Coaching tomorrow’s education leaders

By: | December 22, 2014

At the core of powerful coaching relationships is the most important quality of effective performance and interactions: High emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ. To increase one’s EQ, coaching needs to focus on four domains: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

As leaders, we seldom get the training we really need on how to coach employees, let alone coach them effectively. Much of our own learning comes from job experiences, errors and all.

Some of us have been fortunate to have coaches who were great role models. We sometimes translate our interactions with them into interactions with our own colleagues. That coaching shaped our interactions with colleagues, conversations with subordinates, observations in and out of classrooms, personal reflections, and improvement of practice.

At the core of powerful coaching relationships is the most important quality of effective performance and interactions: High emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ. Emotional IQ is not static and can be influenced by effective coaching relationships. To increase one’s EQ, coaching needs to focus on four domains: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

Self-awareness

Coaching a leader to become self-aware can be a valuable journey for both. In this approach to coaching, the coachee learns to be aware of his or her preferences, states and intuitions.

A key piece is learning the limits of one’s emotions and the effect on leadership. A leader who is stoic during emotionally charged times can be a turn-off and seen as lacking care or compassion. Likewise, being regularly emotional, overly sensitive, and exhibiting strong emotions that overpower situations can affect a leader’s credibility and stability.

Another part of self-awareness is self-confidence, and coaching for confidence can be a challenge. Leaders often need to be reminded to trust their instincts and to show greater confidence. Confidence begets confidence throughout the organization. Staying in close contact and sincerely praising successes will help to build the self-awareness skills that are so necessary to lead organizations, particularly in times of change.

Social awareness

In social awareness, we reflect upon how we handle relationships, including empathy and awareness of the feelings, concerns and needs of others. A coach working with a leader in the area of social awareness begins with a focus on understanding others, including discussions and role-playing.

Asking questions like these is a good start: What is the teacher thinking? Where is the parent coming from? Is it a place of anger, fear or joy?

Coaching for social awareness can be invaluable for a coachee, especially if that person is leading a large or somewhat dysfunctional team. Sensing the needs of others, encouraging the abilities of others, and even cultivating the opportunities of diverse groups are all important leadership skills in our schools and a great way to build EQ.

Self-management

Getting leaders to manage their internal state and impulses is one of the most challenging approaches to broadening EQ. Self-management includes skills such as conscientiousness, trustworthiness and adaptability. Leaders must find the natural balance between sharing too much with their staff and sharing so little that relationships fail with others.

A coach should work through checks and balances with the coachee to set standards around follow-through, honesty, integrity and flexibility in handling change. Sharing personal stories of lessons learned can go far in modeling what an effective leader does to handle a myriad of situations, adults and students.

Relationship management

Relationships are critical to building trust and moving an organization forward. A coach working on relationship factors needs to have a strong, cohesive and open foundation of communication with the coachee. EQ is strengthened when a leader listens openly, sends convincing messages and resolves disagreements. All these can build relationships, but can also tear them down if not managed with finesse and patience.

Effective leaders need a host of tools to help those they lead reach their full potential. By focusing on the four domains, the increase in EQ through specific coaching approaches can further enhance the leadership of a coachee.

Lisa Gonzales is superintendent of the Portola Valley School District and vice president of Legislative Action for the Association of California School Administrators. Charles Young is associate superintendent for the Palo Alto Unified School District.