6 reasons you should NOT hire a leadership coach

In my previous post, 4 lessons learned from a year in the director’s chair, I referenced the book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!” to make the point it was time to adjust my leadership approach now that I sit in the director’s chair. I took my own advice. I had never hired a leadership coach before. How would continuing to not hire a leadership coach get me to where I wanted to go? Where did I want to go? Why?

I initially struggled with the idea of hiring a leadership coach. Silly reasons like, “I can figure this out on my own…”, “What can a leadership coach tell me that mentors can’t…”, “I don’t want to pay for coaching…” and more got in the way of me making one of the best personal and professional investments in recents years.

I’ll tell you, hiring a leadership coach is not for the weak. There is hard work involved in every, single, session! There may even be times you spend nearly the whole session in tears because you have had a major break through and you are pushed to sit with the emotion – something you are not naturally good at doing! Leadership coaching is about making transformational, intentional decisions that lead to exponential pay offs. You can’t half-ass this and expect to get your money’s worth out of it.

In case you are where I was just a short while ago, creating every excuse under the sun NOT to  hire a leadership coach, here’s  a list of 6 reasons why you are making the correct choice:

  1. You enjoy the frustration of not moving forward; personally or professionally
  2. You don’t think you should have to invest your own money into your own development.
  3. There is no way you can fit in an hour a week or every two weeks to focus on you.
  4. You think the more mud in your field of view, the better! (and have no desire to become clearer in your purpose).
  5. Values, schmalues. Whose needs those!
  6. Oh! and you absolutely LOVE your inner critic. There is no way you are about to pay money to someone who can teach you how to quiet the voice of your beloved critic.

Of course I am being sarcastic with the list above. I am grateful I decided my personal and professional development mattered enough to embark on this journey.

There are several leadership coaches out there. I have chosen to work with Dr. Keith Edwards. His holistic approach challenges me to think about all aspects of my life, live true to my values and has been exactly what I needed at this point in time. I have friends who have also worked with Dr. Edwards who share in my high level of satisfaction with his work as a leadership coach.

A few things to note when choosing a coach:

  1. Fit matters! You need a coach whose style and approach work well with you and your goals.
  2. As my coach says, he is the best friend I’ll ever pay for! Meaning, I don’t have to work for the relationship. This relationship is strictly one-sided and I get to be incredibly selfish about it. After all, he and agreed this is all about me! This type of agreement is not something you get with supervisors, mentors, and/or sponsors.
  3. It. Is. Worth. Every. Penny!

Best of luck as you make the decision to invest in your development. I hope you’ll check out my coach as a potential option for you. He offers a free sample session to test the idea of leadership coaching and fit before you commit. If he’s not the one for you, I hope you find a perfect fit.

You are worth it!

4 lessons learned from a year in the director’s chair

It was just over a year ago I began my journey as a director of residence life. I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time! There is a book entitled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!” by M. Goldsmith and M. Reiter. The amount of truth in that title/statement, I believe, can only be understood once experienced. The skills needed to be a successful director is vastly different than those needed to be successful in earlier roles. As a director, one moves from being the human to get the work done to being the human inspiring and guiding others to get the work done. Each journey is different. Each institution is different. My hope is that readers will be able to take a few nuggets from my experience and apply them to their own journey.

Patience, young Padawan, your Jedi powers will come with time

As a new director, it is easy to get caught up in proving why you were the chosen candidate or that you can meet any goal/objective laid before you. However, it is crucial to spend time getting to to know your new environment. Even if you move up within the same organization, your new level, title, role, and responsibility all equate to a new environment as well. Who are the natural allies to your organization? How have those relationships worked in the past? What relationships need to be established? Who is on your team? How are all the people and stories connected? What can you learn from the organization’s past to help you and your organization move forward today? This type of learning takes time and the ability to understand what is not being said by those around you.

It’s not about you

Your words, your actions, your decisions, your silence, your ambivalence, all reflect directly on your organization in a way it never has before. I tell my team when I am struggling with an idea or concept or philosophy, “I am trying to decide if this is going to remain an Anne issue or if it needs to become an organization issue”. Meaning, I may have my own thoughts and views but are those right for the organization in the moment? Does it really matter how we get to the same or a similar solution/outcome? In some cases, it will matter and my issue does become an organization issue and we move forward with change. In many other cases, I have simply learned a new way to solve a problem by listening to those around me.

Learn the types of “weeds” that report to you but stay out of them

Learning as much as you can about your organization is a great idea however, caution against recommendations/suggestions/comments on the weeds as this will unintentionally take power away from those whose job is to manage the weeds. Said differently one comment about how you might prefer to do something differently than what is currently in place could easily be heard as an expectation from the director to change what we are doing, which could then spiral into the new director being a micro-manager. Your people need to know you trust them to think critically and solve problems at their level.

Capitalize on all the types of people

As you transition, you will need “your people” outside of the organization whom you can call upon to assist you. The people inside your organization may be great humans however, they are not your transitional support system.

Your administrative assistant, if you have one, can make or break you! When these humans are empowered and trusted to utilize all of their skills, they not only do great work for you, they also look out for your well-being (asking if you have eaten lunch yet today, recommending you step outside for a break, leaving you encouraging notes/candy to let you know your tough day will end soon and there is always tomorrow).

Partners inside and outside the organization and university are extremely valuable. Those relationships need to be built early and maintained as one would a garden of Orchids. The stories these humans have about your organization, the institution, the community, the state politics will prove to be invaluable to your success.

The humans in your organization will need you to be a strong leader and supervisor. They will be looking to you for vision, direction, development, and guidance. When these humans have what they need and are trusted to bring your vision to life, great things will happen. As you get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, intentional delegation that taps into each person’s strengths will allow the team members to feel valued, trusted, and empowered…never a bad thing!


There are many other tips and tricks to success as one transitions into the director’s chair. The four I have listed above have been particularly helpful in my transition over the last year. What additional tips would you add to the list?

My parental status doesn’t matter…or does it?

I recently read a blog post about a female entrepreneur who also happened to be a stay-at-home-mom. She put a great deal of energy into her business and wound up with physical representations of stress that landed her in her doctor’s office. Her doctor told her she was trying to hard to be a good mom on top of running her own business. She comes back at him with the idea that something like that would never be said to a man; ‘You’re trying to hard to be a good dad in addition to running your own business.’

I was in complete agreement with this post until the reactions I received from a recent Facebook post. I had posted about how well I done academically this past semester as a full-time student who works full-time and also, some how, found the time to write and pass my PhD preliminary exam as well. That is a lot to accomplish in three and half months and I am quite proud of my perseverance. There were a few people who posted about me also being a mother.

At first, I had the same reaction the woman who ran her own business did when her doctor commented on her parental status. If my husband had posted the same comment on his Facebook page, would people comment on the fact that he is a father as well? I doubt it. Even though him being a good father is just as important to him as me being a good mother is to me, why did my parental status matter? Who cares that I am mother? What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Later, it hit me. While it is true my husband would not have gotten the same comments about his parental status as I did, the fact that people know I am mother is not a bad thing. It is hard work to balance a full-time job, a full academic load, and a high energy three and half year old boy. However, it is possible. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it all fit. You will not let distractions and excuses get in the way.  My parental status in combination with my successes show other mothers what is possible. It can be done. You can be a good mother while working full time and pursuing higher level degree. I am the proof.

Because I am the proof that it can be done, I need to be OK with being a mom, no matter what goal or dream I am chasing down next.

Until next time…

Planning for times when enough is enough

In the work of student affairs there are times when high levels of student crisis and followup seem to dominate the vast majority of hours in our work day as well as after-hours attention. There are key times during the year when we can anticipate a spike in this type of workload (near mid-terms or finals) and then there are times where it just simply hits the fan.

It’s important to have a plan in place for your well being during these times. Thinking through and developing a plan during ‘down times’ will help you be able to put your plan into action when you approach your limits.

A few questions to consider as you put your plan into place:

1. Identify your pinch hitters. Who in your work setting can you call on to help you get through the heavy and intense workloads that come with high student crisis and follow up? Write down their names, strengths, and contact information. Keep this list short. Having this list will help you to be able to quickly identify who to ask for help in whatever area you need help.

2. Identify aspects of your workload that can be delegated or put on hold. Sometimes, you just need a couple of days to solely focus on students in crisis and the associated follow up. Not all of your work needs to be done right now. The world will go on if you need to put a couple of things on hold for a few days. Periodically make a list of few items that can be easily placed on the back burner for a moment. On that list, write down with whom you need to connect to put these projects on hold for a few days. Knowing what can be put on pause and who needs to know you have pushed the pause button will better help you manage your workload.

3. Identify who can help your team. Often times, it’s not just you going through these times. Your team is helping ensure student follow up and care is happening as it should along side you. Write down a few names of people you can call on to assist your staff. I recommend writing down a few names at the same level of your staff as they understand finer details of that level often better than you or your peers do. Next to their names, also include strengths and contact information. Having this information on hand will help you to quickly ask others to step in for your staff before they reach the burn out.

4. Identify time for you. When student crisis and intense follow up situations take several days to complete, be sure to take a moment to allow yourself a time out. Then, take the time out! Contact the people you have already identified if needed to cover your workload while you step out to take care of you, even if for a moment.

5. Prep your team for these moments. Have them write down a plan. Then, during these high times, remind them of their plan and give them the permission they might need to put the plan into place.

While we might not always be able to anticipate times of high student crisis and follow, we can still plan on how to accomplish the work that needs to be done and avoid hitting our breaking point.

It’s important to remember your self care is your responsibility.  There are environments and levels where a supervisor doesn’t or no longer checks in with you as they did when you were a new professional. If you don’t develop these skills, you will continually burn yourself out and then you will not be able to serve students well.

What strategies have you put into place? How do you manage times of intense student crisis and follow up on top of your everyday workload?

Because it’s still an issue for women…

I was listening to my husband tell a story about a conversation he had had with an older woman. They were talking about how this woman had made the decision to leave school in the middle of her master’s degree in the mid 1970’s because her husband had gotten a promotion. The woman went on to tell my husband about bluntly sexist the world used to be. She had been dismissed for jobs because she was a woman over and over again. She was thankful the world was no longer sexist. 

I looked over at him and said, “It sure is, it’s just not as obvious”. And then I began to tell him a story of my own. I reflected back to being a recent graduate from an elementary education program. I had been interviewing for several full time teaching jobs. At the time, I thought that telling the principals with whom I was interviewing that, even though I was engaged to be married, I had no desire to have children, would help increase my chances of landing a job. 

My story did not take place in the mid 1970s but rather in 2004. Where did I get this idea? How had it been taught to me? Why did I think that being a woman of childbearing age was an automatic mark against me in the interview process? I am not sure of the answers to these questions but the point it, they existed for me. And, I am confident I was not the only one with these thoughts back then…or even today. 

It’s not all better. Women are not treated equally and these messages are passed on to our young people. There is much work to be done, my friends, much work to be done. 

I know I am not the only one with a story like this and I would love to learn about yours. Please share your story in the comments to show how important the work on gender equality still is today! 


Modern-day Bias: Overcoming the “Where” Barrier

Wonderful thoughts!

Gwen Dungy

It’s funny how the mind works. Or, perhaps I should say, how my mind works…

In The New York Times last Sunday, Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece seemed to be just the validation that student affairs staff need. It offered outside confirmation about the importance of skills that are not generally acquired in the classroom but in the work and interactions students have outside of class, usually through service and their involvement in the areas within the bailiwick of student affairs.

Rather than focus on these main points of the article, however, I keyed in on this sentence: “Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to everyone—besides name-brand colleges.”

This statement stood out for me because I am so disappointed in search firms and colleagues who overlook good people when hiring and good ideas when…

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