Coaching Bad Behaviors with Appreciative Inquiry

by Nov 26, 2012


Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is based on the assumption that what we focus on will bring more of what we focus on. If we focus on questions like, “What’s the problem?” and, “How  can we fix it?” then more problems will appear.

AI takes the position that every person has positive aspects that we can build on. In coaching bad behavior, focusing on the positive and building on it can be much more effective than focusing on the negative and how to end it.

AI is about asking questions like, “What’s working well?” and, “What’s good about what you’re doing now?” These questions focus on what’s going right so your employee can continue to get better in the right areas. Naturally, as good behaviors become habits, bad behaviors will disappear.

AI follows four steps, as outlined below. Within each step, I’ve provided some questions to use as prompts as you work to address negative behavior. Try them out during your next performance coaching session.

1. Discovery – What are you proud of? What works about your behavior? What are your successes? What contributed to those successes? Why did those things work?

2. Dream – To become even more effective, what do you want to continue to do, do more of, or do differently? How can you get even better results?

3. Design – What support do you need to do these things? What resources do you already have or need? What specific goals can we set to be sure you reach your full potential? What is the time-frame for completion?

4. Destiny – What will life be like when you reach those goals? What needs to happen to ensure we sustain that quality of life?

Again, by asking these kinds of questions, you’re forcing the coachee to think about the good aspects of their behavior, why it’s good, why it’s working, and how to build upon those skills.

This is much different than telling someone what’s not working, and then asking them to stop. That kind of conversation ends in, “Now what?” and provides no real direction or information about why or how to change.

Civility is the platform for organizational success—it is absolutely necessary for an organization to reach its goals. Download our Ebook on Seeking Civility to learn more on how to create a workplace free of bullying and abusive conduct.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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