April 30, 2020

Good vs Great Coaching

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


3 Big Ideas


  1. Great coaches understand the VUCA present and future. The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has abruptly reminded us how “VUCA” the future is, and will inevitably continue to be. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity — VUCA — are the realities of today, and as noted futurist and author Bob Johansen says, “It won’t be getting easier. Leaders must accept this reality.” He identifies 10 new(er) leadership/coaching skills (bio-empathy, immersive learning ability, and others) and notes those 10 enduring leadership/coaching skills (urgent patience, story-telling and listening, and others). Leadership Skills Needed in the Future Uncertain World by the Center for Creative Leadership is a wonderful starting place to dive into VUCA. “Leaders in the future will need to have Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. Johansen notes in Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded). The VUCA acronym can be turned around to a more positive framing of effective leadership:
    • Volatility leads to Vision.
    • Uncertainty yields to Understanding.
    • Complexity yields to Clarity.
    • Ambiguity yields to Agility.
  2. Great coaches add value. Here are four ways I learned at Accelerating Coaching Excellence (ACE) webinar led by David Perterson and David Goldsmith, April 2020:
    • They start fast and build efficiency. Great coaches build deep trust and connection quickly. They maximize time to work on the most critical, high value issues. Asking a simple, yet powerful question can start you off faster…try this. “What do you want to work on?” or “ What do you want to get better at?”
    • They go deep for impact. Great coaches find the clients most important, personally meaningful topics. They cultivate motivation and insight. They go where the real work needs to be done.
    • They end strong for lasting change and efficacy. Great coaches build and test a commitment to action. They embed reflection for continuous learning. Great coaches spend ⅓ of their coaching session here. Gone are the days when coaches took a session or two to get to know the client, and thanks to global technology, coaches can be found anywhere anytime. When giving advice, try giving three things to try leaving it up to the client and expanding their learning and options.
    • They focus on systemic organizational value and impact. Great coaches focus on making the leader and the organization more effective. They foster a development ecosystem where the whole team and its parts, including the leader, are learning. Learn more at Global Team Coaching Institute Recording – Global Team Coaching Institute.

      PowerPoint Collection on Reflective Questioning

      We are sharing with you an amazing “you-can-use-this-tomorrow” collection of PowerPoint slides on reflective questioning that will be handy for your own learning and use in workshop settings or one-on-one coaching sessions with colleagues. Developed by Just ASK Senior Consultant Brenda Kaylor, our resident coaching guru. (If you don’t believe me, just ask the educators in Kildeer Countryside School District 96 in Illinois or St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado!)

      Don’t miss the opportunity to check out this slide collection. For more information, if you can access a copy of Creating a Culture for Learning: Your Guide to PLCs and More, you will find that pages 56-68 provide powerful information about what we at Just ASK call The Three Cs which include coaching (with reflective questioning), collaborating, and consulting. 

  3. Great coaches were once novice, too, before they were good and then great. Novice coaches are learned with the rules and tools of coaching. They are focused on the right way to coach. Good (competent) coaches are effective with personal experiences, models and preferences and consider the question, “What do I think would be helpful?” Great (expert) coaches focus on the client and the context and consider what is best for this person by examining motivations and insights. What Great Coaching Looks Like by Harvard Business Review is a podcast that reminds us that we all need coaching.



“Average is over.”

– Thomas Friedman, NY Times, 2012.
Opinion | Average Is Over

“Everyone is a coach and everyone is a mentor.”

– Paula Rutherford

1 Question

How do you start fast and go deep for impact? 


About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.



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