Makeover Show: The Core Values Edition


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You are listening to school leadership Reimagined. Episode number 55

Welcome to the school leadership re-imagined podcast where we rethink what's possible to transform your school if you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement than stayed tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey builders,

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson and today it's our make-over show. That's right on today's show. We are going to be making over your core values and helping you create better core values for your school. You see, lately I've been doing a lot of work with schools around generating core values that kind of drive the work of this school and it's a really powerful way to reshape your culture. In fact, we have a free guide that I'll tell you a little bit more about towards the end of the show that you can use to guide your own school and creating core values within your school. And so people have been using this guide all over the country and they've been generating core values for their schools and they are starting to send them to me.

A lot of them are really, really powerful. 

Just last week I was at a school and one of their core values was we have each other's back. I love that core value because it really generates this idea that they're all in this together. Everybody's working towards the same mission and vision and they are all going to be supportive of each other. And that core value is translated into teachers covering for each other. When teachers are out and they can't get a sub, the principal and the assistant principal is even covered classes. And when people can't get subs, and they've even instituted kind of a new strategy that I really love when they see a teacher covering for another teacher or getting another teacher's back, they are now awarding the backscratcher award. Don't you just love that? I mean, that's what core values can do for your school.

It can really galvanize and bring your culture together in a way that almost nothing else can. And so they're really powerful. And I encourage you to sit down and use the process to create core values in your school. And if you are not sure how to do that, we have several episodes and I'll put them in the show notes of episodes where you can actually learn how to create core values in your school. So to get the show notes for any episode of school leadership re-imagined, just go to school leadership [inaudible] episode number and this is episode 55 so the show notes for today, we'll be at school leadership re-imagined dot com slash episode 55 but before we dive in to talking about core values today, I want to invite you to build his lab because if you want to learn how to not only create core values in your school that can reshape your culture, but how to take those core values and make them so integral to your culture that you create new cultural habits that you create new stories that you're telling about your school, that that you in essence rebrand your school through the core values.

That's just one of the things that we do at builder's lab. 

In fact, on day one, we spend most of the day on day one doing two things. Number one, we create our vision, mission, and core values, and if you think that's boring, then you've never been to builders lab because it is probably one of the most rewarding parts of builder's lab because you really dig deep and I help you. I push you to kind of generate a vision and a mission and core values that actually matter. So we're not talking about creating vision statements and putting them on the wall and then forgetting them. Now we're talking about creating a vision that's actually going to drive your work. In fact, I don't stop working with you until you have a vision you're actually excited about. And one of the most rewarding things to me about bill just lab is when people are working on their vision and they look up and they're like, ah, I love this vision.

Oh, I can't wait to go back to my school and do that. That's what we're looking for. That's what we want to help you create a vision that actually motivates you and a vision that's going to motivate other people. And then connecting that to a really compelling mission and a set of core values. It is find it, we call it finding your your school's sweet spot. And when you find that everything you do in your school should kind of land somewhere in that sweet spot or you shouldn't be doing it. So you know, we help you create a vision, mission and core values that function as your true North where your school. So that's the first part of the day. And then the second part of day one of builder's lab, we are trying to figure out what is your biggest barrier? What is the thing that is keeping you from living out those core values, from achieving that vision, from realizing that mission in your work, in your school.

We do something called micro slicing where I show you how to get to the root cause. 

This is not your root cause analysis that you might typically do when you're doing a sip plan. This is something altogether different. But way more powerful. And then after we micro sized classrooms, then we micro slice your entire school. So in day one, a builder's lab, you not only create this compelling vision, mission and core values that you're excited about, but you also figure out the biggest barrier, your biggest constraint. So now you have a really good assessment of why your school is where it is right now. And then on days two and three we talk about how you get rid of it. So you actually built a builder's blueprint that shows you your exact path and once you have that exact path, now you know exactly what you need to do when you go back to your school to remove your biggest barrier and get closer to your goals.

That's why when you leave builders lab, you don't look for little tiny incremental gains. You're looking for big gains because you are removing your biggest barrier. And then imagine three months from when you leave builder's lab, you have a success story because we help you create a 90 day plan. And that 90 day plan is designed to remove your biggest barrier to your success. In the next 90 days, which means that if you join us at builder's lab and the next one is coming up in January, January 21st through 23rd 2020 right here, right outside of Washington, D C then when you go back to your school, it means that you can have a huge success. You can make a massive gain by the time you go on spring break this school year. So I want you to come to builder's lab and every episode I talk about it because I really believe it is one of the most powerful things that you can do to move your school and make a big difference in the lives of your students.

Please join us at builder's lab.

Get your tickets go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. That's my step st com slash builders dash lab. And if you have any questions, go ahead and give us a call here in the office. We're here most days, most weekdays, and the number of the office is (888) 565-8881 that's 188-EIGHT-FIVE-6 five, eight, eight, eight one. All right, let's dive in to the make-over show where we're going to be making over some of the core values that I was saying today. And you know, I spent some time looking at some of these core values that we've been making over lately, either at builder's lab or in some of the private workshops that we do in schools. And I've noticed a trend of three big mistakes that people make when they are creating their core values. The first mistake they make is that a lot of times they create core values that are just too broad.

The second mistake is that they make core values that are too punitive. And the third mistake is that they make core values that try to cover too much in one statement. So let me give you some examples of these three big mistakes and then let's make them over here on the show. So the first mistake is that core values are often too broad. So let me give you a couple of examples of core values that I've seen recently. These are real core values that have been generated by schools and they're just too broad. The first one I've seen on more than one occasion and I get the impulse cause it sounds really good and it reads something like this, every student every day and it doesn't that sound good. Doesn't that sound like a great core value? Here's a problem I have no what that means.

Every student every day. 

What I mean is that core value can be taken to mean a lot of different things. Every student, every day gets on my nerves. Every student, every day fails, every student, every day a ghosted attention. What do we mean by every student every day. Now I'm being a little facetious here. I get the point. What you're trying to say I think is that you want to make sure that you don't let any kid fall through the cracks. You want to make sure that when you are working with students that you are really trying to give your best effort to every single child every single day. So why not to say that? Why not just take that core value with every child every day and make it something that's a little bit more specific? Like we will give our best effort to every single child every single day. It's a simple tweak, but it's an important one.

You need to be more specific because remember your core values are sending a message to everybody in your building about what's my role? That's the question and answers. And so if your answer to the question, what's my role? Is every child every day, are you really answering the question? Do people have any more clarity about what it is they're expected to do? So you want to go back to your core values and look to see if they're too broad. You want to make sure that they give people a definitive answer about how they are expected to operate within your culture in your school so that your core values actually mean something. And they're not just slogans on the wall. Here's another one that was too broad and someone shared this with me actually in a workshop that we were doing a couple of weeks ago and I asked her if I could share it on the show and she generously agreed to let me do it.

Every person who enters our school will feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. 

Okay. Now on the surface, again, that sounds like a great core value. Isn't that what we all want? The challenges, it's really hard to determine whether or not we're abiding by our core values or not because it's so broad. It says that they're going to be respected, supported, welcomed and valued. And I asked her, we dug a little bit deeper with her team and I said, what do you really mean by that? What is it that you are trying to, to convey with that core value? And we had a conversation, we went around, you know, okay, so a lot of these things sound like synonyms. So what's the difference between someone who feels respected, supported, and valued, and in their minds there wasn't that much of a difference.

And even the idea of being welcomed really kind of conveys this idea that when you come into our school, we are going to value you. So we simplify the core value a little bit by simply saying, every person who enters into our school will feel valued. And then we imple. We've simplified it even more by saying, make everyone feel valued. Now I'm going to give you the before and after again so you can see what a difference that makes. So here's the before, every person who enters our school will feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. Now here's the after. Make every person feel valued. Do you see the difference? One sounds like it sounds aspirational. It sounds, it sounds vague. It sounds like, Oh this is a thing out there that that every person will feel.

It doesn't tell me what I am expected to do.

And once we, we finessed the core value and massage it and transformed it. Now make everyone feel valued. Gives me some real direction about how I am expected to behave inside of this culture. It's not that everybody feels valued and it's passive and you know, I don't know who's supposed to make them feel valued. I don't know. Maybe they felt valued when we came into the building instead. Now it's active. Make everyone feel valued. It's almost an imperative. Our core value says we're going to go out of our way to make sure that whoever we are interacting with feels valued. Do you see the difference? It's a powerful difference. If your core values are really broad and vague and aspirational and there's nothing wrong with an aspirational core value because it's our core values should be calling us to better behavior. But if it's too aspirational, if it's something that can be put on a hallmark card or something that you know can be sad is like, you know this kind of platitude and it doesn't give people something to do.

It doesn't call people to act or behave differently than you want to take your core value and make it a lot more specific because when you make it specific, you leave. Nothing to chance. You don't leave any doubt in anybody's mind about how they are expected to behave inside of your culture. All right. The second thing is that a lot of times I see core values that are too punitive and this often comes or when you have some toxicity in your staff already because people come to the core values conversation mad and they come to the core values conversation with access to grind and they use that core values conversation to kind of vent and air their displeasure with something that's going on inside of the culture. And so a lot of times people can create core values that they immediately weaponize against you, against other people in the culture.

You want to be careful about this. 

So let me give you an example of a couple of of punitive core values I've heard lately. One of the ones that I heard that kind of cracked me up was a core value of no whining. I get it, I get it. I get why people would want to make that a core value. What that core, that's not really a core value. That's kind of a complaint about what's happening in the culture. So I've worked with this goal. Would there no wine in core value? I asked them why they were making that a core value and what they were saying was that people spent all their time with their culture, whining about how things were instead of making things better. So we made over the no whining core value and turned it into this be a problem solver.

Do you notice a difference? One is no whining, so that's just a complaint so it doesn't tell me what to do. It tells me kind of what not to do. It tells me, you know what's annoying about this culture right now, but the moment you change it to be a problem solver, now people know what to do. Now there's a mandate, there's a call to action inside of that core value that shows people how to behave. On one hand you say no whining and all you're doing is complaining about what somebody else is doing. But once you say be a problem solver, now everybody is called to action. Not only that, that core value is actually transforming classrooms because the core value isn't just about the adults in the building. It's also about the kids, which means that they are now changing the way that they mediate fights in the building because now instead of kids coming in complaining about other kids [inaudible], they're being asked to be problem solvers, so there's peer mediation programs that they're starting in this school.

Not only that, but in the classroom, teachers are now instead of rescuing kids when they struggle, the teachers are saying in this school, we believe in being problem solvers, so let me show you how to solve the problem, and then they are getting out of the way and helping children solve problems for themselves.

That's the power of a really good core value. 

It's not just a something you put on a wall. It's not just a complaint you're making about the culture. Your core values should be calling people to a new behavior that actually supports your vision and your mission and what you're trying to accomplish in your school. Here's another one that's kind of punitive. What people know by now that at Mindsteps one of our core values is drama free work environment. And whenever people hear that they're like, yeah, we need that in our school or we need that in our company or our organization.

And so they adopt drama, free work environment but they don't adopt it with the same spirit that we created it. You see, we create it, the idea of a drama free work environment because we are a small team and we're a family business and we realized early on that if we were ever going to be able to serve our customers the way that we want it to serve our clients, then we had to do it without drama. There just wasn't time for drama. If we were going to do what we needed to do, maybe if we were a bigger organization, we'd have more leisure for drama. But with such a small team, drama was slowing us down. And not only that, because we are a family business and we want to like each other when we leave work, we couldn't bring drama into the workplace.

It just wasn't going to work. For us that was crucial to our being able to achieve our vision and our mission for serving our clients the way we wanted to serve them. 

So the drama free work environment was not in response to drama. That was already happening. The drama free work environment was an idea that we wanted to be really hyperfocused on serving our clients as best as we could and any drama that gotten away of that would keep us from doing that. Now it's played out in a lot of different ways. We started because we wanted to be able to serve our clients with the drama free work environment, core value, but we're also seeing that it helps us determine which clients we're going to work with. So if someone calls our office and they are rude to an office staff member or they are not returning our calls or they are doing things that are creating more drama for us, then we fire that person as a client because that's not the type of person we want to serve.

That's not the type of person we can really help. And so we, it helps us to be laser focused on what we're supposed to be doing. So that actually serves us. But a lot of people here drama free work environment and they say, Oh we need that because the team down the hall, it's just too much drama. Or Oh we need that because I'm sick of hearing people do this, that and the other. That is not a core value. That is a complete. So we want to make sure that the core values that you create aren't core values that are being weaponized to control people. So one school that love the drama, free work environment, core value, and they adopted it.

They're finding that teachers are now weaponizing that core value to their advantage. 

So when the administrator goes into the classroom and gives teachers negative feedback, the teacher stops the administrator that says we have a drama free work environment and your negative feedback is creating way too much drama for me right now.

And so the administrator feels trapped because the core value was of drama free work environment was created as a way to punish people for making other people feel uncomfortable and now people are weaponizing that core value to avoid negative feedback or to avoid working hard or to avoid supporting students and their families in the way that they need to do it. That's the opposite of what core values are supposed to do. So if your core values are punitive, if your core values are coming out of a place of we don't like our culture, and so we want a core value or rule that's going to address something we don't like about our culture, then you're doing the core values the wrong way. They're not serving you and they won't serve you and they're actually can be weaponized and used against you. Here's the point with core values.

Core values are supposed to be how we need to behave if we're ever going to achieve our vision and our mission. 

So core values are anchored and rooted in a vision and mission for your school. They are designed to say, in order for us to achieve this ambitious vision that we set for our school or in order for us to live out this mission in our school, we have to make these things non negotiable. And if your core values don't come out of that place, if they're not created to do that to help you achieve your vision and your mission, then they're likely very punitive. And if they're punitive, they're not going to serve you. In fact, they'll be used against you. So watch out for that. All right. The third thing that I often see in core values is that people try to pack too much into the core values.

I call them camels and it's because of an old joke I heard once. It's kind of corny, but I'll tell it to you anyway and just don't judge me. I do have a better sense of humor than this, but I think this is apropos. So the joke goes, what's a camel? And the answer is it's a horse built by committee. I see a lot of camels in core values y'all. I see that when we go through the core values exercise, everybody wants to take a core value and instead of making it simple and pithy and straightforward and clear, we want to take everybody's opinion, pile it on to that core value. And instead of a race horse, we now have a camel. Let me give you an example. Again, this is one that was shared with me generously by a team, a principal and her team.

I want to thank them for sharing this and allowing me to use it on the show as an example because it's a really good one. 

So here's the core value. We are a safe, supportive, positive environment that nurtures attainable high standards for all. Again, that sounds really great and I can see somebody saying, okay, we're going to be a, we want high standards in the core value. So then the core value starts out with high standards for all. And then he said, well, I don't want to do high standards in a way that's gonna, you know, make kids feel unsafe. Okay, so we'll make sure that we say high standards and a safe environment. Well, in addition to safe, I feel like kids need to be supported if they're going to reach the high standards. We don't want to just have high standards. We want to make sure that we're scaffolding kids up to those high standards.

Oh, okay. So we'll add supportive into the core value. So it comes from a good place, but whenever you create a camel, you make a core value that's really unwieldy and this is a hard core value to live out. This is almost a mission statement by the time you're done with it. And it's not even a useful mission statement in some ways because it's, it's, it's, it's so, it has so many different elements to it. There's so many different moving parts. It's really hard to come and live up to it. So we worked together to simplify it and I want to show you the after and then talk to you about the after. Okay. So again, we are a safe and supportive and positive environment that nurtures attainable high standards for all.

Who's doing the work? Just because we're an environment who's creating the safety, who's doing the support, high standards, how are you making them attainable?

They're just too many unknowns here and so it's really hard to live up to this core value. Here's the after make high standards attainable for every child. Whoa. Do you all see the difference there? I don't know about you, but I got goosebumps when we created that difference and everybody on the team was like, yeah, this is it. Again, it's a core value that talks about an action. This is something that we're going to do when you say that we're going to have this environment and nobody's responsible for creating that environment, then your core value isn't really serving you, but the moment you start that with a verb like make high standards attainable for every child, then everybody's clear. This is my role. This is what I have to do. I have to figure out how to not compromise the standards. I have to figure out how to help every child reach those high standards and now everybody's clear.

There is a no room for doubt here. What's my role? Every single day make high standards attainable for every child and that's really the point of your core values. Your core values need to answer the question to everybody. What's my role? So remember the three big questions. The three big questions you need to answer in order to shape your culture are what are we building, why is it important and what's my role now your vision answers the question, what are we building? Your mission answers the question why is it important and your core values answered the question, what's my role? If your core values cannot explain to people this is the role that we all need to play. If we're going to achieve our vision and mission in this school, these are the things that must be non negotiable. If we're ever going to reach that ambitious vision for our students, if we're ever going to build this, this school that serves all of our kids and helps all of our kids thrive, if we're ever going to be able to stay on mission, we have to behave this way.

These things have to be non negotiable. If your core values can't answer that question, they are not serving you and there's no use going through a core values exercise. 

If you come out of that exercise with core values that don't serve you. So this week I want to challenge you. Take a good look at your existing core values in your school and tell me do your core values. Answer that question. What's my role? Do your core values, make it clear to everybody in your school. These things are nonnegotiable. These behaviors are non negotiable. This is the way that we have to behave. This is the role that we have to play if we're going to achieve our vision and our mission for students. And if the answer's no, then you need to give your core values and make-over. And if you need help giving your core values to make over, then I invite you to join us at build your slab because you can come to builder's lab and bring the core values that you're working on and then I'll work with you together and we can come up with core values that are going to be, that are going to serve you better, that are going to actually galvanize your culture that everybody can use.

It's kind of their true North for how we need to behave in order to get our students to this ambitious vision. It's what we do on day one, a builder's lab. And I'm telling you folks, it is really, really powerful. So take a look at your core values this week. Do your core values. Answer that question for everybody. What's my role in building this vision and mission in our school? And if not, then I challenge you this week to make over your core values and make them over like a builder.

All right, let's talk about next week. 

Next week. I think we should continue the makeover show because it's today only talked about core values, but next time I think we need to go ahead and add on vision and mission statements into the makeover show because I've seen some doozies over the last few weeks and I'd love to share with you how we were able to make them over so that you can start to think about your own vision and mission and how that needs to be made over as well.

So again, join us next time where we are going to be making over your vision and mission statements and if you have a vision or mission statement you'd love to see me tackle on the show, go ahead and contact me on either Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. And of course we are connected on those, those social platforms, aren't we? Because if we aren't, what are you waiting for? I'm Robin Jackson on LinkedIn. I am Robin Jackson on Facebook and I am Robin underscore Mindsteps on Twitter and I look forward to seeing your vision and your mission statements and we'll be making them over next time. I hope you'll join me then.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

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