“When a leader gets better, everyone wins!”
Although every industry has undergone significant changes over the past several years, higher education has been impacted more profoundly. When the pandemic hit, traditional colleges and universities were abruptly forced to adapt their mindset and move toward thinking differently, scrambling to transform standard brick-and-mortar programs into online or hybrid delivery modalities. Colleges and universities that already had successful online programs could pivot quickly and sustain student enrollment. Universities unable to make these changes rapidly faced many challenges.
High education leadership teams were confronted with workforce challenges they had not faced before. The changes in the economy, staffing shortages, healthcare concerns, loss of international students, and diversity, equity, and inclusion were all simultaneously impacting higher education. College leadership focused on enrollment as their highest priority and lost sight of how the pandemic influenced staff and shaped their expectations and preferences. Employees were seeking out empathy, remote work, and flexible work hours and wanted to feel more connected than ever.
As the environment of higher education leadership becomes more complicated by outside events and shifting employee motivations, the benefits of executive coaching only increase. High-quality executive coaching balances organizational priorities like enrollment with the leadership development and insight required to move those priorities forward. Executive coaching is an essential problem-solving tool for higher education executives seeking support balancing leadership challenges and understanding the higher education landscape from both the 30,000 ft elevation and the 100 ft elevation.
The top three reasons why higher education executive coaching works:
1. Executive coaching activates and animates wisdom.
Many executives and aspiring higher education leaders lean most heavily on their level of intelligence. Clayton (1982) defined intelligence as the ability to think logically, conceptualize, and abstract from reality. Intelligence focuses on how to do. It helps leaders accomplish and achieve.
By contrast, Clayton defines wisdom as the ability to grasp human nature, which is paradoxical, contradictory, and subject to continual change. Wisdom provokes a person to consider the consequences of their actions on themselves and the effects on others. Wisdom helps people decide whether to pursue a course of action. Higher education executives work in concert with many others. It is incumbent on all higher education leaders to work with their wisdom.
The difference between intelligence and wisdom can be described as knowing what vs. knowing how. According to Stenberg (2005), knowing how adds creativity and experience to our knowledge. While an executive has proven intelligence, the wisdom gained by learning from various experiences provides multiple points of view at their disposal to solve problems creatively.
It is no longer sufficient to only have intelligence and management skills to make high-level and far-reaching leadership decisions. Wisdom is a crucial component of good leadership. Staudinger, Lopez, and Baltes (1997) found that individuals who discussed life problems with another person and reflected on the conversation before responding out-performed others. Executive coaching can make the difference in that kind of wisdom and more.
An executive coach for higher education helps college and university executives activate and animate their wisdom. Executive coaches guide leaders to go beyond reporting metrics and learn ways to increase their wisdom through natural reciprocity, investing in their team, and developing new leadership traits. The result is a higher education leader able to make more creative and cultured decisions that are the best for university and college leadership, staff, and students.
2. Executive coaching galvanizes conscious and intentional conversations.
There are two conversations we have every day. One is with other people—and one is in our heads. Having conversations with other people can feel fraught in this increasingly complicated world. Higher education executives need to ensure their conversations are conscious and intentional. Executive coaching can help!
Conscious conversations encourage connection and overcoming differences. The basis is hearing and understanding instead of judging as right or wrong. Participants in a conversation of this nature must be fully present, listen fully and respectfully, keep an open mind, and be patient. It is important to understand that conversations of this kind are a skill to be learned and built upon. There is always room to improve communication as a leader.
Intentional conversations are purposeful and planned. Being intentional means being strategic in how to communicate, what to communicate, and to whom. Intentional conversations can make staff members feel valued and ensure that conversations are productive.
With an executive coach, higher education executives can build confidence in their ability to have conscious and intentional conversations.
3. Executive coaching stimulates creativity.
With the landscape for higher education rapidly changing, a successful higher education executive needs to move beyond the same old, same old. It is time for creativity in all aspects of leadership. Nothing helps creativity like the collaboration that comes from partnering with an executive coach.
Most executives could benefit from switching things up and taking their leadership off auto pilot. A significant outcome could be developing a flexible mindset and considering new ways to get things done. A lack of creativity could result in missing opportunities for innovation and growth. Working with an executive coach helps open the door to explore innovative ideas and get excited by new, creative possibilities.
Bonus 4th reason higher education executive coaching works:
4. Executive coaching creates “emotional safety.”
Having emotional safety means feeling secure enough to be your most authentic self, and isn’t that the ideal for all employee-leader scenarios? Who wouldn’t want to bring their real selves to work? Well, that takes work. Emotional safety is an important aspect of having a satisfying connection. Connection is increasingly vital to today’s workforce. It is worth the investment.
Higher education executive coaching cultivates emotional safety so executives can get the most out of their experience. Our brains constantly detect whether a situation is safe or dangerous. When people experience safety, they are better listeners, able to collaborate more, innovative, creative, and able to connect with others. Emotional safety has positive effects that flow to others.
Emotional safety encourages freedom of expression and increased compassion. A skilled executive coach can help guide you to understanding and increasing emotional safety.
Executives and leaders in higher education benefit from the investment in high-quality executive coaching. Coaching is transformative—helping leaders leverage their best selves. An executive coach empowers creativity, impact, connection, and influence. Great leaders have great coaches—everyone can use that kind of support! Especially leaders working in higher education.