Core Values

The Art of Coaching, by Elena Aguilar, is one of my favorite professional books. I have professed my respect for the work multiple times here on the blog. This month I finally began to read Aguilar’s newest book, The Art of Coaching Teams, which is just as incredible! This is an amazing resource for leaders.

art of coaching teams

Each chapter is rich with reflective questions and resources that help you consider your vision, your leadership style, and the purpose of your work. One activity I recently completed was about your core values. You can find the directions and the word list on Aguilar’s website.

The activity begins with you looking over a list of about 110 words. These words are not an exhaustive list of possible values, but it’s a great place to start. You are directed to circle ten values you feel are important to you. In my first read of the list, I circled 22 words. There were THAT MANY words that struck me during my first view of the list.

Since I overshot step one, I narrowed my initial list of 22 words down to 10. While this cut took some thought, it wasn’t too challenging. I was able to eliminate a few words that I associate more with my personal life than my professional life (though many overlap). However, the next step was to cross off five words, leaving me with a list of five values.

This step was painful. I hemmed and hawed a lot. Truthfully, I reflected on what I believe, how I act at work, how I hope to be perceived by others, and what drives me. Each of those five words was important to me as a learner and as a leader.

The next step was to narrow my list further down to only three words- the three most important values to me at this point in time. After more serious reflection (which was one of my top five words!), I decided on my final three values:

  • Equity
  • Making a Difference
  • Trust

The final step in this activity was to reflect on the process- what led me to this list.

As expected, it was hard to keep cutting words off my list. I cut off balance and mindfulness before the first cut, though those are both important words in my personal life (and they do support my work). But I was focused on my core values as a leader, an educator, a coach, a mentor, here in this current world. I knew that trust and equity would be on my final list; they are non-negotiables in my life. They would not have been on my list 12 years ago, but I was a younger, more naive leader 12 years ago, who didn’t know how critical trust was. I also was just learning about all the inequities in education and discovering the importance of social justice leadership.

The phrase making a difference stuck out to me. At first, I wasn’t even going to put it in my top 10. But I kept coming back to it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am driven by the desire to make a difference- on behalf of students, teachers, staff, and other leaders. In my coaching and leading, I want to make a difference in the lives of other educators, so they impact students. The more I thought about it, the more important it became for me. So something that wasn’t even at the surface of my thoughts ended up in my top three after much reflection.
I found this activity to be a valuable reflective tool (and you know how much I love reflection!). I think this is something that all educators would benefit from. In The Art of Coaching Teams, Aguilar references this activity as an important one to consider when new team members are getting to know one another. So often in education we react based on our own beliefs, without taking time to listen to what drives others.
A team may end up with completely different lists of core values at the end of this activity, but they will be stronger for recognizing where their colleagues are coming from in all their future interactions. I’d love to hear what your top three core values are.
*May 2018 addendum: This post is one of my one-read posts of all times! I wrote this original Core Values post in 2016. I revisited my core values again in 2017 and wrote about them in Revisiting My Core Values.  This week I began reading Aguilar’s newest book, Onward, about emotional resilience, which is so important at this time in our world. I see a future core values post coming out in the future. Stay tuned!


About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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10 Responses to Core Values

  1. Veronica Reyes says:

    I cannot wait to read this book, thanks Amy for the book review, I’m even more eager to read it.

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