In response to the post, “Brezina Coaches,” a reader writes:
“It is hard to grow in any capacity without coaching. We all grow as leaders by reading this blog, but our organizations need more than this blog, they need personal coaches. This is where Lead Your School comes in. Lead Your School can provide the honest coaching your organization needs to grow. And no, I am not an employee. I am a real leader in a real school.
SC hits on another point. Coaching and teaching often points out inadequacies. This is not always a comfortable process. I have received some real honest feedback from E. Don Brown that was not comfortable to receive at the time, but I am a better leader now than I was even just 6 months ago.
SC is a better leader now, I have seen him grow. But I bet you some of the coaching he has received from Brown and Brezina has not always felt good. The point is we all need coaches, even our organizations, just to make sure we face our inadequacies. Even though it is not fun.”
I believe that exceptional performers search for answers both internally and externally. If you are not reflective, your ability to improve will be greatly limited. And if you don’t have an objective person, that you trust, standing in your blind spot, your ability to improve will be greatly limited.
As the writer points out, every coaching interaction is not a “feel good” situation. This is becuase an effective coaching relationship requires a great deal honesty and significant give and take. As such I believe that there are two critical elements in selecting a coach.
1 – The coach should not be your supervisor. A truly honest coaching dialogue requires the sharing of questions and weaknesses. Your supervisor may mentor and support you, but providing him or her with a running list of your inadequacies is rarely a good career move. I am a product of external coaching. If not for Wayne Schaper and Harlan Yetter, I may not have survived my first year as a principal. Instead, my first year was so successful that it fast tracked me for promotions (not my goal, but a nice fringe benefit). In fact, I believe you should have the ability to fire your coach. If your coach isn’t making you more effective, get another one that does. Just try firing your boss.
2 – Select a coach that you trust and has experiences that will be beneficial to you. If you don’t trust your coach, then why are you wasting your time? And beware of the coach that has little practical experience. I once had “coach” from a service center come to advise me on a personnel issue. The advice seemed good and then I asked an innocent, yet crucial question. I said, “How did this work for you on your campus?” The response was, “Oh, I was never a principal.” After she left, I called Harlan Yetter. His advice was similar, but his actual prior leadership experience gave me the confidence to act.
If you are a supervisor, either provide an external coach for your key people, or give them the budget to get their own. When Brezina promoted me, I realized that much of my success was the result of the coaching I received. As such, one of the first things I did was hire Wayne Schaper to coach my principals as he coached me. There were just three rules. 1 – He would meet with each of my principals at least once a month. 2 – The content of those meetings would be confidential between him and the principal. 3 – A principal could replace Wayne with a coach of their choosing. Wayne never shared one conversation with me and not one principal replaced him.
I often sum up the power of a coach this way, “You can fool your mama, you can buffalo your boss, but you can’t B.S. your coach.” Dr. Mike Laird sums it up this way, “Your boss provides directives; your coach provides suggestions.”
Think. Work. Achieve.