College Leadership: Fostering the best of the present time AND creating the future

In my first meeting with the Dean, he shared with me his goal:

‘No one dies, not today, not any day; it’s that simple.  We create programs and services; we focus on the culture of the College and everything about college life beyond academic education. We stay focused on balancing student freedom with avoiding worst-case scenarios.  Our goal is to catch students before they fall through the cracks whether that is related to health, academics, too much freedom, emotional issues, or just being in a new environment.

We do everything we can to remain accessible to students, to be approachable, to complement the educational experience of this College, and help it stay a thriving, engaging community.

I just don’t have time for strategic planning, and I’m not sure there is much value in creating one when we have so much to do every day already.

We decided to conduct a set of 360-degree feedback interviews, comparing how he was seen as Dean of Students and as the Vice President for Student Affairs, which is the more strategic side of his role.  For him the overt benefit was to see if different groups experience him the same way and to use this as a springboard for conversations about the services collectively offered out of his office.

The feedback was highly reinforcing of his contribution at Dean of Students, but also highlighted the need for him to create development opportunities across the Division.  This opened up a dialogue about sustainability of the excellent work the Dean had been doing.  He had a great team meeting the present needs of the College; by looking at talent development and succession opportunities throughout the Division, he now could have line of sight to ensure this level of student support would continue into the future.

The feedback, as expected, also indicated that the Dean was neglecting focus on long-term strategic planning.  What opened up the Dean’s thinking was feedback from all sources, indicating how much others wanted to support this Dean in building plan for the future.

In addition the feedback conveyed the belief of many that this Dean was someone who could bridge different silos of the College, and a catalyst for short- and long-term issues that cut across the College.

The feedback resonated with the Dean’s desire to be of service to the Institution.  It led to a profound conversation about his career mission and it’s evolution over time.  During a conversation with the President we began to paint a picture of how this Dean could fully take up the strategic side of his role, without compromising the everyday needs of the College.

Our executive coaching approach combines

  • Deep personal insight
  • Review of career experience
  • Behavior examples to ground others’ perceptions
  • Exploration of the personal and organizational tensions that surround important choices faced by the executive
  • Scenario building, exploring what it looks like to act and think in new ways, and what that would require of the executive to chart a new course


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