Are you struggling to keep your teaching staff engaged and eager to try new teaching methods? Strengths-based coaching is a new way of solving these issues by focusing on one's strengths rather than his or her weaknesses. As referenced by Susan MacDonald in Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership, Dathan L. Rush and M'Lisa L. Shelden mention in The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook that to be an effective strengths-based coach in the education field, one must engage teachers in planning, observe teachers during activities directly related to the area of focus, support teachers in carving out the opportunities to practice and refine skills, use reflective questions to analyze and identify opportunities for growth, and provide feedback.
Some of the benefits of strengths-based coaching include higher levels of well-being and confidence, appropriate developmental growth in children, use of best practices in the classroom, lower levels of staff turnover, and greater career satisfaction and fulfillment. When teachers feel that their strengths are recognized, they become inspired to further improve, which is why strengths-based coaching proves to be so valuable in the education world. You will find additional information about strengths-based coaching from Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership below.
Practice Effective Listening Skills
It's difficult for leaders to tune out the constant thoughts in their minds in order to practice effective listening skills, but making time to listen is crucial to establishing respectful relationships. Listening can allow us to be more open-minded and understand that our way is not always the only way. MacDonald suggests that one way to focus on listening is to remind yourself of what WAIT (Why am I talking?) and SEE (Stop explaining everything!) stand for according to Nicola Stevens in her book, Learning to Coach.
Use the Four-Question Protocol
The four-question protocol provides a framework for school leaders to use when building strengths-based conversations with teachers.
- Best Experiences – Formulate questions to hone into each individual's story of his or her most treasured experiences.
- Core Values – Have conversations about the individual's personal values.
- Supporting Conditions – Focus on what helps educators perform at their best.
- Three Wishes – Ask this question: If you could make three wishes come true that would transform your teaching practice, what would they be? This question helps teachers ponder all that is possible.
Ask Empowering Questions
Asking empowering, strengths-based questions sets the tone for positive engagement. One way to start is by replacing the standard "How are you?" question with "What's the best thing that happened to you today?" Empowering questions are questions that require deep thought. Some examples of empowering questions are below.
- What brings you joy?
- What gets you truly excited about your professional work?
- What do you need to be successful in this program or classroom?
- What would make your professional life more wonderful for you?
- How will you celebrate your success?
As an educational leader, it's crucial to practice strengths-based coaching to motivate your teachers to stay engaged and embrace change. It is also important to remember that when teachers feel that their strengths are recognized, they feel empowered. Recognize and appreciate the strengths of your staff members. The benefits of strengths-based coaching have the power to transform your program in ways that will impact everyone involved for the better. As Susan MacDonald explains, "Transforming the relationship between directors and teachers from boss and employee to inspirational leader and engaged teacher is at the core of creating quality improvements in the early childhood field."
For more information about strengths-based coaching and embracing change, read MacDonald's Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership. You can also find other free tips in the Insights and Inspirations section of our website.