in the process. We worked as operations were ramping back up post covid and without being on the ground ourselves, we had to be creative in inviting busy hotel staff to participate. In the end, a mix of old school paper surveys, emails and interviews helped us create more of a balanced outlook. To be honest, I would really love to repeat the process a few more times at different times and including on-the-ground action to witness values evolving, getting clearer, perhaps some dissolving as things distill.

These were the values that emerged from the process. The feedback we received was that they were unexpected yet also right, that they expressed intangible qualities that could be clearly felt. It was lovely to return to Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron in person as part of 75th anniversary celebrations last year and see the values displayed as well as being referred to.

Looking back at the values now, they seem obvious to me, of course that’s what SGS stands for! I wonder how the staff feels about them around a year and a half later, more so how they will feel in 10, if they are still floating around somewhere.