School leaders have a heavy workload, a myriad of tasks, duties and responsibilities. With that workload comes a whole host of challenges and barriers that get in the way of effective performance. Leadership development coaching is an effective counterpoint to support school staff towards growth and development.
Many schools have a programme of coaching within their organisation. When coaching takes place in-house, it is impossible not to have preconceived perceptions and a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda unless the school leaders are really committed to ‘growing’ their staff and the teacher-coach is willing to avoid providing answers. The beauty of coaching with a professional, experienced leadership development coach outside of the organisation lies in the unknown, uncluttered objectiveness. The agenda, and what the client brings to the conversation, is entirely his or hers to control and completely personalised. The coach is responsible for the process, and the teacher is responsible for progress.
Coaching to balance the needs of the individual and school
In their research paper, Coaching for teaching and learning: practical guide for schools (publishing.service.gov.uk) CfBT Education Trust explains the balance between the needs of the individual and the school, and that coaching has the potential to support the needs of both. There can be a link between school priorities and the development needs of the teacher; the opportunity to discuss performance management targets needs to be an option available to the teacher being coached, but not a necessity. ‘Where the participants own the purpose and form of the relationship between the two (coaching and performance management) rather than dictated by the system, there is likely to be a more productive outcome.’
As well as the opportunity to work on issues related to performance management targets, typical issues centre around:
- time management,
- resistance to change,
- holding colleagues to account,
- fear of being ‘too soft’ or ‘too hard’,
- imposter syndrome,
- sense of direction,
- burn out,
- perceived incompetence,
- lack of faith in more senior leaders,
- and more…
The difference between leadership development coaching and instructional coaching
Leadership development coaching should not be confused with the current trend in education of ‘instructional coaching’. Instructional coaching is classroom based and is an alternative to other methods of professional development. It takes place between an ‘expert’ and a less experienced teacher in a cycle of observation, feedback and practice in small steps. The small steps are guided by the instructional coach.
Leadership development coaching is solution-focused and builds confidence. The establishment of an open and trusting partnership enables the school leader to speak honestly, express his or her concerns, unpick issues and find solutions. It is an opportunity to connect their values and their behaviour in their work at school. It supports the school leader to face challenges and recover from setbacks more readily. As with performance coaching in other sectors, the coach listens deeply and works hard to understand the feelings and thoughts behind what the coachee says. By asking challenging questions, the coach encourages the school leader to reflect and think further beyond the session.
Coaching to become a super hero
A middle leader reported feeling like ‘superwoman’ after each session. She attributed coaching as having the biggest impact of all the development work with which she engaged. Following coaching, leaders in schools experience feelings of empowerment and readiness to address issues which had been, sometimes subconsciously, suppressed or ignored. Teachers new to coaching sometimes begin the conversation with how well everything is going, inevitably followed by ‘except…’. Thus begins the exploration of an issue which until that moment had appeared unsolvable.
Leadership development coaching is a powerful and effective way of supporting school staff towards growth and effective performance. Do get in touch if you want to discuss options for leadership development coaching in your school, or indeed leadership development more generally.
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