The PCI is not a formulaic training system. It didn’t teach me a protocol to follow with a set of questions to ask or phrases to use with clients. Instead, the PCI program and the Appreciative Inquiry approach in particular, changed my worldview and taught me to genuinely coach from a position of hope.
When I speak with a new client, I hear their distress, I hear their pain and their sense of overwhelm but I feel hopeful. Because I have experienced the power of the coaching process, I am confident that the coaching relationship can and will support that client. I am certain that, no matter how dire the situation, there is something within that can be appreciated, valued, and built upon. I am confident that my questions will reflect the hope that I feel and that together we will begin to create change from that place of hope.
Some of my most treasured questions to coaching clients are the simplest:
What is working?
When we encounter a challenge or are at an impasse in life, the first instinct is often to ask, ‘What is the problem?’ or ‘What is wrong?’ Focusing on the problems at hand often spirals us down into a position of deficit in which we spend our time dwelling on those aspects of the situation that we know aren’t working.
Through the PCI, I learned that asking, “What is working?” can be as powerful as it is unexpected. This question can take a client by surprise. They have often focused so deeply on the struggles and the negatives in their current situation that asking them to delve into what is working usually is met with a few moments of silence. The silence is powerful as the client shifts gears, reflects, and looks again at his or her current situation to seek out that which is working. Suddenly, a young mother who has spent countless hours analyzing the minutia of the fighting and screaming between her two daughters—scratching, stealing, tattling, and whining—can pause to describe how joyful they are when she lets them “cook” together using pots and pans, baking soda, and vinegar.
Together, coach and client can then begin to build on the client’s new insights about what is currently working in her home. The client can begin to explore what makes that aspect of her situation positive. Together, we can seek out ways to grow that positive and bring it into other areas of her world.
What is your Dream?
Parents who are in times of stress and overwhelm are living moment to moment. They are trying to put out fires and just get through the day. As coaches, our job is to work with the client to create the potential for deep change and envision the future that they dream of.
My coaching training and experience has taught me to trust the coaching process. Providing a genuine atmosphere of hope supports parents as they create meaningful change. I love to tell my clients to “Dream Big.” I no longer fear that a dream could be too big or too bold. I embrace the fact that these dreams often appear unreachable. I am not intimidated by big dreams because those parents who are able to dream big are tapping into that sense of hope.
When a single mother says that she dreams of having a bigger kitchen, I dive in and ask her to dream even bigger to find out how big that dream can really be. She shares that the big kitchen is needed because she dreams of filling it with friends and family, with cooking, laughter and community. She dreams of raising her children in the midst of an active, welcoming home with extended family and friends. That really is a big dream, and one that I am ready to embrace with her because I am coaching from a place of hope.
What do you appreciate?
This is a question that comes from a place of hope indeed! Asking parents to identify and notice that which they appreciate lets them know that you are confident that there is much good in their current situation. Just the act of asking the question brings their attention and focus to those things that they value and would like to have more of in their life. Once identified, these are the things that can be nurtured, encouraged, and called upon as coach and client begin the process of creating change.
A parent who takes the time to appreciates her child’s sense of humor or who appreciates that her mother babysits is seeking out the good in the world. Just by asking the question and hearing the answer, the client and coach have already begun to create change.
The Parent Coach Certification® Training training introduced me to the principles of the Appreciative Inquiry process. It taught me that the questions we ask as a coach are as important as the answers. As a coach, I ask myself these questions throughout my experiences with my clients. By focusing my attention on what is working, by dreaming big and by taking a moment to appreciate the good in my life I am able to approach coaching with my clients from a place of genuine hope.