States of Being: The What Why and How of Coaching Urgent School Leaders

The Why

When the work is urgent, moving at a fast pace, and the stakes are high, it's so easy to slip into impatience and judgment about a colleague who doesn't seem to be measuring up. About one who isn't fitting in. Who doesn't seem to "get it." In these moments, it's hard to access empathy, and so easy to forget what it was like to be new at our job; to be a first year teacher, leader, or just having a hard time.


In these moments, it's important to remember that teachers and leaders come to work every day with the intention to help students learn, grow, and become the best versions of themselves. To make good choices. If we want our colleagues to succeed, it's essential to walk in their shoes so that we can understand where they are, then guide them toward their Highest Self. 


So the next time you hear yourself sigh at someone, or shake your head with impatience, or write someone off, remember what your first year on the job was like, or the time when you lost control of your classroom, or said something ridiculous in a meeting. Then breathe, step into your colleague's shoes, walk toward him* and listen. Coach him to his Highest Self

Supporting States of Being

Honor Story: Listen. Quiet the Ego: Check in Before Checking Out.. Be Curious: Ask Nonjudgmental Questions. See the Higher Self: Coach to Assess. Acknowledge Mystery: Trust Intuition. Everyone Has a Piece of the Truth: Gather Perspectives. Notice Repetition: Interrupt Patterns. Be Present: Remain unattached to outcomes.


The How

Step 1

Step 2

  • Before you begin, imagine the person at his best: a moment that you saw him succeeding

  • Inhale 4 counts/exhale 8 counts

  • Inhale listen/exhale compassion or love

  • Listen with curiosity and without judgment

  • Recall times you have had a feeling or experience like the one your colleague is describing. A time you struggled, failed, felt sad, questioned your own competence, felt lonely, needed a lifeline. A time when you needed some tools to help you do your job better.

Step 3 and ongoing throughout session

  • Notice your own feelings and silently name them in order to manage them

  • Stay focused on listening

End by asking: What's clearer to you now?

This protocol works with students, too.

Potential Traps: 

  • Getting angry

  • Getting triggered

  • Being impulsive

  • Expecting more from someone than they are capable of

*In each State of Being, I will toggle among pronouns She, They, and He.

* States of Being, Linda Belans EdD