How do you work with your school leaders, as a coach?

Do you find that you and your building administrator are not always in alignment about your coaching role?

This is a hot topic inside The Coach Certificate and Mentorship Program – and with my private mentoring clients, so I’m sharing some of my top tips here!

Often coaches are hired for the coaching role, with a lack of understanding about what coaching is.

The question then becomes, how do you build this understanding with someone who is your superior and possibly your supervisor?

It’s not easy to walk that fine line of essentially telling your boss what to do, but you can do it!

I’m including 5 ideas for you in this post, and they kind of go in a process, but it might be that you can skip around and choose one that feels right for you. I’ve ordered them in the way that I would do them, and the way that I would work with my coaches to move this conversation forward, but you don’t have to do them in that order.

1: Identify Their Vision for Coaching

Start by uncovering and understanding what they believe coaching is – and is not. Once you have a clearer picture of their vision, you can identify where you agree and where you disagree, and that’s where you can start the coaching. So you might find that you have a lot of agreement, but in one area there’s something that maybe you don’t see eye to eye on – often that’s about evaluation. Then that’s the area you would want to start working on with that school leader.

If you are being really strategic, you might also want to do the same thing with all of the school leaders in your either division or your district, or however big you need to get, because sometimes the pressure to have coaching be different than maybe the way you see it is not from your immediate school leader, but it’s from someone above them. Having a real understanding of what the vision of coaching is at the leadership level to me is a really foundational part of coaching and working with your direct school leader.

2: Ask About Their Goals for the Year

Once you have an understanding about where you can continue to grow with that school leader, next you might want to ask them about their goals for the school for the year: for specific teams, for the whole division, and for themselves. This allows you to make their goals something that you focus on as well. Plus, you can strategically connect all of the coaching you’re doing to their specific goal, highlighting how it supports your vision of coaching.

Every time there’s an opportunity to overlap their goal with your goal, you’re helping them move forward and your moving forward as well. You can also make sure to point out where coaching is supporting them in reaching their goals, whether it’s with them as an individual or with a team or with the whole school or with another individual. Making sure you bring up how coaching is moving, their goals forward will help them better understand the value of coaching, both in your context and for their specific purpose.

Find YOUR Unique Voice as a Coach!

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We know that coaching conversations are an art. Finding just the right questions, just the right tone, and just the right phrases for YOU as an instructional coach, that work just right with your coachees, is a special skill. When we hear highly experienced coaches having a coaching conversation, their conversational choices seem so natural and easy. That’s because they have found their voice as a coach! Are you ready to find yours?

Join Kim for a free workshop, available right now, to learn the concrete strategies that I use with my private mentoring clients and inside The Coach Certificate and Mentorship program! Bonus: it’s pre-recorded, so you don’t have to wait to watch – and you can pause & replay whenever you need it! Are you ready to feel just as natural and confident in your coaching conversations as your coaching idols? Check out the Finding Your Voice as an Instructional Coach workshop at  to get started!

3: Uncover Their Personal Goals

If you’re really lucky, their personal goal will overlap with something you can really support them with. I was a tech coach for quite a while, so this usually worked really well for me because often a school leader’s personal goal might be about communicating well through visuals, using technology, or better connecting with people at a distance. Those kinds of opportunities for me to work with the school leader to help them reach their goal was always a good way for me to build that relationship. If you can include time in your meetings with your school leader to teach your school leader about their personal goal, you can actually be coaching them and demonstrating through your work as a coach with them how powerful coaching is. All of the school leaders that I speak with on the #coachbetter podcast that truly understand and advocate for coaching have been coached themselves – it’s an essential part of the process.

Another way you can work with a school leader to help them understand kind of your vision for coaching is to share just the right resources. One of my favorites to share is Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach For Coaches and School Leaders. This book clearly defines the coach’s role and the principal’s role by being authored by both a coach and a principal.

4: Share Successes

As you work with their colleagues and other teachers, make sure to share those successes with your school leader, so they see what great things are happening from coaching. As much as you can, make sure you’re sharing success from both from your point of view, as a coach, and also to have those colleagues share those successes with that school leader as well, if you feel comfortable asking them to share.

5: Set a Goal

Set a goal with your school leader, where you are in agreement with what you want the outcome to be. Ideally this will be a goal that you can work on together, track your results, and then reevaluate both of your visions and understandings of coaching. While you’re doing this, make sure to continually ask for feedback from your school leader so that you have a good idea of whether or not you’re staying on pace with what their vision for coaching is and where you’re trying to take them.

Overall, this is a step-by-step process you can follow to build a quality relationship with your school leader, focused on their understanding of what coaching is and strategically providing opportunities to come to a place of shared understanding and agreement of where you actually want to be in terms of coaching at your school.

If you have any more questions about how to work with school leaders or any other strategies that have worked for you, please leave them in the comments below, share them with us on social media or join our #coachbetter Facebook group and talk about them there because I love to strategize different ways to help support coaches in working with their school leaders.

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Level Up Your Coaching with The Coach!

Are you curious to dig deeper into the different ways that coaches work with teachers and teams, and how you can make a bigger impact in your school community?

Please join us for our next cohort of The Coach!

Wherever you are in building a coaching culture in your school, The Coach will give you the strategies, skills and tools you need to make coaching a success and will empower you to confidently apply instructional coaching strategies in any situation – from building a coaching program, to having coaching conversations, to being a leader in your school community.

We facilitate only one cohort each academic year so we can offer individualized support for each participant.

Registration for our next global cohort opens on the 21st February and closes on the 14th of March.  Find out more at

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