By Meghan Ondrish

CCT Training at CDI 2015
Photo Credit: Johnny Manzon-Santos

In February, a multi-racial Leadership that Works’ Coaching for Community Transformation team, which included Sharon Brown, Kathy Grosso and Johnny Manzon-Santos, began a new phase of coach training offered through the Center for Diversity and Innovation (CDI) at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan.

CDI’s mission to foster leadership and innovation for an equitable community led to the partnership with Leadership that Works. Through the 3-year W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant that funds the work of CDI, the LTW Team has, and continues to, facilitate 5-day Coaching for Community Transformation (CCT) cohorts to support community members as they communicate and work cross-culturally to bring about the envisioned changes in the Battle Creek community.

“The coaching skills training supports diverse community members with skills to help them have difficult and productive conversations about race, racism, racial disparities and other equity issues, and to work collaboratively toward the goal of racial equity in Battle Creek. The training also specifically supports community members who have completed the White Men and Allies training labs, also offered through CDI, to put what they learn in the labs into practice in everyday conversations about tough racial issues,” says Sharon Brown.

CCT training for the first cohort occurred in February and April of this year and is ongoing for the second cohort—the 3 day training was held in September and the 2-day follow up will be held in November. The third cohort has not been scheduled yet.

“What is unique about the CCT trainings offered through CDI is the embedded racial equity component as well as the diversity of the participants. Participants include a racially and culturally diverse group of folks from the community representing a variety of organizations—nonprofit, civil service, corporate, media and education sectors—and community members. The intentional diversity in the room contributes to the richness of the training and cross-cultural learning opportunities,” says Kathy Grosso.

All of the standard CCT coaching skills are taught during the 5 days of training (10 skills plus the coaches’ mindset or stand). What is different about this training is the intentional connection between coaching skills and application of the skills to coach cross-culturally and to use the skills in conversations and collaborations regarding race and racial equity work. “Although the coaching is taught in a one-to-one format, the application is intended to support everyday conversations in the workplace and community,” says Brown.

“We tailor the coaching curriculum to help name the power and privilege dynamics already present in any group, and cultivate together with the participants a learning community of Black, Asian, Latino, White and mixed-race folks where courageous conversations about our lived experiences around race—in the context of all of our social identities—can take place,” adds Johnny Manzon-Santos.

The connections with the racial equity work were brought in throughout the training in several ways:

  • Daily application discussions focused on how participants envisioned using the skills to support effective cross-cultural conversations about race and racial equity issues.
  • Debriefing sessions followed training and practice with specific skills. (i.e., questions were asked to help participants think about how specific skills could support them in their work and discussions on race and equity issues.)
  • Practice coaching sessions in which participants were encouraged to partner with someone racially and/or culturally different from them.

Initial feedback and results have affirmed that coaching, and coaching skills training, is a valuable tool to support achievement of racial equity goals in Battle Creek. CDI staff members have all taken 5 days of CCT training and 2 of the 3 CDI staff members will begin Coaching for Transformation certification training (Distance Learning) in January 2016, demonstrating a commitment to embed the coaching skills into their work.

In addition, Early Childhood Services and Voces, two organizations that created a coaching culture in their organizations, continue their commitment to have all staff trained in coaching skills.

More trainings have already been scheduled into early 2016; a 2-day Coaching Essentials training will be held in December for employees of the Lakeview School District and other organizations serving the community. Shorter custom trainings are planned for other organizations.

Last month, Jorge Zeballos, the Executive Director of CDI, sponsored a planning session with the LTW team to imagine how coaching can continue to support the work of CDI during the next grant cycle which will begin in the spring of 2017. The coaches explored other potential organizations, including schools, police and fire departments that might benefit from Coaching Essentials or CCT, as well as offering training in Spanish and Burmese to reach immigrant and refugee segments of the community.

“We can engage people from different backgrounds with these trainings in Battle Creek. The skills support honest, powerful conversations that can make a difference in Battle Creek,” says Sharon. “They are up to groundbreaking—and historic—work. Battle Creek, with a population of 50,000, is potentially piloting how coach training can serve a transformational agenda of racial equity in cities of similar size across the US.”