Passionate about developing leaders and a flag-waver for lifelong learning, Bill Jones comes to us from a career in the education sector, where he refined his ability to balance the desires of myriad stakeholders while simultaneously keeping the ball moving down the field. A deep thinker and constant questioner, Bill holds a well-earned spot on our special forces team for Roy Group’s Education vertical.
Bill, you’re one of the team who joined Roy Group after working with them in your organization. Tell me how you made the move.
Yes, I had engaged Roy Group to work with my senior leadership team a few years ago. I got to know and appreciate their work during that time. After I retired from my role as head of school, Ian contacted me at the request of a client he was working with to see if I would be interested in coaching her. I agreed.
What’s your background, and how did this set you up for becoming a Roy Group practitioner?
I have four decades of experience in the education sector. Most of that involved various leadership roles, including head of school/CEO roles in two Canadian independent schools — 19 years in total. I have undergraduate degrees in music and in education from the University of Windsor, a Masters in Educational Administration from UVic, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy from UBC. During my last few years as a head of school, I knew that I was very interested in coaching, consulting and leadership development, and was keen to stay involved in that work after “retirement.” In preparation, I became a certified executive coach.
“Retirement” in quotes! I love that. You’re on the same wavelength as our CEO, Todd. He says the term is not “retirement”, it’s “under construction”. When you look at your background, what rises above the rest as your gift?
As a CEO in the education sector, I was involved in a wide range of activities, including instructional leadership, marketing and communications, new program implementation, strategic planning, governance, finance, fundraising, facility planning, organizational development, HR and so on. A ton! But the thing I enjoyed most was developing aspiring leaders. I’m proud of the fact that many of those leaders have gone on to become CEOs at other schools and organizations.
I also enjoyed resolving complex issues. Schools are essentially humanistic endeavours, and in my role, I spent countless hours listening to the concerns of parents, teachers, students and staff and trying to orchestrate mutually beneficial resolutions. This helped me to develop strong listening and mediation skills. I also learned that asking powerful questions at key moments often sparked epiphanies that empowered people to solve their own problems.
A knack for developing leaders, and resolving complex issues. That’s exactly the skill set Roy Group clients are looking for.
Coaching is about listening and humble yet provocative inquiry. It is founded on the belief that individuals are capable of achieving their goals and resolving their problems. Those beliefs, and my experience developing leaders and helping individuals to find their own success, have prepared me well for coaching others. As executive coaches, we hold a confident belief that our clients can come up with solutions to problems — that they have it within them — and that our job is to draw that out through provoking them with powerful questions that are likely to generate ideas. There is a sort of a patience that is required. There’s a discipline in sitting in silence and letting somebody process things. It is a fine line between allowing someone to come to their decisions, and at the same time sharing the benefit of your expertise in their area.
You feed your inner spark with constant self development. Talk about that a little bit.
When I was an educator, one of my most important values was ongoing professional growth and learning. I always felt like that was the secret to transforming teaching and transforming organizations: there has to be ongoing learning. I’ve really never stopped going to school. I started a doctorate when I was in my 50s, and people were like, Really, you’re going to do that? It took me seven years to finish it. In my last year of being head of school, I wanted to give back in some way and do something meaningful. I asked myself how I could use my expertise and skills, and make a difference in people’s lives. I’d had an executive coach myself at a pivotal point in my career, and I remembered what a potent professional learning experience that was for me. So I went and got my coaching certification, and then my graduate diploma. I’ve been going to school for, like, 60 years.
Awesome. You are a shining example to others in terms of staying engaged and moving forward. What are your deep values and how do they guide you?
I believe in honesty, integrity, kindness and respect. As I coach, I endeavour to show up as an authentic and trustworthy partner working with my clients to co-create previously unimaginable outcomes. I strive to serve the diverse needs of my clients/coachees with integrity and assist them in aligning their values with their work, goals and relationships. It is my hope that this congruence enables them to live wildly successful, outrageously joyful and deeply purposeful lives.
If wildly successful, outrageously joyful and deeply purposeful are what’s in store from working with you, sign me up. Let’s broaden our focus for a moment. As you see it, where does education need to evolve?
Oh, this is something close to my heart. I could go for hours on this one. As educators, we have so much more responsibility than to teach students academics. We have a huge role in shaping their character, their attributes and their values. What makes students into good people is more important to me than what makes them good mathematicians. We need good mathematicians and we need people who can be engineers and all that stuff, but if they don’t have a moral compass, we’re in big trouble. If we look around our world, we can see that at no time has it been more important to make sure we’re developing students who have intercultural understanding and planet-friendly values. And because knowledge is ubiquitous and voluminous, we have to now be thinking about how we teach kids to sift through and analyze information, make an assessment of its source, and understand the ethical use of that information. Also, the complex problems that we see in the world are not single-discipline problems, right? Take climate change: it’s a biology problem, a physics problem, a chemistry problem, an economics problem, and a social problem. It crosses all these boundaries and all these silos that we traditionally placed knowledge in. Those vessels are all broken now. We need to teach kids to be able to think across disciplines, to take multiple perspectives.
What’s a really great book that you’ve kept coming back to over the years? Something that has always informed you.
Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning. That book was a really powerful one for me. I often thought of that as a lesson for students: when you’re stripped away of everything. I’ve gone back to it when I’m giving a speech or something like that. I’ve often thought about that message, and how it stands the test of time so well.
What do you do in your non-coaching hours, when you’re just kicking back?
I have a passion for nature and the outdoors and enjoy flyfishing, camping, cycling, etc. I also love travelling and have visited more than 25 countries. I enjoy reading and music. But above all, I enjoy time spent with my wife, two children and two grandchildren.