Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching — A Partnership Between the Annenberg Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Education
May 2017 PDF Print E-mail

"Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall” (Stephen R. Covey). As coaches, you are both manager and leader as your work with your colleagues to help build teacher capacity and increase student engagement. How you do that determines when you are a manager and when you are a leader.

We often share what we think are characteristics of an effective coach: one who demonstrates valuable listening and communication skills; is respectful; understands the art of questioning; is skilled and knowledgeable; supports literacy across all content areas; recognizes how adults learn and builds those relationships; understands data collection, analysis, and application; and practices reflection and self-assessment. Where do we mention effective management and leadership skills? Both of these competences need to be part of the coach’s repertoire of skills.

Coaches are teacher leaders. They have assumed responsibility for many things in their schools without going the route of administrator. They want to pursue the things that continue to make a difference in the students, their teachers, and their schools without the added responsibility of supervision or evaluation. They help create a vision and inspire others to achieve that vision.

At the same time, coaches must be managers; they must manage their time and create opportunities for collaboration so that the teachers they coach also make time to work with their colleagues. They must help manage the schoolwide plans for continuous improvement by ensuring that the professional development plans lead to ongoing professional learning. They must manage their time and the teachers’ time by engaging in meaningful conversations that provide consistency in language and practice, and reinforce the notion that everyone is a member in a community of learning.

Effective leaders allow others to take ownership of their learning and are not micro managers; they don’t need to give their stamp of approval on everything because they have faith in the people around them to do the work efficiently and effectively. Leaders set short-term and long range goals and share a vision of successful schoolwide improvement.  They communicate regularly with their colleagues to ensure they are working towards the same goals. And, if not, they re-assess and re-adjust their thinking so that they are on the same page.

Many of these characteristics are the same for effective managers. Leaders lead when they have followers; they are visionaries and help curate talent and skills. Managers direct and provide guidance. Oftentimes, managers follow the leaders and maintain the status quo to ensure that the goals are met; they don’t necessarily set the overarching goals but rather, they help achieve those goals.

In the world of instructional coaching, both leaders and managers are needed to provide a balance when working with colleagues and promoting growth. Building relationships, identifying goals, determining data collection, supporting evidence based literacy across all content areas, focusing on reflective and non-evaluative practice are critical whether you are a leader, manager, or both. Either way, the roles are complementary and quite important.

Coaches are in a unique position to motivate, guide, support, develop, and encourage change. Yes, they lead; yes, they manage; and, yes, they sometimes find themselves in situations where they just want to be good listeners, help problem-solve, and inspire trust and not targeted as the only ones knowing the answers. Knowledge is power and coaches want everyone to share in that power.

“All for one and one for all” is the effective coach’s motto. After all, the success in one classroom for one teacher with his/her students is the collective success of the whole school. Effective leaders and effective managers want everyone to succeed. They want everyone to be transparent, accountable, communicative, and open-minded. They want to give others the confidence they need to make data-driven decisions that influence teaching and learning. As Nadja Swarovski says, “Truly powerful people are not concerned about their power, but about being in a position of being able to empower.”  Make every day count where coaches empower teachers and their students to be custodians of their learning and make choices that are relevant, collaborative, significant, and inspirational.