Elections are over and you’ve recruited your new sabbatical officer team. Hurrah! Now it’s time to get thinking about officer induction training to prepare them for the long road ahead. 

You want some team building activities which are fun but actually useful, right? Something to help the officers form strong professional relationships for the year ahead. 

In which case, a team values exercise might be just what your sabbatical officers need – personally and as a group. 


The role of a sabbatical officer is an unusual one. One minute they are an average student and the next they are a major stakeholder in a high turnover charity, responsible for the representation of hundreds or thousands of other young people. 

This massive jump in responsibility, visibility and influence is enough to put anyone on edge – never mind a young person who is still finding their path in life. 

When a role is tough, you need something to ground you – and knowing your personal values can do just that. Whether we realise it or not, our personal values are constantly informing our day to day behaviour. This is why it’s important that your officers know what their values are. 

If your sabbatical officers have a strong sense of their personal values it means:

  1. Increased self awareness – they have a better understanding of their personal drivers and their feelings – which they will be more able to communicate with others. They may even understand their strengths and weaknesses in relation to their values. Perhaps someone who values creativity has amazing campaign ideas but is prone to time consuming tangents. Knowing themselves well will prepare them for more effective workflows. 
  2. Clearly defined priorities – our values influence our decision making and time management. Officers who know their values can be more assertive about how they spend their time, what boundaries to put in place and which projects matter the most to them. This allows them to be more purposeful. 
  3. Better conflict management – Sabbatical officers who know their values well are better equipped to avoid conflict in the first place because they have a sense of their ‘pain points’ and insecurities which they can communicate with the team and manage. e.g. Hibbah knows that she values spontaneity so she always builds some brainstorming time into meeting agendas or leaves space in her diary for short notice activities. She knows that if she doesn’t, she starts to feel ‘hemmed in’ and grumpy. When your officers know their personal values it helps them to resolve conflicts constructively by stating their needs. (Because I value space to process my thoughts, it would help me if I could have all the key information at least 2 hours before each meeting).


A team values exercise is usually a facilitated conversation to support a team in identifying and agreeing on the shared values that they either have and/or will adhere to going forwards as a group. 

This is slightly different to the personal values exercise because:

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Although a team values exercise can reach a pretty high level of consensus, there will always be some personal values which are not reflected by the whole team. AND some of the team values which individual members are not as invested in.

The team values are shaped by the role. An individual may value a sense of adventure in their own life but find that this is less relevant to the aims of the whole team, which may be more focused on accountability, service or democracy. 

A team values exercise needs to sensitively explore and bridge the gap between personal values and achieving team consensus. This is why it is important that the exercise is given sufficient time and is facilitated well.


I have been delivering officer induction training for 8 years now, and a team values exercise is one of my favourite activities to run because…

  1. Personal values are a meaningful icebreaker – yes you can ask your officers to share their favourite foods or ideal Friday night to get the conversation going. But you also want them to know some really useful stuff about each other so that they can work together over the year. 
  2. Sharing personal values builds understanding and empathy – values form a massive part of our identity. Creating a space where your officers express values and actively listen to each other helps them to understand each other’s perspectives, world views and priorities. This will be useful later on when they need to negotiate with each other and overcome challenges. 
  3. Agreeing on team values reflects the democratic process – students’ unions, guilds and associations are built on the principles of democracy and everyone’s voice being represented. Kicking off your teambuilding with a democratic exercise means that your induction is in alignment with the organisation’s values. It also helps your officers to flex their democratic muscles right from the get go. 
  4. Team values creates a shared identity – it’s likely that each of your sabbatical officers has a big personality (that’s how they got elected right?) You don’t want a bunch of lone wolves on your hands. Getting them to create team values helps them to see themselves as one team from the very start. 
  5. Facilitating this activity reveals important patterns – it is always fascinating to see how your officers tackle this task. Are they comfortable self organising? Do they look to the facilitator for structure? Is the president the loudest voice in the room? Are your officers comfortable challenging each other? Do they operate in a hierarchy? This is a fantastic opportunity to notice their starting point and for you to build further training and self reflection around the way they operate as a team. 


Setting team values is a great way to kick off your sabbatical officer induction. But it also supports your officers throughout the course of the whole year. 

Having team values supports accountability

Your organisation may have a code of conduct or set of values that your sabbatical officers agree to – great. But there’s something a smidgen more powerful about a set of team values that the officers have developed and committed to themselves. 

Permanent staff and the officer team can regularly use the agreed team values to have discussions about accountability. “Are we acting in line with our values?” “Would our students say that [policy / decision] reflects [value]?”

Clear values may support student engagement 

In the world of business there’s always a buzz about the behaviours and priorities of different generations. Forbes notes that Gen Zers (the majority of your students!) like to prioritise brands and organisations that are authentic in stating their values and whose values align with their own. They are also highly interested in social justice issues. If your officer team can clearly and authentically communicate their values, this may draw more interest and engagement from the student population.

Shared values can nurture bonds

You set a team identity at your officer induction training… but you need to nurture that identity if you want harmonious working relationships. Referring to team values little and often can continue to build relationships. Encourage your officers to open meetings by sharing which of their team values they are most focusing on this week, and how! Invite officers to share achievements or compliments that relate to their team values. For example: “I appreciated the way Charlie delegated X task to me as it demonstrated our values of trust and balance.”

Use the team values to support conflict resolution

Conflicts will no doubt happen in a fast paced, demanding role. Make sure that your staff and officers refer back to team values in order to help find solutions to conflict. Some useful questions might be:


The sabbatical officer role is a challenging one and you want to make sure that your officers get the best possible start. Building a team values exercise into your induction training is perfect for:

With so many benefits for your team, it’s a no brainer to ring-fence a chunk of your sabbatical officer training for co-creating team values.

Kick off your officer induction training with a free team values facilitators resource pack

Download now