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The Power of Coaching

My approach

The most important aspect of my approach as a coach is to enable the whole process to result in positive change and improvement for the coachee therefore leading to a positive effect upon young people. Without impact on pupils, coaching for teachers and school leaders, lacks its core purpose. Having said this, in terms of my behaviour within my coaching approach, I believe that the single most important aspect is the start of the process.


In the early sessions, it is essential that I gain the trust and belief of the coachee and build rapport quickly. This is obviously on the professional level but showing an interest at the personal level (such as their wellbeing and their wider life) is key to a successful coaching programme. When the relationship starts positively through active listening then it is likely that any barriers along the way can be overcome since the coachee has a belief in you as a coach. Your authenticity and your belief that this process will work should transmit early on. A skilled coach will then be able develop self-belief and will in the coachee which should then lead to creative solutions,  positive change and lasting impact.

My coaching has a clear moral purpose – to benefit those young people who have the most barriers in their way to success. My belief is that the way to do this is through great teachers and leaders who share this moral purpose, understand their own challenges and who seek support and solutions to be even more effective. Coaching is powerful. It is much underused in schools. Having been both a coach and a coachee, I know that the benefits can be great.

Case studies

Having coached school  leaders previously, their expectations will vary widely. Therefore, although my practice will be consistent to the coaching methodology, it always has to be personalised to some extent. Some leaders will be genuinely open to the idea of coaching and may have been part of a coaching programme previously, either as coach or coachee. It is likely that this type of expectation will mean a more straightforward start to the process. However, the potential difficulty or complexity of their issue(s) certainly does not guarantee an easier resolution. Other middle leaders will be more sceptical. These views may have been formed due to a previously poor experience of coaching or simply due to a lack of understanding of the process. In this case, it is essential that the coach builds rapport quickly and helps the coachee focus on their goal and gets buy-in to the process at an early stage.


 It is essential to understand the coachee - their drivers and motivations - to be able to connect with them quickly and make the coaching approach as effective as possible. One occasion was when I coached two middle leaders over a similar time period.


The first was Head of English – not many years in teaching but dynamic, full of creative ideas yet very inflexible with her staff that she led which brought complaints. The second was Head of Science – long established in the school with strong loyalty from his department but had poor results.


The Head of English was on the surface self reflective and responded well to the coaching process. Yet the reality was hard to accept – this being that not all of her staff responded to her positively because of her approach as a leader. She tried and eventually adopted different tactics with different staff, this became a habit and she realised that her staff were becoming more effective in the classroom as was she as a middle leader. What I learnt from this is that what appears to be an effective leader with less of a need to be coached, was not the case here. As a coach, I had to help her to dig deep since the issue was entwined with her habits as a person as much as with being a professional.

The Head of Science was a different case! I believed that I had utterly failed as a coach and that the process had not had an impact. He openly stated that he would do coaching only because he had been told that he had to. He had a closed mindset. However, several months later he asked to step down from departmental leadership to continue as a teacher. This was a good result for him and the school. I learnt from this process that, although not ideal, the outcomes of coaching for some people can be a ‘slow burner’ and impact can occur after the process has finished.


Authenticity is the key aspect of coaching that is important in my work as a coach. This especially applies when coaching current or aspiring headteachers/ptinciplals – for the coachee to know that this is a job that I held for 10 years in two schools in similarly challenging situations to theirs. This undoubtedly helps that initial rapport and underpins the whole process. However, I need to be mindful, that as a recently ex-headteacher, my role as coach cannot stray into that of mentor. I may have a solution or tactic in mind that to me seems obvious yet not to the coachee. It is by open questioning and self-reflection that the coachee needs to acquire the will, tactics and subsequently a habit in order to truly be impactful.



Adapted from Sir John Whitmore's GROW model (2002), the GROWTH model (growth Coaching International 2009) extends the technique to bind the coachee into sustained action for impact.

The process has the following order, revisited at each coaching session until change and impact is tangible.


GOAL - what do you want to achieve and what will it look like?

REALITY - what is the current position, what has been done so far and what is missing?

OPTIONS - what are your options and possible actions

WILL - what will you do differently now and how will you judge your succes?

TACTICS - how will you do this?what are the barriers? what are your tactics to overcome?

HABITS - how will you commit to change over time, make and maintain impact?

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