Higher Education Executive Coach Series: Action Steps for Leadership Readiness & Emotional Intelligence Assessment

This is the first post in the “Higher Education Executive Coach” series for academic, administrative, and technology leaders as well as aspiring leaders.

January always brings new energy. We crave fresh perspectives on many things, including – of course – our career trajectory. Higher Education is ripe with career opportunities for academic, administrative, and technology leaders seeking a role with broader leadership responsibilities at a larger institution. Aspiring leaders like sitting AVPs, Associate Deans, Student Affairs professionals, IT Directors, and Senior Managers might use this New Year’s momentum to recast their managerial experience into a leadership role.

Given this renewed energy and the groundswell of job prospects, it’s an ideal occasion to think about the key drivers for professional growth – leadership readiness and emotional intelligence. Especially since executive search firms prioritize knowledge of these elements in candidate selection.

If you’re interested in moving to the next level in your career, the following steps will help you get there.

Engage in Successful Self-Assessment.

Self-assessment involves a thoughtful review of your career goals, job performance, and role competencies. Your honest evaluation will guide realistic short-term (six to twelve months) and long term (one to three years) goal setting and attainment. While this may seem daunting, this checklist will help you get started:

  • Revisit your career goals for the next three to five years
  • Review your job performance over the past year.
  • Be objective as you highlight your achievements and areas for improvement. Consider how you have performed in your role and how you work with and manage others.
  • Document how you have expanded your experience and knowledge in your department or school, technology, and overall expertise in the higher education industry.
  • What would your manager, peers, and direct reports say about your job performance? What feedback might they give you?
  • Based on your self-assessment, how realistic are your career goals?

On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is excellent), how well did your performance over the last year move you towards your career goals?

Evaluate your Aptitude for Leadership in Higher Education.

Over the course of your tenure as an employee in a university or college, you’ve likely accumulated experience in your specific organizational area.  However, assessing your aptitude for leadership is closely tied to understanding the complexities of campus culture, decision-making across diverse constituencies, and stakeholder dynamics. Determine your readiness by reflecting on the following questions:

  • How well do you understand administrative, school, and departmental business issues and opportunities?
  • If you have a technology role, what experience do you have as a technology ambassador across campus?
  • How do you describe how your organization (or division) aligns goal setting with institutional planning?
  • What reputation have you built as a trusted advisor to faculty, staff, and senior campus leadership?
  • In what ways do you enhance your knowledge of the business of higher education?
  • How do you contribute to the broader “Higher Education as an industry” discussion with peers at other institutions and professional associations?

On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do your answers to these questions reflect an aptitude for knowledge of the business of higher education?

Audit Your Emotional Intelligence Skills.

Emotional intelligence is a decisive metric used in measuring executive presence. At the most definitive level, emotional intelligence is how well you use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. This affects how you express yourself, navigate social complexities, and make decisions – often in stressful situations. Executive presence is a combination of how you present yourself, engage and inspire others, and connect what you do with your institution’s mission.

You’ve likely had success in ascending to your current role because of your solid subject matter expertise in technology, student affairs, finance, or your academic area. But that’s not enough. In my work with leaders and aspiring leaders, I find that emotional intelligence is the “special sauce”, which makes the difference between leaders who are high performing and strategic or simply tactical.

On a scale of 1 to 5, rate your aptitude in each of the following emotional intelligence competencies:

  • The ability to recognize your emotions and moods and their effect on others.
  • The ability to control and/or redirect disruptive impulses and moods.
  • The propensity to think before acting.
  • Your comfort with ambiguity and openness to change.
  • A desire and passion for achieving goals with energy and persistence that goes beyond money and status.
  • Skill in understanding the emotional makeup of other people and responding to situations with sensitivity.
  • The ability to develop and manage relationships and networks with rapport.

Document your rating average for this section.

Review Self-Assessment Results with a Career Path Health Check.

A career path health check involves taking the short-term pulse and tracking the long-term momentum of your efforts to build leadership skills and emotional intelligence competencies. Using the results from the three sections above, ask yourself:

  • Does your current experience reflect a trajectory to where you want to be in the next three to five years?
  • How do you frame the stories of your achievements? How well do these stories support your desired career path?

Use your self-reflections to update or craft an action plan to achieve your career goals.

If these exercises have whet your appetite for self-assessment, there are many excellent industry standard resources available. These assessments can provide additional insight that can guide clear and realistic goal setting and action planning to keep you on course for achieving your career goals. Two of my favorites are:

  • Hogan Assessments for Leadership
  • EQi 2.0 Assessment for Emotional Intelligence

Would you like a fresh perspective on your career trajectory from a seasoned higher education executive coach? Let’s get the conversation started- contact me at [email protected].