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Coaching for Innovation: 10 Competencies to Maximize the Impact of a Coach

By: Maggie Hodge on December 5th, 2018

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Coaching for Innovation: 10 Competencies to Maximize the Impact of a Coach

Innovative Leadership

“I don’t think I would have made it through that year without her.” “His support and confidence in me helped me grow and achieve in ways I never had before.” “She pushed me to change the way I think about my work and my life, and I am a better person for it.”

In a recent conversation with a group of district leaders, each individual reflected on key benchmarks in their careers that profoundly impacted their leadership trajectory. While there were many experiences, decisions, and opportunities discussed as moments that helped to shape their path, each individual credited a specific person, specifically a coach, as the most important contributing factor to who they are as leaders today. Based on the reflections each leader shared about a coach they have worked with, it is clear the impact that these coaches had is both powerful and lasting.

At Education Elements, we believe that if we build the capacity of key school roles, then teachers will be better supported to design, implement, and sustain innovation in their classrooms. In many schools and districts, innovative coaches are the key difference makers in developing struggling teachers into effective teachers, and good teachers into great teachers.

So, where do great coaches come from? Just like teachers, coaches need intentional development, and our team at Education Elements has identified 10 key competencies that make an effective and innovative coach:


While all of these competencies are interrelated, targeted growth can occur by intentionally building knowledge and developing skills that are central to effectively applying each specific component of innovative coaching. We encourage you to begin examining your coaching practice, or the coaching practices of leaders you support, by reflecting on these questions connected to our 10 Coaching For Innovation Competencies:


Know Yourself

  • Why do I choose to do this work?

  • How would I describe my coaching philosophy?

  • What are my top strengths?


Nurture Trust

  • How do I model and encourage a growth mindset?

  • How would the teachers I support describe our relationship?

  • When and how have I celebrated risk-taking by others?


Listen Deeply

  • How do I utilize questioning to learn and illuminate insights?

  • How would others describe my tendencies during conversations?

  • What habits do I utilize to reflect on conversations?


Develop Credibility

  • What are my top strengths in content instruction and classroom culture knowledge and skills?

  • What gaps are there in my content instruction and classroom culture knowledge and skills?

  • What implications do these strengths and growth areas have on my current context and setting?


Engage Directly

  • How frequently and consistently do I provide both positive and critical feedback to each person I support?

  • How do I know if my feedback is specific and actionable?

  • How would others describe my feedback and the impact it has on their practice?


Adapt Coaching Approach

  • What are all of the different ways I could provide learning and development opportunities for teachers I support?

  • Which components of my coaching would each person I support say are the most effective?

  • How can I differentiate the ways I support teachers to match the context, skills, and needs of each individual?


Communicate Effectively

  • What habits or systems do I have for clarifying and synthesizing information?

  • Which method of communication would each person I support say is the most effective?

  • Which methods of communication can I differentiate or improve to be more effective for the type of information I’m sharing and its recipient(s)?


Strategize Collaboratively

  • What percent of my time each day is spent working on tasks directly connected to my goals?

  • What habits or systems do I utilize to proactively prioritize my time for what is most important?

  • How can I be more strategic in prioritizing time, people, and resources to accomplish my goals?

Cultivate Curiosity

  • What things are of the greatest importance and/or interest for me to learn more about?

  • What are all of the different learning and development opportunities I can seek?

  • How can I consistently share my learnings, and encourage others to do the same?

Build Learning Networks

  • What habits or systems do I utilize to distribute resources and learning opportunities to teachers I support?

  • How can I empower others to drive learning for themselves and their peers?

  • What are all of the opportunities or structures, formal or informal, where I can increase collaboration between members of our school community?

As you can see explicitly highlighted in our Coaching For Innovation Competencies Know Yourself and Cultivate Curiosity, we firmly believe that the habits of introspection and constant learning are crucial skills of highly effective coaches. By engaging in this reflection on your own coaching practice, you are already flexing many essential coaching muscles that will strengthen your ability to support innovative teaching and learning. We encourage you to continue this learning by prioritizing the development of these 10 Coaching For Innovation Competencies in your own coaching practice, or the practice of leaders you support, as a key lever to constantly expanding the impact on teachers and students.

Want to learn more about developing competencies that drive innovation? Check out these posts by my colleague Andrea Goetchius:

Innovative School Leaders Part 1: How to Become an Innovative School Leader

Innovative School Leaders Part 2: Involving Others to Create a Culture of Innovation

Innovative School Leaders Part 3: Leading with Intention

Invest in your development as a leader and join us at the Personalized Learning Summit 2019 to meet and collaborate with other innovative leaders from across the country, share perspectives and ideas, and learn from a range of workshops and tours of innovative companies.

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About Maggie Hodge

Maggie Hodge is a Senior Design Principal on the Design and Implementation Team. After working as a student teacher in college, she began her career in education as a Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher in New Orleans public schools. In addition to her role as a teacher, Maggie has served as an RTI chair, grade level leader, school leader, and district level leader in traditional public schools and charter schools in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Austin. Maggie holds an M.Ed in Administration and Supervision, and pursues educational equity by focusing on school leader development, instructional coaching best practices, new teacher development, and innovative classroom design. In her spare time Maggie can be found in the yoga or spin studio, paddle boarding, or spending time with loved ones and her dog, Gizmo.

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