Meet David Manning: Coaching & Strengths Based Leadership-Still Going Strong After All These Years

David Manning, Executive Leadership Coach

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From the AEL team: One of the goals of AEL is to connect educational leaders across the state and even the nation. Our blogs will occasionally feature educators who tell their story AND share their thoughts based on their experiences. Here, David Manning tells his story. Maybe you will connect with him, or become interested in the work of Cheryl Johnson, the principal mentioned in this blog, or simply be inspired to complete a strengths assessment on your own. Whatever your take away-enjoy the read and share with others if you'd like!

David writes...

If you have been in education as long as I have (over 40 years) - or even half as long as I have- then you have spent a lot of hours, days, weeks and even years, if you put them all together, receiving and delivering professional development. Through these years we’ve all seen the “next best thing” come and go. It occurs to me that we never know when something we learned a while back will be used again in our future, even after we are “retired”- whatever that means. I experienced this when I was asked to present coaching training for Handley Middle School in Fort Worth ISD.

Things happen for a reason and one thing leads to the next thing. I am sure of it. I am sure because in my soul I know that we are all connected. In fact, “Connectedness” is one of my strengths. I have always been able to connect one training to another, and find just the right people to provide training on just the right topic. Often, I've just been in the right place at the right time to move me forward to the next part of my life- when I didn’t consciously know what that part was.

Rewind to a few years back...

Before retirement, while serving as Coordinator of Leadership Development at Region 13 Education Service Center, I attended a National Staff Development Council (now called Learning Forward) conference where the closing keynote speaker was a man named Dave Ellis, author of a book called “Falling Awake”. I thought that was a weird title and little too “woo woo” for me.

However, as I listened to Dave, I could see the wisdom of his words in regard to creating goals that would help a leader go beyond the norm and do extraordinary things in the world by asking a simple question: “What do you want?” Then, after the leader determined what they wanted, Mr. Ellis proposed coaching them around their goals by creating action plans.

As you know, the last keynote speaker speaks to a dwindling crowd. People begin leaving early to catch flights back home, have already gone home, or want to sleep in on the last day. Staying and attending this keynote address made a huge difference in my life and in my future. I listened to Dave Ellis, bought the book, attended the next weekend training he presented, and eventually got trained as a coach.

In the weekend training, Mr. Ellis said,

"I want this workshop to be one of the five most important events in your life."

That’s a huge expectation!

I scoffed at this statement, but believe it or not, it was exactly that for me! From that weekend of professional and personal development, I became obsessed with coaching for educators. I was devoted to coaching and I talked about it constantly. I’m sure my colleagues found me tiresome at times. With lots of support at Region 13 ESC, we used all educators and educational examples to bring home the concepts of coaching and create what we called Leadership Effectiveness Coaching Training for Administrators.

That was more than ten years ago. Coaching for educators is still going strong after all these years.

And rewind again...

My first job at Region 13 was to coordinate the Principal Certification Program. We used the Principal Perceiver Interview, developed by the Gallup Organization, to select aspiring administrators for our program. The Gallup people went on to write many books about a person’s strengths. The first one, written in 2001 by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, was titled, Now, Discover Your Strengths.

And the Strengths Revolution was created.

Here's what Buckingham and Clifton had to say about this "revolution":

The great organization must not only accommodate the fact that each employee is different, it must capitalize on these differences. It must watch for clues to each employee's natural talents and then position and develop each employee so that his or her talents are transformed into bona fide strengths.

That was more than 10 years ago. Strengths based leadership is still going strong after all these years.

And now...

Strengths based leadership has become so integrated into my being that when I am coaching a client I almost immediately recognize what their strengths are by the way they talk and act.

So, this past summer, when I was invited to come to Handley Middle School to train teachers to be able to coach fellow teachers, I was delighted.

Low and behold, I soon learned that the summer reading for the Handley staff was “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller. Jo Ann Miller had trained us back some 20 years ago in the Principal Perceiver Interview!

It is even clearer now that my experience with “Strengths” work and coaching work are coming together. And they go together, indeed.

At Handley, I've had the pleasure of teaching a teacher leadership team and their principal, Cheryl Johnson, the fundamentals of coaching and how to use teachers’ strengths in developing their capacity to be excellent classroom teachers. It has been exhilarating for me!

"Why strengths coaching?", I asked Ms. Johnson.

"One of the activities that my doctoral program at Dallas Baptist University had us complete was the Strengths Finder Assessment. After analyzing my own strengths, I thought about the strengths of my leadership team and teachers. In May 2015, I selected five teachers to join me on this journey of teaching and leading with our strengths. Having a core group of teachers who were already good at building relationships with their peers developed into the idea of having these teachers serve as strength coaches. I wanted our Strength Development Cadre to develop their coaching skills."

Who knew that staying for that last keynote speaker so many years ago, and connecting with Gallup even before that, would intertwine together in 2015, for me, and for a principal and her teachers?

Still going strong after all these years-there are so many ways to connect coaching and strengths based leadership.

Handly Middle School, with results that speak success, has done just that.

About the author- David, "retired" as a school leader, lives in San Miguel, Mexico and is an Executive Leadership, Retirement, and Life Coach.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015