Connected Principals Posts

  One of the biggest errors in leadership is when people aren’t moving forward and leaders look outward first, and not inward.  If you are wondering why people aren’t moving forward, ask how you are changing your leadership first, not why they aren’t changing their practice.  I have seen this mistake over and over again … [Read more…]

Read More 5 Questions to Help People Embrace Meaningful Change





In an earlier post, I (David) shared 5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address. My friend Jennifer Hogan commented that one way to overcome blind spots is through coaching. That conversation led to the idea of writing this collaborative blog post.



There are lots of ways we can become more aware of our blind spots. Usually, it happens when we have some input (reading, discussing, observing, etc.) and then reflect on that information. But one type of input that is probably underutilized is coaching. We all need to be open to coaching.


Coaching is a good strategy for revealing blind spots while also building on strengths. How do we open ourselves up to embrace coaching as a way to grow both professionally and personally?


Blind spots represent gaps between what we think is true and what is really true, and uncovering blind spots is an important part of one’s personal and professional growth. Blind spots may be certain behaviors, traits, habits, or thoughts that are observable to others but not immediately evident to us. To reduce blind spots we must be open to acknowledging what the other person sees and be willing to reflect on different perspectives. When we recognize a blind spot exists, we can work on changing, reducing, or eliminating them.


We all have blind spots. There are things we do not immediately recognize in our own patterns and behaviors that are plainly evident to others. It’s almost always easier to see how others could improve than to see areas in ourselves that we might improve. For the most part, you know far less about yourself than you feel you do.


Here are a few ideas for developing an openness to coaching and receiving feedback.


Coaching involves building trusting relationships.


Unless there is trusting relationship, it is impossible to have an effective coaching relationship. We can’t act with good faith on feedback from a person we don’t fully trust. But if we sincerely believe a person wants the best for us, we should always openly consider the feedback they provide. Why would we ever be closed to someone who genuinely wants good things for us? It doesn’t mean we automatically have to agree with their perspective, but we need to listen carefully. This person has my best interest in mind. They want me to do well. Why wouldn’t I listen to their feedback?


Good coaching involves listening, not judging.


Feeling judged makes the defenses go up. But feeling heard creates safety. Listening is one of the best tools a coach can use. It’s not a situation where one person is the expert fixing someone else’s problem. Even if it might seem obvious someone has a blindspot, it is ultimately their responsibility to own that. In a coaching conversation, the goal is shared meaning and solutions that arrive as a result of both parties contributions to the discussion. Listening opens doors to new ways of thinking and makes room for others to reflect on their own thinking.


Accepting coaching means facing, and even embracing, failure.



Most people see failure as a threat. We’ve learned failure is bad, and we want to avoid it. We want everyone to think we are successful all the time. But if we reframe failure, and think of it as an important part of how we learn, then we can translate our failures into even greater successes. Each time we fail, we can feel defeated and afraid. Or, we can look for the possibilities for growth in the situation. Some of our greatest opportunities are disguised as failures. Productive failure leads to personal and professional growth. We just need to see clearly. We need to overcome our blind spots.


Identifying blind spots requires seeking evidence that might be critical.


If we truly want to grow, we have to seek evidence of things we might be doing that aren’t working. Sometimes we might not want to look too carefully at something because we might find something we don’t like. But that type of thinking will always hinder our performance. John Hattie urges educators to “know thy impact.” Seek evidence to understand what’s working and what’s not. Hattie focuses on collecting evidence regarding one’s impact on student learning. Coaching can help us reflect on and process what we are doing and how it is impacting student learning. When we better understand what’s working and what’s not, we can focus our energies on highlighting the strengths and mitigating the weaknesses.


A coachable person views criticism with curiosity.


Curiosity leads to discovery and experimentation. A curious person will listen to criticism and feedback with an open mind and a willingness to continue learning. Curiosity is the engine that keeps us searching until we understand something or trying until we can do something. The inclination to explore new ideas, even ones that contradict current beliefs, help to close the gap between what we think is true and what is really true.


Asking for feedback makes it more powerful


Unwelcome feedback usually falls on deaf ears. Unless there is a high level of trust and a desire to hear a different perspective, it is usually a waste to offer feedback. We need to create a culture where it is normal and routine to have honest conversations about performance. Leaders need to model this. They need to ask for feedback too. When leaders demonstrate consistent comfort with examining their own areas for growth, others will feel more comfortable doing this too.


Effective coaching leads to positive change.


Learning is messy. As adults, we are in control of a lot of things. We decide what we’re having for dinner, how our classroom will run, where we will vacation, what time to leave the house, and so many more little and big decisions. Learning is messy. The process is never linear. Learning and trying something new goes against our habits of creating control in life situations. Especially when we know that we will be accountable for the learning and will get feedback throughout the messy process. But ultimately, coaching can lead to clarity, confidence, and growth.


What happens when we don’t open ourselves to receive coaching? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Why Successful People Are Open to Coaching

…because you are overthinking. “Will anyone like this?” “Have  I wrote something similar?” “Is it good enough?” “What does this make me look like as an educator?” “I am not sure it is ready to post?” “Maybe I should go over and edit just one more time!” “I think I need more information…” “There are … [Read more…]

Read More Why you aren’t blogging more…

As an answer to the title of the post simply, “Is leadership an innovative endeavour?”, it is simply…”yes”. To answer the question honestly, is that it should be, but it is not always true. Jamie Notter shared this quote in a video, and it has always stuck with me: Some things in leadership that are true … [Read more…]

Read More Is leadership an innovative endeavour?

After living in Oklahoma for more than twenty years, I’ve become keenly aware that our state’s economy is intricately related to oil and gas. In addition to our rich Native American heritage, almost every major city or town in our state has its roots in the oil fields and exploration that brought workers who in […]

Read More PMP 050: The 5 Marks of a Learning Culture

Teacher burnout…it’s a real thing. This stretch in the winter/spring is a LONG chunk of instructional intensity. You’ve got middle of the year data, you have testing awareness creeping up on you, and spring break is just outta reach. The genius of Melinda Miller introduced me to Fab Fridays in February several years ago and […]

Read More Help curb teacher burnout with Fab Fridays in February!

I was recently asked the following question: How do you respond to educators who say “the idea of being called upon to develop an innovator’s mindset and to innovative scares me . . . I have the opportunity to work with some wickedly smart, wildly creative, and truly innovative people and I can admit that … [Read more…]

Read More Innovation is a process, not a product.

This Tony Robbins quote, “Where focus goes, energy flows”, has been stuck in my head all week. Whether you look at this quote from the perspective of an individual, or an organization, it is important to understand that if  we are to grow in any area, the willingness to learn is crucial.  Not only is it important … [Read more…]

Read More The One Quality All Successful People Have

(This is trying to look at something that is an obstacle, and creating an opportunity. I would love your feedback and any examples of classrooms doing this already.) I know…

Read More Creating Something of Value

(This is trying to look at something that is an obstacle, and creating an opportunity. I would love your feedback and any examples of classrooms doing this already.) I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but I struggle when I see teachers or schools seeking funds for their classrooms through sites like “GoFundMe”. First … [Read more…]

Read More Creating Something of Value

A couple of months ago, I enjoyed some special time away with my son, Jack. He had turned 11, and when his older sisters reached that age, my wife took each of them away for a special weekend. Now it was my turn with Jack, and we had fun weekend in historic Eureka Springs, Arkansas. […]

Read More PMP 049: Why Self-Control Matters–5 Benefits for Leaders

Katie Martin and I have become very good friends over the past few years. We seem to be passionate about many of the same things, yet we both push and…

Read More Smart Yet Relatable

Katie Martin and I have become very good friends over the past few years. We seem to be passionate about many of the same things, yet we both push and support one another.  You need those type of people in your life; people who know when to be a “cheerleader”, but also a critical friend. … [Read more…]

Read More Smart Yet Relatable

I am a firm believer in that if it isn’t written down, odds are I won’t remember to get to it with fidelity. I’ve written about my goals for several years now (2016, 2015, 2104, 2012) and love being able to reference not only where I was personally but also  professionally. I’m only 9 days late into […]

Read More #2017HappyAdminchallenge and a systems check!

        So we’re back to school after our holiday break, and we’re a week into a brand new year, and I’ve been thinking a lot over the…

Read More The Year Ahead