Coaching In The Field Of Child Welfare

Coaching is best integrated into an organization that already has a strongly established learning environment. As noted in A Child Welfare Coaching Framework, the learning environment is the foundation upon which coaching can be implemented. Without the learning environment in place, staff may not take the risks necessary to learn or engage fully in the coaching process. Differences in the learning environments, and the relative success of each organization in preparing and developing its staff, have unique implications for promoting continuous learning. Tannenbaum (1997) suggests that eight characteristics are present in a positive learning environment. Individuals are aware of the “big picture.” Learners at every level understand what the organization is trying to accomplish and how they relate to others in the organization. When individuals understand the “big picture,” they can ensure their personal goals are in balance with organizational goals. Mistakes are tolerated during learning and early application, when individuals are trying new ideas and skills (Gundry, Kickul & Prather, 1994; Sitkin, 1991). This cannot be emphasized enough. If learners do not feel they have the ability to make mistakes without reproach from supervisors or agency leadership, they will shy away from taking risks and trying newly acquired skills.

Individuals are accountable for learning, and performance expectations are high enough to necessitate continued personal growth (Rosow & Zager, 1988). Supervisors and other leaders must maintain high expectations for performance and continuous learning. Supervisors who assist with the transfer of learning from the training event to everyday practice promote professional development and growth. Individuals are recognized for newly learned skills and for appropriate risk taking. Situational constraints to learning and performance are identified and minimized. Burnout is high among social workers, which is due partly to the high intensity of stress and pressure, often in tandem with a feeling of helplessness due to lack of resources, high case loads, secondary trauma, and other factors. Stressors must be acknowledged prior to asking staff to engage in new learning experiences. New ideas are valued and encouraged (McGill, Slocum & Lei, 1992). All levels of staff are valued when they brainstorm solutions to challenges and potential programs or strategies to implement. Supervisors and co-workers provide support, allowing individuals to learn and attempt to implement new ideas (Dubin, 1990; Tracey, Tannenbaum & Kavanaugh, 1995). Learners must be allowed to spend time in training and in the consequent transfer of the learning process. Policies and practices support the effective use of training. Learners will be more engaged in learning and in enhancing the effectiveness of the organization if training is available, relevant and applicable to their jobs. If learners buy into training and see how it fits into the big picture, their chances of success are greatly enhanced.

Group coaching is a fusion of our core coaching competencies, supported by additional skills from the facilitation realm. Masterful group coaches have a variety of facilitation skills at their fingertips to support groups in prioritizing, conversing and moving through the rough patches teams and groups can go through. Today’s blog post explores four facilitation areas caoches can benefit from. Number one, prioritization techniques. From using post-its to colored dots, helping group and team members prioritize the focus is key in the coaching conversation. With groups, lack of focus can feel like a scattered process for group members. Goals form the anchor points of any coaching process, and coaches will want to consider spending time having group members identify key goals they want to work on throughout the coaching process. Session by session/conversation by conversation you wil want to leave space for group members checking in around their process. Six Hats: DeBono’s Six Hats model provides teams and individual group members with a structured process to unpackage and unlayer issues facing themselves. You can read about the six hats here.

Each of the six hats represents a different way to “think” about the issue. For example, you might be working with a team who is struggling to get results. Over the course of one or more conversations you may be exploring different perspectives around the issues. The yellow hat (like the sun) encourages the team to explore the issue from the optimists perspective. The black hat takes the opposite – the pessimists view. What do these perspectives infuse into the commitments for the team/group? SWOT – The SWOT is an age-old strategic planning tool. Whether it is a 20 minute conversation or something more extended, the SWOT often provides a safe space for some teams to raise issues which have been under the surface. Of course, it is also a useful foundation for teams to continue to build upon as they move forward. Force Field Analysis -Coaching is a process of change, and gap analysis is critical in helping clients (team, group and individual) articulate where they are now, where they want to go, and what’s in the way. Force Field Analysis encourages groups to explore what are those factors that are enabling change, and which are in the way. You can work with the group/team to use different colors and/or boldness to identify the strengths of these factors. As you consider your next team or group coaching engagement, how might you be able to incorporate one of these tools? Which one would add a layer onto the work you are doing? Have a great week! Virtual Facilitation Skills Intensive – a 15 hour program geared to equip you with facilitation skills and practice. You can join us in Toronto for face-to-face training or take this 15 hr progam online. We cover virtual facilitation to a great depth with the online version. Mentor Coaching Group – For ACC Renewals and ACC/PCC portfolio – 10 hours (meets ICF requirement for mentor coaching – 7 hrs group calls, 3 hours individuals).