I’ve had the absolute honour to be part of Powerful Learning Practice’s Connected Coaching Course for the last 12 weeks. Lani Ritter-Hall and Amy Musone have been truly amazing facilitators of our learning and at modeling coaching techniques and dispositions. I had been observing and reading about coaching and leading change for a little while now, but this course and the connected coaching model that Lani has created really speaks to me in terms of who I am and how I view the world. As well as being a rich learning experience full of strategies and information, this course has validated how I view learning, supporting others, valuing contributions and walking with others (educators) to help them set their own path rather than me telling them what to do. The group that have done the course with me have been a wonderful community. I’m amazed by the openness, depth of reflection and comfort to share of self and journey, and to be challenged in a that has been part of our interactions. I’ve been challenged to take my thinking much deeper than I expected and I don’t think that this would have been possible without such a group… My one word for this experience is PROFOUND.
The structure of the course followed the 3 main path markers of the Connected Coaching Model – Trust building, Questioning and Facilitating Design Thinking. On reflection, I think my tendency in the past was to assume trust exists before it has really been established, to push my own questions rather with my preferred answer in mind rather than really listening , and then been somewhat disappointed when the teachers I’ve worked with haven’t produced something life changing through their own self-directed learning… Ok that was possibly a little harsh on myself… But there’s nothing quite like a different perspective on yourself and your work to make you really question (and reinvent) who you are, what you do and the impact you have on others.
Some key ‘take-aways’ for me:
- Trust is crucial in coaching and in leading change. There is a lot of value in a strengths-based approach focusing on eliciting stories. Stories have threads that lead to deep reflection and aid in setting direction and uncovering passions and purpose. Relationships are at the center of learning.
- Applying a coaching protocol to a conversation/process is worthwhile. In the past I would have felt a bit silly to apply a process but they really take the personalities and issues out of the equation and allows for unpacking thoughts and ideas at great depth or to build a strong sense of trust.
- Active/mindful listening skills such as paraphrasing are something to be practiced and the applying the skill gets easier overtime. As an expert/leader in the coaching relationship it is important to let the coachee uncover where they are going and not to direct them or provide all the ‘answers’ for them. There is so much power in paraphrasing and then following that with a question that starts with “Tell me how you…” or “I wonder if….”
- Keep Lani as a key part of my professional learning network. Her spirit, patience and passion are inspiring. Each time I talk with her it’s so validating and leads to deep reflection, I know that she has and is inspiring many educators (and others) to change their lives for the better and enrich their professional practice.
- Taking time to establish trust and define process is important. I’m learning to understand, and wait before doing… and push myself to take risks, ask the challenging questions and to ‘let go’ of the control and let those who I am coaching drive their learning.
- Be present and it’s perfectly ok to be ‘human’ to others (rather than attempting to be super human or ‘perfect’ – something I struggle with often)… The transparency of my humanity may even make me more accessible to others.
- The principles and practices we explored work in both online and face-to-face environments… Online often needs more consideration, time and scaffolding.
It’s been difficult to give the course enough time and attention with starting a new job this year, so there are a lot of the activities, resources and even assessments (sorry Lani!) that I’m going to follow up with in the future. While a big task to balance, this course has come at a time when I’ve been grappling with how to best frame my work with teachers in my new workplace, how to build trust and partnership and given me the perspective and patience to really try understand others and be guided by them as well as the confidence in my belief that I can make a difference. In my work so far I have been trying to allow my self to be who I am and to apply so much of what I’ve learned in this course.