How Can Coaching Support School Principals?

Rosie Connor and Denise Barrows
June, 2024

Every coaching conversation is different, as every principal’s needs and school context are unique. Coaching is also confidential. This is absolutely as it should be. Yet, the unintended consequence of this is that coaching can become a ‘black box’– a ‘best kept secret’, with many school principals unaware of its purpose and benefits.

Our recent book, Embracing MESSY Leadership¸ aims to demystify coaching by sharing the insights BTS Spark coaches have gained from coaching over 20,000 school leaders globally. We uncovered the most common reasons why school leaders engage in coaching – allowing us to shed some light on the challenges they face and how coaching can offer practical support.

So, what needs do school leaders most often ask for coaching support with?

  1. Holding difficult conversations.
  2. Empowering others (rather than fixing their problems for them!).
  3. Engaging both staff and parents.
  4. Building self-confidence.
  5. S-l-o-w-i-n-g down.
  6. Prioritising.
  7. Setting boundaries to improve personal wellbeing.

Whether these challenges resonate with you, or you have other situations or development needs you’d like some support with, a skilled coach will help you to understand what might be going on under the surface – for you or others – to help shed some new light on things. They will help you get clear on the outcomes you’d like and identify strategies to achieve your goal or move things forward. Your coach will help you think through your approach and, if you like, practise in a safe environment. And they will offer a supportive and confidential space where, with skilled questioning, they can help you find new clarity and confidence.

Time with a coach is yours to use in whatever way you would find most helpful, remaining focused on your priorities. For some school leaders this means an opportunity to offload, and creates precious time to decompress and invest in your own wellbeing. It's a time to reflect on your successes as well as any challenges, helping you gain new perspective and balance.

So, if you haven’t yet experienced the benefits of coaching, maybe now is the time to invest in yourself. The benefits can be profound and long lasting, not only for you, but for your team and the while school community.

Rosie Connor and Denise Barrows

Rosie and Denise are Directors of BTS Spark, a not-for-profit initiative enabling school leaders to access world-class leadership coaching.