Features

When Coaching for Results, New Directions Emerge

by PRISCILLA PARDINI
During his first year as superintendent of the Eudora, Kan., Public Schools, David Winans was invited to be part of a pilot program co-sponsored by The Brande Foundation and the National Staff Development Council to train top educators to be executive coaches.

Little did he know it would change his life.

“It was priceless," Winans says of the experience, which involved not only learning how to coach others, but also being coached himself. "As a new superintendent, I was dealing with the kind of challenges I certainly couldn't take to other people in the district. Nor could I turn to other superintendents." The help he needed came in the form of weekly telephone calls with his executive coach.

Without the coaching, Winans says, he wouldn't have had "the strength to stick to what I knew was best for the kids in light of some parochial interests and concerns that school board members chose to fall back on." Coaching also helped him employ a number of strategies to improve his relationships with board members.

Career Redirection
But ultimately Winans decided to leave the Eudora district, a move he also attributes to his coaching experience. "It helped me realize it was not going to be in the best interest of the boys and girls in Eudora for us to continue to lock horns," he says.

Winans says one of the things he learned about himself through the coaching experience was that he was not suited to be a superintendent. "There are people who come to highly political positions who are masterful at keeping the long-range goals in mind and making adjustments and finding alternative pathways that keep themselves and their organizations moving forward, all without compromising their integrity," Winans says. "I think I'm just too plainspoken to do that well." He says he also discovered "other ways to try to do good, and that I don't need to be a superintendent in order to be a successful person."

Winans now works for the Iowa Department of Education, developing a data system for special-needs infants and their families, and as a coach with Coaching for Results, a nonprofit consortium that grew out of the Brande/NSDC pilot program. Winans and 19 others who had participated in the pilot decided to form the group when they discovered funding was not available to continue the program. "We wanted to find a way to bring coaching to a broader group at a minimum cost," says former superintendent Pi Irwin, another founding member and coach.

Personal Needs
Coaching for Results offers a four-day training program, "Strategies for Powerful Living and Leading," and weekly intensive coaching tailored to the needs of superintendents, principals and other educational leaders. The goal is to produce better teaching and learning.

The group currently is coaching in urban, suburban and rural locations, including the Dallas Independent School District; Howard County, Md.; and the Greenbush, Kan., Service Center. Coaching for Results also will train educators who want to learn to coach others.

Like Winans, Annette Griffin, superintendent of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in Carrollton, Texas, made a major life decision as the result of her coaching experience. Griffin, a founding member of Coaching for Results, knows now that when she retires, she is wants to help establish schools in Africa for AIDS-infected orphans.

"For me, it was wonderful to talk with someone about what I would do after this very high-powered, high decision-making job," she says.