October 9, 2020


Power(ful) Coaching, Part I

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. 


I was fortunate to recently be introduced to Marcia Reynolds through a coaching webinar series in which I participated. Part of the preparation work included reading Reynolds’ new book, Coach the Person Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry. A large part of the job of a (school) leader is to be a coach and reflective inquiry is a method that offers the person being coached (parent, teacher, principal, student) the skills to learn and grow. Reflective inquiry seems logical and natural to the teacher in me and the ideas I learned from Reynolds helped clarify my own coaching knowledge. Here are three big ideas as I work through her compelling work. I’ll dive deeper in future briefs.


3 Big Ideas


  1. Power(ful) coaches pair reflective statements with questions.
    Coaching should be a process of inquiry, not a series of questions. The intent of inquiry is not to find solutions but to provoke critical thinking. Inquiry helps the people being coached discover gaps in their logic, evaluate their beliefs, and clarify fears and desires affecting their choices. Solutions emerge when thoughts are rearranged and expanded. Asking questions with reflective statements makes coaching feel more natural and effortless, and you don’t have to worry about formulating the breakthrough question. For educators, reflective conversations, coaching, and questions are critical to the classroom. Here are 40 potential reflective questions from Edutopia to get you started.  Be sure to be authentic and natural and not use these questions as a “coaching checklist.”
  2. Power(ful) coaching shouldn’t be so hard.
    When you coach as a thinking partner instead of an expert, you job is to catch and return what your client gives you. You don’t have to have all the answers. You are a good coach if you share what you hear and see and maybe offer what you sense is happening with no attachment to being right. The best coaches make us recognize we have gaps in our reasoning. That’s where learning happens. This is good coaching. This amazing “you-can-use-this-tomorrow” collection of slides on reflective questioning will be handy for your own learning and use in workshop settings or one-on-one coaching sessions with colleagues. “Using Reflective Questions in Coaching” was 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!)  
  3. Power(ful) coaching is partnering.
    People need to feel seen, heard, and valued to have the desire to grow. In this space, their creative brains are activated. They feel safe enough to explore their own thinking and actions. Surfacing their judgments and fears may feel uncomfortable, but when they see how to move beyond these blocks, they feel empowered. Coaching behaviors include noticing energy shifts, tone of voice, pace of speech, inflection, and behaviors. Coaches play back beliefs and assumptions to examine their importance and limitations. They summarize complex outcomes and possibilities, offering the statements to clients to accept or alter. They offer observations when clients show resistance. They reflect progress to reinforce movement and growth. The goal of offering reflective statements is not to lead others in a specific direction but to help them clarify and evaluate their thoughts. Listening is critical; check out Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk “5 Ways to Listen Better.


“Questions seek answers; inquiry provokes insight.”
John Dewey


“Don’t push people to where you want to be; meet them where they are.”  
– Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP Marketing HubSpot


1 Question

When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?


Reynolds, Marcia. Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry. Berrett-Koehler Inc.: Oakland, CA, 2020.


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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