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Kevin Davis in conversation with Jay DeFruscio

Jay DeFruscio

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In this episode of "Culture Eats Everything," we delve into the profound impact of leadership, culture, and talent management with Jay DeFruscio, an esteemed figure overseeing education in Philadelphia. From coaching in the NBA to guiding a vast network of schools, Jay shares his journey and insights on building strong teams, emphasizing character over credentials, and staying true to the mission of Catholic education. Join us for a thought-provoking conversation on the essence of leadership in nurturing both organizational culture and individual growth.

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YouTube Transcript:

All right, welcome back to another episode of "Culture Eats Everything." Here, we have insightful conversations with organizational leaders, always emphasizing that culture encompasses more than just strategy. As Peter Drucker famously said, it doesn't just eat strategy for breakfast; it consumes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. If you're not actively considering and nurturing your organization's culture, you're overlooking a critical aspect of leadership.

Today, I'm thrilled to have Jay DeFruscio from Philadelphia joining us. He oversees 15 high schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, along with numerous elementary, grammar, and special education schools. With over a thousand employees and nearly 11,000 students under his guidance, there's much to delve into regarding leadership on such a scale. Additionally, Jay brings a rich background in coaching, including a stint in the NBA. His journey, like many of ours, has been one of continuous evolution and seizing unexpected opportunities.

Jay, I've given a brief introduction, but why don't you share a bit more about yourself?

Thanks for the intro, Kevin. I'm a father, husband, grandfather, and wear many other hats. Working within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's education system is incredibly rewarding. I'm deeply committed to the mission of Catholic education and the impact it has on our youth. My path has been diverse, from coaching in college and the NBA to serving as an associate commissioner in a Division One league. Along the way, I've had incredible mentors, made my fair share of mistakes, and continuously strive to learn and grow, especially in my current role guiding young lives.

Your journey from coaching to educational leadership is fascinating. What initially drew you to coaching?

Growing up in Philadelphia, sports, particularly basketball, was integral to my life. I played throughout high school and college, always harboring a desire to coach. Despite initially pursuing economics, I couldn't shake the coaching dream. Thankfully, I had a supportive network encouraging me to pursue my passion. I believe in being that "why not" person for others—challenging them to pursue their aspirations.

Your emphasis on character over talent in recruiting players is noteworthy. How does this principle apply to hiring executives or educators?

In education, credentials are essential, but character and alignment with our mission are paramount. When hiring, I prioritize understanding a candidate's fit within our culture. It's not just about their resume; it's about their understanding and commitment to our mission. For instance, when interviewing for positions within the Archdiocese, I gauge candidates' knowledge of our mission and their passion for Catholic education. Ultimately, we're building a team united by a shared purpose.

Your approach mirrors that of coaching—fostering growth and aligning individuals with a shared vision. How do you navigate this in your current role?

Absolutely. Whether coaching a team or leading an organization, it's about empowering individuals to grow and succeed collectively. In both settings, our success hinges on the people around us. That's why I stress the importance of investing in our team's development and setting clear expectations. Just as in coaching, we must provide support and guidance to help individuals reach their full potential.

Indeed, investing in people yields long-term success. How do you approach evaluating and supporting your team's growth?

Evaluation can be challenging, especially for new managers. I advocate for setting clear goals and expectations upfront, ensuring alignment with organizational objectives. Regular check-ins provide opportunities for feedback and course corrections. Additionally, fostering an environment of continuous learning and support encourages ongoing development. Ultimately, it's about empowering individuals to surpass their goals and setting new ones—a philosophy that applies both on the court and in the boardroom.

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