Coaching with Powerful Interactions: Ideas for a Book Study

Just recently we were asked about a study guide for Coaching with Powerful Interactions. Our initial thought was  - yikes, we haven't done that yet! And then, after pausing, we realized that we've been having conversations since the book first came out last year as an iBook. 

Although we don't have a formal study guide, this blog post offers a few suggestions for having professional conversations using the book as a starting point. We hope you'll share the ideas you come up with as comments on this blog as well as on our Powerful Interactions Facebook page.

Judy's been using conference calls and Webex for small group coaching and book study groups during the past year. 

Sometimes we've read the book together, chapter by chapter and then we use our gathering as an opportunity to focus on what we've read. I begin by asking: What resonated for you in the chapter? What words, phrases or ideas build on what you already do?  In this way we are using a strengths-based perspective (principle 1). Then we might focus on one of the reality checks or a reflection box. Other times, people volunteer to facilitate a chapter and in this case, they choose the focus for discussion. When we do this, I encourage the facilitator to send the focus in advance because this fosters the idea of principle 4, learning partnerships.

Group discussions are an opportunity to discuss and practice the PI strategies, link the ideas in the book to people's experiences in the field, and allow each member of the group to learn from colleagues. These tips have helped:

1. Incorporate the three steps as part of your framework for the group. I start the meeting (whether face to face or on the phone) with thanking people for coming and acknowledging that everyone has made a shift from something else. Whether it is my group at 7:00 am or 6:00 pm, they are coming from somewhere. A reminder to pause to be present by quieting the static always helps us focus. Then we do a brief connect. If we're in the same physical space, it might be a short partner share. On the phone a brief round robin to say hi, hear each person's name and voice, and a nugget related to common focus: perhaps something you saw recently that put a smile on your face. If you are working remotely, revisit step 2 connect each time someone talks by remembering to say your name.  And then, the group is ready to use our connections to extend learning. 
2. Practice listening to learn during the study group. This key PI strategy can be especially hard to do on a phone call. After each person speaks, whether offering an idea or sharing a personal story, allow time for people to think about how they want to respond. I always have two or three people offer "I notice" statements to the person who shares. Examples might be:
o    I heard you say the "Reality check" helped you think about teachers who don't see eye to eye with you about early childhood. That's an important insight because it can interfere with us forming effective working relationships. I'd be interested in talking more about that.
o    I notice that you spoke about how you are intentional about your schedule of connecting with teachers by keeping track of who you connect with each week. That's important because it is easy to lose track and it ensures that you are touching base regularly with everyone.
3. Encourage the use of note taking. By inviting everyone to take notes, the group practices documentation. Jotting notes before sharing (either when reading the book to prepare or as you the facilitator poses a question for discussion) gives people a chance to pause, quiet their static and think. In this way comments are more intentional. It also means that everyone can share their thought rather than simply responding to the first person that speaks. As each of you listens to others, jot down key words of what they are saying. Here again, you are practicing documenting and active listening.
4. Identify goals to focus on during the study group. At the outset, and before we begin talking about the book,I ask people to think about a strength they bring to their work as coaches (regardless of their defined professional roles.) I invite them to think about why that strength is important to their work. This is articulation. Then, I ask: What is a skill you want to strengthen and why is it important to your work? I invite them to think about moments of effectiveness in relation to that skill they want to strengthen. Then I suggest that as we go through the study group together, they notice ideas they are thinking and learning about that relate to the skill they want to strengthen. Each session we end with a brief reflection question: How, if at all, has this discussion offered you guidance about your goal? Please jot it down. Then we go around and share. 
5. Use the book with coaches and directors? We've had discussions with groups of coaches and others that are only directors and some that are comprised of people in diverse roles. If you are working with directors or a mixed group, invite people to listen to and discuss the video clip #5, referenced on page 15 in the paper book and on page 27 in the iBook: The Challenges of Being Both Supervisor and Coach. 

These are a few ideas that can be helpful as you begin using Coaching with Powerful Interactions to guide discussion groups. As we said earlier, you'll have more! Please share them so that we can all benefit.