A new approach to education? Time for a serious examination

Now the exam results are out, Hill Tribe CEO James Leavold suggests looking at different approaches to schooling, leadership and results in relation to the world of work.

I worked as a teacher in a number of schools, then became a manager in educational establishments and other organisations, before becoming a leadership trainer.

As a teacher and mentor I’ve had some life affirming experiences helping others develop.

But I often felt something was missing.

Exams 4

By passing on my knowledge and experience, team members and students could become reliant on this type of input. Some even battled – sometimes openly, but mostly more subtly – against those ‘above’ them in a hierarchy. At best this produced low morale and low productivity – at worst absenteeism, sickness and the disciplinary procedure. I thought: ‘I’m a nice helpful teacher and manager; why can’t they recognise it?’

Many have had the ‘Eureka moment’ when they’ve thought the answer had arrived; in terms of learning and development I’ve had many, only to then crumble under greater scrutiny. But the practicality of coaching – real coaching – has withstood my extensive due diligence. In fact, it has become stronger.

Why? Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • In traditional education the task is always pre-determined; in the real world you often have to determine WHAT the task is. The starting point to do so is reflection; coaching provides the platform to do so.
  • Real progress on the 3 ‘selfs’ – self-awareness, self–management and self-reliance. I know these are emotive buzzwords that have been used so much they’ve become somewhat devalued. Scan most uses of the terms and people talk about why they are useful… but not how they can really be developed. The coaching model – developing self-awareness, to then encourage insight, to then produce practical actions, to then cement these as habits – provides a practical way of doing so. (Note that this is just not about promoting ‘independence’ – reflection allows a greater understanding of independence, dependence and interdependence and where each is APPROPRIATE. In my experience, coached people gain a greater understanding of resourcefulness through the power of interdependence – it can be where entrepreneurialism and collectivism meet)
  • While we’re on the subject of buzzwords let me address ‘self-empowerment’.In my work, no term seems to divide a room as much – usually between those who are motivated by the term and those who’ve become cynical.
    But coaching does deliver. When I trained as a coach my instructor paired delegates up, with one told to help the other resolve a problem…but without offering ANY advice. I got to about 30 seconds before I ran out of things to say! (Try it yourself and see how you get on) Now I can have between one and two-hour coaching conversations without offering any of my personal wisdom, yet the coachee becomes so much wiser. Now that’s real self-empowerment. You can’t give lip service or hide from ‘self-ownership’ in coaching (unless you’re not delivering REAL coaching).
  • Better conversations. Coaching conversations are usually more explorative, while remaining supportive, and yet still natural. In a traditional leadership role it is difficult to have a conversation without the staff member in some way becoming defensive. Coaching can achieve solutions without become insensitive or threatening. How so?

    Better listening for start, but also using questioning and clarification techniques to understand the motivations of coachees, motivations that sometimes they are not even aware of. By becoming more attentive in this way you also become more emotionally intelligent, and get a grasp of different and preferred communication and learning styles. This is the foundation for the REAL revolution in leadership and management; it’s started but still has along way to go.

  • We are all pressed for time. Structured long-term coaching plans do mean allocating time, but coaching can be immediate. I’ve seen an issue resolved, via coaching, in 30 seconds – traditionally, all parties would have got bogged down in detail with a number of opinions sought. Often this is unnecessary.

    Generally there is a trade-off; more reflective time is front-loaded, but doing things more quickly, efficiently and in a less psychologically draining way is the eventual reward. The result is a net gain in time by being more effective.

  • So now for my contentious belief: mentoring is over-valued as a development tool. There’s too much of ‘follow me’ rather than ‘create your own journey’. The ‘coachee’ has to think more than a ‘mentee’, would develop his/her own insights and, I believe, find out more about themselves as a result. (The good mentor will be employing a lot of coaching skills!)
  • I want to return to self-reflection and awareness and because of their importance. The abstract nature of school meant that, when a career’s adviser asked me at 16 what I wanted to do, I had no idea. I was short of insight; the pedagogical method of learning had turned me into an exam machine. Better awareness would have allowed me to make better decisions, at the time and for my future.

To find out more about how to apply coaching in schools please visit: http://www.thehilltribe.co.uk/new-coaching-in-schools


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  1. Gen | 3rd September 2016 | 7:52 am

    Really interesting article

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