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

The Why

Learning from our failures can be useful. But identifying what we do wrong tells us what not to do again. It does little to help us understand what we do right – what we do well -- so we can continue doing it. Coaching to our assets, strengths, and talents provides us information about what we already know how to do, and the tools to leverage them in other situations.  

Note: This protocol can be done in about 20 minutes by devoting about 25% to identifying strengths, and 75% to leveraging the strengths toward solving a problem.


Supporting States of Being


The How

Step 1

Step 2

  • Imagine the person at a moment when you saw her* succeeding.

  • Inhale 4 counts/exhale 8 counts: Breathe in listen/breathe out  compassion or love


Step 3 

  • Ask: “What success, big or small have you recently had? Narrow the Frame to area of development. (Ex: What success have recently had getting students excited about reading?)


Step 4 

  • “What did you do to make this happen?”


Step 5

  • As colleague tells her Story, glean and write general present tense verbs/phrases or States of Being that capture strengths contributing to the success.

  • Present tense makes these living, dynamic strengths to call on in any situation.

  • As you listen to the Story of How, you might hear things in the example that you translate to: Listen. Model. Be enthusiastic. Offer culturally relevant material. Differentiate. Engage families. Reward.


Step 6

  • Read each strength to the colleague and ask: “Do you know where I got this?”

  • To make sure she understands your interpretation from Story to strength

  • To offer you data on what she knows about herself -- that you are on the same page

  • To learn more about her 


Step 7

  • Which of these identified strengths can you leverage to address this? Narrow the Frame to the next area of development. Ex: How can you get students interested in writing a paper?

  • Show colleague the list

  • Add your suggestions from the list if needed. Add other tools if needed


Step 8 

  • Ask: What's clearer to you now?


Step 9

  • Do real-time practice of the problem using identified strengths. Ex: Practice how she will prepare for and implement the writing assignment.


Close by asking: What’s clearer to you now?


Potential Traps

  • Spending too much time capturing strengths

  • Making the strengths too specific to one situation

  • Naming the colleagues' strengths for her.


This works with students, too.

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


Linda Belans, EdD 

Linda Belans coaching Jacob Bosch

to Assets