Managing our Biases

We define coaching as being nonjudgmental. Yet we know that we do have judgment, biases and filters that pop up as interference from time to time as we are acting as thinking partners with another. The first step in managing our own biases, filters, judgments, and assumptions is to recognize that we have them and then to recognize the moments that trigger them.

Many of our biases are implicit. That is, we do not even recognize that we have them and would even vehemently deny that they exist for us. Unrecognized biases are the ones that are most harmful to our effectiveness as coaches and leaders. Implicit biases are unexamined. These unexamined biases may create blind spots, filters that allow only certain information in, and assumptions that may limit our access to a broader range of approaches to new or perplexing situations.

What are some ways to recognize implicit biases? One way is to begin to notice the events, words, or situations that cause us to have a strong emotional response, such as immediate disagreement, pushback, defensiveness, or avoidance. The intense need to convince others of our way of thinking is another potential indicator of a strong bias that may be holding us hostage. Lack of desire to listen to or consider the viewpoints of others may signal that we have a bias that we have not yet examined. Our innate desire to stay safe sometimes conflicts with our strong desire to grow and change in our responses to more positively impact those we lead.

Once we have identified our biases, we can be intentional about determining ways to set them aside in order to be more fully present with others. During those times we find we are being triggered, we are more able to recognize the hot button and push the “keep calm” button instead.

Our Hearts Go Out To All Those Impacted By The Recent Hurricanes And We Want To Offer Our Support

When you hurt – we hurt. We are praying, we are donating personal funds and requested items and we want to do more. Results Coaching Global would like to offer The Gift of Coaching to any school leader affected by the recent hurricane disasters. We offer this gift, at no charge, as a way of providing a space for impacted leaders to meet one-on-one, by phone, with a trusted coach and confidant, who will listen and serve as a thinking partner, as the leader reflects on his or her current situation, gains greater clarity about future plans, and determines best approaches in taking actions toward desired results.

We are scheduling up to three 30-minute phone coaching sessions per leader from September 20 through December 20, 2017 at a mutually agreed upon day and time. Typically the sessions will be held in the evenings between 6 PM to 9 PM Central Time.

If you are a leader who has been impacted by one of the recent hurricanes, all you have to do is respond by clicking on the link below and providing your information. One of our coaches will reply back to verify the time of your call. Appointments will be set on a first come first serve basis, with our desire to serve all who reach out to us.

Request your session at this link.

The Importance of “Who” in Coaching

“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you, Ralph Waldo Emerson, for reminding us that wisdom comes in the moments, the steps, and the hours! Maybe this is why coaching has become the way of those seeking thoughtfulness and wisdom. It makes a difference for all involved.

Coaching is a dynamic process that calls for individuals to look inwardly, as well as outwardly as they move toward their desired actions and results. It is a creative process where you, with an experienced and skilled thinking partner, a.k.a. coach, step into a space of openness and at times uncertainty in order to know more clearly about thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions. It is truly an enriching opportunity for growth and development. As leaders, we may be very strong on the outward component of this process (the “what” we want and are doing) while not yet where we desire to be on the inward component (the “who” we are).

I jokingly describe my earlier leadership style at times as somewhat like “a dog after a bone.” While it’s not a bad thing for a dog to be in search of a bone and to protect that bone once it’s found, it is also beneficial when the dog considers how the hunt will take place and with whom he might share the find. I was all about getting the results desired and yet along the way – I didn’t always take enough time, with a thinking partner, to deeply consider what I was learning about myself in the process. I needed a coach and didn’t yet realize that need.

Thank goodness, times have changed! Today, more and more leaders understand that thinking, including their own, is a critical component of any productive organization. There is no way to achieve the daunting goals expected of schools and school leaders today without taking the time to purposefully and thoughtfully think about best approaches aligned with clearly articulated values of who we are as individuals, as teams and as organizations.

As a flight attendant offers clean hot towels to refresh hands before a meal, the start of a new school year hands to each of us a fresh opportunity to consider “who” we are as we go about the “what” of our work. In so doing, we are deepening our own self-awareness, a necessity for any leader. And for a baseline on self-awareness, let’s use Tasha Eurich‘s definition from her highly engaging book, Insight: Why We Are Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life (2017). “Self-awareness is the will and the skill to understand yourself and how others see you,” says Eurich. This must be why coaches ask clients what they are learning about themselves as they consider best approaches to deal with challenges and opportunities coming their way on a daily basis.

This month, in all three of our social media articles, we will delve into practical ways for each of us to become more self-aware, which in turn will strengthen our “who”, both big and little, as described by an admired master level coach, Carly Anderson. Let’s begin.

Most likely you have identified a set of principles that guide the way you live your life, personally and professionally. Think about your top three to five principles. Here are some examples: honesty, patience, respect, positive influence, empathy, challenging status quo, excellence for all, growth and innovation, etc.

Now, think about the last conversation you had at work or at home that became heated. You know – where you and the other person had differing opinions and points of views about the subject at hand, and where emotions became elevated, as did your own heart rate. Next, consider some or all of the following questions that might come from your coach.

  • How do you best handle conversations that become heated?
  • As you look back at that particular conversation, what did you learn about yourself and the way you dealt with the conflict?
  • How did your behaviors align with your core principles?
  • What metaphor best expresses who you were in that conversation?
  • What metaphor best describes who you would have liked to have been in the conversation, if you’d like to have a do-over?
  • How will this conversation impact the way you deal with other high emotion conversations?
  • What question do you hope someone does not ask you related to that conversation?
  • If you were the other person in the conversation, how would you describe the whole situation?

It would be wishful thinking to say that you will never be in a heated conversation. Of course you will, unless you plan to live in isolation. The real question is, how do you want to “be” when you are dealing with this type of challenge? When we know how we want to be in those tough times, then we have a strong handle, somewhat like a straphanger on a fast moving tram, to hold on to during the conversation and a baseline to reflect on as we think back about the way we actually were. And, as we follow Emerson’s thoughts about wisdom, it’s helpful to consider what we learned from a particular conversation that will most benefit us as we carry on. After all, even when we didn’t handle a conversation as we had intended, there is always an opportunity to learn and prepare ourselves for the next one.

New Beginnings

new beginningsAs a lover of school and a lifetime student, I am always jazzed about starting a new school year. A major appeal is the opportunity for new beginnings each year. We don’t have to wait for a new year to have a new beginning, yet there is something about the flow of school calendars that makes this time an opportune one for reflection, goal setting, and the delicious anticipation of what lies ahead to be accomplished. Much reflection and planning has already taken place as the previous school year concludes, overlapping with getting ready for the new one. What remains is the buzz of excitement as new possibilities await!

Knowing it is crucial to motivate and inspire those we lead to create a sound beginning, we also must be ready for the marathon of staying the course when the new wears off and the work becomes hard.

Here are 12 crucial questions from Gallup’s Q12 Engagement Survey for coach leaders to be prepared to respond to now and throughout the year:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission/purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or co-workers are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. In the last year, I had opportunities to learn and grow.

Threads of our work at Results Coaching Global are present in these 12 “questions”. What connections are you noticing to the following?

  • The essential skills of listening, paraphrasing, presuming positive intent and reflective feedback
  • The trust research
  • Standards and Expectations
  • SCARF
  • Positive psychology

Resolve to create a solid new beginning by intentionally connecting with all stakeholders through your coach leader identity. Create and sustain an environment of trust, motivation, and inspiration that is sustainable through good times as well as the more difficult times. Have a great new school year!

We Did It! – Measuring Impact

Congratulations! This month’s three-part focus has been on celebrating the impact of coaching from one district’s perspective. Now, we will celebrate one school’s success in a year’s time.

Jackson Middle School is a technology magnet school in Garland ISD. In 2014, the school was struggling with Index 2 on the state accountability system. This index is the Student Growth index and Jackson was at 29; one point from the minimum of 28. While other accountability indexes were okay, the team knew that Index 2 was a predictor for future problems in the other indexes if no action was taken.

In a data analysis session, the team realized that honor students were not growing; thus finding themselves at a critical disadvantage when compared with students in other schools. By the next testing year (2015), Jackson’s Index 2 went from 29 to 38 which was one of the highest in the district among middle schools. Jackson staff and students had reversed the trend and were showing the greatest growth among the district Middle Schools. In Math alone, students went from 44% to 82% meeting or exceeding expectations. In addition, Index 1 went from 79 to 82, Index 3 from 42 to 50, and Index 4 from 51 to 59.

According to David Dunphy, Jackson Principal, “There were a lot of factors that resulted in our improvement. We did intensive interventions and ensured all of our students had a 30 minute intervention/growth period, instituted the “Jackson Essential 6” – strategies and practices that all teachers were expected to implement, and initiated the coaching model with our core teaching staff.” For 2014, Jackson’s Essential 6 were Framing the Lesson, Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk, Recognition and Reinforcement, Critical Writing, Philosophical Chairs, Socratic Seminar.

There was also an effort to separate coaching from evaluation; a concept from Bambrick-Santoyo’s Leverage Leadership. All core teachers were coached by the three administrators and the two counselors on our campus. Mr. Dunphy received the Results Coaching training in the summer of 2014 after which he requested his Assistant Principals and counselors attend the training as the school year started.

These five members of the leadership team then divided up the core tested subject area teachers and established coaching relationships with them. This included all math teachers, all reading teachers, 7th grade English, 8th grade science, and 8th grade social studies teachers. Each leader had about 5 teachers they coached each week. The coaching model was implemented with observations and coaching conversations held each week as much as possible. The administrators were careful to coach only those teachers they did not appraise with the official evaluation system (PDAS). This ensured trust was built so teachers could be vulnerable and really work on their craft without worry that it would be reflected in their appraisal.

There was emphasis on and statistics kept on the Jackson essential 6 strategies with the teachers, especially when they were at a loss for what to be coached on. For the most part, teachers were able to articulate their area for coaching each week. Some stayed with the same topic as they were improving and others went from one area to another as they saw growth and accomplishment. Videotaping of the observations and coaching sessions were also used to help the coaches improve their own coaching.

The Administrative team including the Area Director held standing meetings every Thursday where they followed a protocol for holding themselves accountable for progress. Each week’s Agenda included:

  • Reporting on the previous week’s commitments
  • Updating the Scoreboard to ensure sustained progress toward the established goals
  • Creating the next step in the plan – to clear the path for new commitments
  • Practicing coaching in a coaching lab format to review and offer feedback on a coaching video. Responsibility for the video rotated each week and was available to the team for preparation on Tuesday before meeting on Thursday.

So, that brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this month’s series. “Does coaching make a difference?” Well, as you know from our seminars, that is a “yes/no” question that does not presume positive intent. Instead, we ask, “In what ways is coaching making a difference where you work?”

How are you measuring your impact with coaching? Stop, reflect, and celebrate your success. And, as a footnote, share your successes with us!  (*_*)

“Thanks, My Instructional Targets are Crystal Clear” – Clearly Articulated Standards and Expectations

Earlier this month we shared how a change in mindset from “gotcha” to growth, along with reflective feedback that’s focused on what’s working, can change the results one gets. This conversation is about how adding clear standards and expectations can magnify the impact of coaching. This continues one district’s story . . .

In Garland ISD in Texas, Area 3 set out to define a set of instructional targets so that it was clear what was expected in the teaching and learning cycle. Teacher focus groups were formed to create a framework or rubric of what observers would “see” when looking for the key strategies in instructional rounds – what teachers would be saying and doing AND what students would be saying and doing. Descriptors were developed along a continuum from beginning to developing to ideal with a spotlight on any “missed opportunities”.

I know the BIG question in your mind is, “What were the 5-6 key strategies of focus?” And you know, the magic comes less from naming the strategies to the process used to determine the answer to this question, “What key strategies, if we did them with fidelity and rigor, would give our students the success they deserve?” For Area 3, sample strategies included Fundamental Five, Critical Writing, Power Zone, Recognize and Reinforce, Framing the Lesson, and Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk. Schools could customize their focus based on student needs so additional strategies may or may not have been included.

While the effort to create clarity was critical to the change process, it was not enough! The real impact appeared when it came time for administrator conversations with teachers, conversations among teachers, and conversations in PLCs about student performance. Without any language of judgment, “missed opportunities” became genuine conversations about how a teacher was working to become better. Using the framework, teachers were clear about where they were and how they wanted to advance to the next level.

Sherri Skelton, our district contact, sees this as direct transfer of the skillset from the training when she says, “It is critical that our leadership is skilled in developing relationships built on trust and respect so that the skills and strategies of coaching become an integral part of each conversation. We continue to hear examples of meaningful coaching conversations that have impacted both teachers and students.”

For this story, evidence that coaching is making a difference includes:

  • A focus on what is expected – explicitly and articulated.
  • A belief that growth will be magnified when teachers are partners in the process of improvement.
  • An understanding that judgment undermines the growth process and that trust and respect support it.
  • A belief that coaching conversations are the way to see deep and lasting change.

What difference are you seeing in your conversations as a result of clearly articulating the standards and expectations?

From “I Don’t Want Your Feedback” to “Please Give Me Feedback” – A Shift in Mindset

Let’s begin with a recent conversation with Jasper ISD Superintendent, Gerald Hudson. It’s late on a Friday afternoon, long after the work day is over and the phone rings. Gerald, who has been in his position less than 6 months, says, “My folks want coaching!” Having known Gerald for many years, I respond with surprise, “Really. You haven’t been in your district that long. What specifically did you do to convince them that they want coaching?”  He says, “Nothing!” I’m surprised again. Then he says, I took them to my “people” in Garland ISD (Gerald’s former district where he served as an Area Director.) AND they sold them on the idea.

So . . . what did they say?

One thing they said was, “In a year’s time, teachers went from being reluctant to receiving feedback to asking their administrators to come into their classrooms to give them feedback.” Well, that’s a switch. To what did they attribute this significant shift in mindset? Several things were noted as contributing to this change – training in the language of coaching, a new appraisal process that focused on a growth mindset, and clear standards and expectations for teaching. Supporting these changes was considerable professional learning for teachers that included them as partners in the improvement process. Springing from the expectations for teaching, teachers set their own improvement goal which was a new element. As a result, this focused the observation and thus the feedback on what the teacher wanted rather than what was missing or absent in the lesson. The language changed from what was wrong to what was “seen” as well as any “missed opportunities” which created curiosity and motivation for possibilities for growth.

This sounds exactly like the feedback we teach – value/value potential statements and reflective questions for possibilities – both generated from the strength of what a teacher is doing well and what he/she wants to do next.

This is just one of the things the Garland people shared with Gerald’s team. In the blog, we’ll hear about what they said about the importance of creating clarity around the standards and expectations for the work.

In summary, here is the evidence-based data that coaching is making a difference.

  • A shift in mindset from compliance to growth.
  • A goal-driven process leading to focused observation and feedback.
  • The intentional language of coaching that looks for strength and what’s working.
  • Presumption that the teacher is a professional who wants to improve and grow. (Status and autonomy of SCARF)

What is the mindset about feedback where you work? How is coaching supporting the change in mindset that you want?

YET—The Magic Word

As we continue to explore our positivity mindset and genuine, authentic, heartfelt positivity, adding the concepts of possibility and potential and the word “yet”, broadens and builds on our own self-talk and the words we offer to others. People often tell us that they have the most difficulty believing in others and offering value statements and questions that presume positive intent when their history with that person leads them to expect less than standards met or exceptional behavior. When we truly believe that people can and will grow and want to contribute, the word “yet” helps us form a positive approach.

  • Self-defeating self-talk: “It’s just impossible to find time in my busy schedule to exercise on a regular basis.”
  • More empowering: “I haven’t found the best way to make regular exercise part of my weekly habit…YET! I will continue searching for something that works for me.”
  • Mental talk regarding others: “She just needs to get her act together. I am tired of the same old unwillingness to make the changes required to meet our goals.”
  • More empowering: “She hasn’t YET realized the importance of making the changes. Or maybe she really doesn’t understand how important her actions are in making them happen. Perhaps I can coach her toward deeper understanding and positive movement if I truly believe she is capable and willing and just hasn’t found a way to begin…YET.”

The word “yet” holds potential for future change as well as movement toward the desired result. It is deeply connected to the positive emotion of hope, which is sparked within the moments when despair is most likely. It contains the belief that things can and will change. It sustains us when circumstances are dire. Hope energizes us to do as much as we can to make life good for ourselves and for others.

As is often quoted, “Hope is not a strategy.” Hope IS the emotion that pulls us out of the mire into a place of developing strategies and designing actions to move us forward. Hope lifts us out of our past, our negative presuppositions and toward resourcefulness. Hope energizes us to continue forward movement.

  • How will you reframe your own negative self-talk by adding the magic word, YET?
  • How will you reframe your lack of belief in someone based on past behavior by adding the magic word, YET?
  • What is one thing you will commit to take action on that you haven’t done YET?

The Positivity Project: Making a Difference in the Lives of Students

In one of our recent seminars, one of our participants, Andy Camarda, principal of Lemon Road Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, spoke about his school’s association with the Positivity Project. The Positivity Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to empowering America’s youth to build strong relationships and to understand, appreciate, and exemplify the character strengths in us all. Students emerge with genuine self-confidence, greater appreciation for others, and stronger relationships by learning about the 24 positive character traits in all humans, regardless of culture, economics, or age. Inherit and deeply embedded in this work, is the idea that “other people matter” and students learn to think beyond themselves realizing the impact of their actions and words, supporting others when they struggle, believing that together we can achieve more, and cheering the successes of those around us. Therefore, the focus switches from solely academic achievement to relationships and purpose.

Each week, Lemon Road students learn about a particular character trait during their Morning Meeting. Some of the 24 universal traits include: gratitude, integrity, humility, kindness, zest, and optimism. Students discuss the traits with their classmates, identify ways to recognize them in others, and grow in their understanding of why exemplifying these traits is important. They appreciate the traits within themselves as well as their classmates. As a result, student relationships deepen with each other and with their teachers. They begin to say “Hey, John is demonstrating the trait of kindness just now” or “Annika is full of humor and zest!” In a recent curriculum night for families, parents and students were able to take the Values in Action character survey to identify their top character traits. They then set goals as families to develop a particular trait together. Again, switching the focus from accomplishments to relationships… from getting things done to being the person we want to be!