Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Investing in People - Why It Matters

I was scrolling through my twitter feed last term when the tweet above caught my eye.  In all honesty, Jason's tweets often catch my eye, but this one was particularly salient in that it absolutely resonates with me, both philosophically and situationally.

Let me explain.


I am a very strong believer in growing and developing the people around me.  I could outline a number of different ways to illustrate this, but for the purposes of this post I want to highlight just two.  Both examples are long term projects designed to build capacity and capability in our school (as individuals, teams and as a community), with an emphasis on sustainability and consistency.

Example one is our Educational Coaching journey.  Part of the training we have provided has included a one day, certified training, for all our staff (including our office team, teacher aides and Board members) so that everyone understood the model we use - this training was in addition to the in-depth training for those teachers who wish to be coaches.  Coaching training and development is an ongoing investment in our people.

Example two is the investment in, and capacity building of, my senior leadership team.  This has involved regular half day workshops by an outside leadership expert over several years, where we have been developing and shaping our skills as a team to meet the demands of our particular setting.  We have had a particular focus on 'learning leadership' where we have been building collective efficacy.  We have been doing this in order to grow all our teachers and to improve outcomes for students.

Both initiatives have been a significant investment in terms of time, money and potential.   

Great professional development shaping shouldn't be rushed.  Instead, it should be planned for, shaped and carefully considered.   

An investment in developing your people can not always be on the smell of an oily rag; sometimes we need to prioritize our fiscal considerations around our biggest asset, our people.   

When we see potential in our people, we need to nurture and grow it.  

Thus far, you might be able to philosophically see where I sit in terms of the above quote.  That people matter and investing in them is important.  It is one of the reasons I like beginning teachers (BT or if you are from the UK, NQTs).  When we employ a BT, we are looking for someone who is open to learning, thinks 'above the line' and has that special 'spark' of potential (among other things).  We can then put them into our induction and support programme, and carefully nurture and grow their abilities as an educator.  


In terms of situationally, here is why the above quote resonates.

At the end of last year I lost two outstanding team members (who were following partners to other parts of the country).  One who had been involved heavily in both initiatives, and the other who had been ear tagged for in depth coaching training.  Suffice to say, a loss to the team.  Most recently we found out one of our other young 'up and coming' stars, someone we had trained in coaching and were mentoring in leadership, had been shoulder tapped for an exciting opportunity.  Another blow, and another loss.  

I will tell you what I told the people we were handing them onto.  

Yes, we were sorry to see them go, but not at all sorry for the investment, support and growth that we had given them.  You see, at the end of the day, it is irrelevant whose students benefit (theirs or ours) because we could be satisfied knowing that the children and the people they were working with, would be the recipients of great teachers with transferable skills.  That has to be a win win situation. 

It is at this point where the philosophy really comes into its own.

If we only invested in the people that stayed, we would be doing a disservice to the children in all our schools.  Imagine if every school trained, mentored, coached, supported, and invested in their people to the same extent, or more!  Imagine the quality and the calibre of teacher we would have in every class, and every school, in every area and in every country.  How great and comforting as a leader would it be to know that every applicant for teaching jobs at your school was so well 'grown' professionally that all you have to do is induct and build on that foundation!  There would be no issues around teacher competency or capability.  

At the end of the day we are in the business of education and creating the future.  So, yes it would be great if every teacher you invested in stayed, but change is good and new people bring new ideas and innovations, which is healthy.  Irregardless if our people are with us for a short time or a longer time, an investment in people is an investment in our system.  

Ultimately, we invest time, money and in a persons potential, for the benefit of all our children; yours and mine.   The better trained and supported our teachers are, the more equipped and robust our schools and education system is.

Is that not a philosophy worthy of investing in?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Solution Focused Coaching Tools - A Visual Guide

“If you want to go fast, go slow” 
Insoo Kim Berg

Back in May I spent two days participating in a two day Master Class for Solutions Focused Coaching.  At the time I posted on the 12 Takeaways from that training, and I had meant to come back to the Solutions Focused process, and in particular, the tools we were introduced to.  

One of the tasks we had to do on day two, was create a series of 'note cards' that we could use to assist us as we practiced the tools.  At the time, I wondered what those cards might look like if I made them digitally, however time constraints made that unrealistic.  However, several weeks after the training, I decided to use those cards to create my own version digitally - and since creating them, have found them most useful!  I do confess the process of hand drawing them in the first instance was a great solidifier of the learning from the past two days and were a good guide when it came to making this digital resource for myself later. 

The following graphics are my representation of the learning from the training. 

The Solutions Tools:

The following graphic is a useful picture to remind me of the tools that make up the Solutions Focus.  The starting point is the Problem (issue) and from there you build the Platform of the coaching session. 

The Platform

“We are not prisoners of our past”
Martin Seligman

This is where you build the platform for the coaching session - this is a platform not a problem.  

To Affirm 

“I can live for two months on a good compliment” Mark Twain

The Coach uses affirmations throughout the coaching session to provide positive reinforcement to the Coachee during the session.

Creating Future Perfect 

“If you are clear about what you want, the world responds with clarity.” Loretta Staples

Initially this was a tool I found a little clunky, but as you find your feet (and pathway forward) with your Coachee, it has to be one of the more powerful tools in your toolkit.  Creating the Future Perfect is where you help the Coachee see the desired reality.  A very positive visualisation process!

The Scale 

‘The solution does not care where the problems come from” Ludwig Wittgenstein

One of the most useful tools in a Coaches arsenal and one that can be employed at any stage to help clarify, measure progress or to help find the positives that are already in place!

The Counters 

“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” Dwight D Eisenhower

This is where the Coach is looking for times and examples where the Coachee has had success already, the resources that enabled the Coachee to have success and ways of building on them.  Here is where the Coach really needs to be actively seeking the resources the Coachee already has by listening and looking for cues.

Setting Actions 

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  Mark Twain

The old adage that a journey starts with a single step is applicable here!  Here the Coach is helping the Coachee find the small steps they need to take in order to reach their goal.  

Added Bonus Tool:

30 Second Coaching Point:

This tool was introduced at the Growth Coaching International Conference by Chris Wardlaw who spoke to participants about his work with coaching.  Chris talked about the benefits of coaching for whole system improvement and he made a strong comparison between coaching and high performance sport, in that you would never get to the Olympics without a coach!  He went on to talk about how great coaching in an organisation means you can avoid having difficult conversations because the front end is right.

His main point was that you can give a strong coaching point to anyone in 30 seconds!   As he was explaining the process, I created the coaching card below, to help me remember the basics of the tool.

One of the important aspects of the 30 Second Coaching Point is to provide your Coachee with feedback that is positive and succinct.  When injected regularly into a coaching session this tool is a powerful motivator.  On a personal note, this is still a work in progress for me as I work with my Coachee's', however I have also found it equally applicable in everyday conversations with staff.

Final Thoughts:

The Solutions Focused training provided me with a more honed skill set, and as I use the tools I notice that the Solutions process is quite a positive, strengths based pathway forward.  When we were participating in the Master Class training, the facilitator reiterated that in order to use the Solutions Tools, a coach needed to have a good understanding of coaching, and training in a coaching model.  Having already been trained in the GROWTH Coaching Model, I can see why it is important to have a coaching process already in place from which to hang the Solutions Focused model.

The other epiphany I had was that the more skilled and comfortable one becomes within coaching, the more intuitive it is to use the process, tool or approach that best suits the coachee and their needs.  At our place, depending on the teacher or staff member I am coaching, I have found that having  processes from GROWTH, Instructional or Solutions Coaching methods has allowed me a level of fluidity and flexibility that maximises a session far more than simply sticking to just one methodology.  The challenge is ensuring one knows when to employ the correct process.  This is about knowing you Coachee and really participating by deep listening!

One of the things I have enjoyed most about employing the Solutions Focussed Tools is that it energises and focusses the Coachee to look at things from a positive framework, and builds on a growth mindset.  Whilst it is early days, I do like the potential Solutions Focused Coaching Tools have in relation to hone my own skills, but more importantly, for motivating and inspiring Coachee's to explore a positive pathway forward!