The ESSENTIALS is a research-based character development and leadership enhancement program. It is designed for educators working with middle and high school-aged youth. The ten focus areas in The ESSENTIALS series represent critical competencies for developing character and culture skills. Students need these skills for success in school, extra-curricular activities, work, and beyond. The modules draw upon nearly 25 years of applied research in various K-16 settings, the workplace, and sports performance environments. Each digital module contains a PowerPoint presentation, facilitator guide, and participant handouts. Modules are delivered as a stand-alone lesson by following the session script and PowerPoint.  Lessons also include extension activities, the CHAMP leadership process, and an additional research paper to further inform facilitation. The modules can easily adapt to many settings. Educators use modules from a brief homeroom or advisory period to a full class period and beyond.

The ESSENTIALS program provides everything you need to teach students in a 21st-century manner. Today the skills our students are learning are derived from The ESSENTIALS. There’s no way an administrator or coach would have the time to develop the package and product provided through The ESSENTIALS.”  

– Bill, Athletic Director, Iowa


The ESSENTIALSShaping Group Norms: This module teaches participants how to use the Compact for Excellence to intentionally establish the conditions needed for positive and productive interactions when working with different personalities, in different contexts, and pursuing different goals.

Prepare to Communicate: This module introduces the essential steps for preparing to communicate.  Strategies include respecting and connecting with others, identifying what one wants to achieve and avoid, and considering when and where would be the best opportunity to communicate.

Mastering Care-Frontation: This module introduces care-frontation strategies for communication to help one balance concerns for relationships with concerns for goals.

Developing Growth Mindset: This module introduces Grow-and-Let-Go Strategies designed to help one manage stress and develop a growth mindset.

Mastering Goal Achievement: This module teaches participants how to use a Goal Map to focus on the key elements of the goal achievement process.

Attitude + Effort = Improvement: Attitude and effort are what separate those who maximize their potential from those who do not. This session focuses on the drivers and preventers of attitude and effort.

Putting Integrity into Action: In this module, participants learn how to use the Integrity-in-Action Checklist as a guide for thinking and action – especially when choices are complex and the pressure is high.

Core Leadership Practices: Participants will use the Core Leadership Practices and the Leadership Practices Profile to better understand how to influence and guide others towards a goal while holding themselves and others accountable.

Building the Habits for Excellence: In this module, participants will evaluate their habits for excellence by utilizing the Habits for Excellence Personal Profile and discover strategies to apply the habits to their own life.

Leveraging Strengths and Opportunities: The Character SWOT Analysis provides an intentional, structured exercise for expanding our self-knowledge about the current state of our character strengths and weaknesses.

Brainstorming Creative Solutions: In this module, participants will be introduced to the Problem Solving Essentials and Brainstorming Guidelines, powerful tools to enhance creative thinking and problem-solving.

Stimulating Innovation: Innovative solutions rarely result from an initial idea. When trying to develop innovative ideas, it’s essential to find ways to push our thinking in order to progress beyond familiar solutions to a level that is truly original.


The cost to license each digital module starts at $250. Digital licenses do not expire. Schools and organizations may use The ESSENTIALS resources with the contracted number of students each year at no additional cost in perpetuity.

Purchase ESSENTIALS now.


To maximize your utilization of The ESSENTIALS resources, CHARACTER COUNTS! offers workshops to help you learn strategies for integrating your ESSENTIALS modules into your classroom, team, or school. Workshops can be customized to address the ESSENTIALS modules you ordered and can vary in length to adapt to your schedule. Contact us at or 515-271-4840 to schedule your training workshop.

The ESSENTIALS are designed and delivered in partnership with the Excellence with Integrity Institute and The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University

The Excellence with Integrity Institute and The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, home of CHARACTER COUNTS!, created a consortium partnership to advance our respective visions and missions. Together, we pursue strategic opportunities in youth leadership, employment and STEM readiness, athletics, education, and organizational development in community and workplace environments.

The Institute’s main focus is on the research and development of instructional resources, assessment solutions, and tools and strategies for organizational culture development. The Ray Center’s main focus is on coaching, training, and expanding our collaborative implementation projects across Iowa and the nation.

The ESSENTIALS and Excellence with Integrity are trademarks of the Excellence with Integrity Institute.