I was wrong about Coaching (Part 4/7)
Coaching and Mentoring– might be for me
At the introduction of the NPQML I was adamant that Coaching and Mentoring had to be defined, polarised, or one of the terms was not needed. In reflection, this clearly showed a lack of understanding and receptiveness to new ideas, at that time, on my part. It is not an either or, ‘but a when.’
From that course, to the mid point of the NPQSL, I had read a fair bit more and continued to gain a better understanding, maybe appreciation, for the subtleties of Coaching and Mentoring, as separate yet complementary strategies. Polarity was not essential. Of course, I was gaining leadership experiences (some good and some not so good) and exposure to different leaders in wider contexts. I was moving from being an unconsciously novice Coach to consciously novice Coach. At least I was growing more self-aware. The ground was shifting.
Jane Suter: More subtle – compared to what?
I think ‘we’ (educators) are misled by Coaching’s low entry point. All leaders and managers can easily adopt some very simple and yet effective simple Coaching techniques as well improve their own self-awareness. Deliberate actions, the art of conversation and listening skills, such as preparing and prioritising the conversation, acknowledging, rephrasing, paraphrasing, clarifying, slowing the pace of conversation, to recognise and use spaces in the conversation to promote thinking. These are simple, effective conversation skills that can be easily developed.
As I invested more time into Coaching, my appreciation for skillful conversation increased (even if I was not that good at it myself, I was still being managed and involved in many conversations and communications). I began to recognise and value effective and clean communication, that it required skillful planning and that listening to someone was artful, deliberate and some people are better at it that others. That surfacing Coach-Coachee thinking required skills that I did not yet possess and a good dose more of self-awareness. (Advice to e taken from part 1 included here). I also witnessed that skillful Coaching could be the most effectual leadership approach, certainly in the long run.
Jane Suter: “More effectual”- compared to what?
When compared to leading by directing or telling only. Leading by example only. Leading by mentoring only. Leading through assumed and proscribed authority only. The point that there is a spectrum of style, and Coaching and Mentoring are just two notes points on the scale. Of course there were other notes of the scale too. Humble leadership, influencing rather than leading, in the blog posts there is a growing awareness of policy driven leadership. In sum, a breadth of leadership approaches.
It is now more evident from my reflections generally, that I was beginning to open up myself to different leadership styles and to employing Coaching as an approach within my leadership, with the benefit of more experience and still more leadership reading (less so thinking), but without any guided practice. It was my own flavour of Coaching, a kite flying around the leadership sky without a tether. Only my own reflective practice.
Of course, when you undertake an exercise like this, with the support of someone like Jane, or any skillful coaching, you recognise that there are numerous factors and influences that bring about these professional and personal changes. Some are conscious and others are dormant or unconscious. It is not a linear processes.
Decision making is a process, not an event.Joan Sjøvoll
Reflections connect, bounce, reconnect and disconnect. There are blanks that when you think hard and deeply, can be filled, others lay vacant, some get filled later on when a new connection is made. It is complex and it is chaotic, it is messy (much like teaching itself). What this blog offered, was a record on many of the conscious moments, prompts and reminders, acting as blank-fillers and answers. Clips on Humble Leadership and much referenced empowerment quotes or articles and on change management.
People responsible for planning and implementing change often forget that while the first task of change management is to understand the destination and how to get there, the first task of transition management is to convince people to leave home. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you remember that.William Bridges – http://www.kristianstill.co.uk/wordpress/2012/04/10/leading-change/
It is a small thing, but it was around this time that I bought my first camera phones, which meant that I could record and capture the things that I saw, as well as read.) Like my visit to Bradley Stoke Community School with our Director Creative Arts (a trick I borrowed from my former Head Teacher, Ian Knights). I distinctly remember noticing and photography the empty frames painted on to the walls ready for ‘excellent’ student work. I went onto introduce such frames in both schools thereafter and probably will in the next.
A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.Eleanor Roosevelt
As for the unconscious factors or influences that have the potential define us, remain just that, unconscious. As for the dormant factors or influences, I will come to those in Parts 5 and 6.
Jane Suter: Given your hindsight – this may have been a good time to begin your Coaching adventure. The Institute for Employment Studies highlighted that “Biggest single predictor of ineffective coaching are issues with the coach” so it is vital to get it right at the start. For example, coaching a person is more than the actual coaching conversations. Coaches with formal coaching qualifications will ensure that the coachee is ‘safe’ as sometimes, during the reflections, painful issues from their past can emerge which the coach will need strategies to deal with. The coach will also ensure that legal and contractual aspects are covered which are important in safeguarding both coach and coachee. As you have dared to mention 😀 reflective practice is important, to help both the coach and coachee develop.
The ILM, for example, offers a range of courses at different academic levels requiring varying levels of commitment that a delegate might have. All of them are designed to ensure that, when coaching, both coach and coachee are safe.
Jane raises an important point above. Though I accept that coaching is a tool for a leader to employ, it is inherently irresponsible to paddle around someone else’s professional thoughts and feelings, for these will undoubtedly be anchored by more powerful, deeper, dormant factors or influences. I foresee, the more skillful the Coach, the greater psychological and professional security. Innocently paddling may very quickly become innocently out of one’s depth.
Somewhere, in amongst this (March 2010), I met Maureen Bowes (People Intelligence). She came to work with the Hamble Community Sports College – Middle and Senior leaders on co-acting styles. Co-acting was new to pretty much everyone the room. Her knowledge, receptiveness, skillfulness and agility in conversation impressed me hugely. She demonstrated a refreshing way to communicate, to lead a meeting with colleagues and to receive information and elicit feedback from the group (that was new, a leader that opening admitted they did not have all the answers). Maureen listened with an intent and focus I had not witnessed before. Here was a practitioner from whom I felt I could learn a great deal. In the post there is a reference to honing my ‘chameleon attributes.’ I think, at the time, I was aware of how skillfully Maureen,an outsider, blended in?
I knew exactly what I want to ask her. I hangover from that very first NPQML.
Can Coaches (like you Maureen) operate within a school or are they best placed to be “seconded-in?”
Hearing that question now, it was rather insensitive. I was essentially exploring the importance of trust in the Coach-Coachee relationship (I was questioning her integrity, though it could have easily been received as if I was). It was a low level discussion… it continues to this day.
I think Maureen knew, she made a hefty dent in my leadership thinking. We made a commitment to keep in touch and I meet up with Maureen and Simon (her husband) away from from school, independently. We talked Coaching and education, Coaching for education, Coaching and social media over a coffee. We are still in touch today. It is Maureen who introduced me to Jane Suter and Red Tiger Consultancy. We met up recently, talked about Coaching and being Coached. We talked about a lot of things. Maureen is a fantastic friend, a role-model listened and I highly recommend her work.
At about this time, Hamble Community Sports College, went through a period of reorganisation. It was a worrying and professional uncertain time for me personally, it was hugely destabilising and damaging for the school. It was my first experience of organisational management and I remain grateful to ASCL and Bob Harrison (experienced educator, school leader, Principal and Governor) for guiding me through this experience.
I was moved into a broader more significant role however the unsettling experience encouraged me to pursue a new challenge, in a new environment, with new relationships to build and learn from. I acknowledge that there is a lot “not said,” in that summary. Senior leaders will respect why and aspiring leaders will draw their own conclusions, or speak with their Senior Leader colleagues.
Before long, I would have little option but to seek a number of alternative leadership approaches to leading from the front. The ground was shifting beneath my feet.
Thank you Bob. I am not sure I have ever thanked you properly and publically.
Ritual sniffing: The art of having a conversation without having the conversation.