Values-Based Organizations

Introduction to the Relationship Model™
For Values-base Not-for-profit Organizations

In this introduction to the Relationship Model™ of governance, leadership and management of values-based not-for-profit organizations we introduce the definition of working relationship and demonstrate the importance of applying power in the most productive and fulfilling manner by using power with affirmation, involvement and servant leadership. Then we give definition to the structure and processes of governance. The entire Model is summarized in ten principles to conclude the article.


People live and work within relationships. Relationships are the human operating system. In order to make our lives and our work successful and fulfilling, we need to apply the natural principles of relationships by establishing the values, structures and the processes of relationships throughout our organization.

In the Relationship Model™ values, structure and processes form the basis of governance, leadership, management and service delivery. The roles of governance, leadership and management differ, but the principles that underlie them are the same. There is a continuity of design from your organization’s membership to the point where the clients receive the services.

A successful working environment is one in which there is a balance between the fulfillment of the individuals doing the work and the fulfillment of the people for whom the work is done. The organization itself is like the fulcrum of a seesaw that supports the dynamics of the process of maintaining this delicate and dynamic balance of fulfillment benefiting both staff and clients.

Putting emphasis on healthy relationships means investing a great deal of attention on the values, the structures and the processes that make up relationships. We have all observed that healthy and fulfilled men and women are more productive than unhealthy, dysfunctional people are.

Understanding how to build and maintain healthy working relationships is critical for successful management of human and financial resources. The basic design of relationships is disarmingly simple. Yet the application of these values, structures and processes is a lifelong experience, and a complex one at that. It is necessary to maintain a focus on the design of relationships in order to succeed at living out the Relationship Model™.

1 VALUES (The Way we Use Power)

Our values determine our behavior. In order to have an effective organization, all who work together must share the same values. When values are shared there is a built-in tendency to be able to work with the same operating system — within the same structure and with the same processes. There are many categories of values and many values in each category. The list of our values is as long as we want it to be. In the Relationship Model™ we have identified three core relationship-oriented values. Together they form the foundation of successful working relationships.


Affirmation is fundamental to healthy and productive relationships. Affirmation is the most elemental of all values. It encourages, builds, enables, empowers and ensures the fulfillment of each individual in your organization. It encourages calculated risk. Affirmation enables mistakes to fuel a learning culture instead of a blame culture. Our affirmation of ourselves and others is the most significant factor influencing the structure and the processes of our relationships.


Involvement means collaboration. It affirms the unique contribution of each individual in the organization. It means that people are involved in the decision-making process, especially in matters where they are personally affected. Involvement increases ownership and commitment, making individual fulfillment and organizational effectiveness more likely. It unlocks enormous potential through synergy, and allows organizations to make changes more effectively.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership means lifting people up instead of putting them down. It’s a quality that characterizes those who are the source of authority to others in a relationship-oriented organization. Servant leadership includes such values as care, concern, valuing the worth of others, service and support. Servant leadership can be demonstrated by anyone who is in a position of authority in an organization. In any organization everyone has some authority. We often think of authority in a “top-down” manner. Our organizational charts, which place the “highest” level of authority at the “top”, suggest the opposite of the kind of authority that supports those above. A better organizational “chart” is the image of the tree where those with the most authority support those above.



Authority includes authorization, resources (human and financial resources, information and time) and competencies. As in a tree where nutrients rise to nourish the entire tree and its fruit, authority flows upwards to the top of your organization to empower its people to produce services for the clients. Authority at any level in your organization is always limited by the person or group who is delegating authority to others.

Limitations of Authority

Limitations are the elements of a relationship that define the boundaries of authority and therefore the extent of our freedom in fulfilling our responsibility. Limitations are normally expressed in negative terms. In an organization defining limitations of authority eliminates the need for returning to the source of authority repeatedly for permission to act. Limitations may be adjusted to maintain a balance between authority and responsibility.


Responsibility is the broad description of the purpose for a position within your organization. It is usually contained in the relationship description of an individual or a group. Healthy relationships always balance authority and responsibility. Responsibility is further defined by the expectations of the responsibility.

Expectations of Responsibility

Expectations are the adjusting components of responsibility. In a relationship-oriented organization expectations are negotiated, not imposed, in order to achieve a balance with the authorization and resources that are available. They are usually expressed in the form of goals, standards and specific tasks. Goals may be strategic or tactical. Standards may range from the minimum quality we expect of one another to the quality to which we aspire.


Accountability is the monitoring and measuring component of a relationship. The first role of accountability is to monitor the balance of authority and responsibility in each relationship and to monitor compliance with limitations and expectations. The second role is to measure strategic and tactical results. The annual relationship review is the primary opportunity for accountability. Often given a negative connotation, accountability in The Relationship Model™ gives an opportunity for recognition and learning as well as correction. Accountability is a neutral process. It’s the gift we too often fail to each to one another.


Process is critical to the success of any group. The six core processes of governance are:
• Communication
• Conflict Resolution
• Decision-Making
• Strategic Planning
• Delegating Authority and Responsibility
• Monitoring and Measuring (Accountability)


The Relationship Model™ offers the most natural means of giving an effective design to your organization. No major paradigm shift is required. At the same time we will realize how important it is to use the conceptual framework that this model offers when we build a governance structure and when we process information.

Structure is the vehicle. Process is the journey. The way we use power reflects the quality of our driving.

The combination of values, structure and process may be synthesized into ten basic principles that define The Relationship Model™. Using these principles as a checklist can help your Board to verify that the values, structures and processes used within your organization are consistent with the Relationship Model™. The checklist can also assist your Board to identify weaknesses and to give guidance toward making adjustments that will improve relationships and productivity.


1 The organization seeks a balance between the fulfillment of the needs of the clients and the personal fulfillment of the staff and volunteers.

2 The affirmation, involvement and servant leadership of every individual and group at every level in your organization are vital to the success of your organization.

3 Authority, responsibility and accountability are the primary components of all relationships. Limitations of authority and expectations of responsibility are the secondary components.

4 Circles of authority and responsibility are defined clearly and are maintained equal in size by negotiating limitations of authority or expectations of responsibility.

5 The Board of Directors, acting on information from all stakeholders, is responsible for strategic planning: defining beneficiaries, services/needs, vision, mission and priorities, monitoring performance and measuring results.

6 The CEO is responsible for managing the delivery of services to the clients in accord with Board-stated priorities and for achieving the strategic goals within the limitations of the authorization and resources available.

7 Each individual has a share in responsibility for creating, owning, understanding and implementing the mission of your organization.

8 Decision-making proceeds from shared values, vision and mission, not unilaterally from the Board or the CEO. Decisions are made as close as possible to where they are implemented.

9 The organization is results oriented. Indicators of results are identified. Strategic and tactical goals are set in balance with available resources. Results are measured.

10 Accountability is mutual. The source of authority is accountable to the recipient for providing adequate authorization and resources. The recipient is accountable to the source for achieving negotiated results. Accountability is a neutral process.

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