Coach Thyself: Self-coaching with Appreciative Inquiry

asset-based-deficit-based-appreciative-inquiryMany of us only speak with our coaches once a week or a couple times a month.  In the in-between time we are supposed to be working on our goals for next session, but oftentimes we get derailed and find ourselves losing focus.  It may be a feeling of inadequacy or being just plain lost in the shuffle of every day life as our tasks seem evermore daunting.  In times such as these, it is worthwhile to coach yourself out of the fog.

One method that many practitioners use for corporate training, group coaching, and individual coaching is Appreciative Inquiry.  There is a natural propensity to want to look at problems first when seeking improvement.  We are usually taught that we should identify problems and then solve them if we want to initiate change.  The “problem” with this method is that we also have a tendency to move toward that which we are most focused on, e.g., the perceived problem.  Therefore, honing in on the negative can only lead to more negative results.  Instead, why not focus on the positive so that there can be more positive, thereby negating the perceived negative?

Imagine, for instance, you are wanting to get up earlier in the mornings and be more productive.  The traditional approach would be to focus on why you are sleeping so late (or “being so lazy” as the inner voice tends to be more self-critical).  This will lead to over-focusing on the perceived problem of not being able to get up in the morning and overcoming it will seem more daunting than it needs to be.  This will lead to giving up and repeating past patterns that led to sleeping later.  Instead, why not consider the times when you were able to get up early and get things done and how that felt?  What were some of the conditions and mindset in place during those times?  A focus on the positive aspects will lead to more motivation as a feeling of excitement (as opposed to dread) is fostered and goals are seen to be more attainable.

This is, in a nutshell, the thought process behind Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  Obviously the actual undertaking of AI coaching or corporate training is much more involved.  The technique begins with a positive core (an awareness of the strengths of the individual or organization) and is followed by selecting an affirmative topic.  It is CRITICAL that the topic be positive/affirmative because this will become the focus of the inquiry.  In our example above, the affirmative topic was becoming more productive rather than not sleeping so late, not being lazy, or being unproductive.   This is all followed in sequential order by four phases: Discovery (identifying what gives life or how did things look at their best), Dream (what might be or what does the world need?), Design (how to bring it to fruition, creating the ideal), and Destiny (What will be?  How to empower and create sustainability for the ideal).

The next time you are feeling like you are dragging or can’t get motivated toward the goals that you know you need to achieve, consider taking a different approach.  If you or your organization has been focused on the negative and it has not resulted in the outcomes you had hoped for, try an Appreciative approach and see what happens!  You won’t be disappointed and will end up with much more positivity, motivation, and excitement around making you and your organization as great as it can be!

If you want to learn more about taking an AI approach in your individual coaching or organizations development/team training, contact Brandyn at or 815-519-3256.


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