There is an expectant hush in the crowd, a short speech and the smash of breaking glass. The moment is suspended in time but the massive splash which follows makes it all real. It’s how new ships are named and launched and it always seems like a poignant moment. We don’t have quite the same atmosphere when we drive away a new car from the forecourt or open that shiny new laptop for the first time. But these are moments of launch too. Launches are significant.
The launch of the coaching programme at Beauchamp College in Leicestershire was important to all of us. We didn’t want it to turn into one of those moments where the “I name this ship” echoes in the air as the bottle ricochets off the hull and refuses to shatter.
A launch happens once. You want it to be memorable for all the right reasons.
Coaching matters to all of us and it was that team effort which brought everything together.
Thinking about how to manage the launch was important. We believe that coaching will make a real difference to Beauchamp and that it will help us to make teaching and learning even more effective. It felt like there was a lot riding on the first public invitation for teachers to get involved.
So here is our five-part coaching launch plan and our reasoning behind it:
Deciding on who will introduce coaching is an important decision. Should it be the Senior Leadership Team or someone with a different perspective? We went for a combination of coaches from different subject areas and not always those that other staff might expect to be involved with the programme. This made a tangible difference and gave the coaching approach credibility from our very first sentence.
We tried to set the scene with a coaching video. This showed the staff who had been trained as coaches as they worked. Teaching, coaching, working one-to-one. It also included important information about what coaching is in vox-pops from coaches and those who had indirect contact with the programme. Soundbites, one-liners and captions showing a wide variety of college settings and contexts were included. Coaching has real benefits and we sought to show this from a variety of different angles.
Those trained as coaches were part of table groups during our launch. The invitation was simple. Do you have questions about coaching? Some great conversations followed which have never emerged from a session led entirely from the front. Reassurances and misconceptions were some important areas which these discussions explored. Understanding that it is the process as much as the person was an important by-product of this time to freely explore and discuss the coaching model.
All very well knowing what coaching is. All very well knowing that it has worked for those who have been learning about coaching. To have an impact there has to be a challenge in the first presentation to staff.
What are you going to do with the information?
Nod, say that’s all very interesting and go home?
Not the most fruitful of launches.
Do you want to move forward?
Coaching is for you.
Do you want to learn to be more effective?
Coaching could help you to realise your potential.
Do you want to improve your performance?
Coaching could help you begin this journey.
Helping staff to consider what to do as a result of the session was a part of our launch presentation.
Finally, a chance for staff to respond is important. We used a simple tick slip with a space for their name. A box at the back of the session, which was also available in the staffroom was the non-threatening way we chose to do this.
We limited the time to keep the focus: If you’re interested in being coached respond by the end of tomorrow!
People seemed keen not to miss the opportunity and we soon had a waiting list to handle the numbers of respondents!
The coaching ship has been launched at Beauchamp College. The bottle broke, the speech was good and there was a big splash. It’s going to take time to see how big the ripples will be. Like all good launches, it’s the beginning of a voyage. Perhaps coaching is like the huge turbines beneath the ship. Quietly, powerfully, making a difference.
Anthony Anderson is an Advanced Skills Teacher & Head of Faculty at Beauchamp College, Leicestershire. He's also a consultant for Channel 4 Learning, writer and (of course!) a fantastic coach.
Watch the video created by Anthony & his colleagues as part of their launch: