How Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Questions Resulted in 10 Second Transformations

Your ah ha moment















“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” ~George Eliot

Ah ha moments only happen in the shower, right? Wrong.  When we use Appreciative Inquiry coaching questions they happen all the time.

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Appreciative Inquiry Leads to Ah Ha Moments

In Appreciative Inquiry, there is a principle called the Simultaneity Principle. This principle is that “when the right question is asked, change starts immediately.” I have seen the truth in that principle over and over again the last few days.

As a faculty member at the College of Executive Coaching, I teach professionals-in-training-to-be-coaches, how to use Assessments, like the Myers Briggs Form Q Step II, the CPI 260, and the Leadership Practices Inventory. I also teach them how to apply Appreciative Inquiry to their coaching. In these sessions I am a witness to ah ha moments all the time.  These 10 second transformations result when an appreciative question is asked.

Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Questions Spark Transformation

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After reviewing his CPI 260, one of the class participants wanted to stop being “so accommodating.” But how to do that felt monumental, given how “being accommodating” was such an integral part of who he was. When asked, “What would you be doing more of if you weren’t being accommodating?” the insight was instantaneous. “I would be more directive, I would draw a red line on what I was willing to do.” When asked to think about times that he had done this, he felt confidence about his ability to do it in new contexts in the future.

When one participant, daunted by the prospect of networking and, “wanting to put her head under the covers” at the thought of it, changed in a moment; when asked, “If you had a networking activity planned that would cause you to leap out of bed, what would it be?” It took no thought for this class participant to answer: “I would reach out to people in my network one-on-one, tell them about my business plans, and ask for suggestions of other people to reach out to.” Bingo. Next step: action planning.

Or, when, one of the class participants got feedback on their LPI 360 assessment that their leadership would be enhanced by being more open. When asked, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the ideal, where would you want to be in terms of openness?” (Answer: 8) Follow up question: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the ideal, where are you now?” (Answer: 6) It’s not too hard to imagine how to get from a 6 to an 8. It’s what Kouzes and Pozner talk about in The Leadership Challenge: a small win. Go for it!

Overwhelmed by the desire to tone down her enthusiastic and ebullient style and not knowing were to begin, the question, “What would you be doing more of if you weren’t being so enthusiastic and ebullient?” got this class participant to come up with an immediate answer: a mindful pause. It’s one step at a time for her in becoming more mindful, but how wonderful that she found the courage to take that first step. Way to go!

The Elements of Appreciative Questions

  1.  They are positive.
  2.  They ask what the person wants more of instead of what they want less of.
  3.  They help the person see how a small step will move them in the direction of their aspirations.

Curious about the neuroscience of ah ha moments? Read about it here.

What were the ah ha moments of 100 entrepreneurial founders? Fast Company tells their stories.

The Houston ICF brainstormed 70 Great Appreciative Coaching Questions.  Grab them here.

Interested in a coaching session to think about your next challenge? Schedule one with Dr. Lynn K. Jones at


Dr. Lynn K. Jones

Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Board Certified Coach and an Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. A MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.


  1. Great Coaching Questions Result in Transformation on November 15, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    […] Curious about how these appreciative coaching questions can create 10-second transformations?  Read about ah-hah moments here. […]

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