Episode 39: #coachbetter Counselor Spotlight with Niki Dinsdale
Listen to Episode 39
In this episode of #coachbetter Kim chats with Niki Dinsdale, University Advisor at UWC, SEA. During their conversation Niki described coaching as an “intellectual spa” (which is now Kim’s new favorite metaphor for coaching!)
Bonus: Watch the spotlight version of this episode on YouTube!
Niki believes that coaching is a critical opportunity to stop and deeply reflect on our own professional “habits” that have been built over time. Niki thinks coaching can almost be self-indulgent because of the many great benefits that come from a meaningful relationship, full of thoughtful conversations, with a colleague who is focused on helping her achieve her own professional goals. If you’re not sure coaching is for you, this conversation with Niki will likely convince you that it’s time for your own “intellectual spa” experience!
What do you think coaches do?
Coaches help me think about how I can achieve best practice and find an answer within myself to solve something. At UWC all of us are trained to be coaches. It doesn’t feel like it’s something special, or something you have to seek out, you can have a coaching conversation with anyone.
How do you work with the coaches at your school?
There’s a system of professional learning, each year we set ourselves goals of what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve it. They can be quite fundamental (like shifting culture) and and go beyond the individual school, and then work with the coach to help her make that happen. Long term relationship with coach so can grow with these goals over time. Has really enabled me to grow personally and professionally. My digital literacy coach is someone I can go to with a kernel of an idea and she can help me move it forward and make it a reality.
What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?
On a day-to-day basis, when it is the nitty-gritty of my profession, trying to move someone’s thinking forward in a daily practice way. This is an immediate benefit to everyone I work with. Allows me to quickly expand my repertoire, and build my toolkit.
What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?
I would be trying to build relationships where I can be vulnerable. Building up those professional and personal relationships. It doesn’t matter if that person doesn’t understand coaching, it’s about that safe space. Not looking for a relationship that is just solution focused, it’s about the process, frame conversations like that. It’s not about perfection.
What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?
You need a culture where it’s Ok to be vulnerable. You have to feel that you’re not going to be criticized or judged. If everyone can be a coach, and everyone is aware of how it works, that takes away some of the hierarchical nature of some people already knowing about the “secret power” of coaching. Where everyone has access to the tools and you’re aware of the conversation and the process, so no one feels like something could be “being done to them”. A culture of positive intent.
Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?
It fails if you don’t understand the process. If you’re just perpetually trying to coach and not recognizing when someone just needs some solutions (more like consulting). If someone feels threatened and doesn’t see positive intent it will fail. If there’s no time to pause and really think carefully about what you want. It can’t all be just casual and ad hoc. Invest time, and culture, understanding that coaching isn’t always the appropriate way to have a conversation
What makes a coach invaluable to you?
Forces me to crystalize my thinking. Almost like a self-indulgence, like an “intellectual spa” so you can stop and think and reflect, so you’re not doing things unintentionally on auto-pilot, especially when you’ve done something for a long time so it’s easy to fall into habit. By giving myself the time to think about those things. Self-worth: you’re worth stopping and thinking about these things.
What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?
Before I discovered coaching, it made me feel like if I got things wrong, that was a real failing on my part. It was very personal, so you couldn’t share that with other people. Without coaching you feel more isolated.
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