Coaching and Mentoring for ALS Teachers in the ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018

Last November 22, 2018, I had the wonderful opportunity of being one of the resource persons for the first ever ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018 sponsored by the Cebuana Lhullier Foundation, Inc. (CFLI) in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).  The partnership was established by CFLI in 2013 with the DepEd.  CFLI adopts local government units and public schools to make ALS available in their area.

“ALS” stands for Alternative Learning System (ALS) and is a parallel education system that is an option for those who do not or cannot have access to the Philippine formal education system.  ALS provides Academic, Livelihood, Spiritual and Social Education to former out-of-school youth and adults in the elementary and secondary levels.  Mobile ALS Teachers provide the alternative education and, at the secondary level, this is aimed at preparing youth and adults to take and pass the Junior High School and Senior High School equivalency tests, respectively.  Equipped with the knowledge and skills at said equivalency levels, test passers are helped to become more job-ready.

First ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018 Sponsored by Cebuana Lhuiller Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the Department of Education

Back to the summit, the overall intention of the summit was to provide ALS Teachers more opportunities for personal and professional development.  One day during the 2-day summit was devoted to helping them learn more about Coaching and Mentoring skills for ALS teachers and how they can use these to help youth and adults develop their full potential.  The role of teachers as coaches and mentors was explored and a coaching and mentoring approaches and skills were discussed.

We started with differentiating several helping modalities as these are often confused with one another.  The most succinct points that sums up the difference that I’ve found so far are the following.  In a nutshell…

  • Coaching is about generative change and enabling self actualization
  • Mentoring is about guiding from experience
  • Consulting is about giving advice and expertise
  • Training is about teaching and drilling in new skills
  • Counseling and therapy is about remedial change, i.e., solving problems, healing hurts, resolving traumas and building up ego-strength so the person gets up to average and becomes “okay“
    (L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.)

The GROW/TGROW Performance Coaching Model (John Whitmore) and the Narrative Coaching Model (Dr. David Drake) were introduced and discussed.  GROW/TGROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, Way Forward, and T stands for Topic. GROW/TGROW is an approach for guiding a coaching conversation and may be used to guide a mentoring conversation as well.  Narrative Coaching “is a mindful, experiential, and holistic approach that helps people shift their stories about themselves, others, and life itself to create new possibilities and new results.

We live our lives according to the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that others tell about us.” (John M. Winslade and Gerald D. Monk, 2007.)

One insight during the interactions with ALS teachers is that more felt that the Narrative Coaching approach can support them more in helping out-of-school youth and adults, who typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to re-author the stories of their lives to develop and strengthen their positive self-esteem and self-confidence.  The stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that others tell about us are very powerful indeed, and often the impact they have on our thinking, feelings, choices and actions, remain blind spots for many who are clueless about their influence.

For example, an illiterate 15 year old youth may not have the motivation nor confidence to learn how to read and how to do simple math, believing that these are beyond his abilities. Such a limiting self-belief may continue to be perpetuated with his self talk and stories about himself that learning is beyond him and that he does not have what it takes to learn.  Stories about the times he tried but just did not learn are those that are most salient in his mind.  Others in his life may have the same beliefs about him expressed as stories about his lack of ability, motivation, and so on. Such stories also being most salient in their minds.  The vicious cycle continues and he has given up on himself.

With the help of an ALS teacher using a Narrative approach, he can explore areas where he may have higher self confidence, demonstrated the ability to learn, how these came to be, and how these may be resources for him to tap in learning how to read and do simple math.  Exploring events and interactions in his life which showed that he does have abilities for learning and many other skills, helps him create new stories about himself as a person with abilities that he may not have realized until this time.  The process goes on to “thicken the plot” of his new story that he is able and helps him to make new choices, including applying himself to his studies.  Enlisting the support of others in his family and environment are critical as well if creating new stories and making them stick.

The focus of coaching and mentoring is always supporting the “client” (a.k.a., “person coached” or “coachee” and/or “mentee” or “protege”) in achieving the outcomes that s/he has for herself/ himself.  Helping clients in discovering, exploring and realizing their fuller potential is what coaching and mentoring is about.  Coaching is about helping someone to learn instead of teaching them. Mentoring, on the other hand, may include advising and teaching someone by the mentor sharing their experiences.

Opening the ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018 are Pebbles Muñiz, Manager and Program Head for Education Education and Special Projects Department and Jonathan Batangan, Executive Director of Cebuana Lhuillier Foundation, Inc.
Vicky Mandap, Resource Person on Well-Being and Self-Care, Betty Narvaez, Training Manager, PJ Lhuillier, Inc., Maricar Testa, Resource Person for Coaching and Mentoring, and Jonathan Batangan, Executive Director of Cebuana Lhuiller Foundation, Inc.

To learn more about Cebuana Lhuillier Foundation, Inc. and its advocacy on education and the Alternative Learning System (ALS), visit the Cebuana Lhuillier Alternative Learning System website at http://cebuanalhuillierals.com/.

To learn more about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in the Department of Education (DepEd), visit DepEd web page on ALS at http://www.deped.gov.ph/k-to-12/inclusive-education/alternative-learning-system/.

The Stories of Our Lives

A new journey that I started in 2018 was to learn more about Narrative Coaching. Taking the 6-month live virtual Enhanced Narrative Coach Practicioner Program of Dr. David Drake helped me realize that the stories we have and tell about ourselves, and those that others tell about us, are very powerful influences in our lives.

When the stories are “problem saturated,” transforming them into positive stories can make a huge difference in who we become and how things turn out. The origins of Narrative Coaching, as well as Narrative Counseling, spring from Narrative Therapy. Lucky for us who are keenly interested in learning more about Narrative approaches, tools and techniques, so that we can use these in helping others discover and achieve more of their potential, there are many resources available. One is the Dulwich Centre, Australia, that offers a free introductory course on Narrative Therapy.

One resource in the Centre that can help us realize the power of stories is the TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about “The Danger of a Single Story.” One key point is that there is never a single story about a place or a person, and to the extent that we blindly swallow and repeat single problem saturated stories, without ever questioning them, and without digging deeper and wider to learn about different perspectives and alternative realities, we perpetuate misunderstanding. Worse, we may be ignorantly and unfairly destroying others.

There are many stories we create about places, about ourselves, others, and just about anything. In the context of narrative practice, “stories consists of events, linked in sequence, across time, according to a plot” (Alice Morgan, 2000. What is narrative therapy?: An easy-to-read introduction (Gecko 2000) First Edition Edition.)

The power that we have over our stories is that we can re-story, that is, we can choose to create new stories that open new possibilities that can lead to a better future instead of staying stuck in destructive stories. As one colleague put it, “you are not your story.” A story is just a story, and we can break free from bad ones and pivot to new ones.

In the context of family, a lesson for parents is that you must carefully choose the stories you tell about your children, for the seeds of growth or destruction are nascent in such stories. Start with a negative plot line and highlight only negative events over and over, and the pattern will surely lead to a downward spiral. Instead, look for alternative positive plot lines, enrich these plots with positive events, and you have taken control over creating a brighter future.

This one TED Talk can make a difference for us and for others if we let the key messages sink in and stop mindlessly, or worse, maliciously repeating problem saturated stories that may just be based on mistaken assumptions to begin with.

We may have all been at the receiving end of single stories, as well as perpetrators of such stories. If we own that we are part of the problem, then we can begin to choose to take a different and constructive course of action.

Any change takes an open mind, an open heart, and an open will, to borrow from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.

So, what are your stories about yourself and about others? What would be more positive stories instead?

How to Make the Most of Your Coaching Sessions

Your company has engaged a professional coach for its leaders and high potentials and you are one of them.  How do you make the most of this investment in your personal and professional growth?  Here are a few tips to consider:

  • In the context of your job role and career in the organization, reflect on your strengths and areas for development based on past and present,  formal and informal feedback, from your superiors, peers, and direct reports.  Identify possible developmental goals you may want to be coached on by your professional coach.
  • Talk to your executive sponsors about what they see as your strengths and areas for development that they would like you to be coached on, Take note of where your and their perspectives may be similar or different. Ask questions to better understand the perspective of your executive sponsor and share your own views as well.  Ask about what specifically they would like to see change and improve as outcomes of coaching.
  • If the company invested in a 360 feedback survey as an input to your receiving coaching, learn as much as you can about the tool and what feedback were given to you by the people you selected to be your 360 respondents. Keep an open mind and receive all feedback as the gifts that they are, both positive and negative.  You may not agree with the feedback, nevertheless, that is how you show up to the 360 survey respondents.
  • Remember that our intentions do not always manifest in ways that others perceive them. Sometimes, if not often, there may be disconnects between our intentions and the perceptions people have about us and our actions.  Areas where there are huge disconnects between our self perceptions and that of others are helpful places to start our reflection on how come there are these gaps and what actions we can take, things we can do differently (e.g., start, stop, continue doing), to bridge these gaps.
  • Identify the initial top three priorities you need and would like to be coached on by your professional coach and build agreement with your executive sponsors about these.  If it’s too soon to have specific goals at the start of the coaching, that’s fine. The initial coaching sessions can focus on deepening your awareness and understanding of the situation you are in and what makes sense to work on with your coach.
  • Between coaching sessions, be sure to work on whatever assignment or actions you agreed to do with your coach, and learn what you can from these.  No excuses.  Being a more self-motivated and self-directed adult learner, you take responsibility for yourself. Keep a learning journal to write your questions, perceptions, ideas and insights that can help you move forward with your intentions and goals.

We are all always learning, and brain research shows that we continue to rewire our brains through neuroplasticity and nuerogenesis even as we grow more experienced and older.  (Bergland, Christopher, Psychology Today, 2018) (Bergland, Christopher, Psychology Today, 2017)

Are you behaving in ways that build or erode trust?

To say that trust is an important foundation of all successful and mutually beneficial relationships is perhaps an understatement. Trust is key whether we are talking about relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, friends, manager and direct report, consultant or service provider and client.

As we may all know, trust is easy to lose and difficult to earn. Trust can easily be lost as a result of one incident. Earning it back can take time and effort, and a strong desire and willingness to restore it.

How we behave either helps to build and strengthen trust, or erode and weaken it.  One useful little book that can help us assess ourselves and others on trust, and also provide a model and specific actions for building trust, is Trust Works: Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships by Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence.

Here’s a snapshot of The ABCD Trust ModelTM from the authors.  In a nutshell, we become more trustworthy when:

  • We are Able, meaning, we demonstrate competence and a high personal standard in getting things done when working with others.
  • We are Believable, meaning, we act with integrity, i.e., we are sincere, respectful and nonjudgmental.
  • We are Connected, meaning we show that we care about others by listening, showing empathy, and giving credit where credit is due.
  • We are Dependable, meaning we show that we are reliable and others can count on us.

Some questions to ask yourself if you want to do a bit of personal reflection are:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how trustworthy might others perceive me to be?”  You can think of a specific person as you may impact different people in different ways depending on your usual behavior towards them.
  • How often do I  behave in the listed ways?”  In applying this question to each behavior under The ABCD Trust ModelTM, you can use the scale given by the authors:  H-Hardly ever, S-Sometimes, O-Often, V-Very often, and A-Always. Be honest with yourself in terms of the frequency you actually do demonstrate these behaviors.

ABCD.Model

How people perceive us depends a lot on our behaviors.  Often, there can be a disconnect between our intentions and our actual impact.  I am reminded of the adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It is not enough to think that we behave in ways that show we are able and dependable. The question is what do other perceive about us?  Trust is a two-way street.

Take stock of your self-rating and ask others to rate you to see if there is an alignment between how you think you show up vs. how you actually do.

The nice thing about the The ABCD Trust ModelTM is that it can be used as a framework to talk about and work out trust issues in constructive ways. Check out the book to learn more about how you can build or rebuild trust through “trust boosters” and avoid eroding trust through “trust busters.”

Trus.Works

Giving Feedback to Develop Your Team

How often do you give feedback to your team and individual team members?  What type of feedback do you give them?  If and when you give feedback, are they mostly informal or formal?  Think back to last week and write down who you gave feedback to and whether it was positive or negative feedback. Giving constructive and actionable feedback can make a difference in improving performance.

Perhaps for many, the word feedback conjures up images of unpleasant experiences of one’s immediate superior dishing out negative feedback or criticisms about one’s performance.  It does not have to be this way.  If your superior is not very good at giving you feedback, break the chain or vicious cycle of perpetuating the negatives and demoralizing your own team and team members.

Be the team leader that fosters development. Break the cycle. Be intentional. Be the guiding light that sparks positive energy and action in your team. Everyday is a fresh opportunity to turn yourself and your team around, to refocus on performance and behaviors that can be improved through helpful feedback.

Some tips on providing constructive and actionable feedback involve changes in your approach such as the following:

  • Focus on the behavior and not the person
  • Be specific and not general: STAR is useful here – Situation, Task, Action, Result
  • Encourage change instead of attacking or blaming
  • Put your relationship with your team and team members first instead of yourself
Simple steps that you can use include:

  • Describe the behavior as concretely as possible
  • Get the team’s/team members’ view of how the behavior affects others positively or negatively, who are affected and what are the implications on performance quality and cost, as well as relationships
  • Give your own view of how the behavior affects others and the team’s performance
  • Get the team’s/team member’s inputs on what needs to change and how in order to achieve better results
  • Give your onw inputs including a description of the desired behavior and performance levels and outcomes
  • Agree on the next steps, who will do what by when, what support might be needed, and follow-up, follow-up, follow-up

Knowledge without application is a waste.  It’s time to put these tips and steps into action this coming week. Identify team members who have performance issues or dysfunctional behaviors that hurt their or their team’s ability to deliver their best.  Bullet point your specific observations and key messages, and schedule a feedback meeting with each individual. Better do it sooner than later. Start a new cycle, a virtuous cycle of giving constructive and actionable feedback.

Is Coaching and Counseling the Same?

No, they are not.  Some folks may, however, confuse coaching with counseling and this is not unusual. Both coaching and counseling focus on helping people deal with difficult challenges or issues. Both may also focus on helping an individual to change her behavior.  How are they different?

Counseling typically involves people who are experiencing some dysfunctional behavior or internal turmoil. Counseling is often focused on healing past wounds and looking for the cause or origin of the dysfunctional behavior. Going back to the past is intended to help the client get unstuck, to gain understanding on how the behavior may be causing problems in the present and the dynamics involved, and then to be able to move forward in making the change the client wants.

Coaching is for everyone. In the corporate world, coaching is often an investment made to help high potentials progress towards their full potential and prepare them for bigger challenges. In families and communities, it is for anyone who would like to have a “thinking partner” in pursuing her work, life, or other goals. Coaching has a future focus and aims to create a desired state, that is, the goals that the client wants to achieve. It focuses on helping the client clarify her goals, assess the present, and identify what steps or actions she will take to achieve her goals. It is more focused on the future.

The lines between coaching and counseling may not always be clear, especially for a client. What’s important is that the coach can ascertain whether his client needs coaching or counseling. And, unless the coach is also a trained counselor, the coach will refer his client to counseling.