Research Paper By Pearl Hilliard
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
Coaching generally has a positive approach. Even so, the coaching session may focus on the client’s current problems, perhaps resulting from a client’s “weakness” and discussions may concentrate on what the client needs to do to overcome this weakness so the problem can be resolved. Currently, many coaches use various psychometric instruments during the coaching process. One of the instruments that is used widely in the workplace is the DiSC. The premise for this paper is how an appreciative coaching focus could enhance the utility of the DiSC when it is used in coaching situations, by giving attention to solutions rather than problems.
Coaching has been in existence in some form or another for many years. In the last ten to fifteen years, there has been an exponential rise of coaching as a profession, as it is a means of facilitating change (in our ever-changing environment), in the personal and organizational realms. Coaching has spread throughout the world and is reaching ever more diverse niche areas (Kimsey-House, Kimsey-House, & Sandahl, 2011). According to Scoular (2007), after IT, it is the next fastest-growing career field. The coaching profession continues to evolve as more people are researching to provide insight into how coaching can be enhanced as a profession, and how it can contribute to personal transformation. As Kaufman states (2006, p. 249), “While coaching is an art, it is one that can be built on science.”
Foundations of Appreciative Coaching
Appreciative coaching is strongly informed by the fields of Appreciative Inquiry, positive psychology and the strengths movement (Kaufman, 2006). According to Kaufman and Scouler (2004), many coaches find it difficult to disregard the deficit model and so concentrate on problems and their underlying causes, rather than concentrating on client motivation, strength and vision. Gordon (2008) found that in organizations, clients became discouraged as more problems were uncovered using a problem diagnosis approach. Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which was begun by Cooperrider and Srivastva in the 1980s, was a reversal of the usual problem-solving approach in organizational development. The focus was placed on leveraging an organization’s success (rather than failure), creating a total paradigm shift (Gordon, 2008). With AI, clients are viewed from a different perspective–rather than one of being a problem to be solved, they are viewed as unique individuals who are inherently successful, and who do many things “right” (rather than “wrong”).
Using Positive Psychology in Coaching
Positive psychology stems from the premise that positive emotions help us flourish, physically and psychologically, increasing creativity, intuition, and our ability to see the big picture (Kaufman, 2006). Kauffman (2007, in Lavendt) recommends several steps to ensure that positive psychology is used in coaching. The first is that of helping clients to “reverse their focus” – so that instead of focusing on the negative, the coach supports the client in ensuring that attention is paid to the positive. Research studies demonstrate that this reversal results in enhanced well-being. In addition, the coach helps the client to identify and assess their strengths, which can then be applied in challenging situations and used to improve engagement, productivity and presence. Finally, maximum performance can be achieved through hope psychology – the coach supports the client’s ability to find alternative ways around obstacles (“pathways thinking”), and in having a sense of “agency,” – a feeling that they are potent and capable of moving things forward.
Additionally, in the past decade, there has been more research on the relationship between strengths and coaching (So and Kauffman, 2010). There has also been an upsurge in interest in using strengths to ensure higher satisfaction in an individual’s professional and personal life ( Buckingham & Clifton, 2001; Rath, 2007).