Guiding Mid-career Professionals to Jobs They Love

Appreciative Inquiry Turns the Tide of a Career

Amy came to our first coaching conversation on the brink of tears.

After years of quickly climbing the ranks of her company and receiving nothing but positive feedback, she had achieved a VP level position in Operations. Everything had seemed fine, but she had just heard some harsh words from her boss who told her that few people at the company wanted to work with her because, in their minds, “she did nothing but tell them what they were doing was wrong.” She felt blindsided and betrayed.

As we stepped back and sifted through details of the situation, it became clear that one of Amy’s greatest strengths had revealed its dark underbelly: Amy was gifted at being able to see the big picture of how things operated and could quickly zero in on where an issue or potential problem hid. Up to this point in her career, she had be praised for it and even sought after so a project team could ensure they were on the right path and were not missing anything that could derail their success. But as she rose through the ranks and the stakes increased, this valued input was now being seen as an attack. In the eyes of others, they felt Amy was always out to get them, to point out their failings or oversights, to prove them wrong or incompetent.

Needless to say, trust had eroded amongst her peers and subordinates and she had a long road to climb if she wanted to recover and save her career.

After Amy got over the shock of hearing this feedback, we focused on helping her make a key change. Instead of having her pull back or “do less” of her strength, we worked together on how she brought her strength to the table.

Amy started taking more of an Appreciate Inquiry (AI) approach to the projects she was involved with.  To use an AI approach, she would start with the positive – recognizing and valuing what is best in people and in the work they are doing. She would focus these positives with strengths-based questions to help see the possibilities of “what could be”. So instead of coming to every meeting with the mindset of finding what was not working or what someone wasn’t doing, she focused on what was working and how each person could contribute to making the work better.

The results have been remarkable. Although slow at first, she can now see others “soften up” around her. Her phone is ringing again and she is being invited to meetings for her insights.

Are you someone who looks at “what’s broken?” How can you start to see “what’s working?”

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Phone: 617.398.6542