Appreciative Coaching as a Tool for Supporting Resilience in a Time of Crisis

Added on May 19, 2020

By Rhonda Brown, Senior Associate, Strategic Consulting

rhonda brownThe COVID-19 pandemic has added to caregivers’ lives numerous unprecedented stressors—the fact that so little is known about the virus; fears that their colleagues, friends, and family will become infected; a need to always be on call; a need to isolate from their own families to keep them safe; an epic workload; and a gross lack of resources, to name a few. As a result, organizational leaders have been telling us they and their staffs are feeling helpless and not in control.

It is precisely at these times that we should draw on high reliability rounding using appreciative coaching methodology to help allay fears and bring a sense of control back into our lives. Rounding using appreciative coaching is a high reliability behavior that is foundational to safe care delivery, particularly during times when we are most challenged. Appreciative coaching evolved from appreciative inquiry research. It is a positive, solution-focused coaching methodology that aims to expand individuals’ ability to develop and perform by acknowledging problems and using them as opportunities to learn and grow.

In high reliability rounding using appreciative coaching, the leader should do the following.

1. Schedule time with the staff member to observe their patient interactions, intervening only when safety or quality issues arise.

2. Utilize two-way communication with the staff member to identify up to five successes in their patient interactions and one area in need of improvement. 

In times of crisis and uncertainty, there is an increased risk of bypassing best practices or putting them on pause while seeking to address unexpected challenges. Yet this is when fidelity to high reliability best practices is most valuable. For example, high reliability rounds provide leaders with a 360-degree view of what is happening, who is being affected, and where there are burnout points. Once these things are identified, leaders can provide critically essential operational and emotional support to their caregivers.

Pairing high reliability rounding with appreciative coaching gives leaders the tools they need to help members of their teams learn, grow, and cope with challenges. Appreciative coaching is scientifically proven to enable individuals to change their attitudes and behaviors by recognizing and modifying their feelings of lack of control. By encouraging individuals to focus on what they can control, one situation at a time, the collaborative methodology contributes to the following:

  • A greater sense of personal well-being and success

  • The reduction of stress-related physiological responses such as grief, depression, and burnout, which have been particularly high among health care workers during this pandemic

  • A sense of optimism, which studies[1] show improves health care workers’ level of functioning and, by extension, patient outcomes, even during crises

In short, during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations must continue to deliver on proven methods for engaging their employees and maintaining a culture of safety. Rounding provides real-time observations that yield accurate insights into the current state of our health care heroes, and leaders owe it to their staffs to spend time with them in the trenches, conveying trust and providing emotional and operational support.

To learn more about this topic, please reach out to the Press Ganey Strategic Consulting team at

Visit our dedicated COVID-19 webpage for additional resources.

[1] Orem, S.L., J. Binkert, and A.L. Clancy. 2009. Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.