How Can I Hire Good Coaches?

A district leader in Colorado contacted me with a question about hiring coaches. He’s thrilled that next year his small district will develop a team of 10 coaches to work with their most struggling secondary schools. “How can I hire good coaches?,” he asks.
First, for anyone developing or expanding a coaching program, I’d suggest that you get really clear on what your coaching model is, and the skills and knowledge required for coaches within this model. Some skills are teachable; others might be teachable, but might take a long time to do so. The hiring stage is a great opportunity to get really clear on what you want in your coaches. Hopefully you have others who are developing this program with you, so you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
Last spring I hired eight coaches. The skill I most looked for in applicants was the ability to listen. While listening can be learned, it was one skill that I wanted a prospective coach to already have. I believe that listening is such a foundational skill in coaching that it’s not one that I can spend time teaching. I was also looking for certain dispositions–I wanted to hire reflective learners, coaches who were committed to improving their practice and learning more and refining their skills. I wanted coaches who were eager to be a part of a team, to learn with others and collaborate in their work. I recognized that many of the applicants I interviewed may not have had extensive training as coaches, but if they could listen, if they were committed to their own learning, and if they were collaborative and enthusiastic about joining a team, then I believed that other coaching skills could be developed.
My interview process involved a set of questions and a role play. The role play allowed me to get a sense of the applicant’s coaching skills, (this was the equivalent of a demo lesson) but what was most insightful was the applicant’s reflection afterwards. I wanted to hear how the applicant thought and felt about this mini-performance. This was when I got insights into what this person would be like as someone I’d be charged with developing.
Here are the Interview Questions for Hiring a Coach, the Role Play Scenarios I used and the Role play eval tool.doc.
Hiring strong coaches starts with knowing what you want, which means you know what your district needs–what your students need, and what their teachers and principals need. And then after you hire them, you have to figure out how to help your coaches learn and grow and develop their practices so that they meet those needs. In order to develop your team of coaches, you might take a look at Chapter 15 in my book (it’s on professional development for coaches). You might also consider sending your coaches to my Art of Coaching Institute in Oakland, CA. For more information, see the Upcoming Events page on my website.