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What is an Appreciative Voice in Your World?

Your Voice is Silenced

Has there been a time in your life when you felt you lost your voice, or you had no voice, or your voice was not listened to?  Your voice was silenced. At such times, it seems your voice does not count. As a consequence of feeling discounted, there is a sense of also being invisible. You might say you feel even powerless.

I’ve felt like that in some meetings; in some face-to-face situations, with certain people, even in personal relationships, when I felt my voice didn’t matter.  My contribution wasn’t important.  My thoughts and feelings were dismissed or were patronised.

I’ve also been in conversations when I did not honor the voice of the person I was with. My behavior signaled their voice did not matter, and they, too  felt discounted, unimportant, invisible.  It happens in groups, in teams, in social gatherings.  As an example, in networking or community gatherings, the person you are speaking with has no eye contact with you and no animation in their face, until they spot someone they do want to engage with, and you're abandoned.

Being silenced can occur when you're in company and you're telling a story, then suddenly you're interrupted by a person with a story of their own because they believe they have a more interesting story that trumps yours. There is a big difference between being interested and being interesting.

While the shrill voices seem to be getting shriller, what might we offer to redress the balance and bring some of the quieter, gentler or lost voices into the conversation?

Might an Appreciative Voice be an Antidote?

I want to offer some reflections on how cultivating an appreciative voice not only strengthens you and expands your world, it also strengthens others and expands their worlds.

This topic comes to me following my participation at the AI Homecoming David Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington VT, co-hosted by the Center and The Taos Institute.

Appreciative Voice - age diversityOver three days, we workshopped together. We shared stories, asked questions, inquired into each other’s experiences, listened to, and discovered a host of innovations that practitioners and researchers are bringing into, and growing the practice of Appreciative Inquiry all over the world.  We listened to voices that had been at the edge and in the center;  those that are new and young, and those that are wise and seasoned.

As we experience the worldview of Appreciative Inquiry we are able to be deeply appreciative with ourselves and each other.  Our practice is to come from “inquiry” which opens us to intimacies and vulnerabilities because we consciously create a safe space to be in conversation and contemplation with others.

What is Life Giving about Appreciative Voice?

In a nutshell, the appreciative voice seeks to include and understand .  “Appreciative” is valuing, so a voice that is appreciative comes from an intention of seeking to value what it will hear;  it continues to inquire and is curious about learning more.  An appreciative voice is present to listen respectfully.  It is grounded and spacious, and non-judging.

An appreciative voice provides safety for others to speak their truths.  It is invitational and watchful.  An appreciative voice is unhurried and patient.  It can reframe situations to be helpful and resourceful.  It is flexible.  The appreciative voice is inclusive. It acknowledges diversity and identifies opportunities to offer possibilities to hold the space for transformational shifts to emerge.

Appreciative Voice - young girls talking on beach

The appreciative voice seeks to make meaning of the world in dialogue and in relationship with others.  The appreciative voice can expand knowledge, and build potential shared understanding.

For sure, the appreciative voice helps participants develop their own thoughts and feelings in a way that helps them see themselves in new ways.

A question that lingers is:

What happens when we refrain from using our appreciative voice?

My grandmother stressed to me: “It’s better to say nothing at all that say something negative or hurtful.” And that has been my default operating system.  Yet, in our society today my sense is that by being silent is not always the most helpful way, because if we choose to keep silent and not exercise our appreciative voice, we are not serving ourselves or others, and therefore not able to make any positive difference.

In using our appreciative voice, by framing our opinions as inquiry, we open up the space for dialogue and learning, providing the opportunity for more voices to be heard.  As Mo McKenna shared in her interview:  We do no harm in asking people what’s working for them. In asking what works for them, we are using our appreciative voice and open up the possibility for building understanding.

Appreciative Voice Guided by Principles

The appreciative voice is guided by principles that result in practices.  If you're keen to learn more, please tune into my podcast, Personal Reflections on Appeciative Voice – PS72.

 

Come up for AIR and Experience your Energy Soar – PS 71

Episode Introduction

My brilliant guest hails from Toronto, Canada. Maureen McKenna, affectionately known as Mo, is a woman of huge talent, energy, dynamism. She is highly acclaimed in her field of organization, community development and coaching, and is a leader in Appreciative inquiry not only in Canada, but globallycome up for air - Mo McKenna.

In this show, Mo shares stories about how she started in this field, where it’s taken her and where she’s headed, living to her strengths of curiosity and openness daily.  Mo has worked in just about all sectors: corporate, government agencies in education and healthcare.  Mo shares many of her inspirations in the links section below.  

Episode Background

I was keen to interview Mo Mckenna, as in my last few shows, her name kept entering into the conversation.  She was praised by Deacon Richard Manley-Tannis,as his mentor, episode PS 65 How an Intimate Conversation can Strengthen the Collective.  The show preceeding this one,  PS 70, Say Yes to Everything Results in Fun and Meaning with Wick van der Vaart from the Netherlands refers to Mo as great asset to AI Practitioner and an inspiration.  

Fortuitously, Mo and I finally met in person a couple of months ago in Cleveland, OH at Case Western Reserve University. We were co-facilitators at the Fourth Global Forum  – also a podcast episode – Ps68, Business leaders, Professors and Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises  

And it doesn’t stop there.  These synchronicities keep amplifying. We are both members of the Council of Practice with the David L.Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain college in Burlington VT. in the capacity of Field Practitioners.

Come up for Air

come up for air - framework

Mo is highly creative and innovative.  One of her creations is the AIR framework.  As she tells a story of its successful application in a hospital setting, I see it as framework for a conversation that guides people to a mutual appreciation of their past and helps them envision and plan an ideal future. The relational aspect of this framework facilitates understanding and generates new energy that is akin to when you come up for air and feel a huge relief, especially if you’ve felt silenced, misunderstood or not acknowledged for too long.

Concepts we Explore in this Episode

Appreciative Inquiry High Point Experience

In following the structure of an Appreciative Inquiry interview, I invite Mo to tell a high point story when she was fully engaged and delighted with her work.  She tells the story of working with The Toronto District School Board (TDSB).  It’s a terrific example of applying AI in a large system that invited all stakeholders to inquiry into “Student Success” while providing the Board members the opportunity to work on a real issue of strategic importance and learn about the process of AI at the same time.

High Performing Teams

Mo's own story harking back to her days at Xerox, and her reference to a study by Google finds that psychological safety is an enabler of high performing teams.  With Appreciative Inquiry, we invest time up front on inquiry – we don’t go straight to task.  We go back and learn from the past and get to know each other more deeply, becoming aware of each other’s needs.  That relational process creates psychological safety.

Learning Partners

We talk about the difference between being an “expert” and a “learning partner.”  As an outsider to a client system, we come in to be a learning partner, not an expert consultant. The client system has the expertise which is local knowledge of their own context and content.  We, as outsiders come with a process and a structure to guide the client to outcomes they want to accomplish.

Leadership Rises Up  from the Quiet Corners of an Organization

Mo and I share examples of how Appreciative Inquiry brings out the leadership is us all.  The psychological safety that an appreciative inquiry provides opens people up to each other's stories to listen more deeply, trust more openly and take risks.  People are encouraged to be more courageous, and Mo quotes her mentor, Jane Magruder Watkins:

You do no harm asking for what's working.

Links to Other Resources Mentioned in this Show

The newly designed, Appreciative Inquiry Commons

New York Times Article, What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

Bliss Brown Seminal Appreciative Inquiry Summit, Imagine Chicago 

Professor Amy Edmondson TEDx Talk, Building a psychologically safe workplace

Gervase Bushe Article,  Appreciative Inquiry with Teams

Angela Ahrendts TEDx Talk, The Power of Human Energy

“Passionate, positive human energy can provide a counterbalance to the disruptive negative forces of an age of unprecedented change. Through it comes confidence, inspiration and the power to transform things for the better.”  

Connect with Mo McKenna

Mo’s website http://www.returnonenergy.ca

Blog https://wordpress.com/post/momentsbymoment.com/1845

Twitter: https://twitter.com/momckenna

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/maureenmckenna%20

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maureen.mckenna.106

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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Innovative Ways that Inspire Human Flourishing for All

When did you last come away from an experience that had such an impact on you that you were filled with a joy and a hope that transformed you?  You witnessed human flourishing and unity with others. You felt inspired by the conversations and connections. You felt alive and energized. You experienced a sense of wholeness, oneness and community cursing through your body and a peace and infinite hope for what else is possible.

I am filled with gratitude that I just came away from such an experience.  The event was the Fourth Global Forum held at The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, at Weatherhead School of Managemhuman flourishing - diversityent at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.   Over 300 people were tasked to Discover Flourishing Enterprise: The Key to Great Performance.   We came from 29 different countries by invitation, from free will, to contribute our minds, our hearts, our skills, our knowledge.  We were curious and open and hopeful.  We shared stories, dreams and aspirations.

Diversity underpins Human Flourishing

We were a hugely diverse gathering of people: business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs, multi-millionaires and start-ups; professors and students; octogenarians and millennials; of spiritual traditions, or none.  We honored our diversity and our shared common belief: human flourishing exists at all levels: at the individual level, organizational and whole systems level.   We shared our stories, listened and asked questions. We dreamed together about what we can bring to life. We co-created designs and prototypes of possible futures;  and we rolled up our sleeves to develop deployment plans to turn our dreams and their prototypes into action.

Business as an Agent of World Benefit

human flourishing - AI Practitioner CoverIt was my first time at a Global Forum, even though through my Appreciative Inquiry Certification at Weatherhead, I became familiar with and practiced at interviewing business leaders on the topic of Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB).  For this event, I volunteered as an Appreciative Inquiry facilitator.  To my absolute delight, I was invited to co-facilitate the working group from AIM2Flourish with Professor Lindsey Godwin, my hero and dear colleague from the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.

Appreciative Inquiry in Practice

To read more stories about the transformation that seemingly unlikely partnerships are delivering in the field of human flourishing,  please check out the special edition of the AI Practitioner  a publication of almost 20 years that focuses exclusively on the applications of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  This is a very generous gift from the owner, Wick van der Vaart, who co-edited this edition with David Cooperrider.

AIM2Flourish

human flourishing - AIM2Flourish Logo

AIM2Flourish was born out of the Third Global Forum in 2014.  Since then Roberta Baskin and Claire Summer (who as of June, 2017 now leads AIM2Flourish)  and a handful of business leaders and professors have taken the dream to made it flourish.  They have worked on an AIM2Flourish curriculum for university professors to link their students to enterprises that are not only doing well in the conventional business sense, but also doing good for their employees, their customers, the communities in which they operate, committed to human flourishing for all, including the planet.  Moreover, the really unique and cool contribution that AIM2Flourish offers its partners is to invite the participating business schools and their students to identify the enterprises whose innovations and contributions to the world are also addressing any one of the 17 the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Human Flourishing - Sustainable development goalsThe business students – the leaders of tomorrow – move beyond learning in the classroom into the field of real business.  Imagine the impact on them and the enterprises they interact with.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

I was human flourishing - prize trophydeeply honored to co-facilitate the AIM2Flourish working group comprising students, professors and business leaders from a number of South American countries.  This group included AIM2Flourish Prize Winners.  Their awards came from sharing the stories of the businesses who were helping to contribute to human flourishing by addressing some of SDGs.   The working group was brilliant and energized and committed to grow the AIM2Flourish mission by modeling leadership for 21st century and strengthening flourishing relationships across the plant.  I was struck with awe and filled with gratitude to watch them and hear them embrace the human flourishing - deployment planAppreciative Inquiry process with aid of their cell phones to translate English text into Spanish and then back into English to share their insights, dreams and plans.

And even though we had a language barrier, we communicated and shared delight and joy at our mutual understanding of each other.  We felt connected, united and impassioned by our shared commitment to amplifying human flourishing across the world.

 

Abundance of Talents, Generosity and Innovations

At this Fourth Global Forum every participant was a gift and there was an abundance of talent that spoke to our positive core of human flourishing, and wish I could name everyone, as every single person deserves credit. However, here's the line-up of outstanding keynoters and presenters, including David L Cooperrider, Chris Laszlo, Barbara Fredrickson, Tom Robinson, Jonathan Halpern, Jeff Hoffman, Shinzen Young, Jennifer Deckhard, Peter Senge, Julie Reiter, Fred Tsao.   Jon Berghoff was the masterful lead facilitator with his brilliant group of associates who made it such an outstanding event. Fun and practical improv tips were delightfully lead by Betsy Crouch and Zoe Galvez, co-founders of Improv HQ.  The talented graphic recorder was Jo Byrne,  Here is a sample of her talent.

And, I got to meet the charming Chuck Fowler, whose generosity and vision for a flourishing world started this all off.

Please, if you get the opportunity to attend the Fifth Global Forum in 2020, treat yourself to an experience that will fill you up and sustain you at many levels.  You will  enter into communion with those who care deeply about human flourishing and are actively leading positive change.

Opportunity to Hear Flourishing Voices in my Podcast Episode

There's also a podcast episode where you can hear the voices of participants at the the Fourth Global Forum:
Business Leaders, Professors and their Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises


How an Intimate Conversation can Strengthen the Collective – PS65

Episode Introduction

In this podcast episode, you will be opened – both heart and mind.  I think you will also feel the concepts expressed by Deacon Richard Manley-Tannis, through his loving choice of words, in your body.  What unfolds is that it's the intimate conversation you have with another that potentially changes you and the other, thereby strengthening humanity's collective capacity to bring about personal and social change and even transformation.

Social Media – a Space for Intimate Conversation

Intimate Conversation - Richard Manley-Tannis with black dogRichard and I first connected over Twitter several years ago discovering our shared interest in Appreciative Inquiry.  As a fun opening, we exchange our own stories of how we found each other.  Richard has been playing professionally online and active on Social Media since very early days.  Since 2013, he has held the position of Minister for Evangelism, Mission & Church Development, for the Winnipeg Presbytery, and, one of the many hats he dons in that capacity is to train lay teams about social media and evangelism with an Appreciative Inquiry lens.  Specifically, how the digital process can richly inform the relational process by connecting people, and strengthening collective energy for meaning making at many levels – such as in the realms of finance, education, politics, ideology, social change and more.  He shares stories of how care and compassion have been deeply felt by people who have only ever met online.

Stories are Foundational to Intimate Conversation

Intimate Conversation - A Deacon's Musing Blog LogoRichard's blog, A Deacon's Musing, is dense with valuable content – stories and findings from his research, fiction, poetry and images.  He's been doing this for over 10 years.  Richard undertakes in depth exploration of a vast range of topics that reflect his post modernist Christian lens.

During the show, I invite Richard to expand on a number of his posts.  The language invites exploration and curiosity.  He seeks to build generativity so that his readers grow after musing, reflecting and taking a step further: take action. He writes:

I celebrate that all human truths fail to fully appreciate a universe & reality that cannot confine the Holy. In A Deacon’s Musing, I meander & ruminates, reflect & challenge. Hopefully some of it makes sense & I invite you to ask questions, push me to clarify & listen with intention.

Paradoxically, Intimate Conversation is more Prevalent in the Secular Context than Christian Institutions.

At the time of our interview, Richard had just submitted the first draft of his PhD dissertation which he is doing with the Taos Institute and Tillburg University.  When I askedintimate conversation - older and younger man talking. about high points from his research findings, he shared that in the secular world he experiences far greater openness and willingness to share personal stories and intimacies.  His experience of practices such as Narrative Therapy and Appreciative Inquiry open people up to sacred conversations more than the traditional modernist practices of Christianity.

You will be opened up to the irony and paradox of Richard's findings:  deep, rich and generative conversations are not happening, as they might, in the Christian institutions whose mission is to spread the very values that are not always experienced in the day to day conversations among clergy and their parishioners.  What Richard seeks to do in his role through his social constructionist orientation and his post-modernist Christian lens is to bring such potentialities and energies to those who want to change the world.

A Joy

My interview with Deacon Richard Manley-Tannis was a joy to produce, and I wish you much joy in listening.

How to Connect to Richard

Richard's Blog:  A Deacon's Musing

Richard on Twitter

Richard on LinkedIn

Richard on Google+

Richard on Facebook

Samples of Richard Writings

Appreciative Leadership and Church Leadership

Intentional Community: Moving from Monologue to Dialogue

A Deacon’s Musing|Solidarity – by Richard Manley-Tannis

Our Addiction to Violence Conflict and the Johannine Community

Spirited Reflection: White privilege & lament

Greek Arbitration: Homer to Classical Athens

Faith Based Mediation: A Discussion

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.

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

Downloadble resources and tools

Enter your details for instant access to this content

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:

  • 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

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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.

Ability to Dream Influences your Destiny

When it comes to bringing positive change into your life, it might start as a wish, or an aspiration, or a dream.  We know from history, some of the biggest dreamers have created the most lasting positive social changes. The ability to dream allows for anything to be possible.  Imagining a desirable future is what keeps us going,

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

In the work I do as a change agent, whether as a coach with individuals or a consultant in a community or an organization, early in the process I seek to inspire every individual to see themselves in a new dream.

Ability to Dream

Ability to Dream Accepting we have the ability to dream big and bold, how to act on your dream is what comes next. Appreciative Inquiry, the transformation change method I teach and practice provides a beautiful framework to bring dreams to life – not only individual dreams, but also collective dreams.

Collective Dreams

Some of my most personally rewarding, professional experiences are in designing and facilitating teams or community groups to dream their future.  They may not be aware that's what they are doing at the start of an project, but as they follow the process, that's what they discover – they all have dreams of how they want their work to be, their communities to be, their worlds to be.  From a place of deep listening to one another, people discover a sense of union with each other and that there is also something larger.

Appreciative Questions

David Cooperrider is creator of the transformational change methodology, Appreciative Inquiry. Professor Cooperrider has worked with the Dalai Lama, Heads of States from all over the world and with top business leaders. He explains:

Appreciative Inquiry is a way of designing questions that allows us to dream and devise big ideas together, instead of focusing on problems.  It can quickly bring out the best in people and has been adopted by businesses worldwide.

Dream is in fact the 3rd step in the Appreciative Inquiry methodology.

As an example, in a planning session, here are some of the questions, I might invite participants to engage in:

  • What is important to you about being here today? 
  • What does this project means to you and the community?
  • How might you bring your strengths and talents to this project?
  • What opportunities exist and who will benefit?
  • What most excites you about this project?
  • What three wishes do you have for this project?

Inner Work happens before the Outer Work

These questions tap into peoples' values, their gifts and talents, their aspirations, their emotions, and their dreams (wishes).  In these conversations, people listen and learn.   As they find interdependencies, they tap into their creativity. The possibilities of being able to share a dream is more likely than they may have at first considered.  In fact, they are doing inner work while they are also committing to outer work.

 If you are interested to learn more about how I do this work, please take a look at my Services Page.

Shifting Power – Exciting Possibilities through Appreciative Inquiry With Tim Slack – PS55

Episode Introduction

Shifting PowerMy guest, Tim Slack is filled with energy, ideas, gratitude and generosity as he talks about his experiences with Appreciative Inquiry.  You’ll hear many references to people Tim admires, and whose work, contributions and essential being have been a positive influence in his work as a  master practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry.  Tim, along with Suzanne Quinney co-founded Appreciating People. They are recognized as UK leaders in the application of the power shifting approach of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in communities, organizations and government agencies.

Tim lives and works in Liverpool in the UK, not far from Penny Lane, of Beatles fame, and, he reports, the tourists still flock there!

Episode Overview –  Shifting Power with Appreciative Inquiry

In this episode, you will hear from Tim, how extensively and innovatively he, his partner Suzanne Quinney and their associates are applying the transformational change method of  Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the world. In our conversation, we offer that Appreciative Inquiry is undergoing a sea change – a transformation – of its own. Tim and many other AI practitioners continually contribute to the growing number of  practical and life-changing resources, expanding upon the traditional resources of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  We talk about the transformative impact of AI at the individual, community and organizational levels. Tim gives examples the resources he and his team have created and the groups he’s been working with: kids in schools, surgeons and nurses in hospitals, women returning from combat in the military, curators in museums, students in universities, the homeless, LGTBQ community, clergy and members of churches and more.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover you?

I like to ask my guests about their initial experience with AI because growing evidence reveals that when we have our first exposure to AI, it feels so natural to us, that it seems we have “come home” and the entire worldview, principles and practices makes perfect sense to us as a way of being and working.

Tim scored the double jackpot – he discovered his future wife, Suzanne, and AI together. It was Suzanne who introduced him to AI.  They have been co-creating and lighting up the world ever since.  Together, they embarked on a long learning journey with and about Appreciative Inquiry from some of the best teachers and practitioners.  They developed professional relationships which over time developed into strong personal friendships, collaborations and ongoing co-creations.

Influences in Appreciative Inquiry

It delighted me to hear Tim offered that my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops was very influential in helping him see the many practical applications of AI.  He also included Jackie Kelm’s books, Appreciative Living and The Joy of Appreciative Living as examples which take AI outside of academia and big organizational development summits into small group work, day-to-day practices and personal transformation. (Links below are offered below.)

Appreciating Church – The Book

Tim shares the story about how the Appreciating Church project originated.  A range of different church communities undertook trainings in AI, but the continuity element was lacking, meaning people experienced training and it stopped there.  So Tim and his colleagues created a longer term process so that the participants had resources to be able to apply it themselves in their own communities and beyond.  The program has been getting stronger and stronger over two years and in January 2017, the book, Appreciating Church will be available. This is an exciting addition to AI's body of work.

The opening lines of the book, dating back to the 14th century, quote St. Julian de Norwich (known to be the first woman to write a  book in the English language):

And all shall be well, all shall be well… for there is a Force of love moving through the universe, that holds us fast and will never let us go.”  St. Julian de Norwich (c.a. 1342-1416)

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Click on the image to view a PDF outline of “Appreciating Church” – the book

Listen in to learn more about this very exciting work, what’s in the book and how it could be recontextualized to other communities.  Hint, it’s about a God of Abundance, not pain and fear or scarcity, and how we can use our strengths collectively.

With 210 people already trained across the participating churches, Tim talks about the shifts that have already occurred and the impact this work is having, as it expands.  He also pays tribute to Jane Magruder Watkins and Ralph Kelly in embarking on this work.

 

Appreciative Inquiry Resources AKA Essentials

I find it delightful to plug into Tim’s perspective.  The “resources” he continues to create for the AI community – trainers, practitioners and their clients are referred to as “essentials.” Check out the Essentials page on the Appreciating People website.   They are truly beautiful and valuable – content-wise and aesthetically.

AI – A Sea Change?

We talked about the shift that we are witnessing in the applications of AI.  The sea change lies in the acknowledgement that AI is not just about big systems and organization development.  There is a desire to find out more about “the self” and desire to apply Appreciative Inquiry for personal growth and change.  Living in times of chaos and turbulence, we are looking for resources to help us be more grounded, to give us a framework that offers us hope and possibility, enabling us to tap into our inner strengths.  AI does this.  A recent survey I conducted confirms this trend.

Journaling

The value of journaling to support the “appreciative muscle” came out of the work Suzanne Quinney had been doing with the hostel residents (Suzanne describes the power of this work in an earlier conversation I had with her.)  The questions, the inspirations, the prompts in the journals allow the person to document their thoughts, reflections, insights along their journey.  Tim has created a number of journals that are specific to different contexts.  For example, “How To Be More Awesome” for students; “Food for Thought” for people who want to strengthen their appreciative muscle. The process of journaling can help in building resilience.  Questions are drawn from Appreciative inquiry and activities from the field of Positivity Psychology, such as daily gratitude, mindfulness and wellness activities. Tim is a big advocate of multiple learning modalities, including art and humor.

Shifting Power – Ensuring all Stakeholders ARE IN

During  our conversation, one of the tools Tim mentions is the ‘ARE IN’ check-in process, created originally by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff who created “Future Search” which was based on the original Search Conferencing Participatory Planning and Design methodology. (Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to learn more)

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One of the challenges in bringing the whole system together to explore an organisation’s development plans is to ensure you have got the ‘right’ people there.

ARE IN could be a useful mechanism to ensure buy-in and ownership – which is a precursor to shifting power – give voice to all.

This acronym is a useful reminder when planning a large scale, whole systems change experiences.

The ARE IN tool, was developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff, as part of the ‘Future Search’ methodology.

They recommend that a whole system event or process should include participants who ‘ARE IN’, i.e. those with:

A uthority to act (e.g. decision making responsibility in an organisation or community);

R esources such as contacts, time or, money;

E xpertise in the issues to be considered;

I nformation about the topic that no others have;

N eed to be involved because they will be affected by the outcome and can speak to the consequences;

This check list implies you have people in the room who can make decisions and who can ensure change is sustained beyond the planning stages. 

What is Excellence?

Tim leaves us with hints of what Appreciating People are beginning to work on – looking at excellence in surgical procedures in hospitals. He concludes by pondering if the next question we could be asking, after the seminal AI question “What’s already working well” is

“What is excellence?”

A banquet of food for thought!

Links and Mentions

Tim’s Wesbite: Appreciating People

Tim’s email: Tim Slack  [email protected]

Tim’s Blog Posts: News from Appreciating People

Tim’s Twitter: @AppreciatingPeople

Tim’s LinkedIn:  Tim Slack

Interview with Suzanne Quinney: Social Innovations by Appreciating People, with Suzanne Quinney

Interview with Jackie Kelm: Three Steps to Appreciative Living, with Joy Engineer Jackie Kelm

St. Julian de Norwich – Amazon Page

 

Books Mentioned in the Episode


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Your Positivity Is Key to Embrace Change

If you're a regular reader of my blog, I  hope by now you are as excited as I am about positivity and the science of positive emotions.  Over time and with practice, positive emotions influence your thinking and your actions. Your relationships, your productivity, creativity and health stand to improve if you work at increasing the ratio of positive emotions up to 5:1 and even higher.

I can’t stress enough that positive emotions are the nutrients that nourish you. You can change your mind for the better.  Over time you accumulate all the micro-moments of positivity to help you deal with negativity and other day-to-day set backs and even painful, life-changing events.  Positivity helps you deal with adversity more effectively as it comes up in your life.  You build your resiliency muscle.

Micro-moments of Positivity

I recommend you seek out the positive moments in your day and there are likely to be many micro moments, as they are often so fleeting and so very subtle that they can go mostly unnoticed; you take them for granted and you may not even notice them.  It could be the chuckle of your baby, or the woof of your dog, your cat rubbing up against your leg to remind you to feed her, the smell of coffee the first thing in the morning, or the taste of that first cup of tea, the glowing light of the sunrise, the color and, the scent of flowers in your vase, the good morning from the bus driver.  Just pay attention and you will begin to notice all the positive things that impact your day.

Positive emotions help you prepare for the future, they help you  become a better version on yourself. The more positive emotions you experience, they broaden your thought action repertoire, and over time, they build your positivity resources.

Positivity Resonance

Positivity resonance is about the micro-moments of positive connections and experiences.  Positivity resonates back and forth between people and the more you become aware of these micro-moments of positivity, the more embodied they become.  Here’s a chance for you to build one of the lesser known principles of Appreciative Inquiry, the Principle of Enactment as outlined in an earlier post.  It’s taking the action and doing the practice.

In terms of positivity practice, here are some more examples of actions you can share with others to spread the micro-moments of connection: – sharing a smile, enjoying laughter, performing a kind gesture, watching a sunset together, playing a game, telling an engaging story. What you are facilitating is the synching up of two brains so they can become unified and can act as one.

Positivity is Key – Practice Daily

Positivity is a practice. It’s a movement toward what you desire and aspire. You cultivate it for yourself through the language you use, the habits or behaviors you exhibit, the interactions and relationships that you have, and how you invest your time. As you bring more positivity into your life, the accumulative effect is that it slows the rhythm of your heart, opens your mind, and softens your demeanour over time. It’s a rich and broad system that makes up positivity.

Positivity Ratio

In the opening paragraph, I refer to the 5:1 positivity ratio as being a worthy daily practice – seek to experience 5 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion to strengthen your positivity ratio.  In her books, Positivity, Love 2.0 and on the website, www.positivityratio.com, Professor Barbara Fredrickson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has tools to help you bring more positivity in your life. After years of research and science, there is abundant evidence that positivity is key to opening you to an expanded worldview and increasing your personal and social resources. It's most certainly a worthwhile investment to build your positivity ratio.

Fredrickson’s list of positive emotions that she invites you to monitor each day include:

feeling amused, awe, grateful, hopeful, inspired, interested, joyful, love, proud, and serene.

How are you increasing positivity in your life?  Let me know what works for you and what shifts you are seeing in yourself and your relationships.

How Positive Emotions Make us Better Problem Solvers

Positivity is your power. It operates like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Negativity has a power.  In fact, negativity has a stronger pull on us in evolutionary terms.  Both positive emotions and negative emotions serve us. All emotions have a purpose.

What comes to mind when you hear,

“Don’t get so emotional”, or, ‘don’t go all emotional on me; “ or “he’s so emotional.”

Or, you hear people say, as I’ve heard said,

“She’s being so emotional! And I’m just saying the truth!  I’m a realist.”

Both Positive Emotions and Negative Emotions Serve

All emotions serve us.  You can be real and positive simultaneously — AND, you can also be real and negative simultaneously . Neither is inherently good or bad. They just are; and they serve us for BOTH our survival AND our flourishing.

Neuroscience teaches us that negative emotions and positive emotions activate different neural connections in the brain. They release different chemicals and overtime they influence our biochemistry and change us at the cellular level in different ways.

Below is a very personal story. The purpose is to show how negative emotions set us off on one course of action that impact our brains and bodies;  and positive emotions set off a other another response. You’ll also observe that you can’t shift out of a state of negativity and despair until you begin to experience a shift to positive emotions towards hope.

If you’re feeling negative there’s most likely one solution you’re stuck on and it's hard to shift from that place of stuckness.  When you experience positive emotions, you're more fluid and you'll find you are open to many more different possible directions that will help you with solutions to help solve your problems.

The brain lights up differently to different responses. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the brain shows that different neural pathways light up when subjects experience negative responses versus positive. fMRI is a relatively new procedure that measures the tiny metabolic changes that take place when a certain part of the brain is activated.

Positive Emotions help with Problem Solving

Positive emotions light up the part of the brain that helps us see the big picture. To help people do that, you first induce some kind of positive experience, such remembering a past experience that was joyful or warming, or listening to music, or seeing pictures of loved ones; or you remind them of something that’s special to them or they want, then you are more likely to open them up to connect in a more resourceful way to the issues at hand and help with problem solving.

This is why accessing positive emotions is foundational to creating positive change.

Personal Story

My sister Skypes me in tears. She apologies for not being in touch but she's been in a really bad place and she’s calling to let me know she’s quitting her job. She blabbers in between sobs, that she's coping, she's bad feelings: she's overwhelmed, and feeling totally incompetent; she feels she's letting the side down; she feels a failure and wants to give up. She blurts out she's going in to work the next day to tell her boss she's quitting.

I'm in shock. She loves her job, after having a tough time starting out in life. She’d hated school. She got into the wrong crowd; did drugs, got expelled from one school. But she loved animals and started working at an Animal Hospital and Shelter.  She loved it. She adopted cats and bred cats for years.

After several years being a vet’s assistance, she decided she wanted to become a nurse. But she didn’t have the educational qualifications to enter nursing and in those days – in the 1980s nursing training was actually conducted in the hospitals. So, she hired a math and English coach; got all the references she needed, passed the entry exams and thus began her nursing career of 25 plus years.

Years fly by and she ends up an Emergency Room nurse. Several weeks before this call when she's sobbing that she's quitting her job, she'd been offered a special job in a shiny new wing of the hospital. It was an honor to have been invited to apply and she was successfully awarded the job and therefore, she was being acknowledged very highly in being chosen to work in the shiny new hospital wing.

And now – three weeks into it, she wants to throw in the towel. She's feeling so bad that there's only one way out for her – quit – it’s the flight response of that old reptile brain. You fight or you flee. She has no fight left, as she's emotionally drained and physically and mentally exhausted.

I knew that to get her to shift from feeling totally powerless to finding some personal power was the only way that she could begin to imagine a different future.

Coaching Family is a Challenge

It was a tough call for me, because I think many of you will agree, coaching a family member is not easy. There’s a lot of emotional baggage you both carry around with you. Yet, my sister was in serious pain and it pained me to see her that way. I wanted so bad to help her.

So after acknowledging how she was feeling, and showing that I had been truly listening by reflecting back some of the words, and feelings she had been expressing, I asked the following questions bit by bit, allowing her the space to respond in her own time in between sobs, gasps and silences :

  1. In five years time, how do you want to look back on your almost 30 year nursing career?
  2. You’re so proud of your achievements, how do you want to remember all these efforts and successes in the future?
  3. How do you want people to remember you?
  4. What have you imagined about your own retirement and your own retirement party?

I could go down this line of inquiry because I know her history and I know that many of her friends were beginning to retire and they loved to party.

I started to notice a shift in her body and face – the crying stopped, long pauses of silence, some feeble sounds of acknowledgement about what she had achieved and how important her work was to her, because she really did love her work and the people she worked with and cared for.

Then like a bolt, she said, “I know what I can do”…..and she came up with her own solution.  She would go to her boss the next day, not to quit, but ask to go back to her old job, which was still open to her. She had FORGOTTEN about that option.  She was so overwhelmed, that the negative emotions that had shut her down and closed off options.

The solution was always there, but the negative energy she had spiraled down into had prevented her from possibilities thinking.

In hearing this story, you could add some of your own perspectives as you make sense of this story. Here are two common ones.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is self-sabotage that prohibits us from taking action. If you think back to your own early childhood when you might have been fearful of raising your hand to contribute your ideas in the classroom situation because you if your were wrong, you were chastised and made to feel bad.

Those kinds of past experiences come up when you are in a negative state. Those memories of past pain tell you to stay safe. The hormone cortisol is released when under stress. And if you’re constantly stressed, the release of too much cortisol over time can lead to serious health issues.

And coupled with the biological responses, you have the psychological response from the old stories you tell yourself to keep keep you “safe”. Those little voices in your head that come from somewhere: “Play it safe. Stay Put! Leave the courageous acts to others!”

I’m reminded of a thought-provoking quote from Dr Mark Goulston “to be only safe, you’ll end up sorry.”

Fear of the unknown

Equally pervasive is another kind of fear, and it’s related. It’s fear of the unknown or fear of others; and it’s far more subtle; therefore, you may not be as aware of it; yet, it does stand in the way of your personal leadership and your ability to embrace any kind of change.

In the workplace, fear of the unknown and fear of others may be evidenced when a new person joins the team, a new leader is hired, or a new company takes over yours. You close off to new inputs and so  you are not allowing yourself to be open to change.

This fear comes from the need for self-preservation. You may fear others who may not be like you, or who have different perspectives that you don’t yet understand. This fear absolutely gets in the way of building relationships, and slows down progress.

In Summary

To sum up, here are some facts about the different purposes of both positive and negative emotions that come out of this story. When you are in a negative, depressed, anxious, fearful state, you close yourself off from seeing there are many possible directions you can go in, or choices you can make, or options you can consider.

You have to be able to access the positive feelings before you can have any positive thoughts, let alone take positive action.

Positive emotions expand your awareness and help you come up with, different possibilities for action.

Positive emotions get people to see the big picture.

Once you induce something positive into a situation,then you're more open to find solutions and be a shining example of an agent for positive change.

Human Problems Are Not Fixable

Seeing the World Anew!

Why have I become an advocate of the life-affirming, change methodology Appreciative Inquiry? It's appropriate for our forever changing, complex world.  It offers a framework that is inquiry-based, rather than prescriptive or consultant-driven. It seeks to affirm, inspire and accelerate anticipatory learning to bring out the best in each of us, propelling us all to greater accomplishments, achievements at the individual and collective levels.  And, most importantly, it works!

Appreciative Inquiry  (AI) is a perspective on the world that invites you to see yourself and the world through an appreciative or valuing eye, instead of a self-critical way.  How you use words informs your beliefs about yourself;  and the stories you tell, the narratives you construct shape your own and our collective destinies.

Zero in on the Problems

In a nutshell, Appreciative Inquiry is a strength-based, generative approach to change and development, which starts, from what already works in a given context, and seeks to discover strengths, existing assets and positive potentialities. This differs from the traditional approach, which zeros straight in on the problem, so prevalent in our organizations, institutions, and families. Grounded in theories from the disciplines of organization behavior, and  the sciences of sociology and psychology, there's a good dose of metaphysics thrown in. Those of us who practice AI refer to it as both a way of being and doing.

Reframing Human Problems

Why is zeroing straight onto the problem not helpful in all cases?  It implies things don’t work, things are broken. If it’s a bike, a computer, window, a machine of any kind, that approach is fine. But when it comes to human beings who are incredibility complex with all kinds of influences and ideas and different biological makeup and emotions, it’s not helpful. All of you have unique character traits, attitudes, beliefs and traditions, so the problem solving approach doesn’t apply.  Human beings are not problems to be fixed.

Appreciative Inquiry Framework

As a change method, AI is equally effectively at the individual, organizational and societal levels.  It offers a structured framework and process to help you understand

1. how you tell stories and construct narratives, which addresses:

  • how you make meaning of our own stories and the stories of other people
  • how you make sense of your live, and by extension
  • how you make sense of your world
  • how you interpret things

2. AI helps with relationships, making you more aware of:

  • how you relate to yourself
  • how you relate to others
  • how you relate to the world itself

2. AI helps you become more conscious of:

  • how you use language
  • how you focus your attention
  • how you create the results you get
  • how you label things
  • how you deal with change
  • how you envision our future
  • how you choose to live your life

To summarize,

  • Appreciative Inquiry is the discovery of the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them.
  • It is an art and practice of asking unconditional, positive questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend anticipate and heighten positive potential.
  • Instead of negation, criticism, backward-looking problem solving through root cause analysis and spiraling diagnoses, there is discovery, dream, design and destiny.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is the art of asking unconditional, positive questions to strengthen the system’s capacity to anticipate and heighten positive potential. (Source the AI Handbook)

The Direction of Your Inquiries

I invite you to start focusing on the direction of your inquiries, your conversations, your stories. Before you even open your mouth to engage with another, your world view – starting with how you think, what your believe – will show up in the words you use that tells others how you see yourself and them, because how you see them is how you will describe them.

If you see your world as kind and forgiving, you will describe it that way. If you see it as tough and unfair, you will describe it that way.  Whichever way you see, you’ll live into that story.   

We can start shifting our focus from the problem view of human kind to the appreciative view.  To quote William James:

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