Why Core Values Matter


Apr 20

Can I be frank about something?

The way that we typically do core values is pretty useless.

You know what I'm talking about -- the long, drawn out core values exercises that result in the list of core values like "honesty" and "life-long learning" printed on posters and taped to the walls.

Total. Waste. Of. Time.


Because core values are not some aspirational list of bland values. They are the non-negotiables of your classroom, your school, your district, and your organization.

That means that if "life long learning" is on the poster but you are not teaching children to think for themselves and the adults in the building are doing more grousing than growing, it isn't a core value.

If you're not willing to remove someone who repeatedly violates it, it isn't a core value.

If you're not filtering all the major decisions in your organization through it, it isn't a core value.

If I can't see them reflected in your policies, master schedule, hiring practices, or the way that you serve students and treat adults, it isn't a core value.

If you are unwilling to take a political or financial hit over it, it isn't a core value.

You see, core values aren't aspirational; they must live and breath in and throughout your culture.

So rather than sitting around and dreaming up core values, you would be better served taking a hard look at your culture and identify (and then dealing with) the core values that already exist.That way, you address the real culture of your organization, identify and fix the things that aren't working and better leverage the things that are so that you can best serve your students and your colleagues.

We did this a few years ago at Mindsteps and it radically improved the way that we operated internally and served our clients. Check out the video below to see what our core values are and how we've used our core values to not only enjoy our work more, but have far greater impact.

And now that I've shown you mine, show me yours. What are YOUR core values? Please share them below in the comments.

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(11) comments

Nancy Aronson April 20, 2016

Core Values Reflection:
* Everyone is a leader
* Take the risk; value the mistakes

    Claire Necessary April 20, 2016

    Thanks, Nancy!

msmelinda67 April 21, 2016

Kids come first.

    Claire Necessary April 21, 2016

    Thanks, Melinda!

Carlton Johnson April 21, 2016

Robyn is exactly right! Core values represent your company’s road map. Anyone not on board does not need to be with your organization. I love a great plan, but we in education must also be careful not to micromanage or allow ourselves to be micromanaged! We can all, always learn from others. Again, Robyn is correct…We must always learn!

Regina stephenson April 22, 2016

Excellent video, particularly the last two segments- Thank You. I have been using and recommending this site for two years.
It has impacted my teaching and that of many others. I share the articles often.
Regina Stephenson

    Claire Necessary April 22, 2016

    Hi Regina,

    Thank you so much! I am glad you find them useful and helpful!

Sharon Taylor May 4, 2016

Your commitment to quality is evident in your communications and your video messages. I have not purchased materials, but did participate in the Rigor training series. As a school counselor, I totally concur that relationships matter, drama is not useful, and that students, as well as staff, are empowered when they “figure it out and get it done.”

Nice work! Kudos to you and your staff.

    Claire Necessary May 4, 2016

    Thank you so much, Sharon!

Jon Erwin October 26, 2016

Love the article. I’ve written a book on school climate ! My question is if you don’t go through the process of involving the whole school community in developing core values, how do you derive them? I’ve found that giving students a voice in those values goes a long way toward developing a sense if community! I totally agree that once they’re developed, every policy and practice in the school needs to align! Not just posters on the wall! Ugh
Thanks for sharing this

    Robyn Jackson October 27, 2016

    Jon, the core values of an organization are evident in the culture. You see core values play out in everything — from the way that the master schedule is created to the way that teachers handle bathroom passes. Core values determine how we do what we do and create the collective habits of the organization

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