As a school leader you will no doubt, have a vast array of knowledge about leadership styles and how and when to deploy them.
We all know context is everything and there is no point adopting a democratic leadership style, when the school fire alarm has gone off and the building needs to be evacuated immediately!
However, I never cease to be amazed when working with school leaders, that out of all the various leadership styles, the coaching leadership style is the one that most leaders appear to find the hardest to develop. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so…
1. The frenetic pace of the school life: The speed at which things need to happen, means that many a time you have to set a fast pace, to get things done. So, pace-setting and authoritative styles of leadership lend themselves quite naturally to the role.
2. Everyone needs to be on board the bus: Everyone has to be in alignment with the school’s vision and goals. A school’s trajectory will flounder if there is not a clear sense of purpose and direction. Visionary leaders know this and ensure that at key times through-out the school year, they adopt a Visionary style to keep everyone on the bus.
3. Relationships are the key to school improvement: School Improvement plans are not the key to a school’s success, relationships are. It is the relationships that school leaders form with their staff that are important. They determine the degree to which adults engage with the school’s priorities and the actions they need to take to move the school forward. It is for this reason that most school leaders feel comfortable adopting when necessary, either affiliative or democratic leadership styles.
Interestingly, coaching is not too far removed from affiliative and democratic styles of leadership, yet as has already been mentioned it is the one leadership style that appears to be least developed amongst school leaders. This may have something to do with the fact, that when adopting a coaching style, you are not required to have all of the answers.
For many a school leader this is a hard concept for them to get their heads around. When you are used to being the school-wide guru, who everyone comes to for answers, it can be very difficult to stop yourself from automatically providing solutions to other people’s problems.
Just as with the use and development of the other leadership styles, developing a coaching style begins with raising your own level of self-awareness. You need to become clear about what’s hindering you from developing this style and what you can purposefully do about it. To start with, here are a few questions to help you consider steps you might take to make coaching a greater part of your leadership repertoire.
1. How often do you step in and solve other people’s problems for them?
2. What has been the result?
3. To what degree do you respond with questions as opposed to answers when someone comes to you with a problem?
4. How often do you ask people to come to you with a solution when they are dealing with a particular issue?
5. When have you avoided a coaching style conversation, because it made you feel uncomfortable?
6. Can you identify why you felt uncomfortable and what you could have done about this?
7. What one small step can you take towards developing confidence in your ability to use a coaching leadership style?
Knowing when and how to use a coaching style can mean that you take on less of other people’s tasks (thus ensuring that your time is focused on the things that are truly your responsibility) and others are empowered to find solutions for their own problems. Yes, it may take time, but very often it is worth it in the end!
As Esther, a Deputy Head teacher testified, after using coaching as a means for supporting a Teaching Assistant in her school.
“I was so much an advice-giver, wanting to help and solve problems. If I had been in that role, I would have totally limited this person. The goal came from him, so it was based on what he wanted – not my advice, which would have squashed his thoughts, expectations and dreams. This journey for Derek would not have happened, if I had just carried on giving and not learnt how to coach.”
So, give some thought today, to that one small change that you can make to how you lead and develop others. It may be a small step, but it may prove to have a big impact on releasing precious time for you!
Developing Your Coaching Skills and Leadership Style
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