The frustrations, pressures, and challenges teachers face test their self-esteem, energy and dedication every day. To preserve throughout their careers the vision with which the best of them started – to hold fast to the idea that the business they are in is that of setting minds on fire – is a heroic project.
[Branden, 1994: 226]
It is a project that all teachers and school leaders face, one that is about learning to bring out the best in themselves and others. It is a project that is as much about ensuring their pupils are emotionally intelligent, as it is about ensuring that they are numerate and literate.
It is about ensuring that they leave school with levels of emotional maturity and insight that will enable them to develop positive relationships with individuals from all walks of life. It is about a human quest where the prize should not just be a ranking on government league tables, but building generations of young people who possess a healthy sense of self- worth and belief in their own capabilities and potential, ready to stride forward and to make their own dreams reality.
Where do we begin?
For a school to realise its potential of being a place in which humanity is at its best, and by extension a place where all human beings flourish, a school has to be an emotionally healthy place where all adults within the community possess a positive sense of self and a robust emotional maturity. Yet sadly, we know this is very hard to achieve. Why? Because very few adults, leaders included, are the ‘complete package’. Many have issues that relate to their own self-esteem and the degree to which they value themselves.
On a day to day basis, many teachers and school leaders are adept at delivering creative and dynamic PHSE lessons, yet they – or to be more accurate, the system – is inept at helping them apply these lessons to themselves, lessons that are necessary if they are to maintain a healthy and robust self-esteem and rise above the often-bruising pressures of school life. Nathaniel Branden author of The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, argues, and I would agree, that:
If their goal is to nurture self-esteem in those entrusted in their care, teachers… like all of us, need to begin by working on their own.
So why is it that so many schools struggle to do this effectively, and people management issues dominate the time of most school leaders?
My answer? Quite simply, we humans are complex and the older we get, the harder it seems to be 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 let us know how they are truly feeling!
Where and how can coaching be applied to improve performance?
Performance management is an essential process that exists in schools for managing adult behaviour. However, because the process is often seen as perfunctory, and in some cases is not seen as a significant driver to assist school improvement, a real opportunity is missed for using coaching as a tool for developing potential and bringing out the best in others.
When line managers are skilled in using the principles of coaching to assist their performance management meetings, they help to create a clear path for creating a school culture 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 a school’s culture is as described by Buck above, what is created is a set of common understandings and beliefs about performance management. Where it is seen as a process for improving staff performance and accelerating the achievement of school targets through:
– Creating alignment between organisational and personal objectives
– Growing and developing others
– Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones
– Supporting others to achieve their full potential
– Inspiring confidence in other’s ability to succeed
– Ensuring ownership and accountability.
Supporting Confidence and Personal Growth
When coaching is placed firmly at the heart of the performance management process, 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. They begin to understand what it means to be accountable to self and others and they start to own the process, rather than seeing it as something that is done to them.
With self-accountability, comes confidence and growth. With growth comes an increased sense of one’s own potential. When one has both confidence and a true sense of what could be, then a space is created for the individual to try and test out new behaviours. They begin to transform their own behaviours and the positive ripple effect if felt across the whole 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