Core Values Drive Everything

by Tamra Nast

Principle 1:  Promotes Core Ethical and Performance Values as the foundation of good character.

“…the core values that underpin sustainable development – interdependence, empathy, equity, personal responsibility and intergenerational justice – are the only foundation upon which any viable vision of a better world can possibly be constructed.” -Jonathon Porritt

As I was writing this article I received an email from WOW, a cable provider.  The first paragraph caught my eye…

“Our ongoing commitment to provide excellent service and create stress-free experiences for our customers is exemplified in our core values:

  • Respect: Treat others as you wish to be treated.
  • Integrity: Choose to do what’s right.
  • Servanthood: Embrace the attitude and honor of serving others rather than being served.
  • Ownership: Act with thought and a focus on the collective good.”

I was struck by the importance of having core values in any group or organization.

Core values are essential in shaping the culture of an organization. These values help all stakeholders define who they are, understand group norms and behavioral expectations, and bring unity and identity to the group. Core values reflect the fundamental ethical (knowing what is right) and performance (doing what is right) beliefs of a person or organization.

Core ethical and performance values are universal, affirming, and supportive of our democratic way of living, and are best determined by all stakeholders so that there is buy-in and commitment to living them. Once defined, all stakeholders need to understand what these values look likesound like, and feel like as they incorporate them into their lives.

A great way for schools to show their core values is with a touchstone. Touchstones are pictures and words that serve as a visual reminder of a school’s core values. They help reinforce behavioral expectations for students, and help students, teachers and parents hold themselves and each other accountable to living into their shared values.

The Darden Primary School in South Bend, Indiana created The Darden Darts: Do Your Best, Act Responsibly, Respect, Trust, Self-Control and Stay on Target. This is a picture of their touchstone, The Darden Way. This year, each classroom created a poster about what each Dart looks like, sounds like, and feels like in their school.  The posters were put up around the school and the students did a walking tour to better understand their core values. 

Marshall Intermediate School, also in South Bend, developed their core values, CPR-Compassion, Perseverance, and Responsibility. They used CPR as their acronym because they are bringing life back to Marshall.  Once they created their touchstone, they defined each of their core values and taught them to the students.  Their goal was to assist their students in living their core values so they would become a habit in the students’ lives. 

Individuals and families can adopt core values as well.  If you had a personal or family touchstone, what would it look like?  How would you communicate what you stand for?  Think about the groups you are a part of in your life.  What would the touchstone look like for those groups?  Make a commitment to live out your values and beliefs.

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