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March 25, 2014

Five Steps to Coaching Others Toward Togetherness

CoachingRecently, I’ve been thinking a lot about coaching others toward Togetherness, maybe because of Valerie’s great question on a recent blog post or because of all the calls I get from principals trying to help teachers. On the blog, we’ve shared some great models of principals coaching teachers on Togetherness, but we want to back it up here by sharing some of the key mindsets that need to be in place for effective coaching to happen.

Coaching people on Togetherness is not simply a lesson on how to use the Google Calendar or how to write a To-Do list. Being Together goes beyond the technical; it’s the coaching of adaptive habits that really makes things stick. There is no one way to do things—but there has to be A way.

As you coach, here are some helpful principles to keep in mind:

1. Understand their Motivation. My own motivation for Togetherness has always been that I cannot stand feeling rushed. I am a grumpy person when scrambling, and secondly, I know I need a decent amount of sleep at night that without planning, simply doesn’t happen. So, ask the people you are coaching about their motivation for getting it Together—and let that be their (and your) driving force.* Listen hard. And ask lots of follow-up questions.

2. Your Way Is NOT the Only Way. I don’t care if you live and die by your Outlook calendar; it may not be what works best for others. If you really want to coach others, you need to have a high fluency in options and process—but be a stickler about outcomes. Care more about if someone is meeting deadlines and less about what system they are using to do so.

3. Beware the Mandate. To take it a step further, we have seen schools and organizations go into utter rebellion (slight exaggeration) when folks are forced into a system-wide method of organizing. Without losing too much efficiency, be careful about how much you prescribe. Of course, if an entire team is using Asana, then one person simply cannot opt out. For any necessary system-wide requirements (of which there should be very few!), get input and investment on the front end before you dive in.

4. Take Advantage of What Already Works. Don’t try to overhaul people. Too much change results in NOTHING sticking. So, if someone LOVES his notebook and consistently carries and uses it, well, then, work with that person to ensure the notebook has sections for short- and long-term to-dos, stuff to tell others and meeting notes. Don’t rip away someone’s security blanket. Try to work with it!

5. Create Role Models from the Start. Find a few people who use paper-systems, a few who work digitally, and a few working with hybrid methods. Don’t make people figure it out the hard way. Tell them upfront you expect Togetherness, and then SHOW them a way (or many ways) to do it that are currently working in your organization, district or school. You could even create videos!

*Wondering about someone who simply doesn’t see the value of Togetherness but really just has to get more organized? Then you have to gently point out the negative impact of not being so, such as missed deadlines, all-nighters, and students that don’t learn as much.

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