Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey

Journey of Becoming Trauma Informed: How a Norm of Collaboration is Changing Things One Situation at a Time

When given the task of leading five buildings in our district to become Trauma Informed, it excited me to have the opportunity to influence the system in such meaningful work. We are a district that serves approximately 6,400 students, and I knew we needed to begin by working with the adults in the school community. Our District had the benefit of creating a partnership with the University of Missouri for our work through a grant, and that partnership helped to get the ball rolling. I went directly to my Adaptive Schools Sourcebook to get my thinking around leading a team around trauma, and was invigorated by the words of Garmston and Wellman, “Self-organization develops through meaningful adult interactions about students, student work, and the purposes and processes of schooling. To be productive, such interactions must be infused with and guided by shared values and norms of collaboration….At times the work is messy and non-rational. Habitual, linear ways of thinking will work for some issues but not for the increasingly complex and ill-structured problems that beset many schools today.”

Our team of 23 people, comprised of counselors, teachers, and administrators, has leaned heavily on the work from trauma experts: Dr. Susan Craig, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, and Paul Tough. We have relied equally as heavily on Adaptive Schools strategies to do the learning and many of the strategies can be utilized in the classroom setting to work with students who are not self-regulating. Our journey, really, has been a double track agenda!

We are working with teachers to be more cognizant of the Norm of Collaboration skill of pausing. The more we collectively discover situations where the pause can be so powerful, the more people are seeing its value to de-escalate behaviors and diffuse potential blow-ups in classrooms. Teachers are seeing the importance of the pause when working with students struggling to self-regulate. The team is working with other adults in the system so they can show students the power of a pause to help in self-regulation as they layer that with breathing techniques. A place in the building or in a classroom where students can have a moment before going back into the hustle and bustle, the commotion of everyday life—is a tangible place for the pause. We need to reflect on how we do business and use this norm to better connect with our students to help them be more successful in our system.

Although the pause is taught as a norm of collaboration, I like to think of it also as a skill that can be used for situations that are heavy laden with anxiety and fear for our students of trauma. Explicitly teaching pausing to both the adults in the system and students in the system can truly be life altering.

Garmston, Robert, and Bruce Wellman. The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2013.
Books on Trauma that have been helpful in our work on becoming trauma informed:
Craig, Susan. Trauma-Sensitive Schools for the Adolescent Years. Teachers College Press, 2017.
Harris, Nadine Burke. The Deepest Well. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
Tough, Paul. Helping Children Succeed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Purposefully Creating Cognitive Diversity and Psychological Safety

Author: James Roussin, Training Associate and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

According to the research findings of Alison Reynolds and David Lewis, cognitive diversity and psychological safety correlates highly to adaptability…the ability to anticipate and respond to challenges and opportunities. When there is a psychologically safe environment it allows for greater flexibility in divergent thinking. Here is a simple way to increase psychological safety with your team. It comes from the work of Patrick Lencioni called the personal history exercise.

This low-risk exercise requires nothing more than going around the table during a meeting and having team members answer a short list of questions about themselves. This exercise encourages greater empathy, understanding, and discourages unfair and inaccurate behavioral attributions. Here are a few possible questions:
• A nick-name someone gave you as a child
• Where you grew up and the number in your family
• Your first job or worst job
• Most difficult or important challenge faced before 18
• An item on your bucket list

After sharing, end with this debrief question: What did you learn about someone that you didn’t already know?

A Healing-Centered Framework

Author: Carrie Usui Johnson and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

In a recent Medium article, Dr. Shawn Ginwright of San Francisco State University shares his thinking around creating healing-centered engagement to support communities where trauma is prevalent. In defining what it means to create healing-centered engagement, Dr. Ginwright states, “A healing centered approach to addressing trauma requires a different question that moves beyond “what happened to you” to “what’s right with you” and views those exposed to trauma as agents in the creation of their own well-being rather than victims of traumatic events.”

As I considered this question, I felt a natural connection to what we do as Cognitive Coaches. As Cognitive Coaches we support people to be self-directed and resourceful through an asset-based framework. By focusing on healing there is an acknowledgment and inquiry into the root causes (deep structure) of the trauma rather than just the symptoms (behaviors on the surface). Furthermore, Dr. Ginwright states, “Perhaps one of the greatest tools available to us is the ability to see beyond the condition, event, or situation that caused the trauma in the first place. Research shows that the ability to dream and imagine is an important factor to foster hopefulness and optimism, both of which contribute to overall well-being (Snyder et al. 2003).” Applied to a Cognitive Coaching framework, this healing-centered approach allows coaches to support individuals in moving from their existing state to their desired state goal.
This idea becomes even more powerful as we consider the secondary trauma that many educators experience in supporting young people who have experienced trauma. As caring educators, the empathy and compassion needed to support youth around trauma can be difficult, exhausting, and without self-care and well-being, unsustainable. As Cognitive Coaches, we have the ability to provide a space for reflection that support educators in sustaining their own well-being and healing.

Lastly, as I consider the mission of Cognitive Coaching, “…to produce self-directly persons with the cognitive capacity for excellence both independently and as members of a community,” the idea of both the individual and the community stands out as a connection to healing-centered engagement. Individually, just as in Cognitive Coaching we consider the work of Robert Dilts and the importance of identity in making long-lasting and sustainable changes, Dr. Ginwright also highlights the importance of identity in healing-centered engagement. “The pathway to restoring well-being among young people who experience trauma can be found in culture and identity. Healing-centered engagement uses culture as a way to ground young people in a solid sense of meaning, self-perception, and purpose. This process highlights the intersectional nature of identity and highlights the ways in which culture offers a shared experience, community, and sense of belonging.” Meeting people where they are and acknowledging their experiences, culture, and identity to support their thinking is a capability that we, as Cognitive Coaches, have to support people on a pathway to their well-being and desired state.

Further, in supporting an individual’s ability to be self-directed with the cognitive capacity for excellence as a member of the community also requires Cognitive Coaches to consider what’s going on in the community that might require healing. Dr. Ginwright states, “Healing and well-being are fundamentally political, not clinical. This means that we have to consider the ways in which the policies and practice and political decisions harm young people. Healing in this context also means that young people develop an analysis of these practices and policies that facilitated the trauma in the first place. Without an analysis of these issues, young people often internalize, and blame themselves for lack of confidence.” When we take into account the external forces that are causing systems of trauma to exist, we are able to advocate for conditions that can possibly disrupt, break, and transform those systems. Here is where Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools intersect, as we also serve as community group members with the ability and capabilities to balance inquiry and advocacy for conditions that are more equitable and just for all people. And as we participate in supporting the healing-centered engagement of others, we also experience healing and well-being as members of a community consistently engaged in healing and building the cognitive capacity, self-directedness, and resourcefulness of others to heal.

In thinking about your role as a Cognitive Coach, what might be some of the ways a healing-centered framework might support the work you do?
What are some things that support you in keeping your own well-being during difficult times?

Ginwright, S. (2018, May 31). The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement. Retrieved from

Transformative Talk: Cognitive Coaches Share Their Stories

Authors: Carrie Usui Johnson and John Matich, Training Associates and members of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

In our chapter titled We Don’t Fix Teachers: Managing Outside Expectations and the Integrity of Cognitive Coaching, from the book Transformative Talk: Cognitive Coaches Share Their Stories, edited by Gavin Grift, we explore three common misconceptions about coaching.
Developing the identity of a mediator of thinking in order to be a Cognitive Coach is a complex and deep process. And yet, as Garmston and Costa highlight, this identity is critical in having a coach use the skills, tools, and strategies they have learned through a Cognitive Coaching seminar. In order to understand and manage the complexity of this work, misconceptions, assumptions, and tensions must be explored. Based on our experience, we propose exploring the following three misconceptions we have found as challenges to creating a sustainable Cognitive Coaching community.

Misconception #1 – Expertise in the classroom is the main indicator of expertise as a Cognitive Coach.
While content and classroom expertise are important characteristics for a Cognitive Coach, how a Cognitive Coach uses or doesn’t use that expertise to support the thinking of their coachee is even more important.

Misconception #2 – Coaches trained in Cognitive Coaching need professional learning focused mainly on the content they support or a “training for trainers” model rather than continued development of their Cognitive Coaching identity through focused rehearsal with coaching skills, strategies, and tools.
The assumption that one’s learning around coaching ends at the conclusion of the eight-day Seminar presumes that it is a set of behaviors that can be adopted in a rote or mechanic way. In order to develop one’s Cognitive Coaching identity, it takes intention rehearsal, reflection, and feedback.

Misconception #3 – Directors, Managers and/or Supervisors of Cognitive Coaching communities do not need to be Cognitive Coaches or learn alongside their coaches
If we want to see our coaching communities use Cognitive Coaching with their teachers and students in meaningful ways, our coaches need their leaders to support their thinking and identity development in similar ways.

In this Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey, we would like to hear from other Cognitive Coaches. What are some ways in which we might manage and clarify these misconceptions?

Adaptive Schools and Trauma Informed Practices

Author: John Matich, Training Associate and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

The Center for Disease control defines Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as preventable and traumatic early experiences; they can range from exposure to violence, poverty and neglect, to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Nationally, more than 46 percent of U.S. youth—34 million children under age 18—have had at least one ACE, and more than 20 percent have had at least two.

In a trauma-informed school, the adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress (ACEs). In addition, students are provided with clear expectations and communication strategies to guide them through stressful situations. The goal is to not only provide tools to cope with extreme situations but to create an underlying culture of respect and support.

Garmston and Wellman say that “the quality of adult interactions mediate outcomes for students.” As adaptive educators, we also know that this is true for interactions with and among students and it must exist on an ongoing basis if we are to create a respectful and supportive school culture. As collaborators, inquirers, and leaders, this is part of our DNA.

Adaptive teachers strategically use Adaptive Schools strategies and explicitly model and teach the Seven Norms of Collaboration to students because they are the foundation for creating an underlying culture of respect and support. When teachers implement Adaptive Schools strategies with fidelity and model them, they are creating the conditions for civil discourse, equity of voice, safe learning environments, and they are showing that they value students.

Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to co-design and co-present professional development for k12 teachers in Los Angeles with trauma-informed school experts. As I designed the professional development and learned more about ACEs and trauma-informed practices, it became strikingly clear that the Adaptive Schools strategies along with the Seven Norms of Collaboration perfectly aligned with the goals of trauma-informed schools because they create the conditions for mutually respectful discourse in a nurturing environment.

Garmston and Wellman point out that “clear intentions, the ability to read groups, and flexibility are the keys to selecting processes to facilitate groups” (Garmston and Wellman, p. 171). This applies to adults and students.

Trauma-sensitive practices are not just “another thing,” they are the thing. When we employ Adaptive Schools strategies with the intention of creating safe and robust learning environments, we are living a philosophy of care and respect.

I’m imagining students using the Seven Norms of Collaboration along with Adaptive Schools strategies to not only uplift themselves, but to uplift their classmates. These strategies can empower the passive, build confidence in the passive aggressive, and provide space for the aggressive to effectively express themselves. It’s imperative that we teach students ways to be respectfully assertive as they collaborate, inquire, and lead–just as we teach adults.

What added value might Adaptive Schools strategies have to educators who are already practicing trauma-informed practices?

What might be some ways in which Adaptive Schools strategies support schools and educators in becoming a trauma-informed school?

Which of the Seven Norms of Collaboration might be most influential in creating an underlying culture of respect?

How might we become more explicit with teachers about how to create a culture of respect and support by using the strategies and Seven Norms daily in their classrooms?

The Next Steps of Choreographing an Opening

Author: Seth Brown, Agency Trainer and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

Stepping in front of a new audience and presenting content that stands out from some of the sit and get training educators are sometime subjected to can be a nerve racking endeavor. Those first few minutes are critical in establishing your credibility in front of the audience and can either set them at ease or make the rest of the presentation a huge ordeal.

Zoller and Landry (2010) coined a term I used today while coaching a teammate: Choreographing an Opening. Choreographing an Opening refers to the planned verbal and nonverbal moves a presenter makes to proactively acknowledge resistance. Choreographing is especially important when you anticipate resistance from the audience and recognize the need to establish your credibility as a presenter and a rapport with the audience to open their brains to what you are sharing.

Donald Miller’s (2017) Building a StoryBrand offers readers another way to frame that Choreography. Miller suggests that in effective presentations the presenter should not be the hero of the message. Rather, make the audience member the hero, facing a perplexing problem, either an internal, external, or philosophical problem. The presenter, then, can take on the mantle of a guide, like Yoda or Obi-Wan in Star Wars, who has a plan to both address the problem and then offer a call to action leading to success rather than defeat.

Even though the book was written for business people trying to sell a service or product, the concept explains how to impactfully craft an opening that places the focus on the audience member rather than on the presenter, and, as a result, is more likely to engage them during your presentation.


Miller, D. (2017). Building a storybrand: Clarify your message so customers will listen.

DMiller's Book

Collective Teacher Efficacy

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

“Perceived collective efficacy is defined as a group’s shared belief in its conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainments” – Albert Bandura in Self-efficacy: The exercise of control.

In Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning (2017), Jenni Donohoo explores the power of collective teacher efficacy to improve student learning and achievement. She begins with John Hattie’s research which ranks Teachers’ Collective Efficacy as the greatest factor impacting student achievement.

Through their collective action, teachers can positively influence student outcomes. This includes students who may be disengaged, unmotivated, and/or disadvantaged. Educators’ beliefs affect thought patterns and behaviors in ways that are either in service of quality implementation or in opposition to it. Efficacy is required for innovation and change. When efficacy is firmly established, the shared sense of efficacy supports behaviors that fosters change. (Donohoo, 2017)

There are three ways in which beliefs can affect behavior to support or hinder implementation of change initiatives in schools:
1. Efficacy impacts how teams perceive constraints and opportunities afforded in their unique school environments.
2. Collective efficacy impacts motivational investments.
3. Collective beliefs about efficacy shape experiences.

Donohoo shares that efficacious teams figure out ways to own their own work, even in the face of setbacks. Teams lacking efficacy are quick to settle for lower quality work, having lower motivation and set fewer goals. In sum, Donohoo argues that efficacy leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In her book, Donohoo suggests ways for leadership to foster collective efficacy that range from increasing teacher voice in decision making to encouraging teachers to learn about each other’s work. She also suggests that leaders should encourage collaboration that focuses on instructional improvement. This leads to greater collective efficacy, which, in turn, leads to greater student achievement.

How might your coaching and facilitating support the development of collective teacher efficacy?
What are some ways in which teacher participation in school decision making can be increased?
How might fostering greater Collective Teacher Efficacy in your school support student achievement?

Donohoo, Jenni. Collective Efficacy: How Educators Beliefs Impact Student Learning. Corwin, 2017.

The Discipline of Will

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

Efficacy has been an important part of my success as a new coach and one that I continuously cultivate. In support of my increased efficacy, I have leaned on the work of Ryan Holiday, specifically his thoughts in The Obstacle Is The Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. In previous posts I have considered the Stoic Disciplines of Perception and Action. This final post considers the Discipline of the Will.

The Discipline of the Will is the third critical discipline and the most difficult to cultivate. Holiday suggest that we can think, act, and, finally, adjust to a world that is inherently unpredictable. The Will is what prepares us to do so. It protects us against it and allows us to thrive in spite of it. He states, “If Perception and Action were the disciplines of the mind and the body, then Will is the discipline of the heart and the soul. Will is fortitude and wisdom – not just about specific obstacles but about life itself and where the obstacles we are facing fit within it.” (Holiday, 130)

In the development of this discipline, Holiday offers that misfortune, challenges, and uncertainty are a natural part of life. Taking the path of least resistance teaches you nothing. Instead, Holiday shares a list of practices that build one’s capacity to face obstacles. They include: Anticipation, Art of Acquiescence, Love, Fate, Perseverance, Selflessness, and Meditate on your Mortality.

As a coach, I have cultivated my ability to “anticipate” as defined by Holiday. This includes pre-thinking through the multiple ways an interaction may fail. While counterintuitive, anticipating failure, or attempting hindsight in advance, pays dividends. It is a technique coined by psychologist Gary Klein known as a ‘premortem’. Instead of reflecting on failures after the fact, you actively look for things that may go wrong before even beginning. Holiday suggests to always prepare for disruption because, more often than not, it will happen. Most meetings don’t go the way you intended, some are better than you thought and others miss the mark entirely.

It is my belief that this practice supported me in a failed meeting a few months back. The group I was facilitating quickly hit an impasse in the work and it was clear that we weren’t going to complete our objectives. This was okay as I was able to remain cool headed because I had anticipated something could go wrong. I had already pondered, “What if … No problem, we can always…” I paused the meeting, acknowledged that our stated objectives were challenging and identified a new goal for the group. From thinking in advance about how the meeting could wrong, I was able to make concessions in the moment and still persist with getting most of the work done.

To close I return to Holiday’s final thoughts,
See things for what they are.
Do what we can.
Endure and bear what we must.
What blocks the path now is a path.
What once impeded action advances action.
The Obstacle is the Way.

None of this is simple and it takes practice. I know that I am a better coach and facilitator from practicing the Stoic maxims discussed in the Holiday’s work.

What internal dialogue might you offer yourself in order to build your capacity when you encounter obstacles?
How might you be a model to others in the Discipline of the Will?

The Discipline of Action

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

Efficacy has been an important part of my success as a new coach. In support of my increased efficacy, I have leaned on the work of Ryan Holiday, specifically his thoughts in The Obstacle Is The Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. The book espouses Stoic Philosophy, encouraging us to view obstacles as opportunities. I face obstacles all the time, from teachers feeling they don’t have enough time to a lack of understanding of my role. As Holiday points out, overcoming such obstacles requires us to consider Perception, Action and Will in ourselves and in others.

The Discipline of Action is about moving forward step-by-step, action-by-action with persistence and flexibility in the interest of our goals. Applying ourselves with gusto and creativity to embrace the obstacle before us is what will make us stronger when facing next obstacle with:
● energy
● persistence
● a coherent and deliberate process
● iteration and resilience
● pragmatism
● strategic vision
● craftiness and savvy
● and an eye for opportunity and pivotal moments

As a new coach, I thought that it was enough to introduce myself at the beginning of the year to the staff and explain my role. This would prompt teachers to knock at my door. Yet, this was not the case. I grossly underestimated the level of action it would require of me to develop a desire for coaching and to support the development of a culture of coaching. I had the know how to coach; I had to call upon the courage to act – to knock on doors. There were rejections, but my persistence led to an opening of doors and minds. From there momentum built and I began to move beyond episodic coaching sessions to more meaningful coaching cycles. The Discipline of Action is about building a tolerance for difficulties, looking for possibilities and settling in for the long haul.

As Holiday reminds us, “anyone in pursuit of a goal comes face-to-face with failure time and time again. Sometimes, no amount of planning, no about of thinking – no matter how hard we try or patiently we persist – will change the fact that some things just aren’t going to work.” (Holiday, 124) This is where the Discipline of the Will must be cultivated.

Next week I will explore the Discipline of the Will.

What new actions might you try this week to further a goal?
Where might you have the opportunity to practice the Discipline of Action?

The Discipline of Perception

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

As a new instructional coach, I regularly turn to The Obstacle Is The Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday to support my development and efficacy. As Holiday shares, the Philosophy of Stoicism encourages us to view the obstacles before us as opportunities. In my work I face “obstacles” with the teachers I serve in many forms: lack of interest, lack of understanding, and lack of time, to name a few. Holiday, like other Stoics of the past, instructs that overcoming obstacles is a discipline of three critical steps: Perception, Action, and the Will. These steps are interdependent, interconnected, and fluidly contingent disciplines.

Holiday invites the reader to first develop the Discipline of Perception as it allows us to better “see” the inevitable obstacles we face and, in turn, grow from. Perception is how we see and understand what occurs around us and how we assign meaning to our experiences. Our perceptions can be a source of strength or of great weakness. “Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” as Shakespeare put it.

Earlier this year a teacher asked me to film students in her Public Speaking course. This was not exactly the type of coaching work I had anticipated and I initially viewed it as a waste of my skills. And, yet, filming those students quickly became an open door for more meaningful coaching conversations. Without being open to serving teachers in a different way than anticipated, I might have missed the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue about student learning. It was a great reminder of the power of perception. Outward appearances are deceptive.

A further obstacle has been to attract teachers to commit to a coaching cycle. At the beginning of the year, my calendar was too empty for my liking. As the year continued, my interactions with teachers were episodic and/or quick hits of support. While this was of service, it was not building the culture of coaching I desired. I began to worry. This was a choice on my part. The Stoics teach us that reactions are a function of our perspectives. Holiday would argue that this simply serves to turn bad things into really bad things.

Though the emotion of worry was my choice, it was not serving anyone. Unhelpful perceptions can invade our minds “that sacred place of reason, action and will–and throw off our compass. Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation without the pestilence of panic or fear” (Holiday, 17-18). He further suggests that perception precedes action and the “right” action follows the “right” perspective.

It was up to me to think differently and find opportunities in everything. Then, in turn, it was up to me to act.

This week, how will you see the obstacles in front of you?
How might your perception impact your efficacy?

Developing Self-Efficacy

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations. – Albert Bandura

In the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learning (2016), Costa and Garmston state that Efficacy may be the most catalytic of the five states of mind. A person’s sense of efficacy is a prime factor in determining how complex problems are resolved. Teachers with robust efficacy are likely to expend more energy in their work, persevere longer, set more challenging goals, and continue in the face of barriers or temporary failure.

As a new instructional coach, it is Efficacy that I rely on the most. I wonder, how does my own efficacy as a coach impact my ability to support teachers? Despite my training and the support I receive at school, I must consistently work on my own internal mindset. If efficacy is indeed an essential state of mind in my coaching, how might I further shape it?

One resource that has been particularly helpful is The Obstacle Is The Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday. As Holiday shares, Stoic Philosophy encourages us to view the obstacles before us as opportunities. In my work I face “obstacles” with the teachers I serve in many forms: lack of interest, lack of understanding, and lack of time, to name a few. Holiday’s book has provided a different frame for approaching such obstacles (the Discipline of Perception), encouraged me to be persistent (the Discipline of Action) and prompted me to cultivate my own humility and flexibility (the Discipline of Will). Stated differently, Holiday’s book has supported me in being more efficacious and flexible in my thinking as a new coach. It has taught me that the essence of philosophy is action and that making good on the ability to turn obstacles upside down with my own mind. Efficacy is in my control. His book ends with these Stoic tenets:
See things for what they are.
Do what we can.
Endure and bear what we must.
What blocks the path now is a path.
What once impeded action advances action.
The Obstacle is the Way.

In the next three Sustaining the Journey posts, I will explore the Stoic Disciplines of Perception, Action, and Will as I see them applying to my work as an instructional coach.

As you move through this week, how might your perceptions influence your path?
How might knowledge of Holiday’s disciplines support you in this work?

December 10, 2018

This month’s Sustaining the Journey will only be two weeks in length. We know that you will be busy with holiday preparations and the approach of a long break period. We wish you a healthy, stress-free, and relaxed respite from the hustle and bustle of school.

A Review:
Itzchakov, Guy and Avraham N. Kluger. “The Power of Listening in Helping People Change.” Harvard Business Review. May 17, 2018.

This article is very connected to the work of Thinking Collaborative in so many ways. The first and most obvious connection is in the title: The Power of Listening in Helping People Change. One needs to think of the Norms of Collaboration and the pause-paraphrase-pause-pose question pattern of Cognitive Coachingsm. Or one can recall the Five Forms of Feedback and the importance of rapport to intersect the article to Thinking Collaborative.

The article begins with some provocative research on giving either positive or negative performance feedback in the hopes of helping “subordinates learn and improve.” One of the authors, Kluger reviewed 607 experiments of feedback effectiveness and found “that feedback caused performance to decline in 38% of cases” (2). This reverse effect was especially true when the feedback “threatened how people saw themselves” (2).

Recalling David Rock’s work around the acronym SCARF, status and autonomy were two major drivers in feedback failure. According to the authors, feedback “often backfires …because it signals that the boss is in charge and the boss is judgmental” which makes employees “stressed and defensive” (2). That limbic reaction or downshifting from the prefrontal cortex reduces consciousness and flexibility. It becomes harder for people to shift their perceptional positions and see things from another’s perspective. Matter of fact, people restructured their social networks to avoid feedback, (thus avoiding the feedback provider), to rebuild self-esteem.

The researchers wanted to explore “whether more subtle intervention, namely asking questions and listening, could prevent these negative consequences” (2). Itzchakov and Kluger ascertained that “experiencing high quality (attentive, empathic, and non-judgmental) listening can positively shape speakers’ emotions and attitudes” (2).

The researchers describe experiments with three types of listeners: trained, attentive listeners, untrained listeners doing their best, and distracted listeners. They found that subjects paired with good listeners felt less anxious, more self-aware, and reported higher clarity about their attitudes on the topics” (3). A surprising benefit of being paired with a good, undistracted listener was that subjects experienced greater “attitude complexity” meaning that their understandings and perceptions become more complex and less mono dimensional.

Another connection to the Adaptive Schools work is that people who participated in a listening circle, which sounds exactly like a small fire, “reported lower social anxiety, higher attitude complexity, and lower attitude extremity regarding various work-related topics” (3).

The authors write, “In concert, our findings suggest that listening seems to make an employee more relaxed, more self-aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and more willing to reflect in a non-defensive manner. This can make employees more likely to cooperate (versus compete) with other colleagues, as they become more interested in sharing their attitudes, but not necessarily in trying to persuade others to adopt them, and more open to considering other points of view” (4).

There is much more to this informative article. The authors point out barriers to good listening and offer tips to become a good listener. The tips include setting aside personal curiosity/inquisitive and solution listening, avoiding distractions like smart phones, resisting the urge to interrupt, and asking good questions to benefit the speaker.

How might you explore some of your barriers to good listening?

What are some ways you can incorporate tips for good listening to develop your listening “muscle”? How might you take advantage of this school break to practice?

What are some caveats to hold onto when you move to offer feedback?

December 3, 2018

This month’s Sustaining the Journey will only be two weeks in length. We know that you will be busy with holiday preparations and the approach of a long break period. We wish you a healthy, stress-free, and relaxed respite from the hustle and bustle of school.

Week one takes a look at some articles on how Gen Zers will be different from Millennials in the workplace. There are some interesting implications and connections to both Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools work. At the end of this installment, there are four of the many links to go deeper into this compare/contrast of generational attributes.

With Generation Z entering their mid-twenties this year, more and more of them will be coming into our schools to teach and in our work places. How might you define this new workforce? Some authors list up to eight major characteristics of this generation of workers and leaders. Here are five to consider.

1. They are more entrepreneurial than Millennials. They recognize that the planet needs work and they are global-minded; they are well-traveled; they solve problems creatively and are not afraid to take the initiative to do so. They also seek autonomy and ownership of their work. Think of Daniel Pink’s Drive: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. These are the forces that motivate this generation.
2. Pragmatism. Gen Zers are more practical and realistic than Millennials. Their childhood was marked by global conflicts, radically changing industrial landscapes, and rapid and sometimes unsettling changes. As a result, this new generation will seek more economic stability and security. They will look for improved benefits. They will be more goal-oriented than the previous generation who might have seven or more jobs in their lifetimes.
3. Collaboration and Community. This generation truly embraces diversity and different lifestyles. Through social media, Gen Z has connected with people from all corners of the globe. And, this global community is now the labor pool. They will expect gender, racial, religious diversity in the workplace. They will expect to work in a collaborative culture where conflict is embraced as a source of growth and innovation.
4. Technologically Innate. This generation is not just tech savvy; they have grown up their entire lives with high speed internet and the ability to connect in an instant. They are also comfortable meeting and working in a virtual world. They work remotely; they are adept with online meeting platforms. They expect to collaborate even with people who are in far flung places.
5. Face-to-Face Communication. Despite number 4, Gen Zers highly regard face-to-face communication. You can text them, instant message them, or email them, but they will want more face-to-face communication either in person or via platforms like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. They like one-on-one performance conversations. They like goal-setting conversations and they like to have their input solicited.

What Adaptive Schools concepts, protocols, and strategies might engage Gen Zee professionals?

How might this generation of professionals respond to Cognitive Coaching? What might they be looking for in a coach?

Reading Non-Verbals: Racial Bias

Non-verbals communication is a critical facet of what we read in others, even greater than verbal communication. Recent research informs us on the way we may misread or misinterpret facial expressions, especially for black students. In Halberstadt and Sims study of those entering education, they considered what factors might contribute to the discrepancy in the number of black students facing disciplinary action compared to white students.

After viewing video of black and white men and women and black and white boys in school settings, she found participants were 1.5 times more likely to be accurate at in interpreting white faces compared to black faces.

…black faces were three times more likely to be perceived as angry even when they were not.

Additionally, hostility was more likely to be attributed to black boys. On a 5-point scale with 1 being not hostile and 5 being very hostile, the average for black boys was 3.37 and 2.12 for white boys.

As a coach, how might your cultural background impact the way you attune to and adjust for human uniqueness?
How do the findings of this study fit with your experiences in schools?
What is most important to you in this research that you might become more conscious of in your interactions with black students and coachees?

Update on Learning Styles and Eye Movements

For many years, educators have been taught to attend to students needs to learn as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. More and more research in recent years has shown that most effective learning matches the style to the task rather than to the style of the learner. Consider this recent publication in the New York Times:

In Cognitive CoachingSM, for many years, we have taught coaches to pay attention to eye movements as a means for assessing how a person might be processing information. That research from Neurolinguistic Programming is also being called in to question. More recent research at the University of Wisconsin by Kevin Hogan and others is informing our current work. An important Cognitive Coaching Capability is, “Attune to and adjust for human uniqueness.” Watching eyes may not accurately reflect how a person is thinking, but movement or staring or closing of eyes indicates there is thinking occurring. Attuning to these nonverbal cues assists the coach in knowing when to be silent, allowing the thinking to continue until the person returns to the center point to reengage in conversation. That is when the coach would paraphrase or pose a mediative question.

How does this new information fit with your own schema for learning styles and coaching? What modifications might it suggest to you in your work?