Good coaches and indeed good school leaders are able to communicate a belief in people’s potential and an expectation that they can do their best. Their tacit message is…
I believe in you. I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts. As a result, people sense that a leader cares, so they feel motivated to uphold their own standards for performance, and they feel accountable for how well they do.
For those that line manage others, it is essential that they have the skills that will have a strong, direct, positive impact on staff levels of motivation, and improve standards for all. Many of the skills required for this type of impact stem from coaching.
Coaching is a broad term for a process that is concerned with bringing out the best in others. There are a wide spectrum of skills that coaches develop over time to assist both the personal and professional growth process.
For school leaders seeking to develop both their coaching competence and confidence there are three key coaching skills that are the foundations for success when working with others…
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 both the discussion and related outcomes.
In a variety of school settings ‘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 bigger picture and targets/goals
– Levels of confidence and belief in an individual’s ability to achieve
– Resilience and ability to persist in the pursuit of targets and goals even when the going gets tough.
When questions are used skilfully, they open the door to new ways of thinking and seeing, that very often can lead to expanded horizons for the person who is tasked with providing the answers.
2. Listening for Meaning
Many a conversation takes place in school when only half of what the speaker has said has been either fully heard or understood. Why? Because we have become so used to giving the impression of listening that we have forgotten what it means to truly listen and to really hear what has been said.
Increasingly, our minds are so distracted by the many things that fight for our attention, that even in a 1:1 situation, we do not realise that this can be a time to close the door, re-direct our phone calls and pay full attention to another person.
We find it difficult to get our minds to stop and to focus only on one thing – the person in front of us and what they are saying. Many individuals in schools desperately need to be fully listened to, but because our lives (and increasingly so the lives of the school leaders) are so busy, many are starved of the fuel that they need to enable them to keep on performing at their best.
Only when individuals truly master the art of listening can you hear and learn to understand what is being conveyed in the words, gestures, body language – and the ‘silences’ – of another.
When we can read non-verbal communication and understand the emotion behind a word or a sentence, or the message conveyed in a look to the side or a folded arm, we are able to enter into conversations with another that have far greater potential for development and growth. When we listen deeply, we create a space for the human spirit to be nurtured and we develop a greater understanding of what it means to be human.
3. Enabling staff to take ownership of objectives
If individuals feel that they have played a key role in setting performance management objectives, the chances of goals being fulfilled at the end of an academic year are far greater.
An essential ingredient for success is ensuring that opportunities exists that enable staff to connect with their ‘moral purpose’: their reason for being a part of your school, their reason for being involved in your school’s journey.
This involves ensuring that whatever systems you have in place, they support staff in thinking about both their vision and values, and in being prepared to share this information with those who line manage them.
It also requires that the line manager has a high degree of emotional intelligence and is able to create a ‘safe place’ for the individual to be heard. For some, talking about vision, values and purpose can mean exposure of the ‘vulnerable’ self; yet it is the part of self which, if held respectfully by the line manager, can result in individuals being motivated to set some of their own goals and achieve maximum levels of success for both themselves and their school.
Developing your Coaching Skills
There is all kinds of advice out there about what makes a good school leader, from certifications to strategies to taking the latest seminar. But what so many people miss out on is actually the most fundamental elements of good school leadership — relationships.
In my years of working with school leaders, I’ve learned that one of the most important skills any school leader can have is the ability to effectively manage and nurture personalities and relationships within their school – as quite simply, when school relationships are positive – the outcomes are often more likely to be positive too.
Conversely, when relationships are strained or neglected, school teams can struggle to effectively work together and staff can find themselves increasingly becoming disconnected from what the school and their leaders are trying to achieve. In turn, leaders can find themselves spending a large amount of their time dealing with people management issues, rather than focussing on the more strategic aspects of the role.
Yet in spite of this, many leaders have not received significant training or opportunities to develop skills that could help them to deal with difficult conversations, identify how best to manage and maximise the performance.
That’s why one of the key ways that we support School Leaders fulfil their vision is by offering a 4 Day Coaching Programme designed to provide senior school leaders with the knowledge, skills and confidence to apply a range of coaching skills that can help improve the performance of those they lead and manage.
Our four-day coaching programme that will equip you with the skills for:
– Managing difficult conversations
– Understanding how to get the best out of individuals with challenging behaviours
– Understanding yourself better and knowing how to draw upon your strengths to get the best out of others
– Developing your relationship management skills by helping you understand how to identify and respond to different personality types
– Nurturing a Coaching Culture in your School so that you can support members of your team