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What are the New Literacies for living well in the 21st century?

Episode Introduction

In this episode, my esteemed guest, organizational designer and systems thinker, Sallie Lee walks us through six new literacies that in the 21st century everyone needs. Some think that these literacies are most appropriate for leaders of organizations, but they will work in any set of circumstances in our complex world.  These new literacies were published in a chapter of the book, Lawyers as Changemakers: Integrative Law Movement (2017), by J.Kim Wright.  It also stands alone as a paper, entitled Leadership/Citizenship Literacies for the 21st Century: Solution and System Stalking

Episode Background

new literacies - Sallie LeeSallie Lee has spent her career in organizational design, serving as a thinking partner, facilitator, coach and strategist for a global client base ranging from 5-person to 500,000-person organizations. She is known for bringing vision, clarity of purpose, and innovation to all her work in organizational design, leadership coaching and workshop facilitation  all over the world.

As an internationally acclaimed Appreciative Inquiry practitioner and trainer, Sally helps leaders stalk solutions to questions such as

“How do we design organizations so we get the results we want? How do we design our work together with a focus on our relationships?”

Early Influencers

As a child, Sallie remembers that she found herself facilitating her family members and identifying the patterns in their family dynamics.  She admired her uncle who traveled the world as an international banker, and followed his example to creating her own opportunities to experience different cultures around the world.

As she grew her own career in organization development and design, Sallie pursed  different methodologie and genres.  When she discovered Appreciative Inquiry over 20 years ago, she described it as an answer to a prayer. Her facilitation took on a whole new career… lifted her out of the lethargy… it was life changing.

Solutions and System Stalking

The paper Sallie references in this episode is littered with alliterations, as you quickly learn from the names of the six literacies.  Her subtitle, “Solution and System Stalking” is such an alliteration..  I inquired about the word “stalking.”  Listen in to hear Sallie’s response. In a nutshell, the solutions we seek are already within our systems and we have to ferret them out.  I love this quote from her paper:  

“A true invitation to collective dialogue builds on the belief that the answers to important questions walk into the room in the form of participants and emerge in combining their intelligence and intent.”

Defining Literacies

In doing my research before interviewing Sallie, I came across this definition of “literacy” from the National Council of Teachers of English website: .

“Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups.”

Literacies change with time.  Each generation develops sets of skills, competencies and tools that are central to our survival in our respective times.

In the 21st century, with our increasing complexities, where traditional regimes are struggling to stay relevant, we no longer listen to  one dominant voice, or conform to one dominant homogeneous culture, new leadership and citizenship literacies are required if we are to muddle our way through to the next meme.

New Literacies for the 21st Century

Reframing Reality

The literacy to be able to step outside our individual framing of  the world, to seek to understand another’s framing  and potentially stepping together into a bigger frame.

Managing Multiplicity

The literacy to see wholeness, to appreciate our world is teeming with diversity.  To get to the best we can be, we need to embrace multiple perspectives and dance with diversity.

Connecting the Collective

The literacy to invite others into dialogue and have processes to tap into all the voices that can contribute experience and wisdom to promote cooperation and collaboration.

Forecasting the Future

The literacy to be able to imagine and design what the future is calling for and to anticipate and project ourselves into novelty and possible futures.

Designing Dynamics

The literacy to be able to bring out the best in our humanity and all living systems to include those who may be outside the culture so they can contribute, innovate and celebrate.

Please listen to Sallie describe, give examples and share stories about each of these highly relevant 21st century literacies.

Among the Best Trained People on the Planet

For those of us who are grounded in Appreciative Inquiry, we recognize how AI is a foundational mindset with its  principles and practices that enable us to live, teach and facilitate such literacies within ourselves, our families, workplaces and communities.

We are among  the best trained people on the planet to bring these literacies to life.  We have these skills and literacies to be of service to others.  We are trained in designing the types of conversations that bring out the co-creative capacities of togetherness, interdependency and collaboration.  We recognize our world is socially constructed through our language and our relational processes. 

We need to step up and step into these literacies to model what good leadership and citizenship can accomplish together.

Four Beautiful Assumptions about Humankind

The above life literacies are founded on a set of positive assumptions about humankind, and with such a solid foundation, we know what we can do together.

We’re not as selfish as we’ve been taught to believe we are.

    • We have a huge capacity for good, as history shows.

Humans have the ability to learn what we need to learn.

    • Neuroplasticity is real – we can sculpt our brains and change the way we think.

We are interconnected and interdependent.

    • We are all in this together. We are living systems, everything is relational – we cannot disconnect from that.

One of our greatest gifts as humans is our insatiable curiosity.

    • We are information eaters – data grows as does our appetite.

Connect with Sallie

The best way to connect with Sallie is on LinkedIn, especially if you'd like a copy of her paper, Leadership/Citizenship Literacies for the 21st Century: Solution and System Stalking.

A second paper:  Positive Problem Solving: How Appreciative Inquiry Works 


 Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

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Personal Reflections on Appreciative Voice – PS 72

Episode Introduction

This show is a little different from my usual format because I’m flying solo, except for a special guest, Mary Jane Dieter who shares a story illustrating a challenging exchange with a neighbor that resulted in good outcomes because of how she chose to speak with him. It’s a story that illustrates appreciative voice.

In this episode, I focus on how we can grow and strengthen our appreciative voice through the principles and practices of Appreciative Inquiry and what it can do for us individually and collectively.

Episode Background

To learn more about the inspiration for this show, please check out my blog What is Appreciative Voice in Your World?  

I participated in the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Homecoming at the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington Vt.  We were around 40 – 50 people mainly from US and Canada.  Most of us were familiar with AI

We gathered in response to the following invitation.

Invitation to the AI Homecoming

AI was made for these turbulent times.  This year our theme is one that can’t be ignored: voicing the appreciative–in conversation, in media, in public forums, in organizational life, in community. How do we create space and opportunity for conversations across divides, across borders, across values and visions that can help create the world we want to live in? How do we contribute? How do we create space and opportunity to co-create with others?

Inquiry into Appreciative voice

The first question put to us was:

What voices are coming through?

This question had us go deep very quickly.  

We reflected that it’s easy to block out messages coming through channels we don’t want to hear because our technologies allow us to. This enables us to live in echo chambers or bubbles,  meaning we stay with what we know and close ourselves off from hearing the perspectives of others who are not like us.

Living in the bubble limits us from exercising our appreciative voice.

When we come from inquiry we open up to listen to others  and when we live in inquiry we are less likely to jump to judgment.  You’ll hear that Mary Jane Dieter’s story is a great example of being true to her voice and at the same time curious and open to a different voice.

Four Compelling Questions

  1. When has your voice made a positive difference?
  2. When has your voice as part of a group made a positive difference?
  3. Recall a movement that made a positive difference in the world?
  4. When has an individual voice made a positive difference in the world in business/technology/education/ or any domain?

These questions focused our inquiry and they are typical of an appreciative inquiry.  As you listen to this show, you’ll find out how these appreciatively framed questions work in bringing out the best in us.  AI is one of the fastest and most enduring way that I know results in high quality human connection.  

Asking Appreciative Questions is Easy

We can all do this.  It is not hard to learn how to ask questions that focus on what works in a situation.  Many things go wrong, there is evil, there is hardship, there are natural disasters, and entangled in the chaos there are things that also offer redemption.  

Bob Marley’s lyrics in his Redemption Song say it all.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

 

Appreciative Inquiry Guiding Principles

Appreciative Inquiry Principles offer us a framework to practice our appreciative voice so we can bring more of it to the world.  The guiding principles that help us connect with others in ways that serve not only ourselves but others, too.  

Constructionist Principle: Words create worlds

Appreciative Voice sunflowers - communication skills trainingPrinciple of Simultaneity: The very first question starts the change

Poetic Principle: What we focus on grows

Anticipatory Principle: Image inspires action

Positive Principle: Positive affect leads to positive action

Wholeness Principle: We are in this together

Narrative: Stories transform us

Enactment: Embody what we want

Readings

“The self is a style of being, continually expanding in a vital process of definition, affirmation, revision, and growth, a process that is the image, we may say, of the life process of a healthy society itself.”  

Robert Penn Warren

Self-love is the foundation of a sane society, our responsibility to ourselves — and to our selves — is really a responsibility to one another: to know our interiority intimately and hold our darkest sides up to the light of awareness. But part of our human folly is that we do this far less readily than we shine the scorching beam of blameful attention on the darknesses of other.  

Maria Popova referencing Erich Fromm

The full article by Mari Popova of Brainpickings is The Terror Within and the Evil Without: James Baldwin on Our Capacity for Transformation as Individuals and Nations  

One workshop can be transformative. One single positive experience, when we discover a latent talent or potential strength or experience a gesture of caring, can be transformative. In fact, the very first question asked, and the way it is asked, begins the change process. When we open ourselves to our best selves, envision possibilities, and get in touch with our strengths, a paradigmatic, seismic, quantum shift can happen in the blink of an eye.

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions. 

Books

 Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

The New Human and the New World – What does that Mean to You? – PS 64

Episode Introduction: The New Human and the New World

In this episode with Dr Lynda Klau, I continue on the theme of exploring neuroscience and why it is such a hot topic and creating an explosion of curiosity in all kinds of fields. It’s become significant beyond medical science into in the field of day-to-day human development and spirituality, helping us understand how working with knowledge of our brain, along with our mind, body, heart and relationships are creating the new human and the new world.

Lynda shares with us why she is so excited about neuroscience and how it’s impacting her, her clients and the world, and, how together we have the potential to co-create the new human and the new world.

It couldn't be more appropriate for Lynda to chat with me on this topic because she is the founder and director of LIFE UNLIMITED:The Center for Human Possibility. She is called to do this work in helping herself and others evolve to higher levels of development. She is a licensed psychologist, coach and speaker with over two decades of training and experience, working with all kinds of people. New human. Portrait Lynda KlauIn her practice, she draws from a formidable toolbox of cutting-edge modalities: mindfulness meditation and the present moment, breath and voice work, guided imagery, communication and relational intelligence, and so much more. She’s so well researched across many disciplines, Eastern and Western traditions, and offers a truly holistic, integrative perspective to her clients. I ‘ve personally know Lynda for 15 years, and I know her to be the real deal.

A Calling to Help Evolve the New Human

As a start to our conversation, I express my curiosity about what might have been some of the threads in Linda’s earlier development and professional experiences that have lead her to shift her work to include the study of the brain – including her particular orientation, interpersonal neurobiology – and why it’s so significant at this time. She shares an intimate story of experiencing a profound shift during a workshop when an acute awareness of self-love, love for all, and an overwhelming sense of participating fully in life struck her. It was such an epiphany that she knew in that moment she wanted to dedicate her life to helping others find that inner spirit. A guiding vision for her own life to live in this place of deep connection to her unconditioned self was established. Over time she has come to bring her work to help create the new human, as she coins it.

Who is this New Human?

The new human has evolved to show characteristics such as kindness, compassion, love. The new human is connected spiritually to herself and others. She experiences the joys of silence; feels safe and whole; is trusting, aware and values the importance of choosing.  She knows the power of her new brain to help her choose her life.New human - women contemplating on cliff

The New World

What’s so simple yet so significant about Lynda’s message is that it’s not enough to be an individual to have made the choice about living life as a new human and being fully present to life. What is even more uplifting is people taking their new awareness and choosing to be together, to collaborate and co-create the new world. This shift is one from just needing to survive to flourishing.  An understanding how our brain, mind and relationships can be differentiated and integrated to develop this new human is what will bring on the new world, where we will flourish.

From Fear to Freedom

On Lynda’s website you can learn a lot about her perspective on making the transition from fear to freedom. It’s been told many times that fear is the driver of the instinctive old brain which is located low in the back of skull and the emotional /social brain, the limbic located in the the mid-brain. The new brainlocated in the front of the skull, the neocortex is there, in conjunction with the mind and relationships to help us evolve ourselves and support others to do the same in a collaborative way. We can make this a shift becausewe now have the capacity to pause, reflect and choose. We can be free.  When we know we can choose, we use our whole brain capacity, and our whole self, transitioning through the emotions of fear to to integrating the front part of the brain with awareness of being able to make different choices.

Fear in our modern world is not provoked by the orange and black striped big cat in the jungle. It comes in the form of burnout, overload, stress, overwhelm, relationship breakdowns – we are back surviving as a way of living, instead of being aware of our how we have the brain, the body, mind and heart to truly flourish.

Transformational Moments Invite Us to Do the Work.

Opportunities that make us recognize what holds us back and keeps us small come in different ways. Being open to them is what creates the change. Transformational moments can drop into our laps AND we still have the do the work. As Lynda explains so clearly, that is the choice part. Seeing the opportunities in adversity is a choice.

When you choose to embrace life and accept all that comes as an opportunity, you are more open to co-create;  the universe steps in and you begin to see many synchronicities and serendipities.

Everything thing is an opportunity to grow – at all levels. When you collaborate with like-minded others, you begin to build a world that works for everyone and supports everyone.  The transformational change methodology of Appreciative Inquiry is one way to facilitate meaningful collaboration and co-creation.

Second Chance to Choose our Lives

Please listen in to Lynda as she shares with me the crux of her perspective, grounded in the new sciences. Namely, our new brain,  mind and relationship intelligence allow us to exercise our mindful self to stand in a different place from all the conditioning of our past. The new human recognizes that we can be free of that old, habitual response. We now have a second chance. Growing up, it’s likely we lost our connection with our innate self. We were dominated by what we were told we were and what the world is. Our evolved brain, mind and body allow all that’s within us to surface, so we can observe beliefs and thoughts with compassion and curiosity. We feel the emotions in our body, and with this elevated level of consciousness we are aware that we don’t have to identify with any of this old stuff. We are open to everything-within and without as we shift from avoidance to awareness.

Everything holds an Opportunity for Learning, Healing, Growing

I wanted to conclude these show notes with a quote that Lynda references in the show. It speaks to her message of the new human living into a new world:  To love the questions, to be curious and to live into both.  The point is to live everything.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Maria Rainer Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

How to Connect with Lynda

Lynda's website DrLyndaKlau.com

Lynda on Google+

Lynda on Facebook

Lynda on LinkedIn

Lynda on Twitter

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

Listen to Stitcher

Subscribe-iTunes-180x120

Listen on Google Play Music

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Communication Skills Training for High Performance

8 minute read

My intention with this post is to illustrate how solutions to many of our organizational problems to do with leadership and human relations are embedded in the organization itself.  Employees have the solutions to most problems.  What we focus on grows is the principle addressed in this post. There are examples from the corporate world to improve communications and build cultures of ownership, as well as examples from elsewhere.

There is a key principle in the organization change methodology, Appreciative Inquiry that posits powerfully, what we focus on grows.  So when your organization offers communication skills training, what does the trainer focus on, or what is the trainer asked to focus on? As a big generalization, it's most likely the focus is on the need to fix poor communications across the organization.  Or, the lack of communications, or negative communications, or stressful communications that permeate the culture, thereby impacting relationships inside and outside the organization.  When that kind of climate infiltrates the organization, productivity is impacted, customer retention and innovation decrease, and creativity and vitality start on a downward spiral. 

Existing Paradigm “if it ain't broke don't fix it”

Unfortunately, it's often not until situations get to that low level, when the pain really starts to hurt, that there's a cry for “we need communication skills training.”   That pain signals an urgency to “fix what's wrong with a training solution.”   Such a response is the classic view of traditional management: “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.”  It takes a “burning platform” to initiate any change. I contrast that with my dear grandmother's favorite saying:  “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Let me share a few stories to illustrate how communications and more broadly organizational culture is impacted by understanding this Appreciate Inquiry principle of what you focus on grows.

CEO Steps From the Dark into the Light

The CEO of a multimillion dollar, international company was in the office building elevator one day to go down to lunch from his executive suite on level 77.  Several floors down three employees stepped into the same elevator all very engaged in a conversation. They paid no attention to him – the CEO – standing in the dark at the back of the elevator.  As the elevator door closed with its three new occupants, he quickly became aware, their conversation was a series of complaints and grievances about the company of which he was CEO and founder.

This company had become a global company through a number of recent mergers, and the three employees in the elevator were complaining about impossible workloads, their unavailable bosses, slow systems, volumes of work and unhappy customers. They were focusing on their grievances and airing them in a public place without paying attention to who else might be in the elevator with them, and possibly listening.

When the elevator reached the the ground floor, the CEO stepped out from the dark into the light, expressing concern about their conversation.  It was extremely upsetting to him to hear his employees speak this way.  He wanted to hear more about their experiences.  He asked them to reach out to his assistant and get on his calendar that afternoon.

Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset

Before I continue, two questions:

Communication Skills Training Questions

  1. From your own world view, how do you think this story might continue?  From your own experience, if this had been you in the elevator and your CEO was standing at the back, how might this story continue in your organization?
  2. If you were the CEO and you heard your people speak about the organization in this negative way in public, what actions might you have taken?

Here’s what happened. They enter his office a few hours later.  He welcomes them to his office and serves tea.  He personally serves them tea.

  • He prides himself on being a gracious host and a fair person.
  • He says how grateful he is to hear their reality – how they're making sense of the current situation
  • He listens to their experiences, and acknowledges they are very different from what he hears is going on
  • He seeks to understand their perspectives
  • He admits shock and agrees he partly owns the problem
  • He requests their and everyone’s ownership in finding new ways to address the concerns they raise
  • He says he needs them and every member of the organization to co-create the future of the organization that he believes is possible and if everyone works together and communicates openly and honestly, it will happen

Communication Skills Training to Re-focus the Corporate Culture

He acted immediately.  The CEO took full responsibility.  It was time to re-focus and align the corporate culture.  He called in the HR Manager, requesting that communication skills training focusing on professional behaviors be sourced and made mandatory for every member of the organization at every level, from C Suite executives to mail room clerks.

I was fortunate to be hired as the change consultant by the CEO and the HR Manager to design a day long communication skills training focusing on professional behaviors and lead a team of facilitators to deliver the workshops in every department across the entire organization both nationally and internationally.

AMP - communication skills trainingWhat was different about this communication skills training from conventional training is that it was designed with the principles of Appreciative Inquiry.  This training was a highly interactive, experiential, strategically-focused workshop where the participants interviewed each other about the most positive communication experiences they had experienced in their lives – in this organization or elsewhere (a benchmarking exercise).  They identified what good communications and professional behaviors look like, sound like, feel like, smell like.  The workshop design focused at first on discovering the best of what exists in the organization already, when communications are at their best, because in the quieter corners of the organization there exists exceptionality and evidence of most effective and helpful communications.  By focusing on what works, the employees were able to co-create a new narrative around communications for high performance that came from their own world.  They did not fall into the narrative of trying to dissect the causes of poor communications and who's to blame.

It certainly wasn't training where the trainer stands at the front of the room presenting to a deck of slides, talking abstractly and theoretically about communications, contrasting bad and good communications, showing checklists of does and don'ts, and facilitating role plays.  There wasn't an “expert” at the front of the room telling them what they should do, who neglected to honor all the positive attributes that existed ready.

Taking Ownership for Implementation

After the employees had discovered best communication experiences through paired interviews, they formed small groups to share all their different stories of communications at their best, thereby identifying collective strengths, best practices and helpful resources.  Next, with all this new found data, they used their imaginations to envision their organization in the near future when all their collective strengths, capabilities and assets would be put into practice.   They were animated and excited about what they knew to be real and possible.  In the final part of the workshop, the participants self-selected into working groups to plan how to implement this vision they had co-created. They came up with specific projects and identified strategies, and goals, resources, timeframes, and resources that would result in improved communications throughout the company.  Communication skills training in this participative workshop format is sustained as the working groups continue to meet post workshop to bring the projects to fruition.

Collaborative Outcomes

What happened in that day long process and was repeated across the entire organization went beyond communication skills training.  Designing training with the Appreciative Inquiry approach, you can expect all of the following outcomes in addition to finding solutions for the “presenting problem”:

  • Highly engaged participants inspired by their own and their colleagues personal, and professional and organizational stories
  • Deepened appreciation of the collective strengths across the organization, with specific examples of golden innovations that already exist, perhaps in quiet unknown corners, or in other departments
  • Shared understanding about what more is possible and what success could and should look like in their department or organization
  • Seeds of ideas that can develop to become more widely integrated across the organization and with clients and vendors
  • A variety of initiatives and projects the participants come up with themselves during the workshop because they want them to happen and will safeguard them because they are invested
  • New knowledge networks and relationships
  • A work product that spreads the story possibly in multimedia format – video, digital, print – to communicate to those who were not physically present – to customers, vendors in newsletters or on the website
  • The potential for a truly transformational change
  • By osmosis, training in interviewing skills, listening skills, assertiveness skills, leadership, visioning, strategic planning are all experienced in one “communications skills training” workshop.
  • Based on all of the above, a sustained contagion effect that positively reinforces a culture where people can say, “we did it ourselves.”

In a nutshell, this collaborative way of communication skills training enables employees to find resources within themselves to bring to the situation.   Furthermore, when they feel supported by others, including coworkers and bosses, it leads to creating a nurturing and inviting environment where they feel safe at work resulting in greater quantity and quality of service.  Teamwork is enhanced, communication is improved, as people truly listen to one another and respect each other. They experience moments of care from others.  As a result, the focus shifts to more open conversation, where shared values get brought into the open and developing individual and organizational strengths becomes a focus which ultimately moves the organization towards resilience and a more empowered workplace.

One of my areas of specialization to is build custom training programs framed with the Appreciative Inquiry worldview.  My book, Appreciative inquiry for Collaborative Solutions, (2010) John Wiley has 21 such workshops.

What you Focus on Grows

I digress briefly to further illustrate this Appreciative Inquiry principle, what you focus on grows  with some examples not only at work, but more broadly in life, at home and at play.  communication skills training - meditating woman

Are you aware of what you enjoy focusing on?  What are the pleasures and treasures you experience when you invest your full energy – your emotions, your thoughts and actions on activities and with people that matter to you that bring you happiness AND meaning.  When you experience these meaningful and totally absorbing activities, you’re in the zone.  You’re so engrossed or absorbed that you lose track of time.  You are in the flow state that is a luscious state of feeling at one with the activity.

Musicians, writers, photographers, painters, poets and dancers know this experience, as do scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, athletes,  students, and lovers.  In fact, we all know it.  It’s the great gift of being fully present and in the moment with the activity.  It implies you have a degree of competence or a aptitude for the activity and at the same time there’s a degree of challenge that keeps you engaged.  Because it it were too easy, you’d be bored and move on to focus on something different.  If it were too hard, you'd be stressed out and you'd feel de-energized.

How would it be if we could get into that zone more consciously?  Imagine being able to communicate with greater consciousness because you know to focus on what you want Vs what you don't want. What if you could create that sense of heightened and engaged performance in the workplace a high percentage of the time?

Celebrate What's Right

A side story to further illustrate what you focus on grows:  Dewitt Jones, a photographer and motivational speaker, formerly with the National Geographic Magazine, created a beautiful video, Celebrate with What’s Right with the World.  I use it in my Appreciative Inquiry trainings. The entire video speaks to this topic of what you focus on grows among other fabulous messages.  I’d like to highlight two specific stories in Dewitt’s video.

puff balls communication skills trainingOn one particular photo shoot, he bookmarks a scene he wants to come back to to photograph.  It’s a wide open field as far as the eye can see of yellow dandelions.  They are so densely packed it looks like a yellow blanket.  When he finally returns to it a few days later, all the yellow flowers have gone.  It now looks like a drab green field of weeds.  Dewitt chooses not to focus on the loss of the yellow flowers.  He focuses on the new image nature has provided him.  His focus turns to transparent “puff balls” that are laid out before him.  His vision of the photo he had in mind was gone.  Did he get annoyed with the scene, himself or nature?  No, he didn’t focus on what went wrong, or what lost or what had gone.  He focused on what he now had. Glorious puff balls that when the sun rays shone through them they offered him beautiful images to photograph that he had previously could not not have imagined.  He focussed on what was to be celebrated in this new situation, not on what he had lost.

Another memorable scene took place in a tiny Irish village – Dewitt was on assignment to photograph an elderly woman who was a legendary weaver.  He was in awe of her craft and her generosity in allowing him to wander around and take as many photos as he wanted on whatever subjects took his fancy.  He tells the story that he thought he’d be smart and asked her what she thought about when she was weaving.  She looked at him, and, in a very humble way replied:  “I don’t think of anything.  When I weave, I weave.”  Such a beautiful example of being graciously in the moment, in the zone and focusing on what she was best at doing.

The Craving to be Appreciated

sunflowers - communication skills trainingTalking about a field of yellow flowers, I am reminded of traveling in Tuscany in Italy and being awestruck by fields of Sunflowers.   If you’ve ever gazed across a field of sunflowers, you know how breathtaking it is.  You feel like jumping for joy.  Their big, bright yellow heads all face the same direction to form a bright yellow blanket of sunny faces. That’s what’s so special about sunflowers, They actually turn their heads to face the sun.  They follow the sun from dawn to dusk.  They  grow in the direction of light and warmth, just as we humans.  As sunflowers turn to the sun for light and energy, so too, do we humans grow and light up with great energy in a field of abundant, sunny appreciation and positivity.  We literally light up when basked with appreciation.  I am reminded of the quote by American Psychologist William James:

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

So if we focus on what serves us well and is energizing to us, we flourish.  With more positivity in our lives, we are likely to create a life that enables us to flourish rather than languish.

Communication Skills Training

Recently,I had the privilege to work with a very large, global corporation, who wanted to bring greater diversity and inclusion into their workplace culture. To make that a reality, we did some fabulous work to identify what topic would focus the conversations and gather the best stories of diversity and inclusion that were  already being lived out  in the organization.  Through an appreciative inquiry process,  we worked out the best topic to focus on was “Freedom to step outside of our comfort zones.”  Why?  Because what they had already found out from the conversations they’d had during the research, data gathering phase is that when people in the organization were free to be themselves, they felt included and their diversity was accepted and celebrated.  So by shining the light and focusing on the best stories of diversity and inclusion enabled acts of diversity and inclusion, which then facilitated greater acts of diversity and inclusion and it began to  grow more diversity and inclusion, because, as I mentioned earlier – this Appreciative Inquiry Principle of what you focus on grows states that the topics or subjects we choose to put our attention to, or study, are fateful in the sense that  they not only determine what we learn, but they actually create it.

Through our Appreciative Inquiry and positivity lens , we consciously seek out that which we want more of, not less—hence what we focus on are the solutions and outcomes we wish to create. There are many examples of this principle in all walks of life, from raising children, to evaluating employee performance, to attending to health and wellness.

Do we place our attention and energy on the behaviors and outcomes we want in our children, co-workers, and diet and exercise regimes in order to create that which we desire, or do we place our attention on the things we want less of?

When we place sincere effort on the attributes we want to see, and can let go of those that no longer serve or support, we have greater chance of success in achieving our desired outcomes.

Greater Harmony in Relationships

Heres’ another example: If you wanted to reduce conflict in a team, and you invested effort into inquiring about their conflicts, the causes, the situations and how often they arose, the conversation would be all about the conflicts.  The team members would be replaying scenes of conflict in their minds.  Would you be helping them to move beyond the analysis of their conflict towards envisioning the possibility of building relationships with greater harmony when conflict was absent? Unlikely.

Teamwork Communication Skills TrainingIf the focus of the inquiry were to shift to  times when the members truly listened to each other, when they were respectful and supportive of each other, when they were present to each other with compassion, their minds would replay very different scenes.  They would be reconnecting with times when they were there for each other with interest and care.

So, when you inquire into deficient situations, you learn more about the causes the deficit – in this case causes of “conflict,” and it doesn’t help anyone learn anything about what it’s like when conflict is absent. When you study someone’s conflict, what opportunity do you have to learn about their “respectful, compassionate relationships?”

Similarly, if you studied “fear,” what would you learn about “connection”?

How deeply programmed are we to focus on the problem side of life Vs the developmental side of life?  In our workplaces, how do we see our employees and our leaders? It is all embedded in the beliefs we have which are reinforced through our language. The language we use shapes our narrative and therefore our reality.

Let me leave you with a question to ponder:  what are you growing in your organization – where is your focus?

I hope I have inspired you with some ideas and strategies about how you can increase greater participation and ownership in your investment in training in  your workplace through paying attention to where you focus your attention.  The more your focus on what you want to create in the world and what you value, the more you will create it.  When we seek to look for the best in ourselves and others, we are likely to find it. Appreciative Inquiry searches for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them.

My Gift To You:

How to Enliven Communication Skills Training

A highly participatory, interactive way to improve communications

Communications-Skills-Training-Workshop-3D-Cover

As a result of this free training workshop template, you (and your participants) will be able to:​

  • Describe excellent communication from many different perspectives
  • Identify the behaviors that demonstrate excellent communication skills
  • Demonstrate communication skills for high performance
  • Commit to activities that will continue develop skills
  • Contribute ideas for projects to improve communications across the organization

This free communication skills training is a workshop design that establishes what communication looks like when it’s at its best by tapping into individual and collective strengths and entrusting participants with positive results. It’s a benchmarking exercise that discovers what is already working well in your organization and other organizations, and what else needs to happen (or change) to deliver high performance.

A World Inquiry: The Impacts of Appreciative Inquiry across the World, with Ada Jo Mann – PS059

Episode Introduction

I'm excited to talk to Ada Jo Mann about her long relationship with Appreciative Inquiry (AI). She is a pioneer of AI going back to the early 1990s.  Ada Jo was one of the co-creators of the Global Excellence in Management (GEM) Initiative, a founder of the early AI Consulting Group, a co-creator of AI World conferences and AI summits around the world.  Ada Jo and I don’t only talk about the past. I jump straight into a current global initiative conceived by Ada Jo.  She begins by sharing with us her impetus to conduct a World lnquiry on Appreciative Inquiry.

Episode Overview – World Inquiry into Appreciative Inquiry

In this episode, I invite Ada Jo to respond to three questions that we’ve designed to bring many voices from around the world together to share stories of how Appreciative Inquiry has been impacting lives for almost 30 years.  It’s a hugely exciting initiative.  Our intention is to elevate the discourse of AI to a new level using social media to communicate and broadcast the breadth of Appreciative Inquiry and to highlight the growing numbers of applications through personal stories.

The World Inquiry invites folks from all over the world to share their experiences of how they have been touched by Appreciative Inquiry and help create a viral message of positive change.  We're asking folks to record their stories on video (using mobile devices), upload them to the web and be made available  on the soon to be  re-vitalized AI Commons.  They will serve as a rich, searchable database for doctoral students, AI practitioners, AI trainers and consultants, and anyone interested in first hand reports of the power of Appreciative Inquiry to create individual and collective positive change. 

Question 1: Finding Appreciative Inquiry

How, where, when and by whom were you introduced to Appreciative Inquiry? What compelled you most about it? What is it about AI that you connect with most?

World Inquiry - Ada Jo Mann

In listening to Ada Jo, you will learn about her amazing and fabulous contributions to the world.  She began her long career in international development as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad. Years later she helped create and then became the first Director of the Small Project Assistance Program, a 30 year partnership between USAID and the Peace Corps. After Peace Corps she moved on to USAID where she met and worked with David Cooperrider, creator of Appreciative Inquiry to whom she was introduced by Jane Magruder Watkins, another tour de force in Appreciative Inquiry. Ada Jo and David created the GEM Initiative, a seven year multi-million dollar grant from USAID to improve the organizational capacity of non-governmental organizations in all regions of the world using Appreciative Inquiry. GEM served as a living laboratory for the development of Appreciative Inquiry

Ada Jo, as so many others who “find” AI, reflects that it was like a “home coming.”  Questions she had been asking right at the outset of her long career were implicit in the world view of AI.  Questions such as

  • How might we build on the strengths of this community?
  • What if we were to include all stakeholders in the vision?
  • How can we include all the different perspectives in the design of this new program?

Question 2:  Appreciative Inquiry Impact on You

Where and how has AI made a difference in your life and work? How has AI changed things for you? How has AI brought out the best in you personally and or professionally? (In the way you work, do business, in your family, etc.) Please tell a story that  highlights how AI has had an impact on your life and/or work.

Ada Jo shares many stories in response to these questions. If you want to learn about some of the history of Appreciative Inquiry, listen in.  She also refers to a number of synchronicities that have touched her, and right at the outset of our conversation, she comments on how the interview I conducted with Tom Myers on Synchronicity as an Emergent AI Principle rings true for her.

Two key principles  of AI stand out for me as I listened to Ada Jo:  Questions are fateful;  and the act of storytelling.

Questions are Fateful

The questions you ask start the change.  We call it the Simultaneity Principle.  Ada Jo tell us that it was in fact a question put to her by another AI colleague, Neil Samuels at the end of an Appreciative Inquiry gathering that provoked her to initiate the World Inquiry on Appreciative Inquiry.  Neil asked Ada Jo if she'd followed up on all the work that she had done during the GEM project.  That question was the impetus to make it happen!

The Act of StorytellingWorld Inquiry - people networked

When we tell stories, we tap into the collective
unconscious. Storytelling is universal, it crosses all cultures.  The oral tradition is one of the oldest, and as part of the Appreciative Inquiry experience, sharing your own story with others opens up the possibilities for deep connection. For some people talking about personal strengths may be difficult, but telling a story of what's working well and how you were part of that comes out more easily and taps into all cultures.   When you experience that collective energy at AI Summit, it's truly magical.

Question 3: Your Innovations

One of the beauties of AI is that it can be adapted and re-imagined depending upon the needs of  the situation in which it is being applied. Have you had an opportunity to create innovations to the original 4-D process? What did your innovations look like? How have you used them? Please share an example of your innovations using AI.

Throughout this interview, Ada Jo's many contributions and innovations are woven into her stories.  A few more include the book she collaborated on with Diana Whitney, Jen Silbert and Dawn Dole called Positive Family Dynamics.  The book came about because participants in workshops and summits would say “I could use this with my family.”  Listen in to how Ada Jo describes the collaborative process of creating this book.

Other innovations include the founding of the AI Consulting Group which is no longer, but served a number of global consultants to collaborate and stay connected in the early days.  Significantly, AI Consulting sponsored the first AI Global Conference in Baltimore, MD in 2001.  The design of that first conference has remained as a standard for all future conferences and a precursor to AI Summits.

When I asked Ada Jo what she valued about herself, she talked about her strengths as an opportunity finder and creator of innovative designs and solutions together with her drive and organizing skills to get things done.   What a combo!  I certainly recognize the visionary who makes it happen. With Ada Jo, it's not an either /or, but a both/and!

The Poet – Creator of Heroic Crown Sonnet

As a final treat in this episode, I invite Ada Jo to recite her latest Heroic Crown Sonnet.  She explains what this special kind of sonnet is.  Her first composition about her time with the Peace Corps was very well received.  The one she recites for us is entitled the Appreciative Inquiry Crown.

Ada Jo has kindly allowed me to share her Appreciative Inquiry Crown.  What a joy to be able to read this sonnet – still a work-in-progress. Please open up the Positivity Lens Reveal  below to view.

positivity lens

POSITIVITY LENS REVEAL

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You'll get a thrill out of this Heroic Crown Sonnet whether you are experienced in Appreciative Inquiry, or reading about AI for the first time.  Ada Jo captures the essence, the spirit, the process and all the possibilities that can emerge.  Please enjoy!  If you'd like to be in touch with Ada Jo, her LinkedIn profile is available below and her email is provided in the footer of the PDF.

How to Connect to Ada Jo and Links Mentioned

Ada Jo's Website: Innovation Partners International

Ada Jo on LinkedIn: Ada Jo Mann

Ada Jo's Book:  Positive Family Dynamics

Articles by Ada Jo and Collaborators

Confessions of an AI-coholic

Collaborative Conversations, Creating Positive Family Dynamics

Ethiopia Summit

Liberia International Development In AI Practitioner

International Development GEM – A Positive Revolutions in AI Practitioner


Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

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Meaningful Conversations can Transform You and Your World

Episode Introduction

In this episode, my guest is Jacqueline Botting, the founder of WiseTribe.us.  Jacqueline reached out to me after discovering Appreciative Inquiry, buying my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-Based Workshops, and engaging me to work with her fledgling non-profit startup. We have been working and playing together ever since. I invited Jacqueline to share her story of how and why she started Wisetribe.us.

Episode Overview –  Meaningful Conversations Can Transform You and Your World

For Jacqueline Botting, it starts with a personal quest to search for greater meaning in her own life. Valuing the time in which we’re living, Jacqueline’s revelation is that we are dawning on The Collaborative Age. At this time, when we are experiencing enormous cultural and technological changes, we possesses tremendous potential to enhance our collective social well-being. Through carefully designed experiences, WiseTribe connects people of diverse ages, ethnicities, and professions to share strengths, dreams, possibilities  and convert them into action-based learning projects.

Search for Meaningful Conversations and Relationships

As you listen to Jacqueline share parts of her story, you’ll become aware that meaningful conversation and relationships are the big themes in Jacqueline’s story.meaningful conversations

It was the passing of her father, or the time that led up to his death that awakened Jacqueline to the realization that a successful life, or a life well-lived, is not only about getting ahead merely in the material or professional sense.  Jacqueline discovered in conversation with her father in the last years of his life that all he really wanted was to have meaningful relationships and conversations.  

Jacqueline became aware that she was running her life to a similar script as her father:  all the trappings, material things, good career opportunities and even marriage didn’t add up to make her feel whole or complete.

Her father’s vulnerability and their deep meaningful conversations moved Jacqueline to begin to examine her own live.  The confluence of many events – perhaps synchronicities – lead her to connect to people who were often much older than she was: and she was discovering similar stories, namely, towards the end of life, what counts is having healthy, high-functioning, meaningful conversations and relationships.  

Transformative Experience

In these conversations with older people, Jacqueline was not only tapping into their wisdom, but finding her own deep wisdom. She was learning that a life not well-lived resulted in a life of emptiness, a life unfulfilled. She felt compelled to recalibrate and re-think what it means to live in a human centric world that was beyond material possessions and status.

WiseTribe

WiseTribe, the organization Jacqueline founded was born out of the idea of generations wiser together. And this is when I was brought in to help design a range of “products” to help market this concept.  Overtime, it became clear that these “products” were experiences where invited participants could share their personal stories, passions, dreams and possibilities for a wiser, human centric world, based on collective social well-being.

Discovering Appreciative Inquiry 

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) first became know to Jacqueline when when did a search for the term “collective actualization.”  She came across an article by David Cooperrider, thought leader of Appreciative Inquiry, and it was as if she had come home.  The worldview and practice of AI felt so aligned to WiseTribe’s vision and mission, she knew she had to learn more.  She wanted to create spaces and experiences for people to share the wisdom of their lives and their insights and interests to create something new.

Contrasting the Traditional Worldview with the Appreciative Worldview.

We are moving beyond personal mastery to collective mastery.  Technology has become a great enabler and democratizer.  You might like to open up the Positive Lens Reveal to read some of the distinctions between the old and the new ways of experiencing the world.  

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As you take a look at these slides, which worldview occupies most of your energy?   When we start to pay attention to our own worldview and those around us, we expand.  We are not alone in this world. We are interconnected.  The language we use creates the worlds we live into.   What if we were to consciously change our language so we together we create a new narrative.   People are not problems to be solved, but mysteries to be embraced.
meaningful conversationsmeaningful conversationsmeaningful conversations

The Experience of a WiseTribe Season 

Listen in to Jacqueline as she describes the WiseTribe Collaborative Season.  Briefly, it’s a four part experience.  The inaugural season was a partnership with Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

  1. Connect through Wisdom Exchanges
  2. Co-create in Solutionism Workshops using Design Thinking Process
  3. Collaborate among tribes over their projects
  4. Celebrate with a festival to showcase projects and learnings with artistic performances.

This four month experience is grounded in the principles and practices of Appreciative Inquiry.  Therefore stories, strengths, dreams, play, creativity, art, inspiration, heart and love, as well as commitment to being in relationship and doing good work are abundant.

We experience the value of play which unleashes imagination and spirit thereby leading to innovations that allow us to live in new ways.

Appreciations

In conclusion, I invite Jacqueline to reflect on her own strengths in bringing her vision to life.  It’s a joy to hear how clear she is about her talents.  Having been a thinking partner with Jacqueline, I am so proud to hear describe herself with such confidence and competence.  She has seized many opportunities and through her tenacity and persistence, vision and leadership, she is making a sustainable difference in people’s lives.

Finally, I was very touched when she expresses her appreciation for me and the role I have played in encouraging her and offering support and experience to achieve her dreams.  That's my talent.

It will continue to be a positive co-creative enriching experience for us both.

Connect with Jacqueline

Website: WiseTribe.us and FloridaWise.us

WiseTribe  on Twitter

Jacqueline on LinkedIn

Wisetribe on  on Facebook

WiseTribe on Instagram

Book Mentioned in the Episode


Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

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How Playful Collegial Collaboration Works from Kids to Executives, With Marge Schiller- PS53

Episode Introduction

marge-schiller-768x575Marjorie Schiller, Ph.D., has been consulting, teaching and writing about Appreciative Inquiry (AI) since the late 1980's. Marge is passionate about bringing Appreciative Inquiry into all educational contexts, with a focus on lifelong learning to enrich diversity in all its guises. Embodiment is another of her passions – how we walk the talk.  She expands on these three topics among many others in this juicy, story-filled episode.

A beautiful invitation was posed by Marge Schiller early in this episode:

If we were to hold our work lightly, with a positive energy such as play, imagine how much further we can go with the things that we really care about

Episode Overview – Collegial Collaboration

Marge teaches and writes about Appreciative Leadership and AI in Action. Marge is the co-author of Appreciative Leaders: In the Eye of the Beholder (a Taos Institute Focus Book) and has written commentaries and book chapters about many subjects and applications of Appreciative Inquiry. Her current book in the making is a collegial collaboration across three generations.  As Marge playfully describes the collegial collaboration:  there are perspectives from  78 year old land, 30 year old and 10 year old land.  It’s a children’s book about Appreciative Inquiry, with a working title of “Stan and 4 Fantastic Powers” co-authored by her twin grandchildren, an educational psychologist and a gifted illustrator.

To the question about how she considers her relationship with AI, Marge responds with:

Collegial collaborator… a constant learner … a respecter…. a connector.

Learning from each other, through all our multiple perspectives through the relational process of collegial collaboration is highly important to Marge.

When I asked Marge what she valued about herself, she admitted she’s very good at starting things.  In her life across politics, the media, corporations, teaching and writing, she has started many initiatives that still live on and you can hear a number of these as you listen in to this episode.  This is where the collegial collaboration works.  You find people who are equally committed to bring the positive changes you believe in.  Marge recognizes it takes a lot of effort to start things, and we need each other to bring our diversity into projects to make them work successfully for everyone.

Marge makes a distinction between mentorship and “collegialship” – collegial collaboration.

Collegialships are intergenerational, and “generation” means many things.  It’s not just about age. It’s about perspectives, experiences, learnings, contributions, technologies, spirituality and more, with all their accompanying levels, stages, generations and memes of development. Mentorship is not collegial collaboration because mentorships are unequal in their construction.  Only in a collegial collaboration, are contributions from all perspectives valued in the sense that each person has something to offer through their own life experiences.  Appreciating diversity is key.

Stories

Marge is a wonderful storyteller, with a talent for connecting at many levels.  She connects concepts to make up brand new words, as in “collegialship” above and in the charming story below.

It’s a fun story that reveals the inner knowing of kids.   Briefly, when her son was 7, he observed that “daddy work works, and mommy play works.”  What her son was describing is that daddy didn’t like his work, but mommy loved her work. Hence the term “plerk” was coined (play +work).  By the way, daddy left his job at age 38 and mommy 40 years later is still “plerking.”

The most enjoyable part of this story is the context in which it occurred. Hint: Feminist TV show anchor, Marge was keen to show she could be both a feminist and a mommy.  It’s a treat. Ever since, Marge has made it her business to ‘‘plerk through life” and find collegial collaborators who also plerk.

Falling in Love with Appreciative Inquiry

Another great story is how Marge was introduced to Appreciative Inquiry. She was in a meeting at NTL (National Training Laboratory in Bethel, Maine) with about 20 others, including Jane McGruder Watkins (Former Chair of the Board NTL) and David Cooperrider – the “daddy of AI” as Marge refers to him.  This group emerged as the pioneers in the transformational change process known as Appreciative Inquiry and continue to plerk together in a variety of flexible configurations – collegial collaborations.

Not long after this meeting,  Marge brought David Cooperrider into her organization and her long relationship with and leadership in the AI community had begun.  One of the classic AI case studies is the work Marge, David, Jane  and others did at Avon Cosmetics in Mexico on the affirmative  topic of “Men and Working Working Together.”

How to Introduce Appreciative Inquiry to Others

Start small – our conversations make the difference.  Marge talks about “little ‘a’” and “little ‘i’” – small experiences.  The big AI summits are hugely energizing and organization transformation occurs, yet it’s the one-on-one conversations, the relational process that sustains the effort.   Another tip is to find the appreciative leaders  – those with the right mindset and who know the value of good stories. If you engage in talking only about problems, little baby problems emerge.  So those who value stories and diversity, have expansive mindsets and are open to creating innovations are more likely to be appreciative leaders than the leaders who believe they are the smartest in the room and want it to remain that way.  Those kinds of “all knowing” leaders and Appreciative Inquiry may not be a good fit, and can present challenges.

Tips for Honing your own Practice in Appreciative Inquiry

We talk about the good old apprenticeship model.  If you want to learn your craft, you hang out and practice with those who are doing it well already.  This is where the terms “plerking” and “collegial collaboration” are manifested.  In my early days as a newly certified AI practitioner, I did just that, volunteering for projects with David Cooperrider, Marge Schiller, Linsdey Godwin, Jackie Stavros and others.  We each bring our own strengths and diverse backgrounds and experiences to each project, all of us learning and contributing.  The most exciting thing about those experiences is not only the learning that happens, but the strengthening of lasting relationships.  It’s a give and get model of growth and development.

Embodiment of Appreciative Inquiry

This entire episode is full of great stories, strategies and tactics about Appreciative Inquiry, and we kind of saved the best to last.  It just happened.  When we talked about appreciative leaders, it was perfect to talk about embodiment.

To be an appreciative leader is to truly embody the principles – the guiding values and practices of AI. You embody AI when you walk the talk and you move into the spiritual realm. Valuing the true, the good, the beautiful of the wholeness of life, the interconnectedness of all things, the wonderment of our cosmos, listening with our hearts and minds open, respecting the dignity of all human beings is being AI.  It isn’t just what you do, it is who you are.

To embody AI is personal work. You go through your own personal AI experiences to walk the talk.  You check in with yourself, “how am I doing?”  How am I living the principles?  How am I impacting others?  What positive differences am I making?

Kids as Teachers

The image and voice of hope is children.

Marge’s shares the story of how this insight struck her when she witnessed the impact a 4 year old had on the employees in a neighboring building during the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11th 2001.

Thanks, Marge for the legacy you are creating!

Links to Marge Schiller

Marge's Website: Positive Change Core

LinkedIn: Marge Schiller 

 Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

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50 Women Experience The Value of Collaboration, New Jersey

Women's Collaboration Summit

It was such a joy to co-facilitate New Jersey's first Women's Collaboration Summit.  The joy, started several months earlier, when my collaboration began with two local business women:  Marybeth Gregg and Roe Couture Desaro.  We wanted to design an experience that would bring a variety of talented local women together to share stories and learn from each other and find ways to support each other.

Our design was framed in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) with the ambition to achieve the following

  • bring out the capabilities that exist in the room;  individual and collective strengths;  
  • unleash what else is possible – the positive potential of every person and potential synergies of the collective
  • provide uplifting experiences that energize us all to do more of what we do best

Collaborating for High Performance

The summit started with a discovery interview on the topic of Collaborating for High Performance with the following lead in statement to set the tone of the interviews, table conversations and whole plenary discussion

Collaboration refers to people coming together to produce something they all contribute to in a variety of ways. Because of the increased complexities and pressures in our world today at home, in the community and our workplaces, productive and meaningful collaboration is a huge topic of interest. Collaborations are often loose and voluntary, while teams are usually designed for specific purposes, such as sports teams, department teams, sales teams etc.

Whether it’s a voluntary collaboration or a designated team, we come together with different skill sets, personalities, and motivations, so it’s always dynamic. Effectiveness is enhanced when people know their strengths, their values, their purpose and can be real with each other.

So what is it that makes a truly high-performing collaboration?

We have all been part of a high-performing team or collaboration at some point, even a team of two! Let’s access those high point experiences of high collaborative performance. Let’s identify the strengths of our contributions and the contributions of others and, together, we can co-create ways forward, building on our existing strengths – our positive core – to design ways we can further strengthen collaborations.

We followed the classic AI interview design with the one-on-one personal interviews.  Next, we introduced  the table conversations, when the interviewees  shared what they had learnt from their interview partners. Then we engaged in a whole room discussion when we synthesized some of the common themes from across the table groups.

The Value of Collaboration

When we invited the participants to identify some of the themes that came out of all the high points stories of experiencing collaboration at its best, here is what was shared:

When we are collaborating at our best, we experience

  • Grace under pressure

    Value in Collaborations

    Images – Thanks to Kathleen Edinger of Teascapes http://enjoyteascapes.com/

  • Being present in relationships
  • Passion
  • Embracing other's visions
  • Stepping out of our comfort zones
  • Being a leader and a follower
  • Willingness to be truthful
  • Personal Growth – reinvent ourselves
  • Entrepreneurial and resourceful
  • Change agents
  • Pioneers
  • Support self, others and community
  • Courageous, aggressive and assertive
  • Mentor and mentee
  • Sense of fulfillment
  • Inspiration

What is evident is that it's about “we” vs “me”.  It's putting the good of the collaboration ahead of personal ambitions.  A bit like a marriage in a way, when you put the good of the marriage ahead of the individual needs of the partners.  And the words in the above list that best capture that sense are:

being present in relationships; embracing each other's visions; being a leader and a follower; mentor and mentee – meaning we are there for each other to serve the whole.

I am privileged to be able to do this work –  to design and facilitate with the Appreciative Inquiry framework, I am always struck by the vitality and energy that is unleashed within the first minutes, and I am not surprised, because the foundational principles of Appreciative Inquiry guide the process.

  • The way we ask the question determines what we find
  • Words create our worlds
  • Whatever we focus on grows
  • Positive images create positive futures
  • Positivity: It's good to feel good

We have the capacity within us to influence ourselves and others everyday just by the way we speak and act.   As we increasingly pay attention to the value of collaboration, we inspire ourselves and others, just as 50 women experienced wholeheartedly during this recent summit.

Finding Energy for Positive Change will Boost your Productivity

positive changeWe’re educated to use our so called “left brain” to be analytical and solve problems and make endless lists and focus on things that need changing because they don't work.  Think about your meetings at work and other social interactions throughout your life.

This trajectory most likely started with how your parents taught you to be a good boy or girl growing up. It continued with your relationships with teachers at school, and then your bosses at work.

This meme seems to be the traditional way across most post industrial cultures.  We value our analytical brain, our executive brain, but that brain doesn’t run our lives when we are faced with fear or anxiety or the unknown, or when feeling discomfort or insecurity and especially when we feel vulnerable.

Recently, I was present in a meeting after a software roll out in an global bank.  They name these meetings “post mortems.”  Really!  The language is already ominous.  It smells of death.  The leaders of the meeting, by default, as most of us do, focused immediately on the things that went wrong and failed in the rollout.

Indeed, these things needed addressing, but the tone of the meeting within minutes of starting was spiraling downwards fast and people’s energy was deflating and eye contact dropping to the floor for fear of the blame game.

Energy Spiraling Upward

So, imagine if the team members (or the leader) had started the meeting with:

“We’ve just had a global roll out of a product we’ve been working so hard on together for months, and it went pretty well. In fact, it went great!

“Let’s start this meeting congratulating ourselves by spending a few minutes on what worked well from our individual perspectives and then we’ll address what we need to change.

What are we proud of in this roll out?  What good feedback have we had from clients?  What really worked well?”

The tone and the energy starts to pick up and spiral upward, a different set of chemicals fire within the brain and there’s energy to listen to each other, collaborate and increase engagement and productivity.  Solutions to problems and a willingness to address them begin to emerge without even having to drag them out of reluctant mouths.

RS_2005_04_29_0588The people in the room experience a different energy and begin to initiate changes from a place of engaged, solution-focused creativity and possibility.

Energy for Positive Change

This is one of the lessons of embracing change from a valuing or appreciative perspective.  You first discover and focus on what works and all the existing assets and then the weaknesses or faults begin to come into the conversation and they get addressed also – but from a very different place.  It’s a place of we’re-in-this-together:  we’ve just praised ourselves for what went well, and now we can together begin to address what we need to fix and improve on.

Appreciative Inquiry

In summary then, Appreciative Inquiry  (AI) as a change methodology looks for what’s already working well in a person or situation, not what’s broken. It takes a little practice to make that shift, as our default seems to look for what’s wrong in ourselves, each other and society at large.

One of the key principles of AI is ‘what you study grows’.  If you study deficits, you’ll find many, and if you study success, you’ll find a lot of it. Appreciative Inquiry is both a way of thinking and doing.  It provides a framework and a method to initiate positive emotions,  thoughts and actions that can produce outcomes directed with intentionality toward affirming life, heightening positive energy and uplifting the human spirit.

How do You View Change?

Focus on the changes in your own life.  If you stop to appreciate what you have already working for yourself, in terms of what has helped you to get to where you are today – it could be your past achievements, past successes, past and present relationships, your network, your skill sets, your personal attributes – you might just have a shift in perspective about what you might change, or how you might view certain changes that are happening to you.

What’s your default disposition to change? What kind of changes do you fear and avoid at all costs; and what kind of changes do you embrace with positive energy?

I’d love to hear from you as I'm developing an online course on change and I'd love to hear your perspective.

 

20 Positive Outcomes from a Strength-based Approach to Change

Change is Popular

Strength-based approach to changeThe topic of change doesn't go away.  Google the phrase books on ‘change‘ and 1,570,000,000 results come up.  Change methods results in 928,000,000 searches;  change management 474,000,000;  change leadership 493,000,000; strength-based change 51,200,000; strength-based leadership  4,150,000.  You get my point.

There are countless ways to approach change. Your values, mindset and experience will determine what fits for you.  We talk about winners and losers in change.  There is money to be made in change, especially if you are brought in to design or facilitate it.

Responding to Change

With regard to organizational change, where you sit in an organization is likely to determine how you might view it.  You could adopt any of the following perspectives and actions. You could:

  • Deal with it
  • Force it
  • Mandate it
  • Institutionalize it
  • Defend it
  • Implore it
  • Ignore it
  • Create it artificially – from a place of fear, threats, organizational weaknesses, fire and brim stone and forcing compliance
  • Invite it
  • Embrace it
  • Request it
  • Play with it
  • Recommend it
  • Create it transparently – from a place of possibility, opportunities, strengths, aspirations and foster commitment

Strength-based Approach to Change

When you take the perspective that every system – human or otherwise – has something that works already – it opens up the opportunity and the possibility to begin to address change from those perspectives.

Invite more of what works already so we can do more of THAT!

You know what?  People respond to that.  When a community discovers together what it does well already and openly celebrates, and acknowledges assets, successes, and its collective capabilities, it creates upwards spirals of energy and interest that fuel a spirit of WE can do this, Vs. IT can't be done.

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated ~ William James

There are a number of ways to invite people to be active participants in their own change. Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology, World Cafe, Search Conferencing are such examples.  Creating a safe space for people to share the best of their past and co-create their dreams and pathways for a bright future speaks to creating change from a transparent place.  It requires trusting open, collaborative, generative and generous perspectives and practices.

20 Positive Outcomes

When you invite people to discover the high points of a past change experience where they focus on what works Vs do a post mortem on the weakness and failures, this is what can be unleashed:

1 stories of best performance

2 celebration of past successes

3 growing positive metrics

4 sharing most favorable feedback

5 energized activities

6 engaged communication

7 willingness to jump in

8 go that extra mile

9 volunteer mindset

10 abundance of ideas

11 increased support for each other

12 greater sharing of ideas

13 openness to customer feedback

14 greater collaboration around initiatives

15 more communication across the organization

16 increased transparency

17 greater acceptance of risk

18 sharing resources

19 leadership shows up where least expected

20 joy and play become part of work

The list is a just a start.  What else have you discovered?  Let's build the evidence for strength-based change to develop our communities and places of work.