Over the last two weeks, I’ve participated in an eclectic mix of ZOOM sessions: a career counseling session with college students, a fall-2020 brainstorming session with a cohort of collegiate wind-band conductors, faculty meetings and a town-hall style session with college leadership, a session focused on leadership development for undergraduate students, and a summer festival planning retreat. These sessions have run the gamut of size, scope, topic, and audience—ranging from informative sessions for undergraduate sessions, to exploring ensemble pedagogy in the age of COVID-19, to understanding institutional budget priorities in our new reality.
While the topics and audiences varied greatly, the importance and centricity of core values as we look to the future was common to all. Dr. Blaire Koerner spoke about our core values being the trunk of a tree that our careers develop out of. My colleagues in the wind-band field reflected on the the core values of the large-ensemble experience and how we realize those values in a digital environment. School leaders reminded faculty that in times of great uncertainty, the institution would turn to its core values throughout the planning and decision making. In working with our students, Lorna Jane Norris, asked students to reflect on one of their emerging core values and how it shapes their leadership. In planning for Summer 2020, the team I work with in the summer developed a set of guiding principles to inform and shape all decision making moving forward: commitment, transparency, artistic excellence, and collaboration.
When our teaching, performing, and creative environment has been upended, core values seem to take on new relevance. In many regards, they can act as a personal compass and guiding light in times of great uncertainty. Although core values are essential in any environment, revisiting and reflecting on them during times of crisis could help to clarify our future.
In a blog post exploring the work of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Douglas A. Wick defines and positions the concept of core values within an organization and individuals:
Core values are defined as a small set of timeless guiding principles, core values require no external justification; they are intrinsic value and importance to those inside the organization.
Wick goes on to frame the development of one’s core values:
They also believe they should be an authentic, exhibiting characteristic that exists now within your organization. You do not create or set core ideology. You discover core ideology. You do not deduce it by looking at the external environment. You understand it by looking inside.
Central Michigan University has created a very short exercise to help individual and organizations understand their core values. Check it out HERE.
What are your personal core values? How do these compare to the core values of the ensembles you perform in or institutions you teach at? How have your core values evolved over the last six weeks? How can you use your core values to help guide and clarify your teaching, music making, and work in the coming months and years?
Read Douglas Wick’s blog post about core values (quoted above):
Understanding your core values: