Sterling Spotlight: Kevin Butanowicz on His Journey to Excellence in Education


His story, in his own words

Born and raised in Ohio but have lived in the sunshine state for 15 years, I cannot live anywhere else.  I love traveling and have been to over 10 countries including surf trips before temporarily settling down.  My wife and I have three beautiful children (ages 2-5), and I’m looking forward to more exploring and adventuring with them.

After beginning my career in high needs public schools as a teacher and administrator, I was given the opportunity to work at the central office for the School District of Palm Beach County (11 largest in the nation).  I am labeled a HR manager but am better known as an improvement manager.  There I have cut my teeth in organizational high performance by leading progressive changes through leadership training, performance management, Lean Six Sigma, and talent development.  It’s been a dream job and I am excited for my next transition!

The Sterling Interview

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BN: You have a “deep passion for awakening individuals to their innate talents, developing their strengths, and driving results for their organization’s strategic goals.” Could you tell us a little bit about your process here?


Most employees are unaware of the fact they have natural talents and many organizations focus on improving weaknesses.  We take a different approach.  We use an internal talent assessment.  It’s not anything fancy that hasn’t been developed before, but it’s what we do with it that is making a difference.  We use competencies and gather ratings from the employee, mentor, and colleagues.   We generate a talent report that the mentors and employees use to engage in coaching sessions and develop a growth roadmap in a totally non-evaluative format.  The biggest impact is that it is creating a learning and coaching culture in a safe environment.  It’s a definite change in culture, and we are having fun supporting the organization through it.

BN: What is one thing you do to inspire others’ vulnerability and help them continuously improve, especially as we navigate a remote landscape?

I have a philosophy in training that unless the participants practice the news skills or strategies in the training then there won’t likely be any implementation or foreseeable improvements.  I like to do role-playing where participants practice using the new knowledge/skills in a safe environment.  It definitely requires some vulnerability, but that is better than being caught off guard in the workplace.  Participants always find value in practicing and learn more from each other.

BN: What makes you want to teach to administration as opposed to teaching in the classroom?

I really enjoyed teaching students and could begin to see the immediate impacts on their improvements through the year.  I wanted to be able to make a larger systemic impact at the central office (headquarters) level in a school district, so I made the transition.  Now after 5 years of doing that, I am more in tune to the direct human-to-human impact I can have through motivation and inspiration.

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BN: The 29th Annual Florida Sterling Conference, hosted this June, is virtual. Have you attended any virtual conferences in the last few months? What were some highlights? Downsides?

I have been to a few virtual conferences over the last year.  Having dynamic speakers that connect in the virtual environment is critical.  It takes a different skill set than in person and without that it’s easy to get distracted and complete other work while listening in.  The right pacing and small group activities for processing the information is critical to keep the virtual energy high.  Years of teaching/training has helped me to tune in to that right balance.

BN: When was the first time you received Six Sigma training, and what led you to pursue your Black Belt?

I took the Yellow Belt course in October of 2018 through ETS, Inc.  During the class I felt my brain was going to explode with excitement like in the cartoons.  I had one reaction like: “Where has this been all my life?” to “I am going to use these tools on everything, I mean everything!”  I was so excited and knew the Black Belt certification was more valuable than a MBA or PhD for me.

BN: What are some tips and tricks you have to keep up new developments in your field? Are there influencers you listen to? Podcasts? Books?

I subscribe to Harvard Business Review as I feel it pulls in the latest research as well as top authors and speakers.  I also listen to business classics and new books on Audible.  I like to listen at 1.95x (extra fast) and get through books quickly.  Though the best way to stay connected and growing is the close network of colleagues that I continually share ideas with.  I have a network of a handful of people that share their latest articles, reads, and recommendations.

BN: Growing up in school, who was “that” person for you? Who inspired you?

School was a blast, and I absolutely love learning.  There was a moment in school that changed my mindset.  I had always gotten good grades, because I worked hard and memorized what was on the test.  In eighth grade one day the teacher commented that I always asked very challenging questions.  Something clicked that asking the right questions was more important.  That really motivated me to focus more on inquiring, analyzing, and improving.  That mindset has caused me to never stop constantly improving in every area of my life.


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