For 15 years, Ruthie Quinto was the CFO of Fresno Unified School District, the fourth largest school district in California. Now, she joins ERS as an advisor and 1:1 coach for CFOs in our networks. She talks about what she's learned from her experiences in Fresno, the importance of developing personal connections in the field, and more.
Recently, you began working in an advisory capacity with ERS on our CFO networks and serving as a 1:1 coach for school CFOs across the country. How has this experience been so far?
It has been great! I have enjoyed my time getting to know more about my colleagues outside of California and contributing to their growth and development. Effective executive coaching in this sense requires a fundamental understanding of the role of an urban CFO. Decades of successes, failures, and everything in between – combined with my love of learning – makes me feel like the role as a CFO coach is a good match for me.
What from your previous role in Fresno have you found especially useful in developing relationships with your coachees?
I have always enjoyed developing people. Serving as a coach to CFOs allows me to help people improve their skills in leadership, self-confidence, and self-awareness. As the CFO for Fresno Unified – and in my leadership capacity as Fresno’s City Controller – I was always looking to season and deepen those qualities in my direct reports and even for those deeper on the bench, because I truly enjoy developing potential, and because as we know, building a strong team is rewarding in many respects.
You’re known among ERS team members for your skills in developing personal connections with your coachees. Why is this important? How have these connections contributed to your coach-coachee relationships -- especially during COVID?
For me, collaboration and effective communication begin with trust and trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. I enjoy fostering collegial relationships with my colleagues for many reasons, but mostly because it facilitates learning and effective communication. I also believe that foundational trust launches collaboration. Being a mindful but active listener contributes to these outcomes as well and goes a long way in soliciting genuine contributions that foster trustworthy connections between people.
Having these foundational connections advances and supports cooperative dialogue, which in turn paves the way for stimulated critical thinking, drawing out ideas and opportunities.
What question do you wish I had asked?
Your thought-provoking questions challenged my thinking, but also gave me the opportunity to reflect and take stock of the 1:1 coaching experience. That’s what effective coaches do: guide leaders by asking thoughtful questions, allowing them a safe space to calibrate and to grow without driving in a particular direction. Thank you for giving me this space to grow.