Terminated (partly) for not hiring an executive coach — and a must-read termination letter

You know that executive coaching has gone mainstream when an executive is terminated, at least partly, for not hiring an executive coach.

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro fired Beverly Davenport as Chancellor with a blunt letter of termination that outlined his reasons why. The primary reason included her lack of trust, collaboration, communication, and transparency in her relationships — something that is ironic given that she is a tenured communications professor.

In his second point of his termination letter he writes:

“2. You would have benefited from a professional coach, and your unwillingness to routinely engage one, despite my recommendation that you do so, has been frustrating.”

This letter, which you can read here, details what it looks like when someone at the top has gaps that can be addressed by working with an executive coach. Here we have an example of someone who could have benefited greatly from a coach, had someone advocating for her to get a coach, and instead of seeing executive coaching as a gift and a privilege was instead stubborn and uncoachable. It cost her salary, title, prestige, and also caused a major public embarrassment by having her termination letter go viral. Meanwhile, Mr. Davenport has also had to face the hassles of dealing with this issue among his board and other constituents.

Note: If the above link doesn’t work, you can copy paste the link that follows:


You should read his letter not only because it is a good read in and of itself but because it also shows you the issues that executives face at the top, and why executive coaching continues to be in strong and growing demand. Perhaps it will inspire you to take that final step and get Certified as an executive coach with our program.

Thanks to Cleve Folger, a successful graduate of the Center for Executive Coaching, for sharing this.

Let’s hope that the vast majority of leaders in the higher education space are more open to executive and leadership coaching than Ms. Davenport. Given the issues that this sector is facing, they certainly could use an objective sounding board and someone to help them handle issues with conflict, change leadership, influence, board development, stakeholder management, strategic leadership, leadership presence, and communicating with impact.

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