Bring out the best in people with our Appreciative Engagement example

Our friend and colleague Jackie Kelm’s just passed on this story in her latest newsletter. In it, Mary Beth Schappe shares the details of how she used the strengths focus of Appreciative Engagement to help an organisation bring out the best in its interns. It’s both a great practical tool and a set of questions you can use to bring out the best in anyone (including yourself!) Jackie joins us for her first Appreciative Living course outside the US in September. If you’d like to join in on this rare, inspirational opportunity, you can see the details and find out how to book here…

Mary Beth says: ‘The power of Appreciative Engagement was extremely effective with the work I did for a recent organisational client team. I was doing a team building workshop, and at one point in the session, a discussion began on the use of interns. One intern in particular had been a challenge and was taking more time than desired. They found interns could be a challenge in general, since they tend to have limited work experience or confidence. 

‘As the team discussed this one intern, they became more and more frustrated as they focused on his weaknesses and shortcomings. At that point I used the AE coaching cycle to flip the conversation around. I had them begin focusing on his strengths and how to best use his time and efforts by asking: 

Step 1 

– What is good about this person? 

– What are the intern’s strengths? 

– What successes did this intern have in the past? 

‘The team was able to list many positive attributes. He was enthusiastic, willing to learn, and determined to excel. He had a number of strengths, including a love for learning, perseverance, and teamwork. As the stories of his past and current successes unfolded, his willingness to work extra hours to get the job done came to light. We then discussed how to use his strengths to help develop other areas. 

Step 2 

– How can we best leverage these strengths for the future? 

– How can we best align these strengths to particular tasks and responsibilities? 

‘The team and I then looked at ways the intern could use his strengths to develop other areas. We explored how he could use his strength of love of learning to become more autonomous and self-sufficient. Could he work with a mentor? Were there networking opportunities for him to participate in? Could he lead a project? What small assignments would encourage his growth and increase his confidence? Who could serve as a role model for him? 

‘These strength-based questions led to a number of ideas and solutions. After experiencing the power of focusing on the intern’s strengths, the team then took a look at their own collective strengths, and found gratitude and hope. How could they use gratitude and hope to support the intern? 

Step 3 

– How can we incorporate the use of strengths into our day-to-day operations? 

– How can we use strengths language to encourage and show appreciation for all team members? 

‘The team looked at ways to embed the strength focus going forward, and decided to continue with a strengths-spotting exercise that had been done at the outset as part of the initial team-building process. In that exercise, they were asked to look for other teammates using their strengths over a 2-week period. They captured the strengths stories on post-it notes and placed them on individual “Strengths Boards.” As stories were collected, team members were able to see their strengths in action. The team liked the experience so much they decided to continue the practice. 

Key Learning ? 

‘The AE coaching process generated several learning moments for the team and enabled them to deal with their “problem” intern through a new and appreciative lens. They gained a newfound appreciation of the intern and constructed a new story of what he had to offer. The intern found new and challenging ways to use his signature strengths, and use them to help develop other areas. The team learned to use their strengths to support the intern, along with all new interns in the future. 

‘By focusing on and spotting strengths rather than critiquing poor performance, the team was able to vastly improve team functioning and morale. In the end, they learned a valuable tool in asking questions that leverage strengths and bring out the best in others.’


Mary Beth Schappe is the founder of The Appreciative Lens, an organisational development consulting and coaching practice that offers a positive, strength-based process for employee engagement using the practice of Appreciative Inquiry. Mary Beth works with teams and employees to facilitate professional growth by cultivating character strengths, elevating positivity, and strengthening enthusiasm and commitment to the goals and success of their organization. You can reach her at