Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Expert Series: Positive Psychology is good for Coaching. Part 2 of 4

Positive Psychology is good for Coaching

Part 2 of 4: Positive Psychology Coaching Gold Mine

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaches help clients improve their well-being by helping them meet their goals in specific areas of life such as choosing a meaningful career path, improving relationships and developing healthy habits.

Applied Positive Psychology offers a theoretical framework and research findings that explain why coaching works to strengthen our tools, give us more confidence and build our credibility with clients. A skilled coach needs a tool box of interventions to help people stay on track and be resilient. Positive Psychology is the Home Depot for coaches. It has everything, but you just need to know where to find it!  Join me on a tour of the store.

In 2011, Martin Seligman revised the original tenets of Positive Psychology and re-conceptualized the work as the “theory of well-being.” In his book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being,” he describes his PERMA model of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments.

Positive Emotions. Positive emotions expand thinking, negative emotions constrict. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions, developed the “broaden and build theory,” and found that positive emotions expand people’s thought-action repertoire (I feel so smart when I say that!) and enables them to think more creatively and come up with more solutions to pending problems. Even more exciting, her research found that there is a “positivity ratio” — we flourish when our average ratio of positive to negative emotions is 3:1.  Helping clients identify activities that make them happy and offering new Positive Psychology interventions helps the coaching process. Positive emotions matter.

Engagement. The ideal place to reach your goals is in a state of flow. My favorite part of Positive Psychology! Mikhayl Csikszentmihalyi described being in the state of “flow” as becoming so completely absorbed in a task that you lose track of time and self-consciousness. (You need to be able to pronounce Mikhayl’s name to enter the Positive Psychology major leagues.) Flow is achieved by finding the right balance between skills and challenge, in coach-speak, it is our strength-based approach to helping clients reach their goals.

The Values In Action (VIA) Strength Finder, developed by Marty Seligman and Chris Peterson, is the first thing I have clients complete at the start of coaching. Research shows that we all possess a combination of 24 character strengths: the top five strengths are called “signature strengths” and are used to help people engage in the change process with more ease; the bottom five strengths are considered “lesser strengths” (not weaknesses!) and can be developed with intentional effort. The test is free and takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and you can find it at and at the Authentic Happiness Questionnaire  (both are great resources). Conducting a strengths interview to learn more about how clients use their top five strengths and perceive their bottom five is a great way to establish rapport and learn more about your clients. It is my gold-mine assessment tool and it is on full display at the head of my every coaching aisle.

Workout 2: Discover your strengths.

  1. Take the VIA test now. Study your top five strengths and your five lesser strengths, and start noticing how you use them.  Pick one lesser strength to work on moving forward.
  2. Have your clients take it, too. Talk with them about how they already use their strengths, and how they can apply the strengths to reach their goals. I guarantee you will learn something (or your money back).

About the Author:

Deb is a coach, consultant, and educator with over 20 years’ experience helping individuals, parents and businesses thrive. Deb applies Positive Psychology methods in her successful practice, Coaching Is Good. She helps her clients set challenging goals, take risks and capitalize on strategies that energize and breed success. To learn more go to Impact Coaching Academy’s Courses

The Expert Series is brought to you by choice Magazine as part of our ongoing efforts to bring opportunities for learning and growth to the coaching community. Delivered in four parts every two weeks, each series covers useful topics for business development and coaching insights, serving the needs of leaders in all areas and walks of life. Archived copies of the previous series can be found here.