Archive for category: Coaching

FREE WEBINAR March 29th: 4 Reasons Why “Everybody Needs a Coach”

Big Beacon presents a FREE WEBINAR

Business leaders, Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates say that “everybody needs a coach”, and the C-suite, (CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, etc.) increasingly hire leadership coaches to help them navigate difficult business problems. This practice is now spreading to other leaders, educational leaders, faculty members, and even students. This short, interactive webinar gives 4 ways coaching can help you in your work.

You will come away learning:

1. Coaching is not what you think: It is not advice giving by a smarty pants know-it-all.

2. Coaching is remarkably cost-effective and webinar attendees can attend free monthly group coaching sessions.

3. Coaching is a form of humble inquiry in which the coach asks powerful questions and the client reflects deeply on possibilities, values, goals, and desirable results.

4. Learn the four ways coaching can help you in your work.Learn the 4 common mistakes of educational change efforts and how to overcome them.

Big Beacon is a 501c3, non-profit organization dedicated to the transformation of education. This webinar is free with no cost or obligation. but with plenty of opportunities for successful educational change.

Sign Up Now

FREE WEBINAR January 18th: 4 Keys to Ineffective Educational Change

Big Beacon presents a FREE WEBINAR

4 Keys to Ineffective Educational Change:

How to Botch Transformation Without Really Trying

Educational change leaders make 4 common errors that slow change and limit ultimate success. This short, interactive webinar gives practical strategies to both accelerate change and enhance the probability for effective and sustained success.

Learn the 4 common mistakes of educational change efforts and how to overcome them.

Big Beacon is a 501c3, non-profit organization dedicated to the transformation of education. This webinar is free with no cost or obligation. but with plenty of opportunities for successful educational change.

[vcex_button url=”″ title=”Visit Site” style=”graphical” align=”center” color=”black” size=”large” target=”self” rel=”none”]Sign Up Now![/vcex_button]

3 Reasons for the Coming Revolution in Executive Coaching for Academics

The use of executive or leadership coaches has exploded in private corporations, non-profits, and government (here).  Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates (here) say that everyone needs a coach, and in the C-suite, almost everyone has one.  And the reasons for this explosive growth are becoming clearer.   When individuals are coached, they become more effective at work and at home with notable improvements in both their task & relationship orientation; organizations become more productive with coaching returning $5-$7 for every $1 spent.

For some time, the coaching revolution bypassed the academic world, but this, too, is changing.  More and more presidents, provosts, deans, heads, and rank-and-file faculty are hiring coaches to help them become more effective, and this “coming revolution” is well grounded by the current realities of academic life.

Coaching: It’s Not Consulting or Advice Giving

Those unfamiliar with coaching sometimes think that coaching is a form of consulting, mentoring, or advice giving, but at it’s best, coaching is a form of one-on-one inquiry and reflection in which the client is aided by the coaches listening and asking questions in ways that help the client find and overcome obstacles and then identify and realize possibilities.   See a post on 4 Lessons Learned for Coaching from “The Voice” here.

The coach works to support only the client’s agenda, starting wherever he or she is; the coach comes to the engagement without judgment or any ideal sense of what the client should or should not be doing. In this way, the client can safely explore his or her own authentic path, style, and career in a safe, supportive environment.

Compared to other kinds of organizational development interventions such as training and group facilitation, coaching is especially well suited to the highly competitive and individualistic nature of the academy. The confidentiality of the coaching relationship creates a safe haven for sharing hopes and concerns, successes and breakdowns, and possibilities and aspirations.

3 Reasons Coaching is Growing for Academics and Academic Leaders

The revolution in coaching for academics in being propelled by a number of forces:

The academy is under pressure to change. Economic, technological, regulatory change is coming to the academy like a freight train.  It used to be that changes came slowly to colleges and universities, if at all, and faculty and academic leaders alike could expect relative stability.  Today, most bets are off, and leaders and rank-and-file faculty are struggling with the need to change and adapt, but they do so in an environment with almost no formal leadership or organizational development capability in place.  How coaching helps. In this way, coaching serves individuals as a just-in-time, and one-on-one, tailored development plan.

Academic leaders are being asked to play different roles.  A distinction is often made in coaching between administration, management, and leadership as being about the past, present, and future, respectively.  In other words, administrators are asked to capably make yesterday happen tomorrow.  Managers are asked to improve today’s operations.  Leaders are asked to envision and bring about a substantially different tomorrow.  In the good ole days, academic leaders had a portfolio heavily weighted toward administration and management with leadership mainly expected in well understood and trodden areas such as research funding and charitable fundraising.  More and more, however, academic leaders are seeing a shift in their portfolios to require a more fundamental re-envisioning of the mission, operations, structure, and governance of colleges and universities.  How coaching can help.  Coaches can help academic leaders to move out of their comfort zone and into new roles in the quiet of a one-on-one ongoing conversation with a trusted listener and confidant.  Coaches can offer learning resources and sharp soft skill building in the safety of this relationship as the leader struggles to get on top of the rapidly changing demands of the changing role.

Faculty are being challenged to move from “knowing and telling” to “trusting and unleashing.”  As universities charge students more and more, increasing demands are being placed to demonstrate the effectiveness of educational methods and to ensure the employability of graduates.  Moreover, the old reliance of obedience-based education (OBL) is shifting to a kind of courage-based learning (CBL) in which students are unleashed by trusting coaches who help create a new kind of self-efficacious and courageous lifelong learner rather than an individual who has mastered some fixed and known body of knowledge.  More and more, rather than wanting students who shut up and sit down, we want students who will stand up and create amazing things for the benefit of all of us.  As returns to expertise in the classroom and laboratory diminish and faculty are asked to shift from knowing and telling to trusting and unleashing, this may require deep personal changes in many faculty who have not had any preparation for such changes in their graduate education or their current work environment.  How coaching can help.  Good coaches model exactly this kind of trusting and unleashing, and coaches can help build key noticing, listening, question, and story reframing skills (NLQ+S) to help the client be more effective in this new world of higher education.  Coaching is one cost effective way to build these skills in key faculty.

These three items are driving the academy to a revolution in coaching in much the same way private and other non-profit sectors have already experienced.

Finding Your Coach

So perhaps coaching might be helpful to you or those you know. How do you find a coach aligned with your needs? Here are some questions to consider in hiring a coach:

  1. What training and qualifications does the person bring to their coaching?
  2. To what extent does the person have academic experience and understand academic culture?
  3. To what extent is the potential coach curious about you, your obstacles, your opportunities & to what extent do they seem to have one right method or the one right answer?
  4. To what extent do you feel comfortable with the potential coach, and to what extent is it easy or hard to share private information with him or her?
  5. To what extent does the coach ask questions that engage your reflection and are both hard and interesting to answer?
  6. To what extent does the coach seem to listen to you and “get you” through that listening?

A good source of information about coaching and coaches is the International Coach Federation, and these days there is much other information online. If you’d like to learn more about coaching with ThreeJoy, write to Dave Goldberg at or schedule a complimentary coaching session with him or other ThreeJoy coaches at

David E. Goldberg is a trained leadership coach (Georgetown University) and president of ThreeJoy Associates, Inc., a coaching, training, and change leadership consulting firm in Douglas, Michigan; he is also a noted computer scientist, civil engineer, and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He resigned his tenure & a distinguished professorship in 2010 to work full time for the transformation of higher education. He can be reached at  

Goldberg published A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education in October 2014 (with co-author Mark Somerville and writer Catherine Whitney). The book is available in hardcover and all major e-book formats (here). 


Big Boys Don’t Cry

The 21st century transformation of education is profoundly emotional, but why is “emotion” such an uncomfortable subject?:

The idea that we might acknowledge emotion directly in education runs up agains a taboo for men (in many cultures).  From an early age, men are urged to suppress their unhappiness, sadness, or other negative emotion that leads to the emotional display of crying.  Sometimes this is done with understanding and concern, but oftentimes boys are shamed if they do cry, and the shame continues until they stop.

Read more, here.

Jazz & 21st Century Learning

David Goldberg shares how learning jazz guitar has shown him new ways to best empower students to learn:

Whereas many music sites and teachers treat their students as largely unmotivated and incompetent, Jimmy trusts that students who come to his site are motivated and competent to take on substantial challenges on their own.

Find out more, here.

Self Judgment & Its Discontents

“What a jerk!”
“I’m an idiot”
“Yes, but…”
“That’s not the correct way!”
“It ought to be like this.”
“How could I be so stupid?”

We tell these things to ourselves and others on an all too regular basis, to the point where it affects our productivity at work and in everyday life. How can we make our self-talk healthier? David Goldberg leads us to question the source of our discontent:

What is the judgment about? Whom is the judgment about? To what extent is judgment of others mixed with judgment of self. What is the balance between positive and negative judgment? To what extent does the judgment serve the client? To what extent does the judgment lead to useful action? To unproductive action? A key in bringing it to light is to not judge the judging, but to be curious about it, wonder about its purpose, consider its sources, and the degree to which it serves the client. 

Read here for more ways to handle critical self-talk.


Lost in translation: 3 lessons from the term “assessment”

I am writing this from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport (ATL), returning from a delightful session with approximately 40 faculty members at Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM) in Valparaiso, Chile on “From I Know to We Trust & Beyond: Deep Faculty Development in an Uncertain & Creative Era.”  The program was sponsored by LASPAU at Harvard, and this was the second time I had worked in this program at UTFSM. One of the nice things about working in another country is it helps you notice the assumptions built into your own culture and language.  The session was translated simultaneously from English to Spanish (and vice versa), and an issue came up around the Spanish term for assessment

Assessment was being translated as evaluación (or evaluation), and the distinction that I was trying to make was the usual coaching and speech acts distinction between an assertion, a speech act committed to expression of truth, and an a assessment, a speech act expressing an opinion, interpretation.  There was a trained coach among the faculty attending the course and he wondered whether a better translation wouldn’t have juicio (judgment).  This led to a fairly lengthy clarification of the intended usage of the terms, which was helpful to the group in pursuing our work together.

In reflecting on the episode, I think there are three lessons to be learned, and here I move from particular to general.

Lesson 1: Separating assertions and assessments is critical to improving communication.  The main intent of the session was to help the group understand how assessment-laden our speech and stories are and that understanding that others may have other interpretations of what’s going on is an early awareness that can help improve communication, fairly immediately.  The session reinforced this lesson, and the additional emphasis brought about by being slightly “lost in translation” for a time was helpful to increasing understanding, I believe.

Lesson 2: Distinguishing between assessments and judgments is also a communication-improving move.  Discussing the translation of “assessment” as juicio was also useful part of the episode.  All judgments are assessments, but not all assessments are judgments.  Judgments contain a sense of correctness (right/wrong) and prescription that ordinary assessments need not have.  As Marilee Adams points out in her choice map, once we are in judgment it is difficult to be open enough to learn or gain additional perspective.  This doesn’t make judgment a bad thing; it simply suggests judging is a choice, and if has become a reflex, it may not be serving us as well as a more judicious spectrum of assessment.

Lesson 3: We attach our normal sense of term to others’ usage at our peril.  As this episode unfolded, I was a bit puzzled at first.  I had been fairly careful to define my terms fairly carefully and give the sense of the terms assessment and assertion that I intended.  Nonetheless, language is loaded, and we all use and interpret terms according to our own sense of them.  Within a particular discipline this can be a useful shortcut to mutual understanding, but if we are learning something new outside of the boundaries of our usual experience and knowledge, assuming that our private sense of a term can be a prescription for misunderstanding.  In a coaching setting, a coach will almost always ask a client what they mean by the particular usage of a term, rather than assuming the coach understands the sense of a term.  In a multidisciplinary setting or in a learning setting, being curious about how language is being used is an important step toward accelerating understanding and achieving shared meaning with others.

As the methodology of coaching migrates from corporate practice to the university and the classroom, these three lessons will become increasingly salient and important as ways for students and faculty to understand each other.

Top 5 regrets of the dying

I was doing my morning tweet practice of inspirational quotes, and I came across a quote, which I posted:

“The same view you look at every day, the same life, can become something brand new by focusing on its gifts rather than the negative aspects. Perspective is your own choice and the best way to shift that perspective is through gratitude, by acknowledging and appreciating the positives.” 
― Bronnie Ware @goodreads

I noticed that the quote was from a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departed (book here), and I quickly found a summary HuffPo piece here.  The insights come from Bronnie Ware’s work with the terminally ill.  The five regrets are expressed as wishes, and I reproduce them in capsule form below:

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
  2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
  3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
  4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
  5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Many of these regrets or wishes are part and parcel of coaching work.  Authenticity, work-life balance, emotional awareness & expression, connection, and the realization that happiness is a choice of guided by the quality of our awareness and framing of our thoughts and feelings about what happens are the text or sub-text of many, if not most, coaching conversations.  

Seeing the five in such stark relief has me wanting me to go grab my journal and reflect on the five wishes and my own life.  Which of the five regrets would be yours if you were suddenly to find yourself at death’s door?

When there is no “we” in faculty: 4 approaches to faculty teamwork

The old saying says there is no “I” in “teamwork.”  What do you do when there is no “we” in faculty?

Since leaving the University of Illinois in December 2010, I’ve worked at a number of universities around the world to help bring transformative change to engineering education.  Transformative change and routine business as usual are very different things.  In the usual routine setting of the university, great individual performance by faculty members is expected and often delivered.  Faculty run their courses, their labs, hire and fire their graduate students and the system proceeds.  Occasionally faculty members are required to get together and “collaborate” on committees, but even there, most university committees are less teams and more like working groups, where individuals can assemble their work product relatively independently.  The situation is so common as to not require comment; however, if you are trying to bring about change in the university, the lack of teamwork chops among faculty can be a showstopper.

In change initiatives, something new is being created and oftentimes there are joint curricular and cultural decisions to make together.  In general, there is more need for common purpose, cooperation, and collaboration than in the usual routine setting, but given the lack of experience in working together faculty members are ill-equipped to interact effectively enough to get the job done.  

So what can be done?  Here we consider 4 possibilities:

Notice & acknowledge the cultural shift.  Moving from a routine, individualistic culture to a startup, team-oriented culture can be deeply disorienting and a difficult adjustment.  To notice and acknowledge the difference is the first step to doing anything about it.  Reflecting on Schein’s model of culture (here) is helpful to understanding the obstacles to shifting gears. 

Use individual performance when possible  Getting individual performers to become great team performers overnight is difficult, especially in an individualistic culture.  To the extent possible, if the task can be broken into small pieces, do so.  You’ll play to the strengths of your actors.

Go with pairwork or very small teams to start.  Going cold turkey to large teams is often too hard.  Instead move to the smallest unit of collaboration, the pair.  I’ve coined the term pairwork and written (here) about the value of using pairs and small teams in educational and interdisciplinary initiatives.  Once people get their teamwork legs under them, you can move to larger teams. 

Provide principled teamwork training.  Faculty can be rough on fluffy trainers, so give them some red meat by talking about speech acts (requests & commitments) and some simple team ground rules to help provide some structure.  Using facilitated team meetings or team coaching is another way to go, if the resources, both financial and human, are available.

Moving from “I” to “we” in a university setting isn’t easy, but there are times when it is necessary, and some of the suggestions here should be helpful to making the experience more productive.


Scarce Time versus Creating Time


In working as a coach, a topic that comes up frequently with clients is time. It comes up in different guises and claims.  “I don’t have enough time to spend doing X,” where X may be something at work, a hobby, a project.  “I don’t have enough to spend with Y,” where Y is a loved one, a relative, a friend, a new acquaintance.  Oftentimes there is a request from the client to work on “time management” skills so the “scarce” resource of time can be managed, prioritized, and allocated to things that matter more.  In the past, I have often approached the move to the skill development of conventional time management with some caution as it often has seemed that there was something much deeper at stake for client; thinking of time as a scarce resource that can only be allocated can mislead clients that this is their primary (only?) option. A book recommended to me by a client helped put this into clearer perspective.  

Marney Makridakis’s delightful book, Creating Time (here)makes the point that time is as much about perception and framing as the passage of hands on a clock.  The book is divided into three sections.  The first section explores time as something that can be treated subjectively and creatively, not necessarily objectively.  The third section considers applying the book’s lessons in real life.  The second section is, for me, the real meat of the book, and it creatively reframes time in 7 different ways:

  1. Flow time
  2. Gratitude time
  3. Love time
  4. Ritual time
  5. Stillness time
  6. Visualization time
  7. Permission time

Each of these perspectives is valuable.  If only one of these is helpful to you in thinking about your days, weeks, months, and years differently, it will be worth the price of admission.  Give Creating Time a scan here