Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Be the Coach to Inspire an Effective Team

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Be the Coach to Inspire an Effective Team

Article excerpt

Coaching can play a major part in improving school performance, argues headteacher Mike Buchanan; it is all about ensuring that your staff feel positive

I have come late in life to the writings of Maya Angelou, the US poet and civil rights activist. I rather regret that it took me so long. One of her more memorable quotes is: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

This is a key lesson for school leaders: it's the feelings that are most often the driver for behaviours and performance.

So how do we ensure that we make an impact on the way our staff feel? I have found that a crucial tool is mentoring.

Over a year ago, I grasped the opportunity to undertake an executive coaching and mentoring qualification at postgraduate level. From afar, it looked vaguely interesting and I knew of others, whose judgement I respected, who had completed it and spoke highly of it.

Seven taught days, a great deal of reading, more than 30 hours of practice coaching and over 15,000 words of writing later, I have gained a great deal in terms of holding focused, clear discussions that help people to review, analyse and improve their performance. So what are the key elements of coaching?

It's the culture, stupid

Coaching aims to improve performance. In schools, this means the ability to produce great teaching and great leadership - these are the key influences on pupils' progress, achievements and personal development. A school culture that focuses primarily on summary judgements of their employees' performance and narrow accountability measures, such as Progress 8, is unlikely to build or sustain continuing high performance.

On the other hand, establishing a positive culture of open reflection and analysis almost certainly will. Coaching makes having such conversations a natural part of the landscape for teachers and other employees in the school.

Listen, listen and listen

The hardest thing about coaching is having the ability to listen; to really listen so that you can work out what the underlying facts and feelings really are. Only by listening carefully can you hope to enable the person you are coaching to take responsibility for the change in their behaviour that is needed to improve.

Be aware that people have different motivators to you

Psychologist David McClelland's theory of needs suggests that everyone has three motivators that need to be satisfied across their personal and professional lives: achievement, affiliation and power/influence. …

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