Give me a clip board and call me a Myth Buster because I’m about to lift the lid on what it’s actually like to be coached in your workplace.
Professional Coaching vs Life Coaching
We’ve all come across Life Coaching at some point. Whether it be the Netflix documentary of Tony Robbins practically cartwheeling across a stage while the audience are in tears reliving their childhood traumas, or an online ad for spiritual coaching which promises to heal your inner pain. Or maybe, a friend of yours has had their life changed by a coach so much so, that they’ve got a brand new pep in their step and are all about spreading the word that ‘you should totally try it’, they can even hook you up with a free session. That’s Life Coaching, and it’s awesome for a lot of people, but this is about Professional Coaching where I promise, there are no deep breathing activities or mindfulness colouring pages to be seen (although if you’re in to that, no judgement - you do you Boo).
Professional coaching is usually done for one of three reasons:
Crisis, confirmation or creativity.
As an external professional coach, most of the 1:1 work that I do is with people who are in crisis. They often have an issue with a work mate, be totally overwhelmed and/or be desperate for some big changes in their work lives. This is the real ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff and people often don’t feel comfortable (or in some cases; safe) discussing these things with their colleagues. It’s yucky for folks when they get to that point, it feels like absolute shit to be in crisis. It’s a massive problem for the teaching profession in NZ when these people can’t get the support that they need. The reality is, we’re losing incredible teachers because their stress is driving them to walk away from our classrooms every week.
When you have a relationship with an in-school coach, it is often focused on confirmation. They’ve got the ideas but just need to process them with someone else to get confirmation that they’re on the right track. Think of a BT bouncing ideas off a more experienced teacher, or two leaders supporting each other by going through a staff meeting presentation together.
But it’s when you’re coaching for creativity that the absolute magic happens. This is the real blue sky stuff where you explore all of the possibilities and ‘what if’s’. This is the zone where good teachers become GREAT!
No matter what the reason is for the coaching conversation, this is a brief overview of how they often flow. There are lots of different models and frameworks that coaches can use like LEAP, iGROWS, ADKAR etc, but they all essentially follow a similar process.
Sometimes people will come to a coaching convo knowing exactly what it is that they want to talk about. Other times they’re completely lost in the 73,000 thoughts that they’ve got swirling around and don’t know where to start. The first part of a coaching conversation is always looking at the issues; problems that need to be solved, or opportunities that need to be explored. It’s about going really deep into the issue and identifying what is actually going on because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
I bet you reckon that you’re a bit of a pro when it comes to setting goals huh? And to be fair, we all glaze over a bit when the idea of goal setting comes up because it’s usually a bit of a snooze-fest. The reality is, that over 90% of goals will never be achieved, so clearly humans are not naturally very good at goal setting (by the way, how’s that New Year's resolution going?). The trick is to create a goal that speaks to you. Something that is so compelling that you want to print it on a t-shirt or tattoo it on your forearm. Creating a great goal is an art, not a science and having a coach will help you with this by exploring why you want to achieve this, and what it looks like/feels like once you get there.
The Whole Truth
You’re in love with your goal, but hold on, why don’t you already have that?
Once you set your goal, it’s time to look at the reality of your situation. If you really want something, you need to figure out why you don’t have it already. Here’s a hint, it’s never about everyone else and ALWAYS about you.
“Oh, I haven’t been able to take any initiative with my writing program because Lorraine won’t let me.”
We’re so quick to blame others for our situations, when all that does is give our power away. Here we look at the things that you have been doing (or not doing) that have created your desire to improve because again, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
This is your Disney Land!
This is where you get to go to town with all of the things that you could do to achieve that awesome goal of yours. One of the main reasons that 90% of all goals are never achieved is because we try one thing to get us there, and quit as soon as it fails. This part of the coaching conversation is about exploring all of the ways that this goal could be achieved. I always push people to come up with at least 8 completely different options for how they could achieve their goal. Some of your ideas will be brilliant, others may be ridiculous, but there’s bound to be some creative gold in there somewhere.
You’ve had some fun sending your brain on a wild ride, now the real work starts. At the tail end of your coaching conversation you want to come out of it with an action plan of things that you are committed to doing:
In the next 24 hours
In the next week
In the next month
Creating an action plan will keep you going and going and going until you’ve achieved that compelling goal. Armed with all of your different options for how to get there, you'll have the freedom to try things, fail and then move on to the next option.
If you really want to achieve something, you cannot fail unless you give up. It may take two weeks, it may take two decades but if you keep working at it, that compelling goal of yours will become a reality.
I really believe that if we want outstanding teachers, we need to be giving them outstanding support. It’s time that we all spoke up and demanded it. This job is too bloody hard to do without having people to help us with the real issues that we’re facing every day.
I’ve been training teachers and leaders to become in-school coaches in Hamilton schools for a while now - let me tell you guys, it’s a game changer!
If you want to know more these two books are a great place to start: