Living the Masteries

by Alison Davis, IAC-CC

Living the Masteries is a regular column where we invite coaches to share their experiences of Living the Masteries in their everyday lives. As we become aware of the Masteries and really understand and use them, we realise just how powerful they are and how, used effectively, they can truly make a lasting difference to the world.

This month coach Nad Philips talks about how he uses the Masteries with Appreciative Inquiry.

Using the Masteries with Appreciative Inquiry
by Nad Philips

When I am coaching my business clients for peak performance I use strength-based positive approaches such as appreciative coaching. A conversation with Alison Davis encouraged me to investigate how the Masteries inform such a coaching method with a formal protocol.

Appreciative coaching is based on David Cooperrider’s 5 principles of appreciative inquiry . The 1st principle is the Constructionist principle, which means that each and every one of us constructs our own reality, and the way we make sense and create meaning is idiosyncratic. In this way our actions are reflections of our current boundaries and products of our frames of reference. Mastery #4: Processing in the present helps clients realize the way they construct their reality by drawing their attention to how they think, feel and act and thus what is their take on any one situation.

The 2nd principle is the Positive principle which is primarily linked to our outlook on life, our level of hope and optimism. The positive principle puts forward the idea that positive attitudes and actions increase the odds of coaching success. It affirms that positive intentions from both the coach and the coachee are necessary for the coaching results. Mastery #2: Perceiving, affirming, and expanding the client’s potential helps clients believe in their strengths and abilities and start developing an optimistic way of approaching their issues. The coach can also help the client understand the benefit of using positive language. Mastery #7: Helping the client set and keep clear intentions helps clarify and positively reframe the intentions of the coachee.

The 3rd principle is the Simultaneity principle which affirms that inquiry and change are interwoven. The inquiry of the coach is in the area that the coachee needs to work, and where the change needs to occur. Mastery #6: Clarifying is instrumental in defining problems as well as focusing the coaching discussion to the most essential topics, while understanding patterns of cause and effect.

The 4th principle is the Poetic principle which suggests that reframing the client’s stories in light of who the client has become gives a better interpretive framework to work out positive outcomes. Retelling the story to create meaning for the desired new ending is an important component to create continuity through change. Mastery #5: Expressing is an invaluable tool to mirror the client’s narrative style by giving feedback and providing feed-forward prompts. These prompts provide the necessary reframing to align with who the coachee is currently and facilitate the transition to who he or she wants to become.

The 5th and last principle is the Anticipatory principle which states that encouraging clients to focus on their dreams enables them to take the necessary action steps in the present that will enable the realization of their future vision. Affirming a clear future vision focuses the attention of the coachee on the pathways to that desired outcome. Mastery #8: Inviting possibility is very useful for opening up options and examining the different pathways to select that which is aligned with the coachee’s ecology.

The appreciative inquiry protocol has four main steps:


     1- Discovery
The focus at this step is on self-knowledge, on helping clients better understand their operational mode—their strengths, passions, beliefs, aspirations, needs, constraints and limitations. This can be facilitated by the use of tests and questionnaires such as the VIA Character Strength survey. Masteries #1: Establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust, #2: Perceiving, affirming, and expanding the client’s potential and #3: Engaged listening are well suited to this stage.

     2- Dream
The focus of this step is to interpret the knowledge gathered in Step 1 to create the vision that will build on the coachee’s signature strengths, core values and character dispositions.
Mastery #7: Helping the client set and keep clear intentions is key during this stage.

     3- Design
The design step is iterative and experiential; it is where the coach and coachee will invite options and possibilities based on what gives life to the coachee. The design includes the action steps coachees hold themselves accountable to accomplish. They often use the coach to help them chart the best course of action. Masteries #8: Inviting possibility and #9: Helping the client create and use supportive systems and structures are the essential tools here.

     4- Destiny
This final step is where the implementation of the design step takes place. The coach helps the coachee keep momentum. It is important to celebrate success and small wins, build capacity and anchor the new habits. At this stage the coach uses all nine IAC Coaching Masteries®.

At the end of this stage the coach and coachee will evaluate the coaching results and the return on investment.

As the result of the investigation, I conclude that the IAC Coaching Masteries® are well suited to support strength-based and appreciative coaching methods.


Nad Philips MBA, MA, DFSSU, DU, is the founder of NP Consultant, a human capital development consultancy in Paris. Nad specializes in positive organizational development promoting leadership and management capacities. A citizen of the world, he has been a consultant, an educator, a coach, an entrepreneur and an international manager.


This is your column, it can only continue if you share your experiences of Living the Masteries. Please send us your stories—you will inspire others by your sharing, and by talking about the Masteries, we create an echo chamber where their power takes on new meaning in the world.

Send your contributions to Alison Davis at, so she can share them for you in the Living the Masteries column in the VOICE each month.

Alison Davis, IAC-CC, is a certifying examiner at the IAC, coach, mentor coach and founder of the IAC–licensed virtual coaching school Foundations for Living. Discover more at

1 thought on “Living the Masteries”

  1. As a long-time student and practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry, I really enjoyed this article, Nad. I love elucidating the connections between AI and the IAC Coaching Masteries. Thanks!

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