Creating a Coaching Culture in Schools
by Clare Barnett
Coaching has become part of leadership and management language. But how can schools embrace it as part of their culture?
As with any new approach, be that technology, curriculum, or management based change, the first step is to understand how the approach will achieve the ‘Vision’ for the school. Coaching culture is no different. It is imperative to align any coaching strategy to the School Development Plan. This ensures coaching is at the heart of everything a school does – from conversations with teams, conducting performance reviews, or managing challenging conversations with staff, pupils or parents.
Coaching requires a simple mindset shift from one where leaders feel they should have all the answers to having the right questions instead. When someone needs help, if a leader simply gives them the answer, they may feel great relief immediately. But all this does is to encourage them to see leaders as the fountain of all knowledge. However, by asking open, curious questions, people can find their own solutions. From a coaching perspective there are two thing key things for leaders to remember:
- They do not need to know the answer to all the questions.
- They have two ears and one mouth, which is the right balance in a coaching conversation. Listening acutely to answers and language is a window into hearts and minds.
There are seven clear steps in Peter Hawkins’ model for introducing a coaching culture:
- Be clear about what you want to achieve. Use external coaches wisely to meet specific requirements and learn from their expertise. Ensure you recruit a coach who fits with your school and holds a recognised coaching qualification.
- Identify how our school will embrace coaching – will your managers be coaches, will coaching be used to manage the crisis, or to drive the change, or as a developmental approach for staff? It can do all of these, but which is most relevant to your school initially?
- Actions speak louder than words. School leaders must actively support coaching endeavour in all they do and how they do it. They are leaving behind command, control and coerce and embracing coaching. They need to role model the new behaviour.
- Schools need to be learning organisations. This means embracing coaching in the way the whole school works together. From the classroom in pursuit of independent learning, resolving the challenges of termly report writing each term or giving new life to regular meetings, the first approach is always one of asking questions, listening acutely and providing constructive and considerate feedback. This makes a significant difference to staff morale and commitment.
- Embedding coaching takes time. Some new processes easier than others – a quick win is revitalising the performance review mechanism by training reviewers and reviewees in coaching to stimulate a different style of conversation. The key is ensuring the whole SLT is on board, because one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel!
- Coaching as a management style takes time and frequently outside support to enable individuals to find the new way of working. Whether it’s being coached or training as a coach both methods can enable leaders and managers ultimately to be more effective.
- Coaching becomes how we are known by all our stakeholders. It is embraced at all levels within the school, and becomes the leadership brand and USP.
Clare Barnett is MD of organisational development company Synergia Coaching.To find out more visit www.synergiacoaching.co.uk or call 01785 711593. Follow on Twitter @synergia_coach