This quarter, as part of my journey through Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program, we are investigating ISTE coaching standards. For this blog post I will be focusing my research on ISTE coaching standard 1: Visionary Leadership.
ITSE Standards for Coaches 1: Visionary Leadership: Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.
Indicator: d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.
Within my graduate program we have been discussing what it means to be an instructional and/or digital coach in schools. Through these discussions I noticed that many of the aspects of coaching are relative to building a strong relationship with another person. I began thinking of what exactly makes relationships so strong and what determines if the relationship ends up being long lasting? I also thought about myself and my own relationships I have with others and what aspects to the relationship made it a priority in my life. After pondering these questions I believe the answer comes down to one word, trust. I believe the ability to trust others and be trusted by others is a key ingredient to a healthy and strong relationship whether personal or professional.
After establishing that trust is an essential component to building strong relationships, I then had to think about how I would establish trust within an opportunity I will be having this quarter with a fellow colleague. This quarter I will be coaching a fellow peer within my school on how to implement technology into one of her lessons. This peer has had past coaches and has requested help from others before, but has expressed the concern of not wanting someone to simply come in and do it for her as much as she wants a learning experience in order for her to grow her own set of skills. With this knowledge at hand I came up with the following question to lead my investigation for this ISTE standard: What are the best practices and/or strategies to help build trust within a coaching relationship?
Defining Trust & Trustworthy Traits
For this investigation I have chosen to use Stephen M. R. Covey’s definition of trust as being, “the feeling of confidence we have in another’s character and competence.” (Covey, 2008) I think an example of trust would be feeling confident that if you told someone something in confidence that they wouldn’t go and share that information without your consent. Another example of trust would be feeling confident that the employees you hired to fix the plumbing in your home are competent enough to handle the situation within the agreed upon time.
Jim Knight, author of the book, Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected, goes deeper into analyzing trust by evaluating character traits people have that are either trustworthy or untrustworthy. (Knight, 2015)
As you can see above, Jim provides different traits that help determine the amount of trustworthiness a person shows through their words and/or actions. (Knight, 2015) I felt this was a very powerful chart as it made me reflect on my own personal traits and analyze the traits of others around me.
Laying the Foundation
Within Jim Knight’s book, Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected, you can also find a diagram he has made that helps introduce you to what he calls the, “five trust factors”. (Knight, 2015)
The Five Trust Factors
“We trust someone when we know they won’t do us harm. So, to build trust, we must be honest and transparent. When we hold back information or we lie, we demonstrate that we can’t be trusted.” (Knight, 2015)
“People trust us when we do what we said we would do when we said we would do it. For that reason, we have to be careful not to over-commit. We can keep enough time to do what we need to do reliably by under-promising and over-delivering, saying no, and using organizational rituals.” (Knight, 2015)
“Promises don’t mean much unless we can deliver, and trust develops or is diminished depending on how well we do the work that we do. We can increase our competence by developing skills, gaining knowledge, or by being credible.” (Knight, 2015)
“Another way to encourage others to feel safe and trust us is through personal warmth. We can show warmth in the authentic way we listen, demonstrate empathy, share positive information, and be vulnerable.” (Knight, 2015)
“The more people are focused on themselves, the less we trust them. However, the more people are committed to serving others, the more we trust them. Stewardship is embodied in a genuine focus on others, the way we communicate, the way we give credit to others, and the simple fact that we care.” (Knight, 2015)
“Without trust there can be no coaching” (Aguilar, 2013)
While reading The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation written by Elena Aguilar, I found the ten different steps/strategies she provides to build trust very insightful. I provided an overview of the first four steps she provides readers which I found relative to my first meeting with my coachee.
Step 1: Plan and Prepare
Essentially this step is all about being prepared for your first meeting with your coachee. What outcomes are you hoping for and what information do you need to have by the end of the meeting? Do you have questions ready? If not, here are a few from the book that I found helpful:
Background Questions (Aguilar, 2013)
- What do you enjoy about your position?
- What is challenging about it?
- What do you think are your strengths?
- What do you think are your areas for growth?
Relationship Questions (Aguilar, 2013)
- How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues?
- How would you describe your relationship with your students?
- How would you describe your relationship with your students’ parents?
- Do you have colleagues (on-site or off-site) that you trust? That you feel good about collaborating with?
Professional Development Questions (Aguilar, 2013)
- How do you feel that you learn best? Can you tell me about a powerful learning experience you’ve had over your time as an educator?
- What is your understanding of what coaching is? Of my role?
- What are your hopes and fears for our work?
- What do you need from me as a coach?
- Is there anything I should know that would help me in my work with you? That would make our work together more effective?
- Is there anything you’d like to know about me that would help make our work more effective?
- What do you anticipate might be a challenge or get in the way of our working together?
- How can I support you when those challenges arise?
Advice from Elena Aguilar: “It’s imperative that you feel confident, clear, and prepared. Your client will be watching you and listening to you very, very carefully. She/he will be looking for indicators of your competence, credibility, integrity, and character.”
Step 2: Cautiously Gather Background Information
This step warns us coaches to be careful of the information you gather about your coachee before meeting them. Even though you want to know them better in order to help them, sometimes asking others of their knowledge can lead to unhelpful opinions and impressions of the person you will be working with. It is better to build trust by starting off on a clean slate and getting to know each other by asking questions directly with one another. To sum it up, try not to gather background knowledge unless you know the person you are asking is unbiased and a trusted individual. (Aguilar, 2013)
Step 3: Establish Confidentiality
From the beginning of the relationship you should make sure you are establishing confidentiality with your coachee. You will likely need to remind them of the confidentiality agreement you are providing them with multiple times within your first meetings. One way to phrase this would be, “Before we get started, I want to return to what I shared in my e-mail about the confidentiality of our conversations. Our conversations are absolutely confidential. I will not discuss what we talk about with your supervisor or anyone else. If I ever need to e-mail your principal or supervisor about something we talked about, I will CC you on it. I would speak to him or her in person about you only if you are present.” (Aguilar, 2013)
Some of you may be wondering what happens when a principal or director asks about how the coaching is going and how you provide them with an answer and continue to keep the trust you are establishing within your coaching relationship. Elena Aguilar suggests making the coachee aware that you will only share what she calls the four T’s with their supervisor.
T– The teacher’s name that is receiving the coaching.
T-How much time is spent with the coachee each week or month.
T– The topics that are being worked on. (Example, “Mrs. Brown and I are looking at formative assessment strategies for academic vocabulary.“)
T– The tasks that she is doing with the coachee. (Example, “I am observing Mrs. Brown and offering feedback. We read an article together.”)
Step Four: Listen
Listening is a core component to building trust. Coachees will be watching to see if your engaged and interested in what they have to say. For the first few meetings Elena suggests using active listening where you paraphrase or restate what the coachee just finished saying to ensure you are both on the same page on what is being shared. (Aguilar, 2013) Elena also suggests to make sure you are always using deep listening when working with coachees and not being distracted by what happened before the meeting or what you have going on after the meeting.
To end this blog post I decided to share three personal suggestions that I have learned from my own experience that has helped me build trust with my peers at work. I hope they can also help guide you in your adventures!
- Remember that actions speak louder than words. Your coachee will be looking for those trustworthy traits I discussed earlier and will be determining how much they share with you based on how you make them feel.
- Remember that relating to your coachee is a great way to build trust. It is okay to show that you are not perfect, in fact allowing your coachee to hear about stories of your failures may help build the bond and allow them to open up even further.
- Remember to smile and look approachable to others even when you think they are not watching, because they are. If you look and sound friendly then more people are likely to be willing to ask for your assistance then if you look busy and unapproachable.
Aguilar, Elena. (2013). The Art of Coaching, Effective Strategies for School Transformation. San Francisco, CA. Jossy-Bass.
Covey, Stephen M. R The Speed of Trust . New York: Free Press, 2008.
Knight, Jim. (2016). Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected. London, UK. SAGE Publications Ltd.