From education to employment

Coaching in education – capacity for change

We work in a fast moving sector that brings with it a range of complex but rewarding challenges. Remaining focused on the key objectives whilst also motivating teams is a challenge for any leader. How can they maximise their own performance and create a productive environment consistent with the shared values of the wider team?

Motivating staff to remain focused on targets, whilst responding to the shifting patterns and trends in government agenda can create a dichotomy in teams. Continuing to drive improvements in the quality and range of provision, as well as creating efficiency in the funding mechanisms available, can sometimes dilute the focus away from a learner centric ethos.

So how does the mission statement in the majority of organisations translate into action among the teams that deliver this message, especially when the semantics of these messages are often open to interpretation? Creating consistent and clear values requires leadership to build an awareness of these values, as well as providing an environment where the responsibility for these values is owned by the teams that deliver them. Maximising the potential of the individuals within teams can then create an ethos which is consistent and aligned with the values of the provider. It is down to the leadership teams within these providers to shape these attitudes and behaviors in order to make this happen.

How can a college improve if it does not have the capacity to do so?

Providers have come under fire recently with criticism of the way their support and train their leadership and management teams. Empowering leaders to act with confidence and respond to the demands of their working  environment requires a much deeper understanding of the individual. The capacity within these teams must be supported at the highest level if it is to improve the ability for this to take place.

Carrot or Stick

The facts still remain, that over a half of all grade three colleges have a limited ‘capacity’ to improve their leadership and management and now ‘require improvement’ under new framework revisions. So what does this mean? Whilst many are keen to maximise the potential of their staff and create a positive and productive working environment, how many can say that they have achieved this? Traditional ‘top down’ leadership should be a thing of the past; the days of a dictatorial approach to influencing staff has a limited impact. Attitudes and behaviors within leadership teams have turned a corner with a growing awareness for EQ. The acknowledgment of these principles; designed around the ability to manage ones’ own emotions before others, has been a influencing factor and a shift in behavior.


Building an awareness within teams, and creating a greater responsibility of the shared values and goals of the provider creates a powerful impact. By empowering individuals to use these skills and facilitate their own change will achieve further results. Reminding us of some of the benefits of reflective practice, as we have used in our own training, acts as a great catalyst for this change and can become a powerful tool for CPD. Coaching, in all its variations, encapsulates some of the key values of this approach. Whether directed or non-directed, intervention has proven effective when leadership teams have coached their staff to draw out their skills and maximise their potential.

As a far more facilitative approach, this can be used to probe and challenge those leadership teams and coach their potential as well. Leading coach Sir John Whitmore’s GROW model has been used together with other acronyms  for years to measure and assess individual achievement. The ‘what’ of the GROW model refers to the most important element of this process; What will change, as well as the ‘will’ of the individual in achieving this. Ownership of it and its success will rely on their determination of the individual to succeed. Facilitating this within teams will create a positive and productive environment and create motivated leaders.

The results will contribute to a clear an consistent message that translates throughout leadership teams creating motivated and empowered managers.

Tim Evans is director of Lean4Learning, the education solutions provider that aims to remove waste and create a continuous improvement culture

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