Monday, January 3, 2011

Coaching Tool: When Your Client Feels Stuck

Posted on Monday, January 03, 2011 by International Coach Federation

Appreciative Dialogue is based on the popular approach to organizational change called Appreciative Inquiry that focuses people on what’s working rather than trying to fix what’s not. This is an excellent technique to use when your client feels stuck and can’t solve a problem. Taking an appreciative approach, they see their issue through a new lens, not the normal critical lens assigned to problem solving. They jump outside of the box that their logical brain likes to play in.

In fact, the sorting and arranging of information involved in typical problem-solving processes works against their ability to see the problem in a new light. They can try to shift and rearrange what they know, but their thoughts end up swirling around in circles. Many times they will give up and keep doing what they have always done.

Appreciative Dialogue goes beyond assessing capabilities—what they can do—to being mindful of everything they can access to create a peak experience. As the coach, you guide them to explore everything that contributed to the creation of peak experiences in the past and then consciously apply those contributions—strengths, values, gifts, emotions, attitudes, and perspective—to a challenge they are currently facing.

As a result, your clients can align their best energies to powerfully conquer roadblocks and create amazing results. Here is the script you can use:

Step One:
Set aside current issues. Instead, think of a time in your past when you felt energized, significant, and fulfilled. This moment could have happened yesterday or years ago. It could have been when you completed a project or event or when you were doing something special. Can you recall a particular peak experience?

Step Two: With this memory in mind, answer the following question:

What five things did you contribute to creating this peak experience?

- Strengths, Talents, Gifts
- Emotions/Attitude
- Values
- Unique Sense/Perspective

Step Three: Looking at your list of contributions, what can you carry forward to the challenge you are now facing? What is possible for you now?

The intent of Appreciative Dialogue is to teach the brain how to make the shift from problems to possibilities. How can your client look at the present moment in light of their past peak experiences? New ideas will appear in the conversation as you connect the positive past with the present moment.

You can also use Appreciative Dialogue to extend and repeat a positive experience. The focus is on “what can I continue?” Your clients detail what they did to create the glorious moment so they know specifically what to repeat.

Remember to have these conversations often so your clients can determine what mindset and energy patterns will best serve them. The results will help them adjust and revitalize their daily activities.

Adapted from Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, MCC and a past president of the ICF. Contact her at

1 comment:

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