Today’s post and 5 Min Fri video has been inspired by conversations that I’m having with my The Coach participants and my Private Mentoring clients, and a recent conversation that I had with Jennifer Abrams, the author of Hard Conversations, which is coming to #coachbetter season three. So keep your eyes peeled for that episode.
This topic about finding your voice as an instructional coach is really interesting to me because everyone is unique and no two coaching conversations are identical, even if they’re with the same coach. We build on this concept of finding your voice as a coach inside The Coach, and it’s about finding that comfort level and that confidence in your own way of doing things and the way that works for your colleagues in your coaching practice. As you’re finding your voice, you need to move from that level of unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence, which is what we’re talking about here today.
3 Strategies to Help YOU Find YOUR Voice as a Coach
I’ve got three strategies to help you find your voice as an instructional coach. I’d really like to hear how you apply and use these strategies. So please leave a comment down below or connect with us in our Facebook group or on social media to let us know how you’re using these strategies.
1:: Find some inspiration!
As cheesy as it might sound, I think one of the best ways you can be inspired is to actually be coached, to feel and hear and experience what it’s like to work with a competent coach who knows how to ask the right questions at the right time. Of course, I’m telling you that because I, myself am a coach and I offer private mentoring through Eduro Learning and as part of The Coach, but you don’t have to work with me. The idea of being coached will open you up to finding that inspiration in the way that another coach works.
Within that realm of finding inspiration, you can watch coaching conversations, you can record and share among your colleagues at your school, your division, your district, and debrief. What were things that you loved about the way the coach said this? Or how did you know a coachee responded to a specific question or prompt? Be inspired by seeing actual coaching conversations in action.
Along these lines, a very practical (and simple strategy) to get inspired is to find some sample coaching questions to intentionally work on and practice. We’ve got sample coaching questions inside The Coach, and I always give them to my private mentoring clients. One of my favorite stories is one of my private mentoring clients actually printed out the whole list, laminated it, and highlighted the questions she feels really confident with in green, the ones she’s working on in yellow, and ones she still has room to grow into in pink. She’s bringing those laminated cards to her coaching conversations to try to remember, this is the question I want to try to pull in to this actual conversation.
2:: Target a New Skill & Set a Goal
Write down and set a formal goal. You can decide for yourself that:
- by the end of two months, I want to feel really confident asking this type of question, or
- by the end of six months, I want to be able to transition seamlessly between the roles of consultant collaborator and coach in my coaching sessions, or
- by the end of eight months, I want to be able to reach this particular teacher who doesn’t seem to be ready for coaching yet, but I want to really try all of these strategies and see if I can build that relationship.
This is also a part of The Coach! We have you set a personal goal and then you work with your mentor to achieve that goal throughout the program. Having some kind of accountability to reach your goal is also really valuable.
Once you’ve set your goal, you can actually plan for it. You can note and label in your coaching meetings when you’re going to use specific skills and strategies that you’re working on to build that capacity of your own unique voice so that you are intentionally practicing these new skills in your coaching conversations. If you keep agendas, you can also note down in that agenda, what your coachee said, so you have both your question and the response there.
I also have a great story about this from Karlene Hamley, who was featured in our Women Who Lead interviews, who talks about keeping coaching questions on her desk all the time, because she knows she’s going to have all these different types of conversations and she wants to have lots of different ideas for the ways that she can inspire reflection and conversation with her colleagues. This is something successful leaders, novice coaches, and experienced coaches all do!
3:: .Purposefully Reflect
You can do that by recording your coaching conversations. If you’re in a situation where you’re coaching virtually, it’s super easy to record those conversations on zoom or whatever software you use, you might even have a colleague come and observe your conversation. Or if you’re in a face-to-face setting, you can record just the audio with your phone or even the video, if you’re so inspired. And then after that conversation, you might also want to take notes to write down what you asked and how you felt it went in the moment to take a moment to reflect on what you might do differently next time.
I know I’ve been in tons of coaching conversations where I’ve asked one question and maybe it didn’t go quite the way I watch it. So I asked a different question and maybe that helped a little bit, but then I refined my question. And by the end I had this like perfect question, but it took me a couple of tries. So when I write down my reflections, I know that if I’m trying to take the conversation in this place, this is the kind of question that works really well.
You might also consider getting feedback from your coachee. I know that I’ve done a video for our 5 Min Fri series about one question that will transform your coaching practice. Asking that kind of simple question, “what was the most valuable part of our session today?” is a really great way to see what worked for your coachee and maybe what didn’t have as big of an impact.
If you have such a great relationship with your coachee, you can even ask them specific feedback about certain questions, like:
- How did you feel when I asked you this?
- What did it make you think when I asked you this?
- Did you notice anything about the way I was asking questions today?
Take any kind of opportunity that you have to reflect on the conversation and document that.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Now that you know these three strategies, you can begin to repeat them things as a habit, until you’re ready to pick a new goal until you feel like you’ve achieved this thing and you’re ready to try something new.
If you decide to give them a try, please let us know, share in the comments here, or send us a DM on any of our social media channels or share in our #coachbetter Facebook group. I’d love to hear how these work for you and where you’re at in finding your voice as an instructional coach.
Watch the 5 Min Fri video!
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