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 effective schools, schools in which both children and staff fulfil their potential, then appropriate training is needed. There has to be the space for the type of professional relationship that facilitates school leaders being able to reflect in an open and honest manner on the inner struggles and triumphs of leadership.
The business world has long recognised that top executives benefit when they have such a relationship in place. It is very much the norm to employ a coach to help senior leaders become the very best that they can be.
Much of this is because it is recognised that there are three key aspects within a coaching relationship that differ from other professional relationships and help determine its success as an effective mode of personalised support…
1. The relationship enables the individual to own the Agenda
Research has shown, time and time again, that individuals flourish when they have a sense of autonomy and feel they are able to determine future outcomes for themselves. In scenarios, where individuals have no sense of ownership regarding meeting agendas and related outcomes, their performance is often not what it could be. Coaching avoids this pitfall by ensuring that at all times the coachee sets the agenda.
The coach has no agenda of his or her own, solely than that of being fully present for the coachee and enabling him/her to ‘get from where they are now to where they want to be.’
2. The relationship is built on mutual trust
Where there is no trust, there is neither openness, honesty nor an ability to look deeply at oneself and as a result, there is no room for growth.
To quote one individual that I worked with:
“Trust is the most intimate 1:1 dialogue with another professional colleague; which is absolutely confidential and non-judgemental. Trust allows you to share things and talk through feelings and emotions, knowing that they are with you to support you’.
His words echo those of an American text book on coaching for school leaders, entitled, ‘Blended Coaching: Skills and Strategies to Support Principal Development’
‘Trust is the ground upon which we build rapport the safe and intimate place that allows for meaningful coaching. We define rapport as a state of harmony and understanding between two people. In a powerful coaching relationship, trust and rapport feed one another and create a space where tough issues can be addressed and where significant growth can occur.’
3. The relationship connects individuals with their values
A central tenant of the coaching relationship rests on the fact that the coach knows when an individual’s behaviours are aligned to their values, they are far more likely to experience a deeper sense of congruence between their public and private selves and thus greater fulfilment in the role.
Through coaching, individuals are encouraged to reflect and ask, ‘why and ‘What’’ questions of themselves: ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘Why have I responded in this way?’ ‘What does this mean to me?’ ‘‘What are the implications for my future actions?’
In searching for answers and sharing solutions, the coachee becomes aware of the way in which their values shape their leadership and how their behaviours reflect the degree to which they hold their values to be true
In the words of one former IC client:
‘My ethos and values were laid naked and explicit. I was able to clearly articulate my values, ethos and vision and identify the roots of things that are founded in me as a leader. I have been able to model and express what I believe in.’
An Opportunity to Experience the Coaching Relationship
Becoming a Head teacher invariably means that whatever the problem, people trust and believe that you can fix it!
Very often it can feel as though you are carrying the full weight of everyone’s expectations on your shoulders. Amidst this pressure, I believe it’s vital that our leaders are properly supported; strategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they can keep going.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.
However, in spite of the fact that the business world has now embraced the benefits of coaching for leadership development, few in our education system have been afforded the opportunity to reap the benefits of this form of support.
That’s why I’m now offering completely free Coaching calls to give leaders a chance to experience first-hand the benefits of the coaching relationship and the role it could play in supporting both their well-being and their personal performance.
The calls provide a confidential, safe, non–judgemental space to spend 30 minutes exploring ways to:
– Achieve a greater sense of clarity about your direction as a school leader
– Gain a clearer perspective on any challenges that you may be facing
– Identify positive steps for moving forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!