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The KEYS to Coaching Conversations

If you are involved in any type of coaching – be it peer coaching, instructional coaching, teacher-and-student coaching, or principal-and-teacher coaching (ie The #CoachApproach)… you are engaged in coaching conversations. These conversations should breathe life into the other person, rather than deflate. At the center of the conversations are 4 KEYS to keep in mind. These 4 KEYS serve as reminders to set you on the path to empower and inspire others. The underpinning of these KEYS is building a groundwork of mutual trust in the coaching process.

K – Keep them Simple

When you know you are going to engage in a coaching conversation, it is important to be prepared, but this preparation does not need to be time-consuming. As a coach to teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders, I tend to draw upon two approaches to keep my preparation simple.


Many years ago, as I was getting my PK-12 Iowa Principal Endorsement,  I was introduced to the ORID model of reflective questions. The ORID method was developed by the Institute for Cultural Awareness out of Canada. This structured approach has 4 parts to keep the conversations focused and inquiry-based. The acronym ORID is a handy checklist or reminder to the conversation flow.

O = Objective  – These questions start the conversation focused on the facts and observable data. This is the “what” question.  The purpose is to relieve stress and invite active participation. A simple question like “What did you set out to accomplish in today’s lesson” allows the coachee to share his/her thoughts from their perspective. Meanwhile, if you truly want to feel relaxed during conversations, you can try playing quick games such as 벳엔드 환전.

R = Reflective – Once the coachee has had an opportunity to describe the what, it is time to deepen the conversation with reflection. For example, if the coaching conversation started by sharing what was accomplish in today’s lesson, a follow-up questions could be about how students progressed toward the goals of the lesson.

I = Interpretive – The interpretive questions are meant to serve as a way to interpret the results and start to plan for the next steps. They can uncover deeper meanings and implications. In the example of reviewing a lesson, we know some students may have accomplished the goal while others are approaching it. It is important to remember that the coach serves as a partner in the conversation. Together they explore interpretations of the data and possibilities for the next steps to help students reach the target.

D = Decisional – The decisional questions help define the action steps that both the coachee and coach will take as they work together towards the goal. Do they need to plan the next lesson together? Do they need to coach teach or would it be beneficial for the coach to model something for the coachee?

Here are a few resources to further your understanding of ORID.

The Art of Focused Conversations for Schools by Jo Nelson – This book has over 100 sets of ORID questions. I often use this as a guide when I need to develop coaching questions for individuals and/or teams.

This list of ORID questions from the School Administrators of Iowa is a handy guide to help you get started.

We mention the ORID process in our book The Coach Approach to School Leadership: Leading Teachers to Higher Levels of Effectiveness.


The second set of questions I have found extremely helpful as I coach teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders comes from the book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way you Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier. This book is a must-read if you do any type of coaching! The 7 questions introduced are simple and powerful.

  1. The Kickstart Question
    • What is on your mind?
  2. The AWE Question
    • And what else?
  3. The Focus Question
    • What’s the real challenge here for you?
  4. The Foundation Question
    • What do you want?
  5. The Lazy Question
    • How can I help?
  6. The Strategic Question
    • If you’re saying YES to this, what are you saying NO to?
  7. The Learning Question
    • What was most helpful for you?

I have to admit, I was a skeptic at first. Could these questions really work? They seemed so simple. I now have virtual coaching clients asking for me to use the questions during our coaching sessions. They have found the power in them and have started using them in their own coaching conversations with teachers.

E – Engage in Reflection

The questions structures above help you engage others in reflection. Keep in mind, the one being coached should do the most talking. Strive for an 80/20 ratio. The statement ‘whoever is doing the talking is the doing the learning” holds true both with students in a classroom and coaching conversations with adults.

This past year I had an instructional coach set a goal to focus on his reflective questioning skills. We reviewed various questioning techniques – both ones he had learned and examples like the ones above. I then asked the coach how he might want to collect the data on his conversations. Reluctantly he said videotaping himself was probably going to be the best way. I introduced him to the  SIBME app. He recorded his coaching conversation with a teacher and later viewed and reflected upon it. When he was ready to share he let me know it was okay to watch the recording. In subsequent coaching sessions, he set goals for himself and continued to use video to analyze his own coaching conversations and work towards his goals.

Thinking back on a conversation and watching in unfold on video can be two very different lenses. The later provides a clearer picture of the actual conversation including body language, timing, the ratio of interactions – and much more. The combination of video and instructional coaches and school leaders having the opportunity to have a coach of their own has helped many reach their goals at a much faster rate.

Y – Yield to Others

If you are facilitating a coaching conversation, it is not time to focus on yourself and your past practices.  Instead, yield to others. This is THEIR time for reflection and growth. A simple technique is to watch for is many times you use the word “I” in coaching conversations (enter videotaping again). Have you found yourself saying, “I did this…”, “When I was a teacher I …”, “I did this in my classroom.” etc..

Another tip is to use the teacher’s language. For example, if the teacher calls a strategy by one name and you happen to call it by something else, just use their language. If the “name” is that important, it can be a focus of a professional development session or some other professional learning. 

One last idea to help in yielding to others is to be curious. Your genuine curiosity will set the coachee at ease. Too often the sole purpose of coaching is misunderstood by teachers. No matter hard often we share that coaching is not evaluative – our actions will speak louder than our words. If we stay on a level playing field with teachers and do not sprinkle in our own accomplishments, the coaching trust begins to form. The coachee realizes you are truly there for them … not your own ego trip.

S – Students and Solutions are the Focus

We’ve probably all been a part of conversations that go nowhere. They just keep spinning – like a merry-go-round with no clear focus. When we facilitate a coaching conversation we should be solution-focused. Both our time and the teachers are too precious to spend it on talk without actions.

Keeping student outcomes at the heart of our conversations (rather than teacher outcomes) can help teachers understand that coaching is not about fixing them. If the teacher is interested in learning new techniques, let that come out in their goals set.

In Closing

Facilitating impactful coaching conversations takes practice. I encourage you to find a way to reflect on your own skills – whether it be individually, with colleagues, with a mentor, or your own coach. Perhaps you can use the KEYS to coaching conversations as a guide in your reflection.

I created this infographic for you to help remember the KEYS to Coaching Conversations! ENJOY!

Remember – Each Day is YOUR day to SHINE!

Keep Shining, 


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Do you want to reach your goals even faster? How about having a coach of your own? Check out my Virtual Coaching for Instructional Coaches and School Leaders! Your first call is always FREE! My goal is for YOU to SHINE!

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