Leadership: Make It Positively So

Think positively! That’s the mantra of a new book on executive coaching, CO2 Partners in Minneapolis reported that half of them had been offered coaching. Another survey by the Institute of Executive Development and Marshall Goldsmith Partners in 2006 found that 48% of surveyed companies provided coaching for manager and director levels. One reason for the increasing demand is that more and more organizations are acting on an oft-stated, but not always implemented mantra, “people are our most important resource.” Coaching is the customized development of individuals that is designed to allow them to reach their potential.

The model that authors Sara Orem, Jacqueline Binkert, and Ann Clancy — all of whom are organizational development consultants and coaches themselves — propose is straightforward and simple, and therefore easy to follow. But do not mistake simplicity for simplistic or facile. The appreciative coaching model is based on years of research and actual case studies. Here in a nutshell is the model that coach and coachee can employ once they have selected a topic, e.g. a goal or outcome, upon which to focus. Each of these steps rely upon carefully developed questions that are designed to provoke thought, action, and reflection.

Discovery begins with an exploration of personal satisfaction. Questions such as “what gives life to you now?” Or, “what do you most value about yourself…and your work?” And “What one or two things do you want more of?” Answers will recall experiences that gave the coachee a sense of fulfillment. It is a moment of positivism upon which he can build.

Dream builds upon the joyful experience into order to envision a new tomorrow. For example, as in one case study, the coachee wanted to continue to help his business grow but had yet to realize how successful it already was. By understanding current reality, as well as future possibility, he was able to envision more growth but without the problems that plague startups.

Design is the “make it happen stage.” Drawing an analogy with children playing with blocks, this phase is the brick and mortar, or strategic planning phase, where the coachee’s talent and skills are focused on making the dream state real.

Destiny is the payoff; it is the planned outcome that was first envisioned in discovery. Celebration is in order, as is a continued planning for the future. Reflection plays a key role and lays the groundwork for sustaining results.


As with all models for change, be they organizational or personal, you get what you put into them. That is, the steps per se are not as critical as the thought and development that goes into it. In coaching, the coach serves as a guide helping the coachee come to points of personal discovery that matter to him or her. Or as the author say, the “Aha” moment, the moment of personal enlightenment occurs. When that point is reached, then growth occurs, or as the authors say destiny delivers.

For those who coach or are interested in being coached, Appreciative Coaching can be a powerful tool because it is designed to stimulate thinking and reflection and ultimately positive change. While the model discussed above is worth the exploration, the appendices of the book are rich in resource materials, chiefly developmental questions, that readers can put to use in their own development process. As with all coaching, what and how you learn from it matters most. Or as one of the many quotes in the book state, “We must not sit down and wait for miracles to occur. Up, and be going!” In other words, if you want to make a change, make it.

Sources:Sara L. Orem, Jacqueline Binkert and Ann L. Clancy Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2007; Brian Amble “Coaching hits the corporate mainstream” 1.24.07; Brian Amble “Executive coaching losing its gloss” 6.20.07

John Baldoni • Leadership Author/Speaker • Baldoni Consulting, LLC •