The Art of Coaching

The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation
by Elena Aguilar


Summary of book from Amazon

Hands-on resources for new and seasoned school coaches

This practical resource offers the foundational skills and tools needed by new coaching educators, as well as presenting an overview of the knowledge and theory base behind the practice. Established coaches will find numerous ways to deepen and refine their coaching practice. Principals and others who incorporate coaching strategies into their work will also find a wealth of resources.


Aguilar offers a model for transformational coaching which could be implemented as professional development in schools or districts anywhere. Although she addresses the needs of adult learners, her model maintains a student-centered focus, with a specific lens on addressing equity issues in schools.


Offers a practical resource for school coaches, principals, district leaders, and other administrators.

Presents a transformational coaching model which addresses systems change
Pays explicit attention to surfacing and interrupting inequities in schools.


The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation offers a compendium of school coaching ideas, the book’s explicit, user-friendly structure enhances the ability to access the information.


This was an excellent book and was written for educators but the concepts apply to every industry. I encourage you to read the book as you move from being a good manager to a leader. It will help you become a better leader.


Here are three main points I took from the book where many times managers have:
•  Good intensions
•  No training
•  Coaches must understand context and provide definition for work to be accomplished.


The art of coaching is doing, thinking, and being; doing a set of actions, holding a set of beliefs, and being in a way that results in those actions leading to change. These are the three things that can make coaching transformational.


There are two kinds of coaching highlighted in the book:
•  Directive coaching – generally focusses on changing a client’s behaviors.
•  Facilitative Coaching – supports clients to learn new ways of thinking and being through reflection, analysis, observation, and experimentation; this awareness influences their behaviors.


Transformational Coaching – incorporates strategies from directive and facilitative coaching, as well as cognitive and ontological coaching. Transformational coaching is possible only when the coach is engaged in a process of transforming their own behaviors, beliefs, and being alongside with the client.


Consider why things are happening or not happening – the root cause.


No one can learn from you if you think they suck.


Beliefs – they create boundaries around what we think we can and can’t do, what can and can’t be done in the world. They can be changed or updated. Must be aware of our own beliefs. Expand your beliefs. You can do this by continually learning and looking through different lenses, from other angles, from seeing it and understanding it from another’s perspective, etc.


Core values are deeply held personal codes that reflect our ethics and what is most important to us. Core values are what drives you. Keep to them, stay strong, and be consistent. Your stalwart stance will provide the strength for others as you provide the example they need.


Words create worlds.


Be here now. Be in the moment.


The journey is more important than the destination. My wife tells me this all the time. And it is so true. Take the time to enjoy the journey, those around you will greatly appreciate it.


Kindness, fairness, and compassion. Key elements.


The point is to be mindful of the beliefs from which we’re working and to notice the effect of working from those beliefs. Then we can make a conscious choice about the actions we take. The actions we take will be critical and why we need to ensure our core competencies are clear and solid.


Lens of Inquiry
•  Way we pose the questions determine the nature of the answer
•  The way we define the problem dictates how we define the solution
•  The questions we ask are important as the answers we find.


Lens of Change Management
•  Consider a person’s will, skill, knowledge, and capacity to learn and change.


Lens of Systems Thinking
•  Systems thinking helps us explore the ways that pieces are interwoven and affected by each other. I will have another post regarding System Thinking. It is a whole framework or program and is really incredible to learn and understand.


•  Dispel what you heard and don’t take it into consideration – clean slate. Look at things from both perspectives. As I tell my staff – presume the best intent.
•  Distrust, therefore arises from suspicion of integrity and capabilities, and motives.


We are reminded that everyone is on a journey, and we must accept people wherever they are at this moment.

Trust needs to be maintained and occasionally patched up. As Patrick Lencioni has said, trust is not about trusting someone, it is about vulnerability to be able to share ideas and thoughts without any repercussions or negative feelings from others. See the post on The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team regarding more on trust.


Confident, clean and prepared. Credibility, integrity, and character.


Clients are most always feeling vulnerable. Trust and confidentiality must be maintained and be reminded of. Be sensitive to this – have a one-on-one and they will really appreciate it.


Listen and connect.


Under-promise and over-deliver. I live by this all the time. You can’t go wrong by this, live by it.


Look for patterns. This can be key as a manger. This can be with technology or behaviors. It is a skill that can really propel you as a manager and leader.


Underneath these fires and complaints are systems that are breaking down, failing, or don’t exist.


Coaching is always on-going. It never ends.


Mindful of conditions of change and if your client is ready. If we don’t identify where a client is in her learning, we can’t plan for and design the kinds of learning experiences that will help her meet her goals. Look at those you are coaching and determine how hard you want to push or encourage them as well as where you can help direct them. Thus, setting them up for success.


Small bites at a time. We all learn at different paces.


Set goals and how they will be used. They need to be measurable. SMART goals – this is in another post – look at it for more details.


Zone of proximal development – difference between what learner can do with help and what they can do without help.


Celebrate the plan, compile resources.


Deep listening so we can understand the whole of it.


Quiet listening to hear what is lurking below. This is much like the iceberg analogy. See iceberg post for additional details. But 85% of the iceberg is below the surface of the water, where you can’t see it. Become aware of what is below, that is the challenge but with the right skills you can discover it and find the root causes.


Watch body language. We know more of what we say is expressed via body language versus verbally. This is one reason one-on-ones are key or as in ITIL, observe directly.


Our feelings affect our actions and we need to attend to them.


Identify all the little positive behavioral changes and draw attention to them.


The role of the coach is to help the client figure out what he wants and needs to know and then how to phrase questions that will elicit that information.


Our brains are programmed to notice what’s not working. They are “like Teflon” to positive experiences and “like Velcro” to negative experiences.


Use metaphors and stories. Both very powerful tools. One of the things you can do is find stories you like as well as write down your own. This will help others relate to what you are saying and that emotional connection is what will make them understand and remember what is being said.


Ask permission before giving advice. So key. Change will only happen if they want to change.


These are just nuggets or seeds to wet your appetite. Read the book. You won’t be disappointed.


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