For sports fans, the names of great coaches leap to mind with ease – Vince Lombardi, Pat Summitt, John Wooden. They are legends because of their extraordinary ability to help athletes believe more of themselves than they ever have before, perform at higher levels as a team than the sum of its parts might predict, and understand that who they are as people is just as important as who they are as performers.
Great directors on the stage and screen do it. So do great leaders in all fields. It’s one part teaching, one part counseling, one part listening, and at least one part just being present in the moment with someone else.
And, it just might be the greatest professional development gift any teacher, principal, superintendent, or educational leader could ever give him/herself. Just this week Peter DeWitt wrote a column for Ed Week wondering why more principals don’t pursue professional coaching for themselves.
“Coaching is a working relationship”
We love that description from Star Factor Coaching, a model we use in our work in the New York City area. It describes a specific professional coaching concept developed by Janet Patti and Robin Stern which focuses on the development of a principal as a person so that he or she may lead. We know that who someone is, their vision, their values, their own emotional intelligence and skill, is just as important as what they do. It’s why study after study confirms that relationships are the key variable in learning.
So imagine the power, then, of a coaching process that supports personal professional development. “What is truly special about our work with Operation Respect is the deep and holistic approach to the support. School leaders know that, at any given time, there is a complex interplay between the goals and mission of the school, a school leader’s own growth and goals, and the evolving needs and development of the greater school community,” says Nicholas Merchant-Bleiberg, Principal of Voyages Preparatory High School in Queens, New York. “When I meet and plan with Mark, I know that he is deeply invested in and considerate of these factors.” It’s an intentional relationship to reveal and understand why something must be/could be/should be done rather than just how or what. Most importantly, it’s the discovery and exploration of the internal “why” rather than a response to some external mandate.
That sounds a bit “new agey,” and maybe it is, but go back to the great sports coaches, the great movie directors, the great leaders of industry. Their “greatness” is not defined by their ability to teach someone what to do or how to do it, but by their capacity to match that knowledge and skill within an athlete/actor/leader with the motivation and inner sense of urgency and purpose to make whatever the goal might be happen. Doesn’t sound nearly so woo-woo when it’s Vince Lombardi, does it?
We believe in the power of coaching to develop better leaders for our schools. Let us know how we can help you.