Coaching and Mentoring: Offering Support in a Time of Change


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Message from the Editor:

I love how a recent #BELMASchat motivated Lizana and Sharifah to co-write this blog! In case you missed it, it was a fascinating twitter conversation about coaching and mentoring (26th May; you can read the tweets here). In this blog, Lizana and Sharifah underline how important culture and context are for embedding coaching and mentoring practice into an organisation. They highlight in particular the need for leaders to build trusting relationships and listen actively, so that they can truly understand what’s ‘alive’ for their colleagues. Giving the space and making the time to support colleagues using a coaching and mentoring approach is a key message here.

Thanks, Lizana and Sharifah, for shining a light on this! If you’d like to comment on this or any of our BELMAS blogs, please join the conversation via #BELMASblog. You can follow Lizana and Sharifah on twitter at @LO_EduforAll and @Sharifahlee4.

 - Suzanne


Authors: Lizana Oberholzer and Sharifah Lee

Van Nieuwerburgh (2016) outlines that coaching is a supportive learning conversation, which can be framed through the use of a variety of coaching tools to help the coach and coachee to structure the conversation. Blanchard and Diaz-Ortiz (2017) and Hall (2019) point out that mentoring aims to provide guidance as well as support, and is more directive. Mentoring requires the mentor to use questioning and active listening skills similar to coaching. There are some overlaps with coaching in regard to the different skills and strategies that can be used to guide and support a mentee. Similar to mentoring, coaches can use a range of coaching models and tools, for example, paraphrasing, summarising, clarification and active listening, to support a coachee (Van Nieuwerburgh, 2016). The key is to recognise and know when to coach and when to mentor. Van Nieuwerburg and Love (2019) outline the importance of coaches meeting the needs of their coachees. This requirement is, of course, also true of mentors, where a mentoring relationship is built on trust and collaborative professionalism (Hargreaves and O’Connor, 2018).

So, how can coaching and mentoring offer support in a time of change? During the #BELMASChat (26th May, 2020), participants stated that leaders need to ensure that staff are listened to, through the use of active listening practices. Or as Covey (2004) outlines, leaders need to listen with the aim to truly understand. Only then will colleagues start feeling supported and valued. During times of change, teams need to feel that they are listened to. Campbell and Nieuwerburgh (2018) stress the importance of leaders drawing on coaching skills to lead teams. The authors put clear emphasis on positive, strength-based approaches, to help support teams. Leaders need to provide teams with hope. Leaders need to be nuanced in their practice (Fullan 2019) with flexibility to support teams as they need to.  The mentor’s role of being a critical friend helps teams to think through a crisis. Asking good questions that can lead to deep insights can make all the difference. Leaders need to know their team to offer appropriate support at a time of change (Buck, 2020). Developing trusting working relationships ensures that mentoring conversations can take place in a supportive way. Mentoring and coaching offer an opportunity to engage with effective learning conversations to enable leaders to unlock the potential of their teams (Van Nieuwerburgh, 2016 and Whitmore, 2017).

Conversations can help leaders and teams to clarify their thinking, in a reflective way, to strategically develop ways forward. By drawing on coaching and mentoring skills, when working with inexperienced colleagues, leaders are able to model how to think through a crisis. The importance of non-judgemental learning conversations cannot be underestimated by leaders. It helps to develop the trust needed to help teams to rise to the occasion during challenging times (Hughes, 2003).

For coaching and mentoring to be successful and have a positive impact, leaders need to see both approaches as key to staff development. The whole organisation needs to have a shared understanding of what both - coaching and mentoring - will bring to the organisation. For coaching and mentoring to have a lasting impact it must be part of the culture (Cameron and Green, 2015) and embedded in the school or organisation development plan.   

Change and challenge are part of our common educational landscape (Fullan, 2019), even as we are faced with the immediate issue of wider school re-opening after the Covid-19 lockdown, by investing in a culture that recognises the importance of coaching and mentoring as part of a school vision. This will require time, training and using the right approach - results may not be immediate or even obvious. Both approaches offer an important opportunity to reflect, usually lost when teacher, educators and leaders are faced with a busy agenda and ‘firefighting’. Time to meet must be protected and timetabled. High value must be placed on the goals and actions undertaken by coachees/mentees, within the organisation or school.

This summary will not be able to capture all the insights share by participants who engaged in the #BELMASchat (26th May 2020). What was clear was an agreement that mentoring and coaching offered a framework to support teams in times of change and challenge, as well as times of relative stability. Both models encourage building a culture of trust, transparency and compassion. For coaching and mentoring to be sustainable, they must not be token gestures. The premise for both must be clear, they must be a part of an organisation’s wider vision. The outcome of both is to empower the individual in different ways. Whether in times of change or times of relative calm, leaders must create the conditions for growth, reflection and support. Tomsett (2015) says: ‘the single most important factor to us all improving our practise is the school [or organisation’s] culture’. Get the culture right and we can weather (and harness) any storm.

Reference List:

Blanchard, K and Diaz-Ortiz, C. (2017) One Minute Mentoring: How to find and work with a mentor – and why you’ll benefit from being one, UK: Thorsons

Brent, M. and Dent, F.E. (2015), The Leadership Guide to Coaching and Mentoring: How to use soft skills to get hard results, UK: FT Publishing International

Campbell, J. and van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2018), The Leader’s Guide to Coaching in Schools: Creating Conditions for Effective Learning, UK: Corwin

Covey, S.R. (2004), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, UK: Simon and Schuster

Fullan, M. (2019) Nuance: Why some leaders succeed, and others fail. UK: Corwin

Hall, L (2019) Coach Your Team, UK: Penguin

Hargreaves, A. and O’Connor, M.T (2018) Collaborative Professionalism: When Teaching Together means Learning for All, UK: Corwin

Myatt, M (2016) High Challenge Low Threat, UK: John Catt Educational Ltd

Tomsett,J (2015) This Much I Know, UK : Crown House Publishing Ltd

Van Nieuwerburgh, C. and Love, D (2019) Advanced Coaching Practice: Inspiring Change in Others, UK: Sage Publications Ltd

Van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2017) An Introduction to Coaching Skills: A Practical Guide, UK: Sage Publications Ltd

Whitmore, J. (2017) Coaching for Performance: The principals and practice of coaching and leadership, UK: Nicholas Brealey Publishing


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