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Coaching for School Leaders in Japan

Introducing coaching questions and tips for school leaders in Japan who are passionate about improving school climate

Why is Coaching Necessary for School Leaders in Japan?

School Hallway

Young students are not the only ones learning to face adaptive problems in the world of VUCA. School leaders are in urgent need to embody this challenge for their students and teachers.

In Japan, school leaders come across several dilemmas:  

- shrinking number of children as the whole population

- increasing number of students who cannot attend school because they do not fit in

- difficulties in recruiting teachers with strong passion and self-efficacy due to low wages and long work hours

However, as they progress higher in the school hierarchy, it becomes more difficult to attend an extensive learning program or confide in problems with their colleagues. 

What can school leaders do to inspire and steer their organization to their mission of supporting children to thrive in the 21st century? 
This website explains how coaching can help school leaders thrive as adaptive leaders, a variety of coaching questions that school leaders can personally work on, and different methods to apply coaching skills and mind at their school organization. 

"... [A]ccording to the Japanese data, principals adopting a team approach to instruction leadership would be more conducive to teachers’ professionalism among other school effectiveness indicators."

- Chen, Cheng & Sato

"Therefore, the researcher found that, at schools in... Japan... principals’ endeavors to improve teachers’ commitment to put forth effort is conducive to teachers’ better job performance in the future.

- Chen, Cheng & Sato

Effects of US School Leaders Receiving Coaching

A US national study states that coaching is provided widely to school leaders and that these coaching practices help school leaders self-reflect on their work, build self-efficacy, and have a better understanding of their role. Evidence indicated that generally, the more time coaches and school leaders spent together and the higher frequency of visits correlated with higher ratings of the coach’s effectiveness, up to a point.

Almost 50% of the US school leaders are or have experienced being coached. 

72% of US school leaders who have experienced coaching felt that student achievement grew as a result of receiving leadership coaching. 

85% of US school leaders who have experienced coaching felt that they had become a better principal as a result of receiving leadership coaching. 

Almost 50% of the US school leaders are or have experienced being coached. 

72% of US school leaders who have experienced coaching felt that student achievement grew as a result of receiving leadership coaching. 

85% of US school leaders who have experienced coaching felt that they had become a better principal as a result of receiving leadership coaching.

Working on Professional Development
with a Coach

Performance = Potential - Interference

This formula is the Inner Game Equation, quoted from Timothy Gallwey, a tennis coach, which summarizes the objective of modern coaching. Professional development for school leaders aims to maximize the performance of both the school leader themselves as well as other teachers and staff working at the school. 

When running an educational institution to maximize performance, school leaders' vulnerability is often overlooked, as well as the vulnerability of the teachers and staff. To combat this problem, practicing building a trusting school leader-coach relationship will act as a mirror in appreciating and drawing on each other's strengths between school leaders and teachers. 4 adjectives on the right are principles school leaders can work on to enhance their performance concerning their teachers and staff. 

Instead of checking through a "to-do" list every day, school leaders can create their long-term "to-be" list to transform themselves into whom they aspire to be. Below are self-assessment questions to reflect upon how school leaders perceive themselves and how other people perceive them. 


  • How would you describe your relationship with the school staff?

  • How do your actions and conversations build trusting relationships?

  • Do you engage in conversations with a nonjudgmental approach?

  • Do you respect them?

  • What evidence do you have?

How do you perceive yourself?


  • How would you describe yourself as a learner?

  • Do you see yourself as the lead expert or the lead learner?

  • In what ways do you model learning along with your staff?

  • How do you share your personal learning with your staff to model yourself as a learner versus an expert?

How do you perceive yourself?


  • How do you encourage risk taking and a growth mindset in your teachers?

  • How do you and your teachers encourage a growth mindset in your students?

  • How do you respond when a teacher tries something new and it "flops"?

  • How do you support your teachers?

How do you perceive yourself?


  • How do you show teachers your appreciation?

  • Do you give more appreciation to some more than others?

How do you perceive yourself?


  • How would school staff describe your relationship with them?

  • Do they trust you?

  • How do they know you respect them?

  • What evidence do you have?

How do others perceive you?


  • How would the school staff describe you as a learner?

  • What experiences have staff had to be able to learn along with you?

How do others perceive you?


  • Do teachers feel like they can take risks?

  • Do teachers feel threatened by your presence in their classroom?

  • How do teachers feel supported?

How do others perceive you?


  • Do teachers feel appreciated for their hard work?

  • Who might not feel appreciated?

How do others perceive you?

Recommended Resources for Applying Coaching Skills and Minds at School

Receiving coaching not only helps school leaders reflect on issues and consider future actions, but it also provides an opportunity to explore how to embody the coaching skills and mindset acquired in the session to the school management.

Here are some ways for school leaders to apply coaching mindset and skills in everyday work.

Video - Listening to Learn

As we navigate from a predictable world to a more complex world, this video will provide insight into how to convert your style of listening. 

1. Listening to win - You listen to collect data to use it against them to win the conversation. 
2. Listening to fix - You listen to diagnose the problem and offer a solution based on your experience.
3. Listening to learn - You listen in to reach into the other person's perspective and experiment with new ideas, a method most desired in a world of complexity.


This website may be used, shared and / or adapted by others in the A011H course, as long as attribution is made.

Boon, Z. S. L. (2022). Coaching: An approach for leadership development in the Singapore education system. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 11(1), 89–103.

Brandmo, C., Aas, M., Colbjørnsen, T., & Olsen, R. (2021). Group Coaching that Promotes Self-Efficacy and Role Clarity among School Leaders. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 65(2), 195–211.

brightmorning. (2018, February 25). Brightmorning. The Key to Working With Adult Learners: Mind the Gap.

Chen, Y.-G., Cheng, J.-N., & Sato. (2017). Effects of School Principals’ Leadership Behaviors: A Comparison between Taiwan and Japan*. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice.


Gallwey, T. (1997). The inner game of tennis: The classic guide to the mental side of peak performance. Random House Publishing Group.

Jennifer Berger (Director). (2017, July 24). Listening to Learn.

Stone, D., & Heen, S. (Directors). (2022, December 15). Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen—A Visual Summary.

Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance: GROWing human potential and purpose—The principles and practice of coaching and leadership. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Wise, D., & Cavazos, B. (2017). Leadership coaching for principals: A national study. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25(2), 223–245.

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