The wonderful 'ripple effect' of Coaching - 5 Tips to help this happen

As educational leaders, your realm of influence is wide reaching and often the effects may not be immediate or visible and can be underestimated.

In the age of internet, global citizenship and multiple connections are becoming the norm. In Coaching on the axis, Kahn (2014) focuses on how coaching is an important way of working with the increasing complexity within organisations. Coaching and the coaching approaches within organisations can serve a role in promoting change and success by affecting not only the people being coached but also those around them.

The key is recognising the importance the effect a coaching conversation can have across an organisation and how, as leaders, you can positively impact and influence this.

This term, ‘coaching ripple’ effect, coined by Sean O’Connor (2013) and examined coaching beyond the individual who was receiving it. His work explored the ripple effect flowing to others who were directly connected to the person being coached. Although coaching is often used as a leadership initiative to create change and wellbeing, those connected to the people being coached can also receive positive benefits.

It is helpful therefore to look past the individual (be it yourself or some else being coached) and look at the meaningful implications coaching can have for your school/educational context.

As educational leaders, the ability to take a broader system perspective is crucial to identify patterns of behaviour and experience to understand what motivates and engages individuals and groups. As a leader, your coaching conversations can permeate through the whole system and create powerful and positive change, one conversation at a time. Every conversation can make a difference and impact your scope of influence as a leader and the growth of a coaching culture within your school.

Further support of this is provided by Cross & Parker (2004) who looked at the hidden power of social networks within organisations. Understanding how people collaborate and communicate to get work done, can inform the coaching conversations you have. In their book, The Hidden Power of Social Networks the authors describe high influence people as ‘energisers’.

Energisers are those who have:

  • positive attitudes and influence over other staff members
  • those who may be the centre of social/professional hubs within the school
  • people who will take on creative and new initiatives

Work by Jane Dutton (2003) suggests the key to energising your school (or any organisation really) is through creating positive connections, respectful engagement and, most importantly, having high quality conversations.

In exploring how the coaching ripple effect might play out consider how these energisers might accelerate the impact of coaching in your context. Who do you need to be having coaching conversations with – both formally and informally for maximum impact?

Growth Coaching has encouraged this broader application of coaching across the school system through a range of initiatives in various conversational contexts in schools. These have been described in the Global Framework for Coaching in Education (van Nieuwerburgh & Campbell, 2015).

As educational leaders, how can the coaching conversations you have create a positive ripple effect in your school?

Tips for leaders to help the ripple effect happen:
1. Ensure as a leader you are being coached by someone for your own development to create insight and reflection.
2. Identify who the ‘energisers’ are within your school - can you coach them? Can they become coaches themselves?
3. Create support networks and ‘coaching hubs’ within the school that will support development and vision, then feedback to you as a leader.
4. Consider where coaching conversations might fit across the different GCI Global Framework portals: Leadership, Teaching Practice, Student success & wellbeing and Community engagement.
5. Finally take time to assess and evaluate how coaching is working in your school a few times a year. Ask yourself: how and where coaching is effective in your school context? Step back and take a systems view to understand patterns of the larger web and how coaching conversations can positively change and impact this.

  • Cross. R & Parker.A (2004) The hidden power of social networks: Understanding how work really gets done in organisations (1st ed). Boston:Harvard Business School Press
  • Dutton. J (2003). Energize your workplace (1st ed).Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Business School
  • Kahn .M (2014). Coaching on the axis: Working with complexity in business and executive coaching. Karnac Books/ Professional Coaching Series
  • O’Connor.S & Cavanagh.M (2013). The coaching ripple effect: The effects of developmental coaching on wellbeing across organisationsal networks. Psychology of Wellbeing Theory, Research & Practice 3:2
  • van Nieuwerburgh, C. & Campbell, J. (2015). A global framework for coaching in education. Coach Ed: The Teaching Leaders Coaching Journal. 1(1), 2-5.