The Leader’s Guide to Coaching in Schools, by John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh

Why I read it:

After doing two coaching courses and taking on some coachees, I started to ponder the role of 1) leadership coaching, and 2) leading a coaching culture in an organisation. I already knew about the work of John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh, so this book was a natural and worthy choice. I enjoyed it so much that I contacted both authors and they were generous with their advice, which lead to my enrolment on the GCI Coaching Accreditation Programme.

In summary:

This book is aimed at introducing coaching in schools (although could be transferred to any organisation), reviewing the concept of leadership coaching, exploring the GROWTH coaching model, examining plenty of research regarding the benefits of coaching, and providing practical tips about how to implement coaching effectively.

The Leader’s Guide to Coaching in Schools is evidence-based, comprehensive, but also readable and formatted in a way that makes it inviting to access the demanding content.

Key takeaways:

This is one of those occasions where I cannot possibly outline all of the book’s main takeaways, but here are a select few that are concisely summarised – each one has far greater explanation in the book.

Coaching vs a coaching approach – coaching might typically exist within a formal, arranged meeting between two people. However, the authors suggest that a coaching approach, in which the transferable elements of coaching can be applied to other contexts, e.g. unplanned conversations with colleagues, can really enhance outcomes. For example, coaching-approach conversations will still focus on helping the recipient identify resources, options, strategies in order to clarify a possible outcome, but in a less formal manner, such as a chat in the corridor. This has helped me consider how I work with staff in non-coaching meetings, or in other spontaneous contexts, where I can still employ some of my skills as a coach.

8 key coaching skills building trust, being present, listening actively, clarifying, empathising, being succinct, asking the best questions, and giving feedback. The authors explore each of these in detail, linking them to the GROWTH model of coaching.

Benefits of leaders becoming coaches – these can include: leaders becoming more reflective; coaching approaches can be transferable to other leadership practices, including giving feedback, leading meetings, etc.; leaders can coach each other; leaders can set the tone for a coaching culture in the organisation. The authors also discuss how peer leadership coaching can be useful as there is no hierarchal barrier between coach and coachee.

Feedback and performance management – there are lengthy sections dedicated to how to use coaching as a tool to give feedback or even develop performance management processes – the advice is specific, considered and evaluative – if you are thinking about how to introduce coaching in this form, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

How to create a coaching culture – many organisations are implementing a culture in which coaching is an integral part of staff development, be that through traditional coaching, or instructional coaching regarding teaching or other practices. The authors celebrate the notion of creating a coaching culture, but are also realistic about the commitment it takes to implement successfully; their seven steps are: recruit external coaches to train initial coaches; create internal coaching capacity; ensure leadership support of coaching; enable organisation learning from coaching initiatives; include coaching within performance management process; adopt a coaching style of leadership; use a coaching approach throughout the organisation.

Favourite moment:

Throughout the book, there are QR codes to scan for a link to a video of a certain coaching approach or method being modelled. These are fantastic in quality, and I found it so useful to be able to see a conversation play out in practice.

Favourite quote:

‘Words create worlds’

Citing the work of David Cooperider, who argues: ‘people live in the worlds our questions create’, the authors state: ‘As coaches, we want our coachees to live in resourceful worlds and to be more intentional about the words used to describe the world they inhabit. It is particularly important that they imagine the positive future world they wish to move towards.’

Question and reflect:

After we train in something, in this instance, coaching, we often feel confident in our ability and knowledge. The Dunning-Kruger effect takes hold, and we overestimate our competence. This book is a brilliant reminder for a coach of any level to explore more perspectives, research and ideas. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know, until I read this book.

The Leader’s Guide to Coaching in Schools explores some of the principles upon which coaching could be effective, and explores models such as Self Determination Theory; it reminded me of the importance of trying to find out the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the things I train or take interest in, and to always remain curious and question what I’m learning about.

Read this if:

You want to increase your knowledge and understanding of how to be a coach

You are researching how to introduce coaching within your organisation

You are interested in how to build coaching for leaders

Find the book here

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