#educoachOC Chat 18: Coaching for Leadership

While during our monthly #educoachOC chat we often have general conversations around coaching in education, and sometimes talk specifically about coaching teachers, this Monday #educoachOC is going to be exploring coaching leaders for leadership. Even though the ‘OC’ in our name refers to an Oceania-friendly time, we’re a global chat and would love for you to join us at 8.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. That’s 6.30am in New York and 11.30am in London.

For leaders, the benefits of coaching (over, for instance, mentoring or consulting) are that the leader’s self-efficacy is built; leaders think through and solve their own problems rather than getting counsel via being told or advised. Coaching assumes that leaders know their own context, their own people, and have the capacity to improve.

As with coaching teachers, theoretical literature, standards, and data, can bring rigour and precision to the coaching conversation, allowing leaders to apply leadership theory to themselves, or to reflect on specific aspects of leadership practice.

Leaders need, as do any coachees, an environment of trust in order for coaching to be of use. Leaders might need to share sensitive information in coaching conversations, so they need to be coached by someone they can trust and who they are sure will keep their conversations in the strictest confidence.

It can be hard to find the right coach for a leader. Cultural and contextual factors come into play. Can the coach be someone from within the organisation, and if so, what is the appropriate coach-coachee relationship? Might a leader’s coach be a peer? Should a leader’s coach come from outside of the organisation?

The leaders I have coached within my school have come to coaching sessions with a range of things they’ve wanted to discuss: management of staff including those in their team, those with whom they collaborate and their own managers; strategic planning of new initiatives; and critical review of projects or actions. Sometimes they end up talking about their own wellbeing or strategies for coping with the job. I additionally have some informal coaching relationships with colleagues, in my school and outside of it, that I draw on for my own growth.

Sometimes the #educoachOC team use technologies such as Skype, Zoom and Voxer to coach one another at point of need. The great thing about being coached by someone outside of your own context is that the coach is detached from your day-to-day work, meaning the coach can ask questions they might not see if they were working within the same organisational context.

When I conducted the qualitative interviews of school leaders for my PhD, which used active listening and coaching techniques, leaders approached me afterwards to say what a luxury and a pleasure it had been to carve out time in their day to sit down, be listened to, and talk about their beliefs, identity, and practice. They expressed how useful it had been for their own thinking and development.

Coaching can be an opportunity for leaders to think aloud about those issues that challenge them, but coaching is more than a supported conversation with a trusted colleague or professional friend. It is a process that can help to mediate a leader’s thinking so that they can understand their own values and beliefs, solve their own problems, build their own efficacy, and develop their leadership skills and strategies. For further reading we can recommend Jan Robertson’s book Coaching leadership: Building educational leadership capacity through partnership.

The following are the questions for Monday’s chat.

Q1 How might the coaching needs of school leaders be different from the needs of teachers?

Q2 What kind of coach do leaders need? And what standards and kinds of data might leaders use in a coaching conversation?

Q3 How does coaching complement other forms of learning and development for leaders such as conventional PD, networking, and mentoring?

Q4 What might be the benefits of coaching for a leader and for their school community?

Q5 Thinking out of the box time! How might we create more opportunities for access to quality coaching for educators at all levels?

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