Another school year has flown by and I’m reflecting on my practice as a coach. I know that without reflection, we don’t grow. I’m fanatical about reflecting and nudging others to reflect. I’ve written about how coaches can reflect on their practice here and here and here (these articles also suggest ways to help teachers reflect on their practice).
In addition to writing, consulting and presenting workshops, I still coach. I work with several administrators in the Bay Area where I live, and I coach a couple educators who live in other parts of the country. I can’t imagine not coaching. Not only do I feel like I need to keep doing it if I’m going to tell other people how to do it, but I also love coaching. I feel like coaching is how I become a better human being.
Six Dispositions of a Transformational Coach
As a result of my work training coaches and my own experiences, I’ve identified six dispositions of a transformational coach. In conversations where the coach is anchored in these dispositions and speaks and listens from these dispositions, the coach has the potential to cultivate powerful change. This is what often makes the difference—this place that the coach works from, rather than a carefully crafted sentence stem or a probing question.
These are the six dispositions:
- Compassion: Demonstrates unwavering compassion for all.
- Curiosity: Is insatiably curious about others, what is possible, and one’s self.
- Trusts in the coaching process: Is able to manage their own ego and be open to possibility; recognizes that the journey of transformation is a long one and isn’t caught by urgency.
- Humility & Mutuality: Is aware of and appreciates the reciprocal nature of learning and the potential for their own improvement through the process.
- Appreciation: Is genuinely grateful for the opportunity to work with others.
- Learner orientation: Consistently reflects on their own learning and development and actively seeks out ways to develop in skill, knowledge, and/or capacity; models transformational leadership and demonstrates awareness of how they are perceived by others; attends to own transformation; identifies professional areas of strength and growth; feels inspired and energized to continue developing.
It can feel hard to grow in these areas—to demonstrate “unwavering” compassion for all. These are lifetime journeys for most of us and perhaps aspirational dispositions. When I reflect on my most successful coaching relationships, they have been those in which I was firmly grounded in these dispositions—as opposed to the ones in which I was rooted in judgment, impatience, and ego.
Humility and Mutuality
Two weeks ago, I met with a principal whom I coach. It was late on a Friday after a long week and I felt tired and drained. As the principal started telling me about her week, my empathy for her surged: she was dealing with so many challenges and working with such commitment to kids and she was being so honest and vulnerable in her reflection with me. I felt a pang of deep humility—like, what had I done to receive such honesty? Because being trusted like that felt like such an honor. We all know how hard it is to be really vulnerable with someone else, don’t we?
It wasn’t just that she was sharing—it was what and how she was sharing. I felt lowly—not in an unworthy way—more like the feeling of awe when you look at something like the Golden Gate Bridge that’s just doing it’s thing and not asking for admiration. That’s what this principal was doing—just doing her thing. And I recognized that I was privy to a view that almost no one else ever gets, which was humbling and inspiring.
I left our meeting feeling elated (and she felt good, too). As I drove home thinking about my own challenges of the week, I reflected on how this principal had dealt with her own challenges. Hum, I thought, I could probably apply some of her ways of thinking to my conundrums and get clarity and insight. I could probably even try some of the things that she’d done and see if they’d work for me. And then my mind went all meta: I am learning from her!, I recognized. This is what that coaching disposition, Humility and Mutuality, is all about! I’m experiencing it right now!
This wasn’t the first time I felt humble and grateful like this. I feel like I usually slink out of a school after a coaching meeting, wondering if anyone knows that I have the best job in the whole world, feeling oddly protective of my secret.
But I’m convinced that coaching is the best job in the whole world because after just about every coaching meeting it feels like there’s a chance I can be a better person on this earth, a more compassionate, patient, curious person. In coaching meetings I practice these mental, emotional muscles. I am inspired and humbled by what others are going through. And I feel connected to our shared humanity.
I hope you are finding deep meeting and satisfaction in coaching. And I hope you can find some time to reflect on your work this year.
These coaches are in my year-long Art of Coaching Certification Program. Last week during the final session they reflected on their growth in the six dispositions. Can you tell that they’re really good listeners?