“I wish this was working better, and I’m not sure how to make that happen.” Have you felt this way about a team you are leading? Perhaps your staff has issues with each another, a professional group can’t stay on task, or your Board of Directors can’t discover how to put everyone’s talents to work?  Change needs to happen, and it’s going to be painful if things keep going the way they are going. The Debbie Downers and the Patrick Pessimists are heavily entrenched in the group. You wonder if you can change the collective mindset and lead the group into its potential.

Can I encourage you to utilize Appreciative Inquiry? For a bit of backstory, Appreciative Inquiry was developed by researchers David Cooperrider and Frank Barrett in the 1980s. They discovered that groups responded to requests for change much better if they were asked questions that had a positive focus. Change came easier and the teams made better progress.


What is your team’s default mindset? Is it collaborative or combative?  Unified or segmented into factions? Positive or pessimistic? What is your own fallback way of approaching your team? Appreciative Inquiry is a mindset that coaches often use to open the possibilities within a group, so change can occur. Appreciative Inquiry is exploring with questions to discover what the team thinks about its strengths, and how to leverage those. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong, you can focus on what’s right, call out more of “that”, and build on it. The right type of question leads to the right type of solution.

Simply put, your stance is to lead by asking the team to identify its strengths and its potential. As you discover what’s working and value the strengths of the team, a positive stance grows. As you help the team imagine what’s possible if all goes well, you call out the energy of the group and point toward the right goals. A new type of group culture grows. Appreciative Inquiry is an approach you can take to unlock a new “group think” for your team.


You know the individuals in your team don’t operate in a vacuum. Your team is a “system” of interconnectedness within itself and within the larger system of your organization.  If you can foster a sense of “us” thinking in your team, you have tapped into the power of appreciative inquiry. The goal is to call your team to discover the “something good” that is happening right now and the “something good” they want in the future. What would success look like for the team? What do they hope for? The right questions will motivate your team to discover and create that “something good” together. The call to not merely survive, but to thrive together.  As the positive expectations grow, the problem-talk declines.


Your team has its own story comprised of a setting, a cast of characters, villains and heroes. As humans we have potential to create stories that help us remember our wins from the past. We can also create a new story, or a vision, that describes our preferable future. Why not help your team envision a positive story about how they, as the heroes, overcame a challenge together and conquered the “villain”, in this case a goal to achieve, or a problem to overcome? Additionally, what symbols can the team create to describe itself in a positive, powerful way? Can you help your team create a new story for itself?


Your Appreciative Inquiry tools are simple: positive questions asked in sequence will elicit strengths, create pictures of success, and discover ideas for overcoming hurdles. This process is distilled into four phases: Define, Discover, Dream and Design. Why not choose one question from each of the four phases and ask your team members for their responses?


  1. How do you see yourself as a competent, contributing member of this team?
  2. What successes do you see as possible for this team, if we were all working together at peak performance?


  1. Describe a high point in your professional experience. What was happening? What made it memorable?
  2. Tell us a story about what makes you feel proud and capable?


  1. Think about the future one year from today. The team is doing very well and is successful together. What does that look like? What has happened to make it so?
  2. If you could make three positive wishes for this team, what would they be?


  1. What specific commitments are you willing to make, so this team can become the best it can be?
  2. As you consider your talents, competencies and strengths, how can you build on your best to benefit the team?

Simply put, Appreciative Inquiry is a coaching approach that will help you be more effective in your leadership.  The key is your ability to ask positive questions and allow the space to explore.  Be open to new possibilities. Focus on the best aspects of your team and leverage those strengths. You can help your group enjoy their work and produce better results. Appreciative inquiry is best done together in a collaborative environment, led by the hero of the group (that’s you)! How can you improve your team by having an appreciative mindset?

Ready to do more? Contact me at www.mcwhertercoaching.com to explore how we can work together to improve your team.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s