What do Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Bill Gates, and every student in the Buccino Leadership Institute all have in common?
They can all say they have used professional coaches to help maximize their leadership potential.
On February 1st, the Buccino Leadership Institute launched a bold new leadership coaching program, one of several initiatives launched by the institute since it was founded last semester. Every one of the program's 81 leadership students will be assigned a professional leadership coach for the next two semesters.
To launch the program, the Buccino Leadership Institute hosted a kickoff event that brought students, faculty, and its 14 hand-picked leadership coaches for an onboarding session and initial face-to-face coaching sessions with students.
Interim Provost Karen Boroff provided opening remarks at the kickoff, which was fitting because of her influence on both the Institute and the coaching program.
Provost Boroff came up with the coaching idea after she learned of a similar program at Rice University. In an initiative led by Tom Kolditz, Director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders, any Rice student who wants a leadership coach is given one, free of cost. Other elite universities offer leadership coaches for students in M.B.A. and executive-M.B.A. programs such as Wharton and Darden, but Seton Hall is believed to be the first university to offer leadership coaching strictly to competitively-selected undergraduate students.
The Institute's leadership sought out two partners, Rebecca Feder of Princeton HR Insight and Nancy Singer of the Singer Leadership Group, to help create the coaching program. In addition to helping develop the structure, timing, and objectives of the initiative, Feder and Singer were also charged with finding the perfect coaches to work with Seton Hall's leadership students.
Their efforts resulted in an impressive collection of 14 high-performing coaches with decades of professional experience and unique skill sets. Some had careers as corporate executives for multinational corporations. Others routinely coach CEOs and C-Suite leaders in a variety of industries – pharmaceuticals, finance, law, media, and health care. There is even a former professional basketball player. All of the coaches, however, share a passionate belief in the Buccino Leadership Institute's mission and the positive impact this program can have on high-performing students.
The innovative nature of what the Buccino Leadership Institute is doing at Seton Hall was a definite drawing card for Singer. "Seton Hall's leadership program provides students an immersion in leadership unlike any other program," Singer said. "The program helps students define and shape their own personal leadership style and behaviors which prepares students to enter the workplace with knowledge that usually takes years to gain."
As a recent guest on the Seton Hall Undergraduate Leaders podcast, Feder described how the value gained from professional leadership coaching can accelerate one's career.
Jealous that she did not have the same opportunity when she was an undergrad at Dartmouth College, Feder commented, "I was 20 years into my career before I had a coach and understood how that experience could unlock someone's potential. What a gift Seton Hall is providing to these young leaders!"
Each student in the leadership program will have five sessions with their assigned leadership coach. The first session is face-to-face and takes place on campus. Subsequent sessions can take place online via Skype, FaceTime, or other platforms.
Coaches and students were individually paired by Institute leadership after interviewing each coach and student about their preferences, experiences, and leadership styles. Students will work with their coach on a specific goal determined by the student.
The new coaching program is a perfect fit for the first year's theme of "Leading Yourself." To aid in identifying coaching goals, students took several personal assessments during their first months at the university. In the Fall, all students took the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, and over break, students took the Eqi-2.0 Emotional Intelligence assessment.
Students are understandably excited about the program. Madisyn Travisano, a leadership student from the College of Communication and the Arts, remarked, "The first coaching session was such an eye-opening experience for me. I can't wait to see how my leadership skills will be able to develop and improve throughout this program."
After her first session, nursing student Patricia Esposito said, "I have always been fond of Albert Einstein's quote, 'Be a voice not an echo.' Meeting with my leadership coach brought a practical understanding of who I want to be and it gave me a taste of what this quote means to me as a leader."
Students who received coaching are already seeing the potential for growth outside of their leadership activities. According to Peter Eggerding from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, "The first coaching session was phenomenally well done and thought-provoking. It has already made me critique my leadership skills across every aspect of my life."
Perhaps education leadership student Shannon Lawless summarized it best. "Working with my coach helped me reflect on myself and on my personal strengths and weakness and how they influence who I am as a leader. I learned when to dial up my weaknesses and tone down my strengths. I am looking forward to learning more through this process about myself and how to best lead others."
The leadership coaching program is one of several initiatives that make the Buccino Leadership Institute unlike any other leadership development program in the country. The bold new initiative is off to a fantastic start and yet another way in which "We Make Leaders…Better."