She has a brother, Luc, who is 4-5 years older whom she adores. Between Luc, my brother, and my sister-in-law, (all who possess patient dispositions), I’m sure Anna received some “coaching” to show her how to use the voice activation feature on a remote. My brother and his family live in Georgia, so I knew she wasn’t familiar with my parent’s device. The coaching paired with her digital native mindset allowed Anna to astutely transfer her knowledge and apply it to something new (and to this day, I don’t know how to use that feature!).
THIS is what it looks like to empower someone… to build capacity to the point where the learning is internalized and innate.
When was the last time you empowered someone? When was the last time YOU had someone develop your capacity related to a skill or a strategy?
As an educational leader, the key to creating capacity in another person is coaching. No, I’m not saying one needs to become a coach, I’m suggesting that one needs to acquire the language, skills, and disposition of a coach in order to empower others. If a school system possessed a desire to develop a culture where those within the professional community can transparently hold each other accountable, then, those within the system need to assume the role of a collaborative coach for one another (Silva & Contreras, 2011). This begins with those who are leaders (formal and informal) and then flows throughout the system as new leaders are developed. This model of coaching coaches or leading leaders is found to be of value and often utilized in the corporate setting (Gutierrez, 2017).
… and when this occurs, the culture actually becomes the professional learning, because everyday, someone is enriching someone else.
In the article, Who’s in Charge? All of Us! Dr. Anthony Muhammad (2010) stated, “I have found that healthy school cultures embrace the assistance and guidance of those who can help them meet their goals and improve their professional practice.” He asserts that there are three “commitments” within those learning environments that embraced the coaching assistance of others.
-A focus on service where those within the organization were undeniably committed as revealed in the site’s policies and procedures, as well as mutually created goals. Colleagues held each other accountable, internal and external supports were welcome as a mindset focused on all being responsible for the students’ success became embedded in the environment.
-A commitment to learning as colleagues demonstrated an openness to guidance offered from a colleague related to a personal area of need. Again, the motivation for this was rooted in the knowing that if one received support from a colleague, the result would be increased achievement for learners.
-A collaborative infrastructure where those within have created a framework of support. Those within the organization were supported by “a structure of internal collaboration.” Dr. Muhammad asks us to ponder how those within schools can be expected to embrace the expertise of a coach from the outside if internal collaboration is not provided or does not exist.
I recently engaged in a coaching conversation where I was the recipient of the coaching. I had participated in a virtual professional learning experience and follow up coaching was required in order to process some answers to a few questions at the end of the experience. My coach was outstanding! As we reviewed my answers, it was clear to me that I had missed the mark on the last answer to the assignment. She asked me to clarify the thinking I used in creating my answer. As we discussed it, we both became learners. My coach never made me feel like my answer to the question was “wrong,” instead, we were able to find the commonalities in our thinking and I learned a totally new approach to the concept being discussed.
When I was finished, I was excited. When I left that conversation I felt like I had acquired a super-power! I have since implemented the information I learned into my own practice… independently.
There is freedom in being empowered. Both Anna and I already HAD the power within to learn, we just needed a little prompting and refining… and now, we have both expanded our skill set and our capacity to share that information with others.
Consider those with whom you work… how can YOU empower them? With whom can you receive empowerment?
To learn more about building a culture that creates capacity for leadership and learning, register for our Fall Institute featuring Dr. Anthony Muhammad on October 5, 2017 at Harmony Hall Estates in Middletown, PA.
Don't forget to leave a comment below... we'd love to hear your story of empowerment!
-Fran Miller, Ed.D.