Executive Coaching Refines Leadership SkillsBy Mark Robertson
Over the course of the year, students did three rounds of coaching. In each round they had three to four individual meetings with one of three coaches.
According to Professor Robert Kegan, who designed the Ed.L.D.’s coaching activities, the program’s goal of developing “the public sector equivalent of ‘turn-around specialists’” demanded that it bring together doctoral-level professional education with high-potential executive education.
“Private sector leaders don’t lead all by themselves,” Kegan explains. “They build teams internally, and they often work with external coaches. We want our students to test the value of this resource.”
Prior to enrolling at HGSE, Ed.L.D. students did several personal assessments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and asked colleagues and peers for candid feedback on their leadership style. Students used this information in the first round of coaching to look for patterns and to help determine where they were as leaders In subsequent rounds, students reflected more extensively on coursework, teamwork experiences within the program, and emerging career interests during coaching sessions.
“Coaching has offered us an incredible opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our leadership styles, and our patterns,” says Hollyhock Foundation Fellow Lizette Suxo. “I think for most of us it has been the most amazing part of the program.”
Suxo explains that each student has worked to develop an individualized “toolkit” of leadership strategies that can be drawn upon in different situations and contexts.
“In our careers, we will be part of complex environments,” she says. “In order to be successful, we have to know ourselves and be sure of our strategies in the face of great challenges.” Kegan praises the Ed.L.D. students for their eagerness to dive into the challenging work required by coaching.
“What is inspiring about this group is the way they have responded to everything we have put before them — namely, a willingness to jump in with both feet, and to try to get the most out of every opportunity,” Kegan says. “They have been real pioneers, and we have learned from them, just as they have learned from us.”