Executive Coaching for Charter School Leaders Improves Leadership and Schools

Charter school leaders face daunting challenges compared to their private and public school counterparts. That said, public and private school leaders also have very complex and demanding jobs. Executive coaching can provide leaders with the support they need to meet the challenges and strengthen their leadership. Here we focus on executive coaching for charter school leaders.

Charter school principals do not have central office services like public schools or the financial resources enjoyed by most private schools, yet they have similar responsibilities. They are responsible for all aspects of running a school, nurturing trust between adults and students, managing limited financial resources, and balancing the inescapable demands of multiple constituencies school communities. They must recruit students and teachers, supervise and support teachers, secure and manage facilities, raise money, manage school finances and work with boards, to mention a few.

Inadequate facilities, recruiting excellent teachers, high teacher turnover, low faculty morale, constant fundraising, low student achievement, discipline problems, and balancing the budget are a few of the issues that keep charter school leaders awake at night. Furthermore, while taking care of the urgent, time for the important is rarely found. Strategic planning, quality review, schoolwide improvement planning and new initiatives are lost in the dust.

Despite the plethora of challenges, charter leaders are deeply devoted to the missions of their schools. They find satisfaction in the passion they feel for the mission of the school, the opportunity to make lasting change in students’ lives and the autonomy they have as leaders. Many passionate, talented people are stepping up to the challenge of charter school leadership.

While passion and devotion to a school’s mission are necessary, they are not enough to be a successful charter school leader. Experience and leadership training are critical.

Executive coaching is perhaps the most effective way for charter school leaders to learn and get support on the job. Research shows that leaders perform better when they are coached rather than “supervised”. Clearly, someone who has made it into a school leadership role has demonstrated considerable skill already. Yet the overwhelming demands faced by charter school leaders can quickly lead to burnout or pushout.

Coaches can help leaders avoid burnout and pushout, continue to be successful, and become more effective. Through careful listening and effective questioning, executive coaches provide support and guidance as leaders negotiate the complexities of headship and improve their leadership skills. Coaches also provide resources and advice as appropriate. However, more often than not, school leaders arrive at their own answers with assistance from the coach. That’s the beauty of coaching and being coached.

Last Step in the College Admissions Process – How to Make Your College Decision

Megan got a good start on college planning her junior year. As a senior, Megan has heard back from all of the colleges to which she applied. She was accepted at five, rejected at three, and wait-listed at two. Two of her colleges are in-state universities that she applied to “just in case” she did not get into other schools. The other three she has visited and liked them all, but now she has no idea how she will make her final college decision.

The countdown to graduation has begun and many high school seniors would like to delay the college decision process for as long as they can. Realistically, however, they know that they must choose a school and send in a deposit by May 1st.

For some students this may be easy because one school stands out among the rest. For others, there may be two or three schools that could be good options. How do you make that final college decision?

1. Make sure you have all the facts. During their college planning, some students may have heard generalizations about schools but are a little vague on the specific facts. This is the time to get those answers. If students have questions they do not feel were sufficiently answered, call the school and speak with the person who can clarify the situation. Do not hesitate to contact the director of financial aid, a college coach, or an academic advisor. Making your final college decision depends on research and specific information.

2. Consider revisiting the schools. Pick up a newspaper, look at the bulletin boards around campus, and talk with as many different people as you can. Do not hesitate to ask students or professors what they really like about a school and if there is anything they don’t like. Do not make a final college decision based on one person’s opinion, but talking and listening to many people will help you decide whether this is the school for you.

3. Reconsider your priorities. When you were going through the college planning process, what made this school stand out when you initially added it to your list? Do you want a challenging academic experience or one that is balanced between academics and extracurricular activities? If you are interested in music or theater, can you participate if you do not major in one of these areas? Does the school appeal to you because of its name, or do you feel it is really a good fit? Answering these questions honestly will help you make a good college decision.

4. Have a talk with your parents. Throughout your college planning, you and your parents have probably had some discussions about the schools that interested you. They may have some ideas of their own or feel that one college or university is a better choice than another. Listen to what they say, but be prepared to answer questions or concerns they may have about a particular school. They want you to be happy and they know that making your final college decision requires time and thought.

5. Make your final college decision and don’t second guess yourself. Of course you will probably feel some anxiety, but this is normal and expected as you take the final step in the college planning process. If you make the college decision with your head and with your heart, there is no reason to believe that you haven’t chosen the best school for you.

When Professional Development & Middle-Adulthood Collide – Relaunching Your Career

Most people launch their careers in their twenties and thirties with the focus of career development mainly on early adulthood. And what is the ambition at this age? For many, it’s getting to “the top” as soon as possible. Some people achieve this goal in their early forties with twenty to thirty career years still ahead of them. Others perhaps do not use goals in their careers; their careers just evolve!

Nonetheless, middle-adulthood, those years from forty to sixty, are often overlooked in career plans. Some of the thinking goes like this: If I make it to the top by forty I won’t have to worry about anything else. But what do you do when you make it to “the top” and still have all those years ahead of you? To this writer, it is a prescription for mid-life crisis!

Consider this: In our Twenties we go through the trial and exploratory stage of career development where we search for direction. In our Thirties we are in the transitional stage, synonymous with movement and advancement. The Forties and beyond are considered the stability stage; ongoing with a sound foundation. The irony is that as we move into our forties (middle adulthood) most of us have not done it all. Some of us are forced to restart our careers due to downsizing, soft industries, red flags in our company, being passed-over etc. In some cases we need to get away from a not-so-perfect situation or jump-start a stalled career. In others, we are searching for personal self-development or for a second career or to strike out on our own.

For these reasons and any number of others, most professionals will experience changes, or even upheaval, in mid-life. The answer in not “buy a Harley”. According to the Department of Labor and the Job Search Handbook, most professionals will undergo seven to eleven job changes and two to three career changes over the course of their careers. Not only is the market demand for selected skills and career fields changing, but so are our roles as professionals and the way we manage our careers. Thus, career planning is more important than ever.

If you are in middle-adulthood and wondering what to do for the remainder of your career (and assuming that early retirement is not in the picture), don’t panic. I have a simple three-step process that I have found in my many years in career marketing to make all the difference in the world.

First, you need to get to know yourself and what it is that you enjoy most; what it is that when doing it does not feel like work. Dr. Charles Ehl, former Dean of Continuing Education at Stonehill College in Easton, MA: “Regardless of past industry or direction, people can be empowered to control their professional destiny through an approach that fuses self-needs analysis, good targeted research and tactical planning in the use of certain techniques beginning with getting to know themselves.” By that Dr. Ehl means understanding for themselves-about themselves: What it is that they really value; what they feel they stand for; what it is that drives them to do what they do; what it is they enjoy doing most-are most passionate about; and finally, although it does not necessarily end with this, where they are looking to take themselves, why, and with what end in mind. Through this exercise, the notion of your optimal market will emerge. For example: If you find that your interest in creative writing is so great, you find you are happiest when you are engaged in it, perhaps a move into editing or speech writing, or a move into the publishing industry at large; or developing newsletters for an association, entering the advertising arena or other creative industries may be best.

Second, you need to figure out how to attract your audience – contacts that can help you move towards your goals. Do what politicians do: Get outside impartial viewpoints to provide you with some idea of how others (your audience) may perceive you, and learn about them-do your research. Developing a networking communication strategy and your “talking points” with this knowledge and the fresh ideas about you that others can provide; and with a focus on the needs of your target audience, you will separate yourself from the average person and ultimately paint your own landscape.

Finally, once you have your audience’s attention, you will need to talk about yourself. Don Ventura, R.L. Stevens & Associates, a private career marketing firm, suggests using a Story Technique. Ventura says, “Compelling stories which incorporate specific examples of your experiences, achievements and contributions that relate to your market and put you in the right light will be remembered well after the interview is over.” People remember your stories more than duties and responsibilities. Here are three concepts that will help you when developing a communication strategy and talking about yourself:

Success Concepts

You must have a purpose; a personal philosophy. In today’s uniquely competitive job market the lifespan in an executive position may only be 5 years in some cases (clearly, not as Evergreen as it once was). Jim Sabin, a CIO with The Shaw Group, Inc. the leading Global provider of services to the power industry: “With executive positions in IT, for example, as interchangeable as mouse pads, the need for a sharply honed purpose for ‘Plan A’ and stratagem for ‘B and C’ for that matter, has never been more apparent.” Purpose could be what it is you feel is important in running a business or what you feel is the business of business; it must be carefully thought out and presented. Think in terms of a one-page presentation to the company directors. You will need to come up with as many success concepts as you can from your past professional experiences and when you begin to assemble your thoughts for your presentation, try to include as many of them as possible. Here are some relevant themes to consider:

1. Personal mission statement

2. Core values; core strengths

3. Driving factors; motivations

4. Level of integrity

5. Value placed on quality

6. Visioning, strategy and facilitating

7. Performance standards you hold for yourself

8. Professional goals

9. Leadership philosophy; management style

10. Communications capabilities

11. Practiced client/public relations

12. Leveraging skill-sets

13. Creative expertise

14. Business knowledge; market intelligence

15. Managing resources

Trigger Concepts

The easiest way to attract people’s attention and to help them get to know you is to adopt simple words and phrases which will have an immediate “trigger” effect, such as:

1. Strategic partnering

2. Impact presentations

3. Bringing ideas / vision to utility

4. Bringing products to markets

5. Entrepreneurial talent

6. Driving revenues; growing profits

7. Structuring and restructuring

8. Building responsible teams

9. Managing talent

10. Start up; turnaround; re-emergence

11. Enterprise development

12. Crafting solutions

13. Staying ahead of the curve

14. Managing change-driven environments

15. Driving “large dollar” projects

Philosophy, along with Success and Trigger Concepts is a winning combination. It provides you with control and sets the tone for all future discussions and posturing for negotiations.

Story Technique

One of the most important tenets in product marketing applies here in career planning: Differentiate your product from others in the marketplace.

John Folcarelli, Labor Attorney and Human Resource Manager for Laidlaw Education: “Most people involved in planning their career tend to fly by the seat of their pants rather than exercise control over the process as it unfolds. For instance, in the interview, instead of simply reacting to questions imposed by the interviewer, the job candidate can and should attempt to take on more responsibility for influencing the direction of the interview.” The Story Technique does just that. It is a method for bridging your qualifications and past successes to the needs the targeted company. It is also a great example of how to use your Success and Trigger Concepts in presenting the right image and distinguishing you from the competition.

Your stories should tell about actions that you took to bring about positive changes. Story techniques cover the “before”, the “action” and the “after.” You can begin by first explaining what had existed that required your attention: Situation. Next consider how this new challenge may benefit the enterprise and you: Opportunity. Briefly describe what you did: Action. Lastly, describe the outcome and its benefits to you and the company: Results. Here are two examples of the use of the story technique, or, “S.O.A.R”:

(S) I was selected by top management to lead a corporation into the US market and (O) recognized an opportunity to have a big impact on operations at a wholly owned subsidiary.(A) Over a two-year period I developed a cohesive staff which went on to develop 1.5 million square feet of office properties at $350 million which (R) produced over $25 million of net operating income and $4 million net cash flow for the corporation resulting a promotion to President of the wholly owned subsidiary.

(S) The ownership of a physical therapy and sports medicine company recruited me to (O) lead, grow and concurrently stabilize a $4.7 million health systems company staffed by 85 professionals. (A) I developed and executed all business plans and opened new markets in industrial and corporate health promotions, (R) positioning the company for its very profitable $6.6 million sale, $2.5 million more than the ownership had anticipated.

A strong, well-articulated Philosophy, sound Success and Trigger Concepts, and persuasive examples of your successes using the Story Techniques (SOAR) are essential for securing a quality position.

More Than Just a Task

There is certainly more to consider beyond these concepts. Nonetheless, the purpose here is to stimulate your thinking if your situation calls for a serious look at your career. There are times when a simple career adjustment may be called for and other times when a complete change is necessary. In any case, restarting your career in middle-adulthood can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. Approach it with enthusiasm, dedication and confidence (but for goodness sake, don’t forget “technique”).