In this #coachbetter episode, Kim talks with an amazing panel of authors and women leaders including Joellen Killion (who connected me with all of these amazing women), Cindy Harrison, Chris Bryan, Heather Clifton, and Lynn Simmons! Not only did all of these women work together as coaches in a school district in Colorado, but they are also co-authors of some of the most influential works about instructional coaching and leadership you will find, including: Coaching Matters and Taking the Lead.

This episode is a peek inside the Women Who Lead Certificate program. We get to hear from each of these amazing women about their journey to leadership, how they support each other as a circle of women, the unique challenges women face in pursuing a leadership pathway, and the essential skills that women need to be successful in a leadership role. If you are on a leadership journey, this conversation about mentorship, growth, and support among a team of absolutely amazing women will be an inspiration & and guide for the next step in your journey.

We’re so excited to be sharing this episode now, because the Women Who Lead Certificate Program is open for registration right now!

Don’t miss your chance to join our next global cohort!

Women Who Lead is an 8-module online Certificate Program designed for aspiring and growing leaders, featuring the voices and experience of over 70 successful female leaders from around the world. Women Who Lead will empower you to articulate your leadership potential so that you can overcome the many challenges faced by women seeking leadership positions in the field of education. Registration for our next global cohort opens on May 2nd and closes on the 16th of May. Find out more at today!

Subscribe to #coachbetter via your favorite Podcast Player!

Bonus! Watch the Spotlight Version on YouTube!

Show Notes

Please tell us a little bit about how you found each other? How did this circle form? What binds you together now?

Began working together in a district in Colorado. Joellen and I started that team of working together, Chris, Lynn & Heather joined later. All working together in a PL department started co-creating. We problem solved, co-created, operated as equals. Produced an amazing amount of work. Always felt that people were at my back. Never operated as individuals. We laughed a lot. Admin thought we were having way too much fun. Trust, relational value. 

We challenged each other. That’s the thing I valued the most. Doing things well, being better than how we did it before: Heather

Joellen: We commit to time together. The Commitment comes because we find the joy and confidence in connecting with each other.

What have each of your leadership journeys looked like? How did you get to where you are today?

Heather: started in the classroom, assistant principal, offered a job to work in a very small school as a Principal, turned it down, the Supt said “I might never have another opportunity for a Principalship”, ended up taking over another school, the beginning of my leadership journey. I took a risk to do something and I had the confidence that I made the right decision. Looked for support from the women I worked with. Principal for 8 years, left for 3 years, went back to work with District 12, consulting with them ever since. In every case, I feel like I’ve had the support from this group of women, it’s the journey that allowed me to stretch myself and believe in myself. I don’t think I had the skills I needed to do all those things, but I took a chance and believed in myself because they believed in me.

Joellen: Started as a teacher. First leadership role was in a large HS with Cindy, learning the art of clinical supervision. My colleagues were quite critical of me, took a lot of risk. Then found myself in a role where I was critical. My boss said, if you think you can do it better, the job is yours. I took a risk to say what I thought, recognize that my hopes were different than others, and that I believed in  my capacity to make some changes.

Chris: Started as special ed, public ed, worked up to district mentor, hosted lots of student teachers, gave me the confidence to lead in a different way. Started working with a partnership program, employed half time by university and school district. Cindy pulled me back to staff development

Cindy: Started by starting my own alternative middle school, did that for 3 years. Joined the Peace Core, primary school curriculum. One of the qualifications for the job in District 12 was “can deal with conflict” and I knew I could do that from my Peace Corps experience. In that job for 25 years

Lynn: Never considered myself leadership, I was in special ed, and always had a good relationship with principals, teachers would ask me to liaise between principals and teachers. Joined staff development because Cindy believed in me. I didn’t have the direct experience, but I did through this group.

How do you support each other? What’s different about this environment than (perhaps) your “typical” mentorship or even friendship?

Chris: At the end of the year, we had an evaluation in Cindy’s backyard, but it always started with what we did well. It was fun, but our work was serious. We started planning for the next year. It wasn’t a job where you just showed up and started working, you had to go through an initiation, usually in Cindy’s backyard, had to come up with a silly skit and introduce yourself to the team. We take ourselves lightly, but we take our work seriously. There’s no competition, we succeed when all of us succeed.

Lynn: We have rituals. People first, task second. Oriented to the culture.

Joellen: Culture is shared; lynn is the decorator and she would come up with the theme, a little bit of improv; cooks and dishwashers, organizers, facilitators, timekeepers. Everyone had a role, and it was always rotating, we could be together, see what was needed and step in to it, without status, without an ego.

Chris: we saw the brilliance in each other, before we saw it in ourselves. You know you can do it.

Heather: We pushed each other. Talking to Lynn about a challenge, and she would ask: “Well, what do you think you should do about that?” When I said I don’t know, she said: “What if you did know?” The belief in each other, before we believed in ourselves.

Cindy: I don’t feel like I have to operate as an individual. I have a group of colleagues, who I trust implicitly who can do better thinking than I can do individually. I’m never isolated

What has being part of this circle empowered you to do / risk / achieve? Why did this group make a difference? 

Joellen: People would say: “we can’t do that, we can’t write”. We believed in our capacity, and we’d be willing to take on things that seemed nearly impossible to do. The willingness to recognize what seemed really difficult and because we had each other as a support system, it gave us the courage to move ahead.

Do you wish you could make a bigger impact in your school setting? Is this the year you commit to your own leadership potential? Or will it be another year you’ll spend saying you’re not ready “yet”?

As an experienced educator, you are likely demonstrating leadership skills every day, by building quality relationships, or managing teams, or having coaching conversations. But if you find it hard to recognize your own leadership capacity, you might be experiencing feelings commonly referred to as “imposter syndrome.” 

Many educators, especially women, allow these feelings to keep them from taking the next step in their career. If that sounds like you: stop letting negative self-talk hold you back!

Learn how to crush your imposter syndrome before it gets to you with our new FREE Workshop: Seeing Yourself as a Leader: Overcoming the 5 Common Myths Holding Women Back, available right now! 

Inside the workshop, you’ll get a sneak peek into some of the rich conversations inside Women Who Lead, and hear from very successful leaders who still struggle with imposter syndrome – as well as how they’ve learned to handle it. If you can, pause this podcast episode right now and head over to to register – the workshop is only available for a limited time! But, because I know how busy you are: it’s pre-recorded, so you can watch anytime once you register, and then pause or replay whenever you’re ready. 

Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back this year! Access the workshop now at

Show Notes continued…

When you think about women pursuing a leadership pathway, what unique challenges do you see them facing? Which of those challenges have you faced? Would you be able to share a story with us?

Chris: We are what gets in the way of ourselves. The biggest thing that women struggle with is their self confidence and imposter syndrome. Need someone to shift thinking into what you’re capable of.

Joellen: We doubt ourselves. In this circle it’s pretty impossible to doubt yourself. The confidence we have because we have each other to turn to, when we’re struggling, when were unclear, we don’t have to go through those long periods of doubting our ability, we just start a conversation and we have the wealth of each other, so we don’t get mired in that very often, that’s a gift.

Lynn: Finding someone who’s got your back. Friend, teacher, anyone. Go to that person who’s got your back and ask. Someone who will bounce back and forth. 

For women seeking this kind of support, how do you recommend they start if it’s not happening organically?

Cindy: ask people to be your circle of people. Can do it one by one or as a group. Just by the fact of asking to be part of the group. If you don’t have it, you have to ask for it.

Joellen: Forming a board of directors / advisors, real mix of people. She would invite them to come together for a board meeting periodically. When she brought them together, she would ask them to ask her questions. People that she invited to her board, wanted to know how to start their own. Just have to invite them in. Sometimes we take relationships for granted, we don’t always seek out and make space for them.

Lynn: Join groups, so you don’t get locked into group think. The more different groups, the more perspectives.

Chris: We talk about who their allies are. Who can help you think through some of these things.

Cindy: we’ve all been coached. Part of learning about yourself is getting someone to coach you.

Heather: most people would be honored

What skills do you think women pursuing a leadership pathway need to develop now? What’s most urgent?

Heather: Because women have the responsibilities of juggling lots of other aspects, they often have multiple things that are commanding their attention all of the time. There has to be a way for women who are going to be successful to gain the perspective about the fact that life is more than just accomplishing the work that you’re aspiring to. You also have to balance your life, create norms for understanding and forgiveness. You have to forgive yourself when you can’t meet a responsibility. You have to not be so hard on yourself. We all want to do well, but the reality is there’s a lot of complexity in the world right now. You have to gain that perspective.

Book: Leadership on the Line – Balcony vs Dance Floor (The Practice of Adaptive Leadership)

You have to be able to develop relationships, building relational trust, and making connections with people and not trying to take it all on yourself.

Chris: Coaches often feel like they have to have all the answers and they have to give advice and share what they know. It’s a process of practice and awareness that no one cares what you know until you have a relationship with them. You can be challenging people while you’re building a relationship.

Cindy: embrace diversity. You have to ask people with different perspectives to come to that table with you. Be deliberate.

Lynn: Seek first to understand and then to be understood, that’s what builds the trust and the caring. If the relationship isn’t there, it doesn’t matter. My secret is that I ask questions, even if i didn’t have the answer. Everyone has their own best answer, even if they haven’t gotten to it yet.

Joellen: Letting go. Letting go of the “shoulds” the “musts”. We are our own worst enemies, we put unreasonable expectations and parameters on ourselves.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out on your leadership journey?

Joellen: I wish someone would have said to me, go find community that believes in you, that can help you succeed because they believe in you more than you believe in yourself.

Chris: Remember to have fun. BOOK: Feed the teachers or they’ll eat the children. Our work is so serious and important tha twe forget to have fun.

Lynn: What is a leader? Push pull and hold hand as you go together.

Cindy: Have some empathy. Understand where other people are coming from.

Heather: Hold true to your own values. If you do what in your heart you know is the right thing to do, you’re probably going to be ok.

Level Up Your Leadership With Women Who Lead

As coaches, we are so fortunate to have so many opportunities to demonstrate “little L” leadership. If you’re feeling like now is the time for you to jump into a formal leadership position. Women Who Lead is the program for you! Women Who Lead is an an online certificate program designed for growing and aspiring leaders, featuring the voices and experiences of over 70 successful female leaders from around the world.

Women Who Lead will empower you to articulate your leadership potential so you can overcome the many challenges faced by women seeking leadership positions in the field of education.

Registration is open May 2 – 15, 2022

Cohort runs from July 4 to September 25, 2022.

We facilitate only one global cohort each year, so we can create connected, collaborative, and community-driven global cohorts. Now is your chance to level up your leadership and reach for your dream job!

Find out more here: