We propose that coach-based consulting is most clearly differentiated from counseling and traditional organizational consulting when conducted in an appreciative manner. A short-term focus and a mechanistic, deficit-based view of performance development cause some organizations to utilize coach-based consulting primarily to “fix” perceived performance and behavioral deficits. Organizational coach-based consulting programs that are effective build instead at a fundamental level on a deep sense of appreciation for the potential of all members of the organization. We suggest that such an appreciative perspective must undergird any coach-based consulting program and holds the key to masterful and effective coach-based consulting.
What is the nature of such a perspective? In essence, an appreciative perspective concerns a willingness to engage with another person from an assumption of mutual respect, in a mutual search for discovery of distinctive competencies and strengths, with a view to helping them fulfill their aspirations and their potential. This simple statement might at first seem to be rather naive and idealistic, but at its core it holds the promise of helping committed and empowered staff to generate extraordinary organizational results. As we trace out its implications, a series of profound insights and realistic strategies emerge. (Srivestva, Cooperider and Associates, 1990)
Understanding Another Person
The term appreciation itself has several different meanings that tend to build on one another; however, as a foundation for coach-based consulting, appreciation refers first to a clearer understanding of another person’s perspective. We come to appreciate the point of view being offered by our colleague or the challenges which the other person faces. This appreciation, in turn, comes not from some detached observation, but rather from direct engagement. One gains knowledge from an appreciative perspective by “identifying with the observed.” (Harmon, 1990, p. 43)