Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why Successful People Are Open to Coaching


My friend David Geurin recently wrote a post titled, 5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address. I left a comment on his blog that one way to overcome blind spots is through coaching. That conversation led to the idea of writing this collaborative blog post.

There are lots of ways we can become more aware of our blind spots. Usually, it happens when we have some input (reading, discussing, observing, etc.) and then reflect on that information. But one type of input that is probably underutilized is coaching. We all need to be open to coaching.

Coaching is a good strategy for revealing blind spots while also building on strengths. How do we open ourselves up to embrace coaching as a way to grow both professionally and personally? 

Blind spots represent gaps between what we think is true and what is really true, and uncovering blind spots is an important part of one’s personal and professional growth. Blind spots may be certain behaviors, traits, habits, or thoughts that are observable to others but not immediately evident to us. To reduce blind spots we must be open to acknowledging what the other person sees and be willing to reflect on different perspectives. When we recognize a blind spot exists, we can work on changing, reducing, or eliminating them. 

We all have blind spots. There are things we do not immediately recognize in our own patterns and behaviors that are plainly evident to others. It’s almost always easier to see how others could improve than to see areas in ourselves that we might improve. For the most part, you know far less about yourself than you feel you do.

Here are a few ideas for developing an openness to coaching and receiving feedback.

Coaching involves building trusting relationships.

Unless there is trusting relationship, it is impossible to have an effective coaching relationship. We can’t act with good faith on feedback from a person we don’t fully trust. But if we sincerely believe a person wants the best for us, we should always openly consider the feedback they provide. Why would we ever be closed to someone who genuinely wants good things for us? It doesn’t mean we automatically have to agree with their perspective, but we need to listen carefully. This person has my best interest in mind. They want me to do well. Why wouldn’t I listen to their feedback?

Good coaching involves listening, not judging.

Feeling judged makes the defenses go up. But feeling heard creates safety. Listening is one of the best tools a coach can use. It’s not a situation where one person is the expert fixing someone else’s problem. Even if it might seem obvious someone has a blindspot, it is ultimately their responsibility to own that. In a coaching conversation, the goal is shared meaning and solutions that arrive as a result of both parties contributions to the discussion. Listening opens doors to new ways of thinking and makes room for others to reflect on their own thinking.

Accepting coaching means facing, and even embracing, failure.   

Most people see failure as a threat. We’ve learned failure is bad, and we want to avoid it. We want everyone to think we are successful all the time. But if we reframe failure, and think of it as an important part of how we learn, then we can translate our failures into even greater successes. Each time we fail, we can feel defeated and afraid. Or, we can look for the possibilities for growth in the situation. Some of our greatest opportunities are disguised as failures. Productive failure leads to personal and professional growth. We just need to see clearly. We need to overcome our blind spots.

Identifying blind spots requires seeking evidence that might be critical.

In we truly want to grow, we have to seek evidence of things we might be doing that aren’t working. Sometimes we might not want to look too carefully at something because we might find something we don’t like. But that type of thinking will always hinder our performance. John Hattie urges educators to “know thy impact.” Seek evidence to understand what’s working and what’s not. Hattie focuses on collecting evidence regarding one’s impact on student learning. Coaching can help us reflect on and process what we are doing and how it is impacting student learning. When we better understand what’s working and what’s not, we can focus our energies on highlighting the strengths and mitigating the weaknesses. 

A coachable person views criticism with curiosity.

Curiosity leads to  discovery and experimentation. A curious person will listen to criticism and feedback with an open mind and a willingness to continue learning. Curiosity is the engine that keeps us searching until we understand something or trying until we can do something. The inclination to explore new ideas, even ones that contradict current beliefs, help to close the gap between what we think is true and what is really true. 

Asking for feedback makes it more powerful.

Unwelcome feedback usually falls on deaf ears. Unless there is a high level of trust and a desire to hear a different perspective, it is usually a waste to offer feedback. We need to create a culture where it is normal and routine to have honest conversations about performance. Leaders need to model this. They need to ask for feedback too. When leaders demonstrate consistent comfort with examining their own areas for growth, others will feel more comfortable doing this too.

Effective coaching leads to positive change.

Learning is messy. As adults, we are in control of a lot of things. We decide what we’re having for dinner, how our classroom will run, where we will vacation, what time to leave the house, and so many more little and big decisions. Learning is messy. The process is never linear. Learning and trying something new goes against our habits of creating control in life situations. Especially when we know that we will be accountable for the learning and will get feedback throughout the messy process. But ultimately, coaching can lead to clarity, confidence, and growth.

What happens when we don’t open ourselves to receive coaching?



2 comments:

  1. Jennifer and David,
    Thanks for sharing and thanks also for modeling a collaborative post. I will have to try that in the future (If I can talk someone into collaborating with me:) I think of how the current evaluation system is right now (at least in Michigan) and I would love to scrap it and replace it with true coaching relationships like you described in your post. What a positive shift that would be!! In the meantime, we can all be open to coaching and work at coaching others as well.

    Jon

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