Tag Archives: Coaching

The Coaching Team

4 Sep

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When I started teaching, the principal was the sole holder of power within the school. They were it. The principal had the first and final say on all matters relating to the school. The role of the principal has evolved, and the demands of the job now require more than a dictator making unilateral decisions. I liken it to the All Black coaching team. There is a scrum coach (Digital Curriculum expert), Defence coach (Pastoral expert) and Kicking coach (Careers Expert). The most successful leaders are collaborative and use a system that makes stakeholders and leaders out of everyone.  Creating other leaders makes the work more manageable and is one of many great benefits of being more democratic with authority. Here are some things I have observed that great leaders in schools have done:

The leadership panel

Empowering a teacher leadership panel composed of faculty- at my school these are the Deans and Leaders of Learning. This group determines goals and policies for the year and reviews the successes and opportunities for growth at the end of that time. You can then empower them to make necessary adjustments. It is at this level change occurs

Empowering community 

Community are incredibly important stakeholders in the school community, and school leaders should empower them as well. Create a discussion board parents can moderate that you regularly check in on. When parents feel like they have a voice in the school, they can become one of a principal’s greatest assets.

Student Voice

Students, who often feel isolated, can act as representatives during leadership meetings to give their input on school issues. They can meet with administration to discuss and negotiate pressing issues that impact them. These students can also receive input from other students, giving all a sense of being a part of the process. Whether it’s a meeting about doing away with lockers or a change in dress code policy, you’re giving students a voice. Having student voice on assessment and pedagogy is invaluable.

Communication

The most vital ingredient necessary to developing a successful school leadership strategy is strong communication. This could mean a weekly email to staff, students, and parents about the things you are working on in the front office. Social Media and APP Alerts are brilliant. Whatever you choose to do, having an open line of communication is essential to inviting your community into leadership.

What are your tips?

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Coaching Conversations

23 Aug

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“Its not about the coffee”

My biweekly coaching conversations I value as key to making progress. These regular meetings give my team an opportunity to air issues with me, or to ask me questions. They can also help to foster a spirit of honesty and openness or clarify issues that might have been missed in larger meetings. I am into year five of these. I wish I had started his practice earlier.

My key learning from these have been:

The invite: I always send out an invite outlining what we will cover. This is co-constructed of course.

The venue: Both relaxing, on neutral territory, yet private. Formal and professional. I learnt very early that by going out for coffee, often it became about the coffee.

The timing: If you are wanting to develop trust, you need to be consistently persistent and persistently consistent in your approach. By showing these meetings are important to you, your team will take them seriously and prepare for them properly, too.

The content: This so important. In my early days I would script my comments. I would go over:The goals, planning and feedback that you want to cover. Any issues, suggestions and solutions that your team member wants to raise. A wider, informal discussion about progress, personal development, training needs, and how your team member feels about his role and what you can do to support them.

The vibe: The art is finding the right mix. The danger is in becoming too informal or too professional.

The next steps: So often I would finish the meeting and head minute it. Agree on next steps and next times agenda. Failing here deconstructed the entire process.

Do you have coaching conversations with your teams? What are some of your key pieces of advice?

Managing Change

20 Jun

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I have been dealing with a great deal of change management in the last couple of weeks. This has tested my skill set. I know at one meeting it also tested my patience. This book really helped me through. Here are some of my musings then:

Reflect and evaluate.  By thinking through the meaning and implication of the feedback, you can learn from it and consider what parts to work on, what parts to disregard, and what parts require deeper understanding. To do this, it helps to think about your development areas, the value you place on this individual’s perspective, and possibly, what you have heard from others as well. This is also the time to come back to what you may disagree with. Given that your objective was to learn others’ perspectives on you, ask yourself if it’s worth the potential damage to go back and “correct” the information. Typically, it’s not.

Plan and act. All the steps before this set you up to plan and put it into practice. Pick one or two capabilities you want to improve, get really clear about what “improved” looks like, and then consider the steps necessary for you to learn and adopt that new behaviour. Planning and acting are not only important for your learning and development, they’re also a signal to those who shared the feedback — you are serious about improving and you value their perspectives.

Sustain progress and share updates. You need to repeat new behaviours for them to become new habits. If you go back to your feedback providers and tell them what you are doing differently, you’ll give them a catalyst to change their perspectives, validation that you heard and appreciated what they had to say, and the opportunity to see you as a person who is committed to your professional development.

Great leaders are great learners. Their never-ending pursuit of information pushes them to constantly improve and sets them apart from the rest. Getting and learning from feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary, if we want to become better. It’s rare that our colleagues will offer us the kind of feedback we need to develop, and rare that we respond in a way that rewards their efforts and helps us improve. It’s worth building the skills to do this well if we want to reach our full potential.

Coaching and Feedback

6 May

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As a school leader I do a great deal of coaching I work with many high performing middle leaders who want to become even more effective. According to research on effective learning, to improve performance, people need three things:

  • A clear goal
  • A genuine desire to achieve that goal
  • Feedback that indicates what they are doing well and what they are not doing well

I have been reflecting recently on my feedback and coaching sessions have unfortunately,  not been helpful. Sometimes I have been distracted, often infrequent, vague, — and as a result, leaders tend to be less proactive about getting more of it. Low-quality feedback sessions or coaching session is not useful, positive feedback is undervalued, and negative feedback delivered unskillfully can set my team back.

Without clear goals and data measuring how close or far they are from reaching them, my middle leaders will continue to find it difficult to grow and improve. When delivered thoughtfully, however, feedback can provide leaders with the actionable data they need to become more effective.

If you want to get the feedback that is necessary to improve your leadership, there are a few steps you can take.

Build a safe environment. Sharing feedback is often risky. To increase the likelihood of your colleagues taking that risk with you, show them that their honesty is not bad. Being curious starts with having the right mindset, or believing that you have something useful to learn. It is demonstrated by asking your teammates open-ended questions that you really don’t know the answers to: “What could go wrong if we try this?” Acknowledging your weaknesses or mistakes along the way are great ways to be open and vulnerable.

Ask for feedback skillfully. Asking “What did you hear when I shared my strategy?”, “How often do I interrupt people in meetings?”, personal impact (“How did it feel to you when I sent that email?”

Request both positive and negative data.  Praise tells us someone is happy with us and thinks we are performing well. Praise sounds like: “Nice job!”; “You were great in that meeting.”; “Great presentation!” While it feels good constructive criticism is ok also because you have created that relational trust.  

When receiving feedback, give your full attention and listen carefully. Eliminate distractions, including your phone and laptop, and focus fully on the person giving the feedback.

Don’t debate or defend. If you find yourself disagreeing with some feedback, practice self-awareness and notice this reaction. It is ok to be wrong also.

This all I have for now. Do you run coaching sessions? How are you going with them?

Having a great coach

8 Oct

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We’ve all had the good ones, the bad ones and the great ones. The good ones that helped us get the job done, the bad ones that made us swear we’d never work with them again and the great ones that emboldened us to believe that we were that much stronger than we thought we were.

  • Be in the game, with you, for the long haul and not the short term wins.
  • Push you when you need it.
  • Their goal is to see you achieve your goals, but not benefit from them.
  • Ask the tough questions that you don’t have the answers to, causing you to pause and think through your next steps.
  • Demand your best and demand you to keep improving on it every day, never letting you rest on your laurels longer then needed.
  • Not be afraid of the emotional upheaval and change that will come from working with you, not because they enjoy it, but because they recognize it is necessary for you to grow.

This talk proves my point. Actually loved this.

Mentoring is Crucial

7 Jun

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Spending time with staff pays off—not just for them, but for me and the entire school. The question of how much time can be explored in a Fast Company post, “Why Managers Should Spend Exactly 6 Hours A Week With Each Employee.”

By spending time mentoring it makes staff feel valued, calm and helps make the school more efficient and innovative.

 

What good is all of this great mentoring and coaching if it’s never applied? Advocating for employees implies action. Advocating is time not spent with employees, but for them. Effective leaders hear and discuss employees’ new ideas with them, and afterward, work to put them into action. When employees receive new training or knowledge and are eager to apply it to their jobs, advocates make that happen. Advocates inspire their employees to keep learning and contributing, as they feel like their contributions are valued and applied. Without this final investment of time, employees feel undervalued and underutilized.

A small investment of time and following up with action creates a positive, supportive school culture. Our goals this year has been to grow middle leaders. T train leaders to invest time in their team with mentoring, coaching and advocating create a healthy working environment beneficial to the employees and the success of the students.

Solutions to Coaching Barriers

3 Apr

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Like any new project I have led in school there are barriers. Now I would like to look at the way of overcoming the barriers I talked about last time.

  • Accept this will take time   Don’t be impatient. Establishing a coaching programme may need to be in it for the long haul. Spend sufficient time gaining insight into the reality on the ground so that future visions can be specific to actual school conditions. This requires research, planning and networking. Out of this will come success
  • ‘Educate’ key individuals   You know who they are. Once you have that compelling rationale, back it up with case studies from other relevant organisations/high-profile individuals. Organise PLD, send staff to related conferences, and begin to organise coaching sessions for them with respected external coaches. A different voice saying the same message while frustrating for you is gold. Once key individuals can study, understand and experience the benefits of coaching they will be much more likely to prioritise it. ‘Educating’ key individuals is also likely to encourage the spontaneous emergence of ‘champions’ for the coaching cause. From these an individual with sufficient profile, charisma and influence can be approached to spearhead the creation of buy-in throughout the organisation.

 

  • Modification. Be prepared to change the vision. It is ok.
  • Remember, successful implementation of contextualised coaching programmes within your school takes time, determination and clear planning.  It will take a mind-shift. Interesting while this has been about coaching you could apply this to any item of leading change. What has been yours?

Barriers to Successful Coaching

2 Apr

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Coaching is an important part of what we do at school now. For it to be effective several barriers need to be addressed. Different combinations of factors may contribute to the creation of barriers. We at school therefore need to get to grips with the sheer variety of obstacles, and then to gain insight into how they combine. Only then can coordinated strategies be put in place that may have a chance of overcoming the barriers to coaching (and a coaching style) which exist in any organisational context.

Here are some barriers:

Leadership culture     The tone set by leadership is crucial. Coaching will not be valued or prioritised lower down the SLT if it isn’t valued higher up. Look out particularly for dictatorial non-supportive leaders who ‘instruct’ or manage by threat and blame. Such leaders may find it very hard to accept that more supportive, non-dictatorial behaviours bring any benefits. SLT in such a context are unlikely to believe in the coaching ‘philosophy’ either, and may even perceive it as a negative influence.

Organisational prioritisation     Which activities does your school prioritise? Those are the ones that will be fast-tracked. If coaching is not on the priority list as an activity to be implemented as part of the overall learning and development strategy, plans to introduce it won’t get very far very fast. Without prioritisation, coaching will not be viewed by SLT as a valuable process. It must be the focus of PLD and connect to the annual goals.

Lack of preparation     Yes I have seen it and you have too. Sometimes SLT is interested in establishing coaching programmes. Bazinga. But programmes can and will fail if there has been insufficient preparation to ensure their success. It’s then very easy for the programmes to take the blame rather than the lack of preparation. Expect negative attitudes to and lack of respect for coaching to be the result. Even worse, if and when anyone else tries to introduce a coaching programme, their first hurdle will be lack of cooperation, lack of resource allocation and general cynicism.

Note: The following is a major barrier to any new project:

  • Lack of a clear ‘champion’ of the process     If the push for modification of structures/schedules does not come from the top, any campaign for reallocation of resources and time will make little progress. The campaign needs an obvious and respected champion who can drive modifications through. Without such a champion momentum will not be achieved.

 

Coaching Principles

10 Mar

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When coaches and teachers interact equally as partners, good things happen.

                                                                                                                                  Jim Knight

This week our Leaders of Learning group focused on an interesting reading. In it Jim Knight outlined the partnership philosophy approach to coaching.  Through his research, practice, and reflection 7 principles are outlined. Equality, Choice, Voice, Dialogue, Reflection, Praxis, and Reciprocity. (Knight, 2007, pp. 37-54) 

Equality: Both the coach and the teacher contribute equally to the conversation.  The teacher and coach may not have equal knowledge on all topics, but both points of view are worth being heard and valued as a part of the discussion.  Respect and compassion must be infused throughout conversations.

Choice: In a coaching partnership teachers must have choice in the professional development.  Without choice it is hard to define the relationship as a partnership, thus without choice professional development is likely to fail. (Knight, 2007, p. 42) By providing quality choices the teacher can say yes and no.  When choices are taken away the teacher’s professional opinion has been neglected.  Everyone wants to be treated as a professional.

Voice: Make teachers feel seen and heard.  Their opinions and needs are heard and do matter.  Even if the coach does not necessarily agree with what the teacher’s opinions and what they have to share, the coach must put their opinions aside to listen.   Listening provides the coach with insight and provides the teacher with an engaged listener with an opportunity to share.

Dialogue: In a coaching partnership it is not about winning the conversation, but continuing conversations and bouncing ideas around in a professional way.  I like the analogy of a pinball machine to great dialogue in which it is difficult to keep track of whose ideas are who’s because the conversation is so constant.  Inquiry and innovation occurs through dialogue.

Reflection: Reflection is a practice to engage in as an IC and teacher during and after during and after implementing a new strategy or content.  Some teachers do not innately reflect on their practices, thus coaches can provided the reminders, prompts, and strategies to do so.

Praxis: When a teacher applies a new strategy or ideas and applies to their existing practice, this is praxis.  The teacher may explore, prod, stretch, and recreate a new approach into one’s own teaching practices (Knight, 2007, p. 49).  In my opinion Praxis “dove-tails” well with reflection.  As we become more reflective teachers and instructional coaches we tend to be more open-minded and connecting new strategies to practice is simplified.

Reciprocity:  The coaching relationship is one that provides both parties with learning opportunities.  Both parties have an opportunity to win.

One member of staff put a successful coaching session this way. I feel valued. I feel as though I have reflected.  I suppose staff “feel validated as teachers, as professionals, and more important, they feel validated as people.” (Knight, 2007, p. 51)

Revising Mentoring

22 Oct

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The purpose of this week’s blog is for me to reflect on my mentoring (or read coaching if you wish) with my people this year. So, here goes.

Good mentors extinguish the problem of teacher isolation and individualism. Many problems identified specifically with ineffective teaching practices are attributed to teacher isolation. This degree of socialisation is potent and the fall-back position is always the long apprenticeship of observation undertaken as school students. Being a middle leader is hard. They needed to be supported.

Good mentors ensure high levels of teacher collaboration. Relational trust among teachers is positively related to student performance in schools, and trust is constructed through face-to-face collaborative work. In successful school’s teachers are engaged in frequent, precise talk about teaching practice by observing each other teach; plan, design, research, evaluate, and prepare teaching materials together. Such collaborative structures help to decrease teacher isolation, share successful teaching practices, increase staff morale, open the door to experimentation, and increase collective efficacy.

Good mentors encourage constructive conflict. They need to push the envelope of course where appropriate. The further up a hierarchy you go, the more people attempt to avoid the zealous debates that are indispensable to great teamwork. However, conflict is normal, inherent, and essential to community practice. Conflicts help draw out and solve problems, and opposing views can be opportunities for growth and learning. Educators often find themselves in conflict because collaboration challenges norms of isolation and autonomy, and the most common response to conflict in schools is avoidance.

Good mentors model that it is OK to make mistakes. Amy Edmondson’s brilliant work reveals the importance of psychological safety for learning through leaders providing what she terms ‘the fallibility model’.

Good mentor bring in outside help.

Good mentors challenge people to question what they take for granted. Robert Kegan argues that the confusing, changing demands of modern life may be developmentally inappropriate for most adults and while it used to be adequate for people to do as they were told, today people are needed who “understand themselves and their world at a qualitatively higher level of mental complexity.” Kegan talks about moving from a socialised mind to a self-authoring mind, not just learning more but seeing things in new ways. People tend not to develop unless they are challenged in some way to question what they take for granted and people tend to slip back into old comfortable ways of thinking. Kegan uses the metaphor of a bridge, where it is incumbent upon those over the bridge to head back onto the bridge and hold out a hand to help others take the steps to get on the bridge themselves.

So I have been doing some reading. In this conference paper, Carter & Francis: ask whether mentoring just enriches the status quo and stifles professional growth?

“High amounts of professional support, including mentoring support, may only serve to entrench the status quo and stifle professional growth. The literature suggests that this is one of the central problems associated with mentoring for beginning teachers and is a recurring aspect of several case studies investigating teachers’ induction experiences. Ballantyne et al. went as far as to suggest that mentoring sometimes constrained the learning of beginning teachers rather than facilitated reflective practice…The effectiveness of multiple mentoring relationships and voluntary mentoring relationships have also been explored in the literature suggesting that the emphasis should be less on the identification of individual mentors and more on the provision of professional environments in which mentoring relationships can emerge.”

In conclusion, I really like this article from Harvard Business Review: Get Ahead With a Mentor Who Scares You.

In 2018 I am planning to step up my efforts in this area. As I plan this will require going away to a quiet space. Watch this blog.

 

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