Are you really leading if no one is following?
Brian Meyer is the keynote speaker at the conference Coaching to Sustain MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports).
Meyer is the co-director of the Midwest PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) Network, which works with state, local and community agencies throughout the Midwest. The network develops the capacity of schools to prevent problem behaviors, promote positive school cultures, and evaluate the impact on both social and academic success of all youth.
Here are some of Meyer’s thoughts:
What traits do good coaches share?
Coaches in an MTSS framework are first and foremost systems thinkers. They are able to analyze how the various components of the school work together, and anticipate how changes in processes for any individual component impact the larger system, and affect the objectives of the team. Secondly, they like people. There is a value-base to the work of school improvement, and it includes positively supporting adults and students through their learning processes. And finally, they have good team facilitation skills. Some examples we have emphasized include active listening, asking questions, and use of descriptive feedback.
Where do coaches commonly derail?
Oftentimes coaches are selected because of their passion for the work. That may be one of the best reasons to choose a coach for the role! And yet the work for school improvement is driven by distributed leadership in a teaming model. Coaches need to think of their role as the facilitator for the team, rather than as the person who will do all of the work on their own. If the initiative is perceived to be the passion project of just one or two individuals in the school, it will likely not sustain over time.
How do you know if you're a good coach?
Knowing whether you are a good coach is similar to knowing whether an intervention is effective in the school. Look at different sources of data to get feedback. Three kinds of data to triangulate are 1) fidelity data of the system and practices, 2) perception data from staff, students, and other stakeholders, and 3) outcome data. Perception data, or how stakeholders feel about effectiveness of efforts in the school, are particularly important. Establish baseline data, and then continue to monitor over time to look at trends and problem-solve through the teaming process.
Why is effective coaching so important?
Coaching and professional development is a cornerstone of MTSS. And yet too much of our traditional efforts in professional development have been focused on just providing content to staff, rather than coaching and supporting the implementation of the content. Joyce and Showers (2002) research highlights the essential role of coaching and feedback in order to move beyond just skill knowledge, and instead get to actual implementation of the targeted teacher practices.
What should leadership do when looking to promote someone to a coaching position?
Start by finding the right people. Focus on identifying individuals with the essential traits (see first question) for the coaching role. Avoid the trap of identifying a coach solely because they are "available." Then, provide the coach with their own professional development. Get them connected to coaching resources and networks, and allocate time for them to learn and think about the work. And finally, always have a back-up coach or partner. Coaching solo is a difficult task, and is a barrier to sustainability. Build capacity by always having at least two individuals share the coaching role.