A SAGE Approach
Now more than ever, educators need genuine support and a deep focus on honoring their strengths. So, how do we authentically coach and support educators in achieving their goals and helping them become even better than they were yesterday while focusing on their strengths and talents? How do we encourage buy-in to profound strategies while still honoring the educator’s experience and uniqueness? The answer is simple; through strengths-based coaching. We must start with and focus on the educator’s strengths if we want to impact change and be genuine change agents. This is not to say that we do not focus on areas for growth, but when we take a genuine and SAGE approach to strengths-based coaching, we inspire educators to acquire growth. I define strengths-based coaching as, “an unwavering and genuine partnership of support and belief that focuses on identifying and using the educator’s authentic strengths to help them build confidence and competence, heighten intrinsic motivation, achieve success, and acquire growth in reaching their fullest potential.”
Traits of a Strengths-Based Coach
To engage in authentic strengths-based coaching, the coach must fully believe in the powerful impact that individuals’ strengths have on achieving meaningful and high-quality results in teaching and learning. Your belief and dedication in highlighting and leveraging your educator’s strengths must be at the core of your being. As a coach, you form the strengths-based culture and partnership that should exist. Part of the strengths-based coaching culture is being a sincere person, having profound listening skills, and always being aware that coaching is not about you, it is about the educator you are coaching.
Coaching is a partnership between the coach and the educator being coached, it’s not a one-way street. Of course, as a coach, you bring great ideas and products as exemplars to your coaching sessions. However, you must have the skills to know how to stay focused on the ideas your educator brings and find ways to blend yours and their ideas to impact results. Other extremely important strengths-based coaching skills are communication, adaptability, critical thinking, collaboration, and additional 21st Century skills with the trait of knowing how to develop sincere relationships with those you coach because, without these, the entire strengths-based coaching structure will collapse.
Identifying and Understanding Your Coaches’ Strengths
There are many ways to identify and get to know the strengths of the educators you coach. This process must be meaningful, and information needs to be gathered with purpose, intentionality, and for respectful use. Some of the strengths that you will identify might align to creativity, curriculum design, assessment, student engagement, and more. Here are some ways to learn about your educators’ strengths:
- Engage in conversations. Ask questions to determine strengths; let educators do more of the talking.
- Observe your educators in action.
- Help your educators identify their passions, talents, and strengths. One way to help educators identify their strengths is to use assessments and surveys. I used the Gallup Strengths Finder Assessment, and while I was already aware of my strengths, I was amazed by the exactness of the results. I added the result to my website and I reference it often.
As you listen carefully, make sure that you are documenting this information in a platform that you will visit often. Some people are dedicated to using OneNote and Word, but there are many other methods, such as the video coaching platform, ENGAGE Feedback from Teaching Channel.
Allowing, Acknowledging, and Developing Strengths
Now that we have identified our educators’ strengths, we want to find ways to allow, acknowledge, and develop their practice. This is done by giving them opportunities to be co-participants during training, lead training and meetings, freely share their ideas and creations, and more. However, I cannot stress enough that this must not be a selective process. Engaging in virtual and physical learning walks is also a great way for educators’ strengths to be acknowledged. Virtual learning walks can also be done asynchronously. Teaching Channel focuses on and specializes in video coaching. Videos are definitely a great way for teachers to highlight their strengths! Also, creating newsletters to share the strengths-based strategies that your teachers are implementing works magic. For four years, I created newsletters to share my teachers’ strengths and to also provide a powerful form of professional development. The impact this had in helping my teachers reach their fullest potential was profound.
Empower and Expand Strengths
Along with setting goals aligned to their strengths, we can also help our educators expand their strengths by having them set goals based on their areas for growth. Actionable self-reflection is also a critical part of empowering and expanding educators’ strengths. Remember to keep excellence and high standards at the forefront as you guide your educators!
Here are some questions to empower your educators to expand their strengths. The last two questions were guided by a Gallup article, How to Make Coaching Truly Strengths-Based.
- With every strength, there is always room to grow, so how have you reflected on and improved on your strength?
- Are the products you create to match your strengths of excellent and outstanding quality?
- How do you hold yourself accountable for producing amazing work?
- What are some actionable reflective steps you have implemented to develop existing and new strengths?
- Have you ever experienced strengths-envy? If so, what can you do to focus on your uniqueness and develop your strengths?
- What do you do to develop your strengths when you have those “less than” feelings?
When implemented authentically, strengths-based coaching is one of the most powerful ways to motivate educators, impact change, create profound products, attain success, acquire growth, and achieve excellence.
Strengths-based coaching is a great way to value and appreciate what novice and veteran educators bring to the table. It genuinely intertwines the elements of adult learning principles, a focus of many job descriptions, and motivates and inspires all educators to become their best. Whether we engage in direct, whole group, leadership, virtual, small group, or one-on-one target groups, strengths-based coaching is the technique that we need to implement more than ever to help our educators reach their fullest potential to become authentically dynamic, competent, and excellent employees.
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