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Leadership Coaching & Facilitation of Teambuilding & Annual Goal-Setting Process for University Extension Leadership Team


I was contacted by the former Assistant Dean for one branch of the University’s Extension program, who had just been promoted to the position of Dean with responsibility for all the University’s branches of Extension services. He was assuming leadership, following an Interim Dean who served three years, for the Extension Leadership Team composed of Associate Deans, Regional Directors, and Regional Program Leaders from flagship University’s Extension service, as well as the Dean and Program Leaders from a the Extension service of a sister state university. While members of the leadership team had worked with the new Dean as a peer, working under his leadership would be a new situation. Also, there were some new faces on the Extension Leadership Team. While the new Dean recognized that changes in Extension leadership, changes in the environments in which Extension operates, and changing demographics of constituents served would soon necessitate revisions in the stated mission, vision, desired strategic outcomes and strategies for the entire state Extension service, he also realized before his leadership team could collaborate on those topics, they had to deal with some immediate issues.


In order to function as effectively and efficiently as possible, this joint Extension Leadership Team needed to have clarity about management and interpersonal styles represented within the team. Additionally, effective teams have all team members in agreement on the team mission (in support of the Extension’s mission), team roles and responsibilities, team work processes and methods, desired interpersonal standards within the team, and team goals, which focus the team on immediate priorities. A two-day Leadership Team retreat was planned and conducted for the purpose of gaining a common definition of team commitment and direction, while introducing the new Dean’s leadership approach.


The first day’s session was built around the DiSC Behavioral Profile. Retreat pre-work involved leadership team members completing an online DiSC assessment, so that individual and group profiles could be prepared in advance for teambuilding application during the workshop. As a result, team members learned about team strengths and understood how to leverage strengths and manage weaknesses when assigning team roles and responsibilities, designing team work processes, and when working together in pursuit of team goals. The elements of the Team Effectiveness Model (mission, roles and responsibilities, work processes and methods, and interpersonal standards) were discussed and initial agreement was reached regarding how it applied to the Extension Leadership Team.

Additional retreat pre-work was completed to gather strategic priorities and goals from all leadership team members, which were then synthesized during the session with the Dean’s objectives, resulting in common agreement and understanding of the team’s strategic priorities for the coming year. As a result, the team completed brainstorming, categorizing and prioritizing of team goals related to organizational management, infrastructure, staff, and budget for the coming twelve-month time period, which effectively positioned them for weathering upcoming budget cuts throughout the state system resulting from economic recession conditions. Feedback on the activities and facilitation process were very positive, with all participants excited about the understanding and alignment achieved in the retreat. Following is specific feedback received from the Dean:

“Rhonda, thanks very much for the complete, detailed, and thorough work. [You used] great visual images, [which were] very consistent both with what we discussed and with the groundwork we agreed was needed before engaging in any broad strategic planning. I appreciate your ability, all your work, and your willingness to accommodate our last-minute request for assistance during a busy time. [ I ] will certainly keep you in mind for similar future needs.” – Dr. Tim Cross, Dean of Extension

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