Appreciative Coaching

What’s the best way to help people improve? How do we work with staff members who do a good job and help them get even better?

Many of us came into leadership positions at a time when we focused on the gaps: what our employees needed to work on and where they were weakest. During annual evaluations, we centered the discussion around mistakes and weaknesses.

There’s a better way.

Appreciative coaching focuses on what people are doing well. It allows them to determine where they’d like to improve.

For example, when watching a nurse do hourly rounding, we might say, “I observed your interaction with Mrs. Jones. How do you think it went? I saw you do __ and __ really well, great job! What do you think could have gone better? Okay, how can I help you with that?”

When we use appreciative coaching, four things happen:

  • We build a road to improvement. Employees are more likely to make improvements when they identify the things they want to do better. We tend to follow through on things when they’re our own ideas.
  • We make it ‘safe’ to not be perfect as long as we’re still trying. Employees do better when they’re supported, not criticized. 
  • We foster a culture of recognition and appreciation. When we tell employees what they’re good at and how important those skills are, they do them more often and even better than before.
  • As leaders, we start to see our staff differently. When we look for the good, we tend to see more good. 

Of course, if there are some serious performance issues, that’s an entirely different conversation. But for your high-performing staff, try a little appreciative coaching. 

Author: Kate Kalthoff

It's simple: leave people, places, and things better than I found them. For more than 20 years, Katherine Kalthoff has been working to improve the way healthcare organizations connect with the people they serve. She began her career at Gift of Hope, the organ procurement organization for Illinois, approaching families and securing their consent to donate a loved one’s organs for transplant. Through compassionate, empathetic listening, Kate led the Family Services team to one of the highest consent rates in the country. From there, Kate went to Advocate Health Care, Illinois’s largest healthcare system, as a Physician Relations and Business Development Manager, improving physician satisfaction and strengthening the relationships of both the employed and independent physicians with the system as a whole. Just prior to joining Northwest Community Healthcare as the Patient Experience Officer, Kate was the first Manager of Patient Experience at DuPage Medical Group where she built a platform of organization-wide service excellence through her inspiring brand of education, training, and one-on-one coaching. A much sought-after speaker and trainer, Kate has a very simple approach to her work: leave people, places and things better than you found them.

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