Dr. Jill Berry’s Experience of Coaching

When I finished headship in 2010 I decided supporting serving and aspiring leaders at all levels was something in which I was keen to invest my time, and a way in which I could perhaps make use of what I had learnt during my thirty-year career in schools.  I completed an online course on coaching through the National College for Teaching and Leadership in 2010 and read a fair amount on the subject.  Using a coaching approach has helped me to structure work I have done with leaders over the past seven years.

A course of sessions may involve:
1.    Initial self-assessment and personal professional review
2.    Discussion of achievements and current and future priorities
3.    The opportunity to learn through dialogue and reflection
4.    Personal target-setting and review.

The number of sessions is flexible depending on the needs of the coachee, but we usually begin with a face-to-face meeting which may involve a visit to the coachee’s school and, in some cases, dialogue with colleagues and perhaps governors, which helps me to tune into the coachee’s context.  This initial meeting is then followed by one-hour coaching sessions at intervals.  These may be by Skype: Skype coaching seems to me to be cost- and time-effective, and as school budgets grow tighter, and time is always at a premium, this is something I have found works well.

The coachee and I usually decide on the focus of each session beforehand, and I send an email summary of what we discussed after the event.  This record may serve as the starting point for our discussion at the next session.  It is important that coachees acknowledge their strengths and achievements, in addition to clarifying their thinking about future steps.  Coaching is, in my view, a powerful way in which leaders at all levels can take responsibility for their own development, and be supported to recognise and articulate where they are on their leadership journey, where they are going and how they may get there.  In my experience, coaches benefit too – I have certainly learnt from my coachees, and my discussions with them have helped me to clarify my thinking, and develop my learning, about what constitutes the most effective leadership practice.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Jill Berry

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