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What We Are Reading?

We continue our focus on highlighting some of the best coaching resources that have emerged and, stood the test of time, over the last 15 years or so.

It can sometimes be easy for us to be seduced by the new and the shiny thing, relegating the older resources to the back shelf. So we decided to invite those from the GCI team that have been around coaching for time to share their recommendations regarding coaching resources that have influenced their practice and have endured over time.

This month Dr Kris Needham shares her thoughts about Blended Coaching: Skills and Strategies to Support Principal Development. Written by Gary Bloom, Claire Castagna, Ellen Moir and Betsy Warren and published by Corwin Press in 2005.

A book that was very helpful to me as a relatively new coach was Blended Coaching by Bloom, Castagna, Moir and Warren. Gary Bloom has lengthy experience as an educator in California, specializing in school leadership. The “blended coaching’” concept advocated by Bloom and his team made a lot of sense to me.

As a new coach developing my skills in using the GROWTH model, I was focusing on my questioning and listening and holding back on giving suggestions or advice unless the conversation was “stuck”. The emphasis was on creating self-awareness and resourcefulness in the coachee, with the coach as facilitator. At the same time it seemed there were occasions when we needed to expand the conceptual field of the coachee, who may have been recently inducted into a new position or who for some other reason didn’t have the background and experience to select optimum actions from a range of options.

The “blended coaching” approach highlights the same basic principles about ethics, trust and the importance of the coach-coachee relationship as we do. It is also a very useful resource on the skills required for effective coaching in the GROWTH model, such as paraphrasing, clarifying and summarizing

However the key strategy of “blended coaching” is that the coach addresses both the way of being and the way of doing of the coachee. It proposes that the way of doing is often better supported through a more instructional approach – that is, the coach might supply ideas or articles directly to the coachee. Having had exposure to these new resources, the coachee can then identify options – and adopt and adapt some of those strategies as appropriate. The process of identifying options and forming an action plan is achieved through facilitative coaching. There is therefore a movement back and forth between the instructional and facilitative modes. This is a fluid and dynamic process, not a continuum, and Bloom et al illustrate this by the graphic of a Mobius strip – ways of doing and being are linked together, as are the instructional and facilitative strategies that support them.

The key to using this fluid process successfully is in ‘getting permission to instruct’. The coach explicitly asks for consent to move into instructional mode, and also makes it clear when moving back into facilitative mode.

What struck me as most useful from this approach was not only the space it creates for introducing new ideas and resources and the development of knowledge and skills required of the job, but more importantly, the ‘rules’ around this – that is, making the move to instructional mode explicitly and then judging when to return to facilitative mode. A skilful coach ‘orchestrates a fluid, blended, reiterative process’.

In many ways this approach has since been refined and validated since the book was published in 2005. There is now more general awareness of the need to move between and find the balance between advocacy and inquiry in the coaching conversation. This awareness is reflected in more recent articles and coaching practice as the former boundaries between what was defined as ‘coaching’ and what was defined as ‘mentoring’ become more fluid. In my view, the ‘blended coaching’ approach is still relevant and valuable.

For more information about this book click here.

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