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Igniting Leadership Development through Pro Bono Coaching

Posted by ICF Foundation | February 28, 2019 | Comments (0)

When Johan Uvin first arrived at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in Washington D.C., as its new president, he was approached by Lorri Manasse, PCC, to see if he and his staff would like coaching. Johan agreed, and a collaboration between IEL, the ICF Metro D.C. Charter Chapter, and the ICF Foundation began.

This pro bono collaboration is part of the ICF Foundation’s Ignite initiative, which uses the collective power of ICF Chapters to accelerate the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Ignite is currently focused on UN SDG #4: Education—ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. This fits in line well with IEL’s work to equip leaders to prepare children and youth for college, careers and citizenship.

“I was extremely grateful for this opportunity. Through Ignite, our senior executive team, some mid-level managers and I received coaching by highly qualified and credentialed coaches,” said Johan.

The initiative began in 2018 with 10 volunteer ICF Credentialed-coach Members from ICF Metro D.C. who coached 10 leaders at IEL. Each leader received up to 10 hours of coaching over three months. Some organizations will set designated topics and/or goals for coaching, but IEL did not. The topics, themes and areas of work were set by the individual. Johan, who comes from a background in policy as a senior advisor, Deputy Assistant Secretary, and Assistant Secretary (Acting) for Education in the Obama Administration, wanted to work on teamwork, supporting senior leadership and reorganization.

“My coach and I spent a good amount of time exploring polarities and identifying different ways of leveraging each polarity to optimize organizational performance, cohesion and effectiveness. My learning was powerful and timely. Given my role as a positional and institutional leader, this coaching could not have been timelier,” explained Johan. “Since then, I have pursued opportunities for our entire leadership team and all our coordinators of our flagship leadership program, the Educational Policy Fellowship Program, to go through a polarity workshop.”

Johan credits the Ignite initiative with helping upper management to better implement IEL’s five-year strategy.

“This work with the Foundation has made it possible for IEL’s senior leaders and mid-level managers to be better positioned to implement IEL’s new five-year strategy, which is focused on leadership and innovation for greater equity in access and success in education and workforce development for children, youth, adults, and families in under-resourced communities,” he said.

The impact of coaching can be seen throughout the organization. Many of those who participated reported that coaching contributed to their success in the workplace and would recommend coaching to others.

“The direct impact of coaching has been significant across our entire leadership team. Each team member feels they have achieved their coaching goals,” said Johan.

Due to the success of the Ignite initiative, IEL is now in the process of working on a second project with the D.C. Chapter. More IEL employees will have the opportunity to receive coaching, and more coaches will have the opportunity to contribute. So many coaches volunteered the first round that Lorri had to turn some away. This second partnership will allow those on both sides who didn’t get a chance to participate the first time around to participate and benefit now.

“This time the initiative is focused on more junior and mid-level leaders and managers,” said Johan. “We are grateful to be able to build the capacity of this part of our growing organization through this second opportunity, as it will considerably strengthen our assets including individual team members and teams.”


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ICF Foundation

Established in 2004, the ICF Foundation exists to promote social progress through pro bono coaching, training and research. While a separate nonprofit entity from the International Coach Federation, the ICF Foundation is bonded in relationship with ICF Global to continue moving forward in igniting social progress. The Ignite: Engaging Humanity Through Education initiative is part of the ICF Foundation’s long-term strategy to advance social progress through coaching by aligning with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations. To learn more or to get involved with Ignite, please contact Ignite: Program Director Stephanie Keally at  

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

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