In this #coachbetter episode, Kim talks with Lesley Tait, Head of School, Lincoln Community School, Ghana.

If you’ve been listening to the podcast this year, you know that Christina Botbyl and Kim Cofino recently published their first book together, Finding Your Path as a Woman in School Leadership. Earlier this year, they hosted a podcast launch party to announce the book (Listen to Episode 226) 

This episode is a perfect follow up to that conversation, because Leslie is an experienced senior leader and she highlights many of the common experiences that women face on their path to leadership (highlighted in the Women Who Lead interviews in our book).

On this call they about Leslie’s path to leadership, how (and why) the path to leadership is often different for women than for men, what schools can do to recognize aspiring and growing leaders, and how they can use coaching to support the development of more women leaders in their school community.

This episode is a perfect blend of coaching and leadership – if you’re curious about the ways that coaching can grow leaders – and what to expect on the pathway to leadership (as a woman) this episode is for you!

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Please tell us about your journey in education, how did you get to where you are today?

My background is in the public system in New Zealand. Teacher, Primary, then Middle School at a reasonably young age, became a school principal, where I cut my teeth as far as having my first go at leadership. I was there for 8 years, then moved to a bigger school, became a middle leader for a while, and learned how bigger schools work. Applied for a Deputy Principal position in another big school, and had a fabulous mentor, who I adored and learned a lot. He retired and became the Principal in Auckland. My husband was also in education, some friends had gone international, we did our research and ended up as the ES Principal in Tunis, which was my intro into the international world, Director of Teaching & Learning.

In what ways is the pathway to leadership different for women (than for men)?

The pathways are sometimes different, that’s because of life in general: other competing factors, family and location. Women have to consider all those implications in their life when they make career decisions. 

It wasn’t a straightforward path. A lot of women follow the strength from the classroom. A good teacher can become a good leader. As a teacher you are a coach, as a leader you coach again. It’s an important part of leading. 

Good teaching is about relationship building and knowing your students and understanding where they’re at as learners, having good data and diagnostics and being reflective and thinking about what I’m going to do with this student to ensure their growth. For me leadership is about influencing others so they can be the best of who they are. It’s about building a trusting relationship. You can’t really influence another person if they don’t trust you. Then really knowing who they are and who they want to be and where growth needs to happen, helping them in those steps.

For aspiring leaders, now you have a team of teachers that you’re going to do the same thing with.

Feedback is so important, if you’re not open to feedback, and using that to help you improve (like you would with students), then there’s no growth. Leaders need to be open and vulnerable and prepared to reflect on feedback

Women tend to be people pleasers, we want to make people happy, so when we receive feedback, it becomes difficult. I needed to learn that this is just someone’s perception. Being able to manage that is an ongoing process.

What can schools do to recognize and support aspiring and growing women leaders?

All female bar one leadership team was not created by design, it’s grown over time. Staff feedback wonders if it’s a good thing.

Setting up systems and structures that will support aspiring leaders or people who want to grow in any way shape or form is about 

  • School Culture; when we learn we grow (part of school mission). When we learn we grow, we consider ourselves as well, it’s everybody is a learner and everybody is growing. 
  • Goal setting & Development: Each person having their own goals. We encourage our middle leaders to have a personal and professional leadership goal. 
  • Coaching: how can we as an organization support each other to grow. Instructional coaching would change that because it would be dedicating time and structure to what we believe in. Right now it’s very informal. Some school leaders are meeting with middle leaders weekly
  • Mentorship: I like to mentor someone outside the school, and I would like to consider how I can support someone inside the school 
  • Good communication from me is vital – the vision for everyone’s growth (book study for senior leadership & middle leaders), always assets based.
  • Mission, Vision, Values: connect back to that all the time. We’re doing this because this is the bit in our mission, this is how it aligns. Connect the practice back to the mission – and communicate consistently about this.

Being really clear about what you are and what you are not. 

Building trust through your consistent communication and then the actions you take to follow up and connect it to the rationale (vision, mission, values)

What’s YOUR level of coaching mastery?

All coaches go through various stages of coaching mastery. Once you identify where you’re at, you can begin to build the skills needed to move to the next stage.

This quiz is based on real-life case studies compiled from years of working with coaches inside The Coach Certificate & Mentorship Program!

When you receive your results, you’ll also get your matching case study from the STRIVE Case Studies to see where you fit in the stages of coaching mastery.

Ready to tackle your challenges and move on to the next level in YOUR coaching practice?

The STRIVE Model of Coaching Mastery quiz will help you identify your level of coaching mastery by matching you with case studies compiled from years of working with coaches inside The Coach Certificate & Mentorship Program so you can easily see where you fit!

You’ll go straight to the Quiz, and get the Case Study Document via email.

Show Notes continued…

Please tell us about finding your voice as a leader, what was that like for you? How can others who are in informal leadership roles now find their voice?

Use the language of leadership. Everyone is a leader, everyone is leading themselves and leading their own life, and wanting to be a successful person in life. Take away the concept of “I’ll only be a leader when I get the job” is important.

There are so many opportunities for leadership – at all different stages. 

Noticing that there is leadership happening at all different stages & celebrating it. Shoutouts for various people who have stepped up or stepped out, recognition at all levels of the school (at meetings, in written form). 

The best advice I ever got was “be where the work is”. Classrooms, playgrounds, sports events, events. Your mere presence and your noticing is really going to support that culture. You have to know what’s happening and notice those examples and celebrate them. Wherever possible we encourage people to be observers of things that are going on. Senior leadership team observes board meetings, when people are away, others become acting principals. 

AAIE, AISH: many other leaders (and aspiring leaders) who attend those meetings

How can schools use the power of coaching to support aspiring and growing leaders?

The skills that teachers have in the classroom & how that can transfer on to become leadership skills. Being coached as a teacher is so powerful. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, change in education is so hard, but I’ve seen that work at the classroom level. I would love to see that taken over to people focused coaching for leaders. How can someone support my work in the people orientated business.

People focused coaching for leaders means: Leaders having specific goals around how they work with their people – what are they doing, why are they doing it, how will they know if they’ve been successful. Having a coach on the side giving them data / feedback or honing in on one particular strategy that may change things. Seeing leadership work in the same way that we see teaching work. Elevating it to the same importance as instructional coaching.

If you’re a school with outstanding leadership across the board, things are going to change, just as if you’re in a school with outstanding teaching across the board, things are going to change.

What might be some considerations for international schools seeking to build a coaching culture?

Do those leadership positions have to be what they’ve always been? Where are we heading, and this is our identity as a school, this is who we want to be, will traditional leadership structures get us there?

What works and then make change – instead of thinking I need to make this much money before

Ready to Learn More about Building a Coaching Culture?

If you’re ready to dig deeper into what makes instructional coaching successful – or if you’re new to instructional coaching and you’re curious about getting started, join us for one of our courses for coaches!

To learn more about these options, we have three FREE workshops to share with you today.

For New or Aspiring Coaches

If you’re just getting started as a coach, and you want to be successful in your early years, watch our New to Coaching Workshop, which highlights the key mindset and skill set shifts you’ll need when moving from the classroom to a coaching role. The workshop will also tell you all about our online course, Getting Started as a Coach. This course is specifically designed for classroom teachers who are moving into a coaching role so you’re prepared for the transition. It’s focused on exactly the skillset & mindset shifts you need to so you can be successful in your first years as an instructional coach. 

For Experienced Coaches

If you’re already a coach & you want to think about being more intentional & strategic in your practice, watch our workshop on the Thrive Model for Coaching Success which will help you evaluate your program and your practice to see where you may have room to grow. You’ll walk away with a clear picture of exactly what you need to focus on to build a thriving coaching culture – and help you decide if our year-long mentorship and certification program, The Coach, is right for you, right now. This program is designed for current coaches who are focused on building a coaching culture through intentional and strategic coaching work at all levels – with teachers and school leaders.

For Coaches Ready to Lead

For experienced coaches ready to look at the bigger picture of the school to see what might be supporting or hindering the sustainability of the coaching program, and you want to make sure your school has all of the systems and structures in place, watch our workshop: Scaling Your Impact as an Instructional Coach. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of what’s needed to make coaching sustainable for you as an individual coach and for your school. When you’re ready to put that learning into action, join us in our online course for coaches ready to lead: Coaches as Leaders and put it all into practice – with support from Kim and our global cohort! This course is designed for experienced coaches, ready to lead.

You can find all the workshops on our coachbetter website at

Wherever you are in your coaching journey, we can support you!

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