At the start of the EMBA Program at Kennesaw State University (KSU), the coaches come together to prepare for their introduction to the latest group of students.
The program carefully matches the background of coaches to the background of students. It also carefully chooses coaches to work with students. They must complete KSU’s Managerial Coaching Certificate Program to qualify. They work with students on monthly personal and professional development assignments.
All this shows the KSU commitment to coaching as a key element of EMBA student leadership development.
“Executive coaching plays a crucial role in the success of a KSU EMBA student,” says Allison Keefe, executive program director and associate professor of economics. The support of a coach, of course, makes a difference, but the purpose of the coach also goes much deeper.
The program follows the holistic leader model approach, which calls for a high-quality leader to understand all aspects of business, including other people, themselves, and their interactions with others, says Keefe.
“By focusing half of the curriculum on leadership concepts and the student’s personal and professional development, the student will know more about themselves and how they interact with others more than they ever imagined they would,” she says.
“This, of course, includes coaching, and that is why we focus on coaching as a differentiator for our program. This is also why we make the investment year after year. Our students see the value in our coaching model and recognize the absolute need if they want to grow professionally.”
When they enroll in the program, students receive information about coaching, such as format and structure, coach/student relationship, assignments, and coaching arrangements. They complete two virtual courses during their EMBA Program, each with assignments that require them to work with their coach. Coaches and students meet at least once a month for about two hours.
“The coach gives feedback on observed performance throughout the month and will help the student set or suggest goals for the upcoming month,” says Don Lang, senior lecturer of leadership, teaming, coaching, and human capital. The student writes a coaching summary of the discussion and any other focus areas.
“The purpose here is to have students see their growth, new skills, and performance attributes acquired during the coaching period,” says Lang.
A founding member of the Graduate School Alliance for Education in Coaching, KSU based its own Managerial Coaching Certificate Program on the alliance’s structured and formal approach to coaching. The alliance offers coaching certificates based on research, provides standards for coaching education, and benchmarks programs according to those standards.
Throughout the years, the program has enhanced its assignments, added additional coach qualifications, and extended coach orientation and training to parallel classroom teaching. What’s remained the same? Quite simply, the belief in the value of coaching, which is borne out by student feedback.
“Our philosophy is that leaders need to be skilled in coaching and developing team members,” says Keefe. “Students find coaching to be one of the most important elements of the program. Indeed, one student, CEO of an employee-owned fintech company, said that coaching provided him insights that he considered to be the most important long-term benefit of the program.”