Leadership Coaching for Educators: Bringing Out the Best in School Administrators


Karla Reiss

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    Preface to the Second Edition

    “Oh Yes You Can!”

    —Bolder Boulder race motto

    As I was in the midst of writing the second edition, I received an email from a client I coached six years earlier. “Just wanted to pass this on to you. Thank you for your coaching that got me here in the first place. I am exactly where I need to be.” Doris Candelarie, principal of Sanchez International Elementary School in Lafayette, Colorado, had just been informed that she was named 2014 Colorado National Distinguished Principal of the Year by the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals. I am proud to be part of her success. You will find her unique story in Chapter 7.

    In 2006, when I set out to write the original edition of Leadership Coaching for Educators, I was uncertain how the concept of leadership coaching would be received in the education field. At the time, it was a little-used strategy. Yet as an experienced professional coach, my hunch was this type of coaching should be more prevalent in schools. I knew it would make a difference for individual leaders and the districts they served. So I swallowed my fears and persisted, wishing and hoping it would be accepted as valid and valuable. Little did I know then the book would win the prestigious 2007 Book of the Year Award from Learning Forward. Much has evolved in coaching in education since then.

    High-quality professional coaching is still far from mainstream, although its use is consistently growing. Coaching is beginning to be perceived as a perk, rather than as a punishment for poor performance. Executive coaching is now more likely to be accepted, sought after, and seen as a unique professional growth opportunity.

    I have been a professional coach for twelve years and witnessed remarkable results with leaders, teachers, and students. I have trained countless people to coach others and never cease to be amazed at how much value they discover and enthusiasm they have to bring coaching to their organization, staff, or their own coaching practice. I find that once people open themselves up to the coaching process, they discover its potential for successful change.

    It would be an understatement to say that coaching has totally transformed my work and my perception of what is possible for myself and others. It has shifted my outlook on every aspect of my life and relationships with others. Coaching is a courageous approach to achieving what you want, and I encourage readers to explore its enormous potential. In 2003, I made a major life change and relocated to Boulder, Colorado, after spending a lifetime in New York. I had become crystal clear—thanks solely to engaging in a six-month coaching process—about my life’s work and personal mission to bring the benefits and power of executive and leadership coaching to school systems.

    The first week I arrived, I discovered a training program to prepare for the annual 10K Memorial Day race. The Bolder Boulder attracts 50,000 people to this stunning town each year. “Oh Yes You Can!” is the motto for the race and the training program. I never ran as far as a block, but I was struck by the motto, so I took the leap and signed myself up.

    “Oh Yes You Can!” is a great example of the mindset and message our inner voices need to adopt to create the changes we want in our schools and in our professional and personal lives. It’s the heart of the coaching process. Making the internal shift from “No way!” to “Yes!” I’ve run the 10K four times now. I could never have accomplished it without the constant support, encouragement, and inspiration of the coaches and the supportive system of learning, training, and community that enabled me to accomplish what would have been difficult, challenging, or impossible alone. Much of what I learned and experienced can be applied to professional school-leadership coaching and can be useful in understanding and making organizational change in complex school systems.


    This book is intended to serve multiple purposes. My hope is for it to educate school leaders about the potential of coaching and to share my knowledge and experiences as a professional leadership coach and coach trainer. There are so many ways for school leaders to think about and utilize a coaching strategy in schools that I believe we are still at the early stages of seeing the impact it can have. I am still convinced that every school leader will benefit from being coached, whether by an external coach or a well-trained internal coach. I am also convinced that every leader and teacher will achieve greater results when they implement coaching skills with staff and students.

    The purpose of the first edition was to inform educators what coaching is and define a specific set of coaching competencies that all educators should be aware of, as coaching was just beginning to emerge as an important strategy. The book also provided a rationale for leaders (primarily superintendents) to receive executive coaching because of their ever-changing and demanding role.

    This book will provide school system leaders and those responsible for designing and developing school improvement programs with a basis for (1) deeply understanding what coaching is and what coaching isn’t, (2) defining and clarifying the role of a coach, (3) differentiating instructional and leadership coaching, and (4) establishing an awareness of a common set of core competencies adopted by the rapidly growing coaching profession. It provides a depth of knowledge about coaching and tips for understanding and developing a good coaching relationship in the hopes of preventing and avoiding coaching as yet another new thing that comes and goes. Coaching, done well, holds enormous potential for creating lasting change—something school systems have struggled with for so long.

    This book is about coaching—not mentoring or a combination of roles but intentional, purely professional coaching knowledge. While there are numerous helping roles, for coaching to be successful, it requires a thorough understanding of what it is and how it differs from mentoring, consulting, and other combined roles. Coaching is a process and a relationship that empowers individuals to explore their innermost thoughts, strengths, beliefs, and goals to create results. It holds enormous potential for creating inside-out change in individuals and school systems.

    Leadership Coaching for Educators, Second Edition provides a common core of knowledge and understanding about coaching to help educators design and develop effective coaching programs. The book can help educators create uniform coaching programs across buildings, districts, and states. It can help educators know that obtaining external results for their organizations is often about changing the internal thoughts and beliefs people hold that have prevented change from happening.

    The knowledge base that comprises the information provided is based on recommendations from the International Coach Federation (ICF), my intensive professional-coach training, and my years of experience as a professional coach. To become effective, educator-coaches need an abundance of training with guided feedback. They need to learn and practice numerous skills, processes, know-how, and techniques. Successful, effective coaching is a whole lot more than asking some reflective questions. It goes much deeper and creates a relationship unlike most others.

    This book is best used as a learning and planning guide and a discussion and resource tool. It is not intended as a training manual, nor should it be used as one. It provides a knowledge base, awareness of necessary skills, and a handful of helpful tools that coaches use, as well as tips for implementing coaching. Ideally, educator-coaches should be no less trained and skilled than professional coaches are. Becoming so requires a depth of understanding of the coaching skills and processes that lead to personal change and, in turn, organizational change. Acquiring coaching expertise requires many months of skill development and guided practice supported by experienced, credentialed coaches.

    Coaching Defined

    The term “coach” is broadly used in society to mean many things. We have athletic coaches, instructional coaches, parent coaches, student coaches, financial coaches, and more. Everyone seems to call him- or herself a coach. The common interpretation of the word and work of coach means, “I am here to help you.” The use of the term coach in this book is specific. I refer to coaching as a solid, professional skill set based on the International Coach Federation’s Professional Coaching Core Competencies. Coaching is a profession as well as a skill set, leadership style, and way of communicating. The coaching projects, examples, and success stories shared throughout the book are those in which coaches have had professional-coach training.

    I have been receiving many more requests for internal-coach training. Five years ago, it was typically for individual leaders who saw the value in coaching to attend our coach certification training. They had a personal desire to improve how they lead. Now the trend is more toward internal training of central office leaders, principals, and others who wish to learn to adopt a coaching style of leadership. That trend, I believe, is aligned with the growth of new evaluation systems, thus an increased need for expanded coach-training opportunities.

    Because most people do not receive training in coaching in their university undergraduate, graduate, or leadership programs, there will be significant investment of time (more than most people realize) and money to sufficiently train and support staff. It is important that coaching programs are developed around commonly accepted standards and competencies so there is uniformity of coaching skill across districts. Most professional coaches engage in a minimum of sixty hours to often more than 300 hours of training. This amount of training is not random. It has been found to be important and effective. Part of any quality coach training should include not only coaching skills but also guided support combined with experience coaching multiple people with ongoing feedback.

    A coaching style of leadership is different from a top-down, do-this model. All leaders now need coaching skills to enable them to partner with staff, create individualized plans for change, and manage resistance that may arise.

    About the Contents

    I invite readers to either start or continue their journeys into coaching with this book, using it to review or revise their current programs. I invite you to join me as you explore and consider coaching as a methodology for improving schools; improving who we are as adult learners; becoming more of who we are; sharing our best selves with others; and creating deep, lasting change. It’s best to think of this book as a Coaching 101 resource and guidebook, like a travel guide filled with information about the place called coaching.

    This book will benefit those responsible for creating an effective coaching program within their school systems. They will learn the essential elements of coaching and what should be incorporated into a successful program. While this book contains an enormous amount of information to guide the work of a coach and the development of a credible coaching program, it is not to be considered a training manual. It is to be considered a guide for building a great program as well as what to look for when seeking coaches for leaders and other staff.

    There are three main parts: Part I focuses on background information, a rationale for coaching as a school system improvement strategy and updated research; Part II defines coaching skills and knowledge; and Part III contains practical implementation techniques, processes, and concerns. I have developed a unique coaching model, the POWERful Coaching Framework™, that offers guidance for new and experienced coaches to address key factors during coaching sessions.

    We have a long way to go until schools fully integrate coaching well and results are known. I invite you to share your stories, your challenges, and your successes. You are welcome to contact me or visit my website for ways of connecting with fellow educators around the world who are as passionate as I am about coaching, who are learning and growing in their roles as coaches, and who are excited and enthused about the results they are creating.

    What’s New in the Second Edition
    Expanded Audience

    This revised edition is intended to expand the audience from superintendents to also include principals and other central office leaders, who are now required to observe staff on a more systematic, frequent schedule. The expansion of more effective teacher- and principal-evaluation systems has sparked increased interest in coaching as a means to foster change as they seek skills and strategies to bring out the best in staff and students. With this trend and the growth of new evaluation systems for both teachers and principals in many areas of the United States, there is now a more urgent need for leaders to obtain coaching know-how. They need to work with each teacher and student and coach him or her to success versus top-down supervision. They need to know how to accomplish the growth and changes in practice to obtain the results they are seeking. Telling others what to do and how to do it is not as effective as coaching them toward a goal or change in practice. No longer can principals rely solely on their knowledge of subject matter or best practices as the only way to guide change in the classroom. They must obtain the insight, knowledge, and skills to coach. Unfortunately, these skills are not yet broadly taught in leader preparation programs. The second edition intends to encourage all educators to both receive coaching and develop coaching know-how so they can successfully coach staff and students to make needed changes in leadership or classroom practice, becoming all they can be. All leaders can benefit: superintendents, other central office leaders, principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, teacher leaders, and classroom teachers. This book will

    • Encourage coaching services to be available to all school leaders
    • Encourage all leaders to develop a coaching style of leadership
    • Encourage instructional coaches and classroom teachers to learn effective coaching skills and techniques to boost student achievement results
    Updated Research

    This revised edition will update readers on research on the effectiveness of coaching, trends in the field of coaching, and its impact on education. It will add numerous and more lengthy success stories. For example, this edition contains important research findings about coaching that were unavailable when the book was initially published, including

    • The International Coach Federation 2013 Organizational Coaching Study
    • Sherpa 2013 Executive Coaching Survey
    • International Coach Federation 2009 Global Coaching Client Study
    • Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices, American Management Association, 2008
    • Leadership coaching projects that have been implemented in Colorado, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Ohio
    • Descriptions of the ICF’s first International Prism Awards that were given to two schools. The Prism Award is an honor bestowed on an organization that has made the most effective use of coaching in an organization. In 2013, both first place and honorable mention were given to a K–12 school and a university.
    • Revised ICF subcompetency descriptions—expanded and more detailed descriptions of the International Coach Federation’s Professional Coaching Core Competencies
    • A new resource describing the differences between coach and mentor roles
    Features and Benefits

    In addition to clearly defining coaching and essential coaching competencies recommended for skilled coaching, in this book, readers will find

    • Award-winning examples of education-coaching implementations
    • A comparison of sports psychology and professional coaching
    • How to get started as a coach
    • How to create a coaching mindset
    • Insights into dealing with resistance
    • An easy-to-use POWERful Coaching FrameworkTM for conducting coaching sessions
    • Discussions of issues for implementing coaching in school systems
    • How instructional and leadership coaching differ
    • Tools and templates
    How I Came to Coaching

    I don’t remember much about my grandfather, who died when I was a teenager. What I do recall is a saying I often heard him repeat: “Every day, and in every way, I’m getting better and better.” I’ve since learned it was originated by Émile Coué, a French pharmacist. As a veteran staff developer, I’ve often thought about that saying and how it related to my professional work, to the ongoing challenges educators face and their common goals helping students achieve their full potential. Everyone involved in the continuous improvement of school systems needs to be constantly improving; not only students but also every staff member and leader needs to be engaged in ongoing learning about themselves and how they can contribute to the improvement of their schools, systems, and communities. Coaching has tremendous potential as a school improvement strategy for achieving greater results for students, improving and strengthening leadership, and creating the lasting change that has eluded school systems.

    I came to coaching via a unique path. As coordinator of staff development for a regional educational service center, I, with my colleague Jane Lombardo, launched a large, regional professional-development project that included peer coaching as a process preferable to delivering staff development in workshop mode. I quickly became a believer in its potential. I was also somewhat perplexed. I wondered how this useful process could be utilized in a more effective manner, how it could be expanded so that principals, superintendents, teacher leaders, and others in leadership roles could benefit.

    I saw its value and sensed that it was exactly what was missing from the multitude of school improvement efforts I had witnessed for more than twenty years. I’d worked with and facilitated numerous school improvement efforts, developed planning processes, and set up and conducted hundreds of workshops and conferences with more than fifty districts. Yet I still felt there was a void, especially in the area of leadership development. I saw what I’ll call a broken system—new demands to meet higher learning standards, new accountability systems placing enormous pressure on school leaders, and fewer and less qualified administrative candidates taking the leap from the classroom without meaningful support to deal with everyday challenges they faced. All of this led to a growing crisis in recruiting and retaining strong, effective school leaders. I saw a huge need for leaders to have access to executive coaching, just as leaders of business and nonprofit organizations have. I set out to develop this work and fill in the missing piece.

    Sounds ordinary so far, doesn’t it? At just the right time, opportunity knocked. As I sought more information about coaching, I applied for and was selected to participate in a television documentary with well-known life coach and author Cheryl Richardson. Suddenly, I had a chance of a lifetime—to learn firsthand about and receive coaching from one of the nation’s most well-known coaches. For six months, six other participants and I worked with Cheryl to create The Life Makeover Project, a five-week television series for Oxygen TV. I was hungry to learn more about coaching and interested in finding ways to bring coaching to school leaders. On the personal side, I’d just become an empty-nester, a change I found to be more challenging than I expected. I was puzzled about how to create a life without the role of mom and the demands of parenthood.

    The experience was personally transformational. I became convinced then (and still am now) that coaching has a much larger place in schools. I made the decision in 2001 to obtain my professional-coach credential and dedicate myself to bringing professional-coaching knowledge and skill to educators and school systems. I have since developed numerous training programs to help educators acquire coaching skills, techniques, confidence, and competence. Among them are the following:

    • POWERful Coaching for Powerful Results™, a sixty-plus hour coaching certification program
    • POWERful Coaching for Education Leaders™, a two-day coach training program
    • You Can Be a Master of Change™, a one- to two-day coaching strategies training (based on my book Be a CHANGEMASTER)
    • CKEY; Coaching Kids; Empowering Youth™ teacher training
    Author’s Notes
    • Throughout the book, readers will find numerous success stories, examples of coaching scenarios, and coaching dialogues. All are based on my experiences with actual coachees in school systems. Most are people I have personally coached. Some are examples from other leadership coaches whom I have trained. Due to the confidential nature of the coaching relationship, their names and districts have been changed and their identity has been kept private, unless otherwise noted and used with their permission.
    • Persons receiving coaching are identified in this book as coachees. They can also be referred to as coaching clients, as is common in the coaching profession. Here, coachees can be any recipient of coaching: superintendents, principals, teachers, students—anyone.


    “It’s always worthwhile to make others aware of their worth.”

    —Malcolm Forbes (as quoted in Duncan, 2000, p. 196)

    Nothing “big” ever happens in isolation. It absolutely takes a team, a community of people who contribute to your success in numerous ways. I am very fortunate to have crossed paths with many people who have supported me and my work. Without them and their encouragement, this book would have remained on the back burner—a thought, a wish, a dream. With their support, this book and this work can contribute to the world of continuous school improvement, making an impact on the results data and cultivating meaningful work and fulfilling lives. I thank them all for their unique insight, feedback, enthusiastic support, and encouragement.

    Coaching has expanded in school systems due to the support of many people and organizations who recognized, as I did, the value and potential the coaching process has for creating lasting change, for supporting the daily challenges of leaders and educators everywhere. My thanks and appreciation go to American Association of School Administrators’ Daniel Domenech, Executive Director, and MaryAnn Jobe, Director, Leadership Development, for believing in my work, spreading the word about our coach training, and helping make it available to school leaders. I also wish to thank John Hefty, former Executive Director of the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), for bringing awareness of coaching to educators in my home state, for enrolling in our coach training as well as bringing others into the process. Thank you too for inviting me to be a member of the CASE Leadership Coaching Advisory Committee. Your passion for coaching was instrumental in forming the CASE Leadership Coaching Program. Additional thanks at CASE go to Bruce Caughey, Executive Director, and Mary McNeil, former Director of Professional Learning, for supporting leadership coaching work in Colorado.

    As my work has grown and expanded from executive coach to trainer of coaches, I have many people to thank who have partnered with me over many years. To my cotrainer and coach extraordinaire, Ann Fogolin, and our cofacilitators and professional coaches, Steve Silverman, Carla Geddes, Lindsley Silagi, and Susan MacLaughlin, heartfelt thanks for helping our training participants have a meaningful learning experience. You are the best group of professional coaches anywhere, and you have been instrumental in our coach training participants becoming top-notch coaches.

    I am also extremely thankful for the many people who have encouraged, arranged introductions, inspired interest, and brought our training into their organizations: Robin Whitacre, JoAnn Berkowitz, Patrick Callaghan, Tim Mills, Susan Edwards, Mary Colvin, and John Laverty. You have been so enthusiastic and helpful in supporting our mission of bringing coaching in, strengthening the skills of staff whose goal it is to lead effectively and confidently.

    I am grateful for the quick response and guidance from the staff at the International Coach Federation for connecting me with ICF Prism Award winners and current research. I am proud to be a member of this growing, worldwide professional organization of coaches.

    Becoming an author is due to the support and encouragement of Corwin, including Executive Editor Arnis Burvikovs and the editorial team. Eight o’clock on a Sunday morning in 2003, I thought no one would attend my first-ever coaching workshop at the American Association of School Administrators’ (AASA) annual conference. Thank you to Jay Goldman, editor of AASA’s School Administrator magazine, for waking up and showing up. Your presence in the session led to my first published article, which, in turn, led to my first book. Thank you too to Jim Knight for inviting me to write a chapter in Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives.

    In our training program, I feel it is of profound importance for new coaches to be coached themselves. I want to thank the many participants in our coach training who allowed themselves to be vulnerable and truthful with total strangers, to let their guard down and be wide open to exploring the coaching process. Sometimes tears appeared, often on the first day, as our participants quickly learned how authentic, meaningful, and “inner” the coaching process can become. Thank you for the time you took from your lives to travel to our training site and devote yourself to learning to coach throughout the coaching practicum process. I know all of our certified coaches will make a tremendous difference in the lives of others.

    To Cheryl Richardson—my first coach—thank you for the opportunity to work with you on Oxygen TV’s Life Makeover Project and to learn firsthand what it truly takes to make change in one’s personal and professional life. You inspired and encouraged me to do things I never imagined. I’ll never forget my “Quantum Leap” activity experience and the many leaps I’ve taken in my personal and professional life since then. How could I have known that climbing atop a telephone pole, wobbly and terrified, could be so transformational? I’m grateful to have been chosen from thousands of applicants to participate in our coaching journey. I learned the power and potential of coaching and the precious gift of having an ally who totally believes in you.

    Putting a new idea out in the world to judge is risky. I am forever grateful to Michael Keany, former director of the Long Island School Leadership Center; Jane Lombardo, former director of the Suffolk’s Edge Teacher Center, Long Island, New York; and Mary Ann Luciano, former director of the Catskill Regional Teacher Center. Together, we launched the first leadership coaching projects for administrators and teacher center directors in New York. Eternal thanks for your support and believing in me and my vision for this work.

    There is nothing like being surrounded by coaches. Never before had I experienced such enormous energy, positive vibes, and can-do attitudes. Thank you to all my coaching peers over the past dozen years for the deep thinking and learning that took place as we learned together to coach and be coached.

    Last but surely not least, I am deeply appreciative of the love and support of my family: my children, Michael and Emily; their spouses, Bridget and Matthew; my husband, Ed; his children, Michelle and Shanna; her spouse, David; and their delightful baby, Shayne.

    I have very high hopes for coaching and the difference and impact it can make in school, staff, and student improvement. Thank you for your interest in this growing body of work. Creating lasting change is possible, and coaching is a meaningful strategy for helping make that happen.

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:

    • Delsia Easley
    • Principal
    • W. E. Striplin Elementary School
    • Gadsden, AL
    • Dr. Robert A. Frick
    • Superintendent
    • Lampeter-Strasburg School District
    • Lampeter, PA
    • Ruth S. Johnson
    • Professor of Educational Leadership
    • California State University, Los Angeles
    • Los Angeles, CA

    About the Author

    Karla Reiss founded The Change Place, a coaching and consulting firm dedicated to the continuous improvement of individuals, teams, and organizations, after twenty years in education. She and her team of certified coaches provide executive and leadership coaching for school leaders and coach training and consulting services for school systems, government and nonprofit agencies, and businesses, including the POWERful Coaching for Powerful Results™ coaching certification training and other coaching skills training programs. As a school administrator, Reiss worked with more than fifty school districts in a variety of school improvement roles: coordinator of professional development at Western Suffolk (NY) Board of Cooperative Educational Services and director of planning at Southern Westchester (NY) Board of Cooperative Educational Services. She has conducted and implemented professional development and school improvement planning opportunities for K–12 staff and district leaders. She is trained and experienced in strategic planning and organizational development. She served on the New York State Education Department’s statewide steering committees for the Comprehensive District Education Planning and Practical Uses of Data for Teaching and Learning projects. She was president of the New York State Staff Development Council and served on the executive board of the Long Island Association for Curriculum and Staff Development. Karla Reiss graduated from the Institute of Professional Empowerment Coaching in 2002 and is a Certified Professional Empowerment Coach. She received additional coach training at the College of Executive Coaching. She holds a bachelor of science degree, a master’s in special education, and a professional diploma in school district administration. She is the author of the book Be a CHANGEMASTER and two articles, “Why Coaching Matters,” published in the American Association of School Administrators’ School Administrator, November 2003, and “Coaching for Leadership,” published in the Association of California School Administrators’ Leadership, January 2004. Reiss lives adventurously in Boulder, Colorado. She can be reached at www.thechangeplace.com orchangemaven@thechangeplace.com.

    Words and music by Jana Stanfield and Megon McDonough. Eagle Woman Music ASCAP, www.megonmcdonough.com. Used with permission. “Let the Change Begin” (Jana Stanfield, Megon McDonough), © Jana Stan Tunes (ASCAP).

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