Coaching & Leadership Development
What is a Coaching Relationship really like?

What is a Coaching Relationship really like?

  Senior school leaders are in positions where their behaviours, words, actions and relationships are on constant public display. As a result, their lives are under constant public scrutiny. This in itself brings a unique set of pressures.   School leaders have to learn how to manage both their private and public personas; in a manner that ensures they are able to maintain high levels of authenticity and a deep connection with their core values and what they stand for. When faced with challenging circumstances (which often arise on a daily basis) school leaders normally respond automatically to these situations with perceived expertise and aplomb.   Responding to stress, responding to crisis, small and large that are not a part of the planned daily routine, soon become an accepted part of a school leader’s daily life. However, left unchecked, and without time to reflect on causes, impact and consequences of actions taken, these automatic behaviours can result in leaders becoming disconnected from themselves and in extreme cases, disconnected at various levels from those they lead and manage.   And so, the following questions arise:   – With whom can a senior school leader, have a conversation that simply allows him/her to breathe?’ – When can they have a conversation that allows them to gain deeper levels of self-awareness and personal understanding? – When can they have a conversation that allows them to marry both the personal and professional aspects of what it means to be a congruent and effective leader?   These are not areas that school advisors, consultants etc are trained in, but if we are to have...
The 5 Coaching Skills Every SLT Needs

The 5 Coaching Skills Every SLT Needs

    When SLT members are skilled in using the principles of coaching to assist their meetings and relationships with staff, they can help to play a key role in creating school cultures where there is an:    Organic sense of self-improvement fuelled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better.  [Buck, 2009: 22]   When coaching is placed firmly at the heart of processes for developing others, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation.   Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.   Undoubtedly, it takes times to develop these skills and for those SLT members who are committed to developing their coaching skills there are five initial competencies that they should seek to develop…   1. Asking High Level Questions   Questions have the power to change both the content and direction of a conversation. They can play a key role in shaping the structure of a meeting and the quality of outcomes.   For example, in performance management meetings, asking ‘high level’ questions (i.e. ones that enable an individual to think deeply about their intention and motivation to succeed) can be used to enable both the member of staff and line manager to assess:   – Commitment to the...
How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

  As a school leader have you ever wondered why people management issues tend to dominate most of your time?   My reflection on this is quite simply that we humans are complex and the older we get, the harder it seems for us to truly grow up and behave as adults! Children are far easier to understand and deal with, even the most challenging are honest; whether through their behaviour, or otherwise, they tend to let us know how they are truly feeling.   The games people play   With us ‘grown ups’, the communication games we played as children continue into adulthood and into our personal and professional lives. Most of the time, we are unaware of the roles that we adopt in the game. However, if you are a leader, there will come a time when you shout:   “Stop! the rules of the game need to change!”   That’s when you come to the realisation, that, if you understood a little bit more about yourself and the dynamics of human behaviour, you’d have a far greater chance of being able to achieve better outcomes for yourself and those that you lead and manage. Transactional Analysis [TA]   Developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1950s, TA is a psychological tool that can help us develop a greater understanding of what happens when we communicate with other people. An understanding of TA in our working lives can help us to:   – Identify our emotional triggers and the emotional triggers of others – Overcome our emotional triggers and lead from a place of deep personal self-control...
The 3 Questions that Damage our School Leaders and our Schools

The 3 Questions that Damage our School Leaders and our Schools

  School Leaders are not Data Technicians and children are not units of data.  This mechanistic approach can be damaging to Head Teachers, because there are negative inferences behind the questions that are frequently asked of them.   Being held to account and responding to questions is no bad thing. As a public servant, it is only right that you are held responsible for your actions. However, the climate surrounding school improvement over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity and inconsistency. This has led to heightened levels of fear and mistrust within the profession. This has created an unhealthy dynamic between politicians, policymakers and schools.   It has also impacted negatively on the type of relationships that exist between School Leaders and those who the government entrusts with the power to hold schools to account i.e. school inspectors and advisors. Against this backdrop of fear and mistrust, when questions are asked, it very often leads to a lack of incentive and can be more of a hindrance to school improvement.   The Damaging Power Dynamic   The power dynamic that now exists between government, inspectors, advisors and Head teachers is now based more overtly on the exertion of power and control than ever before. It may be useful to analyse the relationship between School Leaders and their assessors using the ‘Naughty Child and Critical Parent’ model. If you’ve ever been the ‘Naughty Child’ in this type of relationship, you know the unspoken psychological contract that permeates every conversation and question has several negative subtexts:   – You are not good enough – You need to do better/more – You...
The 3 Mistakes Heads make when Dealing with Conflict

The 3 Mistakes Heads make when Dealing with Conflict

    Most Heads I know and work with are adept at dealing with conflict. That is not to say they either like or enjoy managing disputes, but they have adjusted well enough to the fact that they comes with the territory.   However, I have on occasion had to work with Heads, who have found that their once finely-honed conflict management skills have become somewhat dulled. They are confused, battle with doubt and anxiety and are often uncertain of the steps that they can take to help sharpen their skills again.   After letting them explain their situation to me and asking a few searching questions, the reasons soon become apparent as to why they are feeling stuck and unable to move forward. Very often, it is because they are making one or all of the three mistakes as outlined below.   1. They are stuck in the past   A past conflict, has left them feeling battered, bruised and deeply hurt. The situation could have been anything from an aggrieved parent to a vexatious member of staff, but whatever the situation, it has left its mark. Something about the situation, has left the individual doubting their capabilities as a leader.   Sometimes, this is due to the fact that the outcome was not as they had hoped for and they now feel that this is a slight on their leadership/character. Or they had felt particularly isolated and unsupported when the situation arose and are stuck with feelings of anger, resentment, hurt and remorse.   Understandable feelings, but they don’t help individuals to move forward. Instead, when similar...