At Ambition School Leadership, coaching is central to how we support leaders to develop and make an impact in their schools and on pupil achievement. Most significantly, it prepares leaders for the rest of their career.
This blog is part of our coaching series
Over the coming months, we’ll be exploring coaching and the impact it has on the leaders on our Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders programmes. We’ll discuss what it is (and isn’t); how coaching can support your development; and hear how coaching has changed our participants’ behaviours and beliefs and enabled them support their children better.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) states that, “Professional Coaching brings many benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness and increased confidence.”
At its heart, coaching helps our leaders to develop their capacity to learn and improve. It focuses on the specific development needs of the leader, so participants can personalise their development to problem-solve issues as they emerge and before they block performance.
The time to talk about and solve problems also supports our leaders' well-being in what can be a stressful job. It also offers a chance for them to reflect on their learning both from training and from in-school experiences. Without coaching, I believe the training offered by Ambition School Leadership would be less valuable.
"Our coaching is solution-focused and strengths-based. It starts with what the coachee is good at or what good looks like."
This is not an innovation: coaching is widespread in the corporate world, where the ICF has 25,000 professionally accredited coaches working with hundreds of thousands of clients in all sectors of the economy.
The ICF reports that 70% of coaching clients attribute improved work performance to coaching; 73% report improved professional relationships and 80% say they have improved self-confidence. Most strikingly, almost all clients and companies report themselves “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their experience of coaching.
We believe that coaching can help everyone. I’ve sometimes talked to people who tell me that coaching has nothing to offer them: “I’m not failing…”; “I don’t want anything that sounds like therapy…”; “I don’t see how an outsider could understand my context…”
These thoughts are based on a misapprehension of what coaching can offer. Part of the problem is the word itself. ‘Coaching’ is often used in the wider world, such as in sport, to address performance deficits or a mentoring-style approach where the ‘coach’ solves your problems with their superior knowledge and experience.
In contrast, the international bodies representing coaching – and Ambition School Leadership – define coaching as something very different.
So what is coaching? Literally, it is two people talking; the coachee brings their challenges and development goals and the coach enables them to find their own solutions. It is a professional partnership based on dialogue and discussion, and is designed so the coachee can maximise their performance through reflection on and deployment of their strengths.
Our coaching is solution-focused and strengths-based. It starts with what the coachee is good at or what good looks like. We never start from the perspective that there are gaps or problems that need solving: the answer lies in the coachee and it just needs to be discovered. At Ambition, our coaches work in partnership with their coaching clients to find the strategies and solutions that they can own for themselves and live by long after the coaching itself has finished.
- 73% of coachees report improved professional relationships.
We are committed to evidence-based practice, so our coaching methods, developed in partnership with Growth Coaching International, secure transformational impact by using tried and tested listening and questioning approaches. This allows our participants to explore the values and leadership behaviours which can drive them forward. It is self-conscious, values-driven strategies and ways of working that enable our participants to lead effectively and with moral purpose.
We also regularly ask participants to give us regular formal feedback on the effectiveness of their coaching relationships. Coaching is consistently the highest-scoring element of our programmes, and scores continue to improve.
In our most-recent survey 97% of participants either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that coaching was building their confidence and capacity as leaders, and the average score for coaches was 9.2 out of a possible 10.
Programme participants' almost universally celebrate the positive impact of coaching on the person coached and consequently upon teams and pupils:
"Massively helpful. My coach has challenged me in a number of ways regarding my leadership and also helped me to guide myself in the right direction through her excellent questioning."
"Coaching helps me to find the answers I need - he refuses to spoon-feed me, which I really appreciate."
"My coach has helped me to understand the points of view of challenging members of my department, and helped me to understand how my assumptions and preferred ways of working aren't correct for everybody."
We will therefore continue to rigorously develop and supervise our coaches so that they are best-equipped to offer the support and challenge which delivers the most profound and long-lasting impact for aspiring and ambitious leaders.
We believe what participant feedback tells us; coaching is transformational for leaders and thus the first step towards transforming of the life chances of thousands of young people.
To find out more about our programmes and how they can develop school leaders at all levels to create more impact, click here.