We focus on the idea that you are in-charge of your life; you can choose to be happy or miserable – it is your choice
Our expertise has been at changing human behavior, and the two words that mean the most to us are ‘leadership' and ‘transformation'”
We can create leaders to meet the growing need of the global competitive platform, only if we are able to introduce the essence of leadership right at the formative age. In a conversation with People Matters, Sean Covey, Senior VP - FranklinCovey talks about the scalable approach to nurture leadership right from school.
What drives you to explore the teen and the youth segment of the society?
Being a football player, it gave me an opportunity to interact with teens and youth on a regular basis. And I also wrote many books on them, and that is how I started to get involved with the youth. As an organization, we can and we have to do a lot in the field of education. I feel passionate about the young because they are so valuable and teachable, equipped to change, pick habits fast, and therefore, a large part of our company is focused on helping kids grow.
So what is the basic premise behind FranklinCovey’s initiative towards promoting education in various parts of the world?
The idea is to promote ‘Personal Leadership’. We focus on the idea that you are in-charge of your life; you can choose to be happy or miserable – it is your choice. You are capable and have it in you to do anything you like. At the same time, you need to follow certain principles that govern human effectiveness such as accountability, responsibility, patience, teamwork, and collaboration. We are trying to inculcate these principles into the education system, so that these principles are instilled in people right from the young age.
How would you rate the level and standard of the Indian education system vis-à-vis other APAC nations?
In India, there is a mandatory ‘Right to Education’ for every child. This is very good and the Indian education system is headed in the right direction. But there is a lot of disparity in schools - there are some very good schools while some others which are still struggling. The situation is quite like that in the US which also has a lot of disparity in schools. APAC countries like Japan and Singapore are much more uniform in their education system.
In India, the quality of education imparted in private schools is far better than in the government schools. Do you think a dialogue should be initiated with the government to raise their bar?
Most of the work we do around the world is with public schools. Our focus is more on the kids and the development of their personal leadership. I am not here to comment on whether the government should or should not take a stand. But I strongly believe that every child needs good quality education and all our efforts should be directed towards achieving this objective.
How is FranklinCovey contributing to the growth of the education sector?
FranklinCovey has been in existence for the last 20 years, and our partner in India is one of the fastest growing. Historically, we have been involved in the corporate world, which has been our main focus where we work in the areas of leadership development, and employee productivity. So our expertise has been at changing human behavior, and the two words that mean the most to us are ‘leadership’ and ‘transformation’. Companies often hire us to train their leaders so they are able to transform their companies. Since the last five years or so, the educators have also started picking our services, and suddenly we have a division that is fully focused on education. So we are involved in transforming all kinds of organizations, including educational. We work with government entities, the corporate as well as the education sectors.
What are your plans to transform the education sector?
To answer this, I would like to tell a story. There is an elementary school in America, which is failing and is about to be shut down. The Principal is desperate, and attends the ‘Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People’ workshop. During the workshop she realizes that this is exactly what we need to keep the school running. She goes back and asks her boss to give her another year to transform the school. She created, what she calls, a leadership school. By leadership, she did not mean to train the top 2 per cent, but she believed that every child is a leader. In three years time, it became the number one school in America. She came back and told us how our leadership workshop helped her transform the school. All she did was that she integrated the seven leadership habits into the education imparted to children there. When we saw this, we captured it and created a process ‘Leader in Me’, which is now followed in 450 schools across the world.
Can you explain more about ‘Leader in Me’, and how does it work?
The program provides professional development for the teachers. Teachers are taught how to set achievable goals, collaborate, resolve conflicts, develop vision-mission statements, et al. The program also talks about leadership development for the students. We try to instill the feeling of ‘leadership is doing the right thing even when nobody is looking’ amongst children. We teach them to be leaders in their class, amongst their friends and even at home. We create an operating system, and provide material to schools and children, to facilitate the program.
What are the broad challenges facing the education system across the world?
Firstly, it is hard to change what people have been practicing for several years and there is always resistance to change. Secondly, there is challenge in funding, as schools do not have the money to do anything besides simply running the school. So whenever schools plan to take up any other activity, they either have to raise money themselves, or look for corporate sponsorships. Another challenge is that schools run on monthly programs like ‘performer of the month’, ‘flavor of the month’ etc. Whereas, we provide a simple three year process which requires a change within the system for it to be effectively incorporated. We also face challenges pertaining to teachers. They enter the field with a lot of enthusiasm to change the lives of children, but it fizzles out in a few years and they lose hope in the system.
In which countries have you implemented the ‘Leader in Me’ program, and what are your expectations from the Indian market?
The program is being implemented across the world, and we have schools in Mexico, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, et al. The hope here is to convert bad schools into good schools, good schools into great schools and great schools into greatest schools. We hope to see our effort in India help in furthering the education system here.