President's Message: Be Coachable
As always, we are open to your feedback on topics you believe are important for our organization to address related to our purpose and those concepts that impact higher education. Please email thoughts to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Subsequently, I continue the focus on leadership topics and what effective leadership means and welcome your feedback.
In this issue, I discuss a valuable resource I received recently, a signed copy at that! I still remain excited about reading and receiving good books! An associate shared the text, The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places that Thrive by businessman, baseball team owner, Wall Street Journal best-selling author, and philanthropist Quint Studer. Perhaps, it’s a hint that I am a busy leader and/or a nod to leading thriving people and places. In The Busy Leader’s Handbook, Studer’s first key skills and behaviors leaders should possess are as follows: “Strive to be self-aware and coachable” (Studer, 2020, p. 3). Agreed, 100%! IKTR- I know that’s right!
Furthermore, Studer (2020) states, “Self-awareness means knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not. It means you don’t hide your flaws or cover up your mistakes. You don’t pretend to know it all” (p.3). Additionally, he writes, "Coachability just means you’re open to feedback. You don’t get bent out of shape by constructive criticism. You’re actually grateful for it because you want to improve and grow, personally and professionally. You want to be a better leader, spouse, partner, parent, or friend (and you know that growth impacts all of these roles)." (p.3)
As higher education leaders, professionals, or professors, practicing self-awareness and possessing a spirit of coachability are apropos. Some stakeholders see us a protectors and projectors of an outdated ivory tower declining like the Greek titans. Other stakeholders see us (as I do), as the innovators and change agents who help/should help drive the intelligence, growth, development, sustenance, and economics of our communities. Lacking self-awareness and coachability produces the former. Seeking and maintaining self-awareness and receiving coaching are synonymous with the latter.
Having worked in and survived higher education and its proclivities for demarcations for the past 22 years, I have found and experienced the need for such traits. I have a relative who always states, “you can’t pour into a cup that’s already full;” “the hardest thing to change is a mindset;” and “some people have to buy a lesson because they simply can’t learn it for free.” If higher education wants to remain viable and relevant, we must be aware, self-aware and coachable collectively and individually. We must have cups (figuratively or metaphorically) that are open to filling with more knowledge and wisdom. We must change mindsets that produce low graduation rates, drop-outs, stop-outs, down-skilling, and students’ inability to pass required career exams. In lieu of buying lessons that cause us to close campuses/colleges, eliminate necessary degree programs due to accreditation problems, or limit opportunities due to financial mismanagement, we need to: (a) observe, (b) assess, (c) evaluate, (d) engage in SWOC/SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges/threats) analyses, and (e) conduct root-cause analyses. Currently, the state of Texas is calling upon institutions of higher education to reskill and upskill the workforce. Like the well-known euphemism states, are we there yet? A rhetorical question/reflection!
Sometimes what we prioritize has very little to do with advancing learners, learning, or the community, but is simply about posturing, power-wielding, and pretense. I have seen higher education colleagues posture and scrimmage over being able to reading names of graduates at commencement, who gets to sit by whom in a meeting, and who gets to serve on dissertation committees. ICN = I cannot. We must be self-aware and evaluate whether “how we do our work” would be fodder for soap operas or whether we are game-changers, innovators, intellectuals, leaders, and community builders. One of my favorite leadership approaches is coaching. Watching great athletics coaches, like Phil Jackson, Tony Dungy, or John Calipari, you will note they are not passive, docile leaders, but are very comfortable leading, asserting, taking strategic risks, and identifying winning as well as losing behaviors.
Some people are extremely difficult to coach. Pride and ego prevent coaching. Their narcissistic perfection makes them too embarrassed and/or superior to receive correction and direction. Personally, I believe in being coachable, teachable, and accountable. As an example, I can recall speaking at a Dallas Metroplex community event using the geographic term I heard used to describe the area i.e. South Dallas (which I had also seen on buildings in the area as well). After the event, a school district central office administrator and Oak Cliff resident promptly and directly informed me the area we were in was not South Dallas, but the Southern Sector. I used a term I had heard others use and seen, but it was wrong. Since that situation, I have taken the time to visit and understand the geographical area names and have been able to educate others based on my lesson. I asked why buildings in the area bore the name “South Dallas” and received explanations (e.g. satellite location of the business’ original location in South Dallas). I am grateful for honest, constructive feedback and have an innate desire to continue learning and growing throughout life’s stages. As a higher education professional and leader interfacing with the community, I need to know the areas. I need to be able to connect appropriately with community stakeholders. I even need to know the pronunciations of different districts and municipalities.
In closing, let’s all become/remain aware, practice self-awareness, be coachable. Given the national climate and global and state challenges we face and endure, we could all benefit from a little reflection, reflexivity, and coaching to do our parts in a little or major way. Best!
Remaining aware, self-aware, and coachable,
Lisa D. Hobson, Ph. D.