Helping Organizations Create, Develop and Build Cultures of Respect

Academic Leadership Programs

Academic Leadership Programs

Chair Leadership Project

As critical leaders carrying out a school’s academic and executive mission, department chairs face a plethora of challenges. However, they may not possess prior leadership experiences for maximizing their academic department’s performance. Chairs must transform visions and policies into actions, lead faculty and support staff, manage resources, implement executive directives, and recruit staff, often while teaching and conducting research on their own.

Proper preparation and training to manage their many responsibilities helps department chairs thrive in their roles. The Chair Leadership Project is designed to do precisely that by facilitating strong leadership in developing skills that lead to high-functioning departments. The program modules and one-to-one coaching sessions are scheduled every other week and spread out over the course of one semester.

Chair Leadership Themes

  • Leading in alignment with department mission and guiding principles
  • Nurturing a culture of respect and trust
  • Strengthening, motivating and inspiring faculty and support staff
  • Communicating effectively and facing conflict constructively
  • Developing self-awareness to enhance interpersonal and leadership competencies
  • Building a sense of community among academic leaders
  • Leading change
  • Advancing university and department goals

The program results speak for themselves. Chairs who completed the program found that it enhanced their leadership skills, and changed the ways that they worked with their departments and their deans. As one chair expressed after just a few consultations.

“When I first met Dennis Morris as my Executive Coach I thought this was going to be about changing the faculty. But now I realize this is really about changing myself ― how I communicate, collaborate to resolve differences and lead the department.”

The Chair Leadership Project is delivered in group workshops with one-to-one executive coaching. Chairs bring real-life scenarios as case studies to the group sessions, and participants work collaboratively on methods and skills to address them.

The issues have included:

  1. Mediocre performance of a teacher or administrative staff member
  2. Lack of department teamwork and low morale
  3. Difficult personalities and interpersonal conflicts
  4. Unpopular changes and directives
  5. Response to reduced budgets

"The Chair Leadership Project was immediately applicable because it was in context to what we were facing in our departments. The part that I found particularly helpful was the modules about coping with change. Leading change was especially relevant since my colleagues are required to think about their future and the future of the Department in new ways. Dennis Morris was able to orient our thinking and allow us to reflect on how to flow with change and to lead change efficiently. The one-to-one executive coaching sessions which were very helpful gave me the opportunity to discuss issues in confidence, dissect different approaches to resolve difficult issues, and try out new strategies to lead tough conversations. I discovered new ways to talk to people who do not necessarily have a positive approach to change. Dennis Morris is a very good listener and has a keen sense of what is needed and can offer insights and make situations relevant very quickly."

Strategies to lead tough conversations,
Professor and Chair of Mathematical Sciences

"The Chair Leadership program is essential for any new leaders with no previous leadership training. Dennis Morris helped me to build respectful, trusting relationships and effective communication within my department, and to lead with my principles. He taught me the importance of encouragement, support, and appreciation of the accomplishments of my colleagues. I am also practicing what I learned about how to approach problem solving by involving and actively listening to all stakeholders, understanding and analyzing their concerns, and effectively constructing arguments to reach solutions. Working with other new chairs in the program promoted shared learning. We all came with different personalities, strengths, and problems and Dennis Morris guided our explorations of this diversity to strengthen all of our leadership skills and tools. He is a master at teaching by example, promoting skill-building, and empowering new chairs to lead with effectiveness and integrity."

Program promoted shared learning,
Professor and Chair of Anthropology

Academic Leadership Coaching

Academic Executive Coaching is a one-to-one process focused on strengthening leadership skills through self-awareness, self-reflection, problem-based learning, and solution-focused coaching. It enables University leaders to motivate colleagues, facilitate change, resolve cumbersome dilemmas, and lead with their principles. In short, it helps academics to become inspirational leaders who enable their colleagues and University to flourish.

Executive coaching has helped leaders become more effective in a broad range of organizations for almost twenty years. The same approach is useful in Universities because they face dilemmas similar to those that other organizations have struggled to resolve. As resources shrink and shifting demographics transform the landscape, how do we accomplish our academic mission and align our vision with our practices? How do we challenge and inspire our colleagues to contribute their best? How do we define our purpose and lead with our principles? How do we manage our differences with integrity, strengthen leadership and teamwork, facilitate change, show empathy, and build trust throughout the university community? Academic Executive Coaching lets University leaders strengthen their skills with an established approach built on decades of experience of Institute Of Respect facilitators.

 

The Chair Leadership program is essential for any new leaders with no previous leadership training. Dennis Morris helped me to build respectful, trusting relationships and effective communication within my department, and to lead with my principles. He taught me the importance of encouragement, support, and appreciation of the accomplishments of my colleagues. I am also practicing what I learned about how to approach problem solving by involving and actively listening to all stakeholders, understanding and analyzing their concerns, and effectively constructing arguments to reach solutions. Working with other new chairs in the program promoted shared learning. We all came with different personalities, strengths, and problems and Dennis Morris guided our explorations of this diversity to strengthen all of our leadership skills and tools. He is a master at teaching by example, promoting skill-building, and empowering new chairs to lead with effectiveness and integrity.

"I participated in the Chair Leadership Project. What Dennis helped me solve was in essence a process, a process of interacting with faculty and staff. One example that helped me invaluably was how to deal with a difficult person. Dennis was very good at keeping things open and helping us understand how to start a difficult discussion with empathy and a positive perspective of the other person. I learned how to communicate with assertive empathy and discovered how that approach effectively diffuses tension while helping everyone involved. The module on leading the change enriched my understanding of mapping out and defining principles that are important to me and showed me how to maintain those principles at the forefront when negotiating resources. Changing a culture and addressing course sequences that carry lots of inertia are particularly difficult. This program helped me to gain the confidence to lead change and chart a course of action that is beneficial for the students and the department. The group modules were was helpful and gave me and the other Chairs an opportunity to exchange ideas and share the pain of what we were all experiencing as leaders. As a result of the program I am more actively involved in carving out time to get to know my colleagues and to develop and build trusting relationships."

Gain the confidence to lead change,
Professor and Chair of Physics and Astronomy

"Management and leadership roles with faculty are a different dynamic as compared to business personnel management. Dennis Morris provided tools to help with difficult and complicated faculty related issues. He instilled a high level of trust in the group, allowing us to learn from another’s experiences. He has experience consulting with academics which is missing in other management training groups. He did a very good job bringing his experience with academics to both our group learning and our one-to-one Executive Coaching with him. The academic specific case studies discussed in the group modules were invaluable and stimulated thoughtful and productive discussions. Dennis provided us with effective tools to use in an academic environment and make progress resolving problems."

Instilled a high level of trust in the group,
Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences

What Our Clients Have To Say

The Chair Leadership program is essential for any new leaders with no previous leadership training. Dennis Morris helped me to build respectful, trusting relationships and effective communication within my department, and to lead with my principles. He taught me the importance of encouragement, support, and appreciation of the accomplishments of my colleagues. I am also practicing what I learned about how to approach problem solving by involving and actively listening to all stakeholders, understanding and analyzing their concerns, and effectively constructing arguments to reach solutions. Working with other new chairs in the program promoted shared learning. We all came with different personalities, strengths, and problems and Dennis Morris guided our explorations of this diversity to strengthen all of our leadership skills and tools. He is a master at teaching by example, promoting skill-building, and empowering new chairs to lead with effectiveness and integrity.
Professor and Chair of Anthropology

I’m grateful for the Chair Leadership Project because leadership training is not usually part of the process of earning a PhD or working as a faculty member. It’s unfortunate that chairs are typically offered a position without the benefit of leadership training. I entered my leadership position thinking how I could encourage people to make contributions based on their strengths, but the Chair Leadership Project broadened how I think about leading and motivating people. With the training I have received, I now work to press and inspire faculty and staff to move beyond their strengths, challenge themselves, and grow as individuals.
The Chair Leadership Project provided me with new insights into leadership and strategies to bring meaningful change to the organization I’ve been asked to lead.  Each week we discussed the real-time challenges we faced on the job. Learning about the issues faced by other chairs and working together to develop strategies built trust among our group members and provided me with insights into my personal leadership skills. I learned a great deal about my job, my peers, and about myself.
As a facilitator Dennis succeeds in building a team among a diverse group of Chairs from varied disciplines. He’s an excellent facilitator who encourages contributions from individuals with different experiences, qualities, perspectives, and skill sets. Thoughtful and perceptive, Dennis knows how to bring out the best in participants and involve everyone in the learning process. He has the rare ability to bring to bear his experiences in the corporate world on the challenges faced by academic administrators. It’s very unusual to work with an Executive Coach and facilitator who has knowledge of both of these worlds. Working with Dennis as an Executive Coach was invaluable in helping me to understand and fulfill the responsibilities of my new leadership position.
Interim Faculty Director

When I first met Dennis Morris as my Executive Coach I thought this was going to be about changing the faculty. But now I realize this is really about changing myself ― how I communicate, collaborate to resolve differences and lead the department. It’s more about looking at myself and learning what I can do differently, which isn’t what I expected. But it’s working. I’m seeing improvements in the department, and that’s all due to what I’m doing differently.
Associate Professor and Chair of Linguistics and Cognitive Science

The Chair Leadership Project was a very positive experience. I came into this position thinking, ‘I am alone, I’m not sure how to do this, I’m not supposed to do all the work myself, I don’t have all the answers. How do I get people to look at these issue and collaborate toward a resolution?’ After participating in this program I gained the confidence that I needed. The program also helped me to understand that the other Chairs were undergoing what I was going through.
The time commitment to the program was significant and in the end I realized that this program saved me and others lots of time.
In our group modules Dennis fostered a closeness amongst the group and provided a nurturing environment where I was able to share. The totality of the program was effective. I am better able to flow and be positive, appreciative and have a better understanding of where my colleagues, staff and students are coming from. I can recognize that so much better now.
Professor, Chair of Computer & Information Sciences

I participated in the Chair Leadership Project. What Dennis helped me solve was in essence a process, a process of interacting with faculty and staff. One example that helped me invaluably was how to deal with a difficult person. Dennis was very good at keeping things open and helping us understand how to start a difficult discussion with empathy and a positive perspective of the other person.
I learned how to communicate with assertive empathy and discovered how that approach effectively diffuses tension while helping everyone involved.
The module on leading the change enriched my understanding of mapping out and defining principles that are important to me and showed me how to maintain those principles at the forefront when negotiating resources.
Changing a culture and addressing course sequences that carry lots of inertia are particularly difficult. This program helped me to gain the confidence to lead change and chart a course of action that is beneficial for the students and the department. The group modules were was helpful and gave me and the other Chairs an opportunity to exchange ideas and share the pain of what we were all experiencing as leaders. As a result of the program I am more actively involved in carving out time to get to know my colleagues and to develop and build trusting relationships.
Professor and Chair of Physics and Astronomy

I am a huge fan of the Chair Leadership Project! This program helped me on a variety of levels as an administrator. From a leadership standpoint the program’s specific techniques helped me to better deal with crisis situations as they emerge. As professors, we are focused on teaching and research and aren’t trained in interpersonal relations and this program expanded my vision of decision making where people are part of the process. This made it more enjoyable and it has given me a sense of accomplishment to impart long term change.
Associate Professor and Interim Chair Women and Gender Studies

This was a seven module program on Leadership for the Chairs and I would recommend Dennis Morris as a facilitator if you are in a leadership position or will be in the future. Dennis is effective in that his modules are applicable to everyday life, immediately. I learned a lot about being respectful, gaining trust and how to be empathetic.
Faculty Fellow for Undergraduate Enrichment

The Chair Leadership Project was pragmatic and not based on lofty ideals that don’t relate to real academic leadership issues. The program had a direct and positive impact on leading my department.
The group modules were effective because Dennis Morris is great at facilitating and creating trust and openness. Dennis is empathetic and open and this allowed for a safe learning environment.
The one-to-one Executive Coaching was targeted on specific leadership issues in our departments. It gave me an opportunity to discuss issues, get feedback on my communication and leadership interactions, develop solutions to difficult situations apply them and then debrief. Through the program I gained more confidence and became a more effective as a leader.
The role playing activities in the group modules allowed me to focus on my leadership skills and provided me with techniques to lead complex or difficult conversations more effectively.
Professor and Chair of Music History and Literature

Dennis Morris is a very good facilitator and teacher. The program provided meaningful, applicable and relevant information. The program format allowed the cohort to talk communally about our leadership problems and get to know and trust each other.
The topics of empathy and coping with change were important to me. I learned how to look beyond the obvious and it encouraged me to get to know the story of the person I am dealing without casting judgment. The modules provided information that allowed peers to dissect problems in depth.
I found Dennis to be very encouraging while not lecturing. The program was extremely useful for the fundamentals of administration as they apply across the board. He helped us look at how to deal with and package change within an organization.
The program modules coupled with the specific techniques helped us all to see that people must be willing and positive about receiving change and not as an administrative directive. It’s all relational if the unit gets better, all get better!
Interim Chair of Black American Studies

A powerful resource to assess your leadership competencies, identify your professional and managerial development needs and discover how others perceive your leadership style