Many people who have not experienced coaching have little understanding of the process and believe that coaching is only useful for fixing people. However coaching is useful for refining skills and gaining new skills that can be professional, personal or interpersonal. Coaching requires training and professional coaches have a minimum of 125 hours of training and practice in being an effective coach.
A coach listens to what is being said for the underlying thoughts and beliefs to help the client to identify priorities and implement them. In addition to dialogue and discourse, the coach advises the coachee in self-observation and reflection to guide or modify practice. The aim of the coach is not to fix the coachee, but rather to ignite the coachee’s potential to attain her goals. The recipe for effective coaching in the form of memorable results includes mixing “skills, attitudes, and process with a trusting relationship” (p. 178, Knight, 2008).
Leadership coaching is based on a trusting, confidential relationship. This makes it hard for supervisors who have an evaluative role to be a coach to those that they evaluate. A school leader cannot effectively coach person when there is no trust, confidentiality, honesty or openness in their relationship. There may be a conflict of interest if the coach is also the evaluating supervisor. However, all leaders can apply leadership coaching skills to modify the way that they communicate and act with staff to encourage them to use a growth mindset for desired change and improvement. Reiss lists seven behaviours of leaders applying a coaching style to help employees identify a goal for improvement and an appropriate intervention. The key to a coaching style of leadership is for the leader to be able to have open, non-judgmental conversations with employees focused on the attainment of a specific goal.
School leaders can become more effective by working with a coach, and can also build their leadership coaching skills to guide employees, students or anyone in the process of change. One of the biggest areas of support for school leaders is on developing their interpersonal skills, and their capacity for dealing with change. Coaches can make a difference in attaining outcomes through their inspiration, curiosity, compassion, courage, thinking, problem-solving and support; this summarizes Reiss’ list of 10 attributes. Coaches help their clients find a way to make their goal a reality.
Coaches are becoming more commons in schools and school districts. Research is beginning to show the value of coaching as part of professional development for teachers. Ideally, a person interested in coaching would have a choice of coaches who do not supervise him and would select one that fits his needs.
This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.