To coach is to convey a valued person from where he or she is to where he or she wants to be, their desired state. This means that the core role and responsibility of a coach is to help optimize the performance of another person. Coaching has become de rigueur in 21st century organisations and a plethora of coaching models has emerged in response. My stake in the ground is that coaching is more than just a process; it has a bottom line – the improvement of performance.
The stage coach metaphor
A way in which we can think about leadership coaching in educational contexts is by using the metaphor of a stage coach. Think of the great western movies of long ago, in which the stage coach conveyed heroes and heroines across dangerous terrain to reach their destination and dreams. Let’s look at the main components of a stage coach to consider what executive or leadership coaching in educational contexts is, and what it’s not.
Terrain- can vary, making for a smoother or rougher journey! A leadership coach requires a good ‘map’ before coaching a new client, which means having good information about a leader’s background, context and priorities. At the first coaching session, be explicit with each other about the coaching relationship and develop clear protocols for how you’ll work together.
Body - for the safety and well-being of a passenger, the body of the coach provides a protective enclosure for the journey, with attention to comfort. A leadership coach requires a high level of self-awareness about their own thoughts, words, actions and behaviours while coaching, as these will impact on a person being coached. This means a coach is reflecting-in-action while they coach.
Chassis- this supports the body of the coach to maintain stability and provide mobility. A leadership coach requires expert experience in and knowledge about the leadership practices and capabilities most likely to improve teaching and student learning. This acts as a critical benchmark for evaluating the worthiness of a leader’s intentions and the quality of the coach’s guidance.
Wheels- these give the coach momentum by moving it towards its destination. A leadership coach requires knowledge and skill in interpersonal effectiveness to be able to help a leader address their priorities, make progress and achieve their goals. A coach both supports and challenges a leader through a process of skilful inquiry and critical feedback, to help enhance performance effectiveness.
Windows - these allow a passenger to see where they’re going and others to see inside the coach. A leadership coach requires a deep understanding of a leader’s performance dilemmas and is able to help a leader gain a deep insight into their dilemmas. A coach helps by making explicit what may be implicit in a leader’s thinking and words, by revealing and checking assumptions, and testing the efficiency and effectiveness of a leader’s intentions.
Coaching can help leaders in schools to work through their barriers for performance enhancement and improved student outcomes, the latter being the critical purpose. To do this well and with high impact, a leadership coach requires several attributes. I highlight some of these above. If you’re interested in having a leadership coach, or considering leadership coaching for other leaders in your work place, my main message is to be very clear about the kind of coaching you want, why coaching would enhance performance, how it would work, and what’s expected of those involved.
I'd be very interested to hear what you think about my 'stage coach for coaching'.