Almost five years ago, Transcend went through a process of establishing its core values. At the time, I actually didn't put much stock in the process. I have never been a fan of all the corporate mumbo jumbo that companies get excited about. I have little patience with CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives; don’t get me wrong, I am all a huge supporter of business being responsible and participating members of their communities, I just cringe at those efforts when they are dressed up marketing efforts. What I have learned in the ensuing years since we adopted ours, is that they must be CORE VALUES. This means that everyone in your organization needs to not only know what they are, but actually live them out. They need to essentially be the DNA of your organization which informs all decisions, who you hire, who you fire. They should define and nurture your culture. All of this, I have learned, takes time and a significant amount of intentionality and resources.
Recently, I have been thinking about my own personal core values. Brené Brown actually talks about this in her most recent book Dare to Lead. She encourages the self evaluation which ends up with identifying personal core values. While I am not sure I have nailed down my two core values yet, I definitely know that one of them is generosity. I am not sure when and where it was hardwired into my core, but along the way it has come to define me. I am not saying that I am always generous. For example, I am still learning how to be more generous in my assumptions towards others, shedding the cynicism which I became all too comfortable with these past years. Maybe another core value for me is community, I am not sure, perhaps transparency? Regardless, it is useful to work through the process of identifying the one or two things which drive most of your decisions and serve to motivate one’s actions.
Why am I writing about this today? Well in short, I received an email from my kid’s principal today where they announced the new branding for his school. As with most rebranding exercises, the logo changes are subtle, and to understand all of the nuances behind why one part is this colour or that is lost on almost everyone outside (and often within) of the organization. But what truly struck me and more accurately made me angry is the list of core values that accompanied the announcement of the new logo.
Learning should be rigorous and relevant
Teaching is learner centred
Students are complex, dynamic and capable
Effective instruction is engaging and empowering
Assessment clarifies goals, feedback and success
We are a positive and dedicated community
All means all
One of the fundamental aspects of core values is that everyone in the organization knows and lives by those core values. As I read through the list above, my instant reaction was that there is no way in hell that my kid knows these core values, let alone allows them to inform how he lives out each day at the school. I am not saying that there aren’t positive sentiments, even truth, represented in the values, but I am highly suspicious that all the students (probably not even all the teachers) allow these stated values to impact their lives in any meaningful way. And if what is said about is true, that teaching is “learner centred” shouldn’t the core values be about the students and not the teachers? Wouldn’t this make for a better learning environment? But alas, that educational model simply isn’t efficient, isn’t affordable, so we persist in antiquated models of assessment that have little if nothing to do with learning.
If you have read this far, I applaud your persistence and your generous offering of your time. I realize that this post has little to do with my journey, other than I felt compelled to write something after being pissed off. So maybe it does have something to do with my journey after all? Normally I would just quietly swear to myself and let my frustration sink inwards, which is probably why I became such a cynic! Maybe this writing will prevent another brick being laid in that wall that I am trying so desperately to knock down.
For the record here are the Core Values for Transcend Coffee
Never Best only Better
Build and Foster Community
Never Stop Learning