Category Archives: Appreciative Articles

Words Create Worlds ® – July 2016 Newsletter

Do you find it hard to be appreciative during this time? Economy, politics, war, climate change, education, poverty – there is a lot of “stuff” in the way. And it is all serious “stuff”. Staying open to see the possibilities is so important to our happiness, health and general well-being. What helps me is to spend time reflecting on what gave me joy during the day, and equally fulfilling is to give others joy. And that is so easy. Be open to those moments when someone helps you, goes out of their way – like the cashier at the grocery store, the receptionist at the Department of Motor Vehicles or the secretary at your child’s school – and show their your appreciation. Ask them what was the best thing that happened today; what excites them most about their job, etc. You may hear something like “no one has ever asked me that question before”, be genuine in your interest, listen with your heart and you may just find this one of those joyful moments.

Staying Appreciative, Even When it’s Hard…

Always remember, the seeds of change are implicit in the questions we ask. Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, an Ai Practitioner and friend, demonstrates the power of questions in this great TedTalk video. Robyn shares how a “simple, intentionally appreciative inquiry can result in a playful state that fosters creativity, openness and togetherness. Grounded in the science of positive psychology, this interactive talk demonstrates how appreciative inquiry opens us up to experience even greater positivity. The result: less fear and strong heartfelt connections and understanding between people, even strangers.”

We invite each of you to join in the high energy and well-being that gratitude, compassion, and generosity brings to each of us. As always, we thank each of you for sharing your stories of success – seeking the high points to learn, adapt, and thrive – your stories always bring such light into our office and to our work.

Lastly, we are scheduling our 2017 event calendar. We seek out new training locations and opportunities – any thoughts, ideas and suggestions from you are always welcome. As always we appreciate the good work all of you do. May you all have a wonderful week.

TO READ THE WORDS CREATE WORDS ® JULY 2016 NEWSLETTER ONLINE, PLEASE CLICK HERE>>

Words Create Worlds ® – April 2016 Newsletter

Spring has arrived in Southern Nevada. The rays of light seem to be penetrating giving us the warmth that a ” being” finds refreshing, invigorating and energizing. Mother Earth is giving us the entrée to be out and about creating and imagining, “what if “?

What does “What if ” mean for you, a friend, family member or those you work with on a daily basis? In reading a quote from Henry Ford, his “what if” might have been, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” To me, it means working with others – using ones imagination to be able to feel a change, see it, sense it, feel it and best of all redirect my focus to possibilities. No matter the descriptor or definition it is working and communicating with others. It is about us, all of us.

This past week I have had the opportunity to read and review the fine work, Practicum’s, of many of those that have joined us at Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainings somewhere throughout the world. The stories are touching, encouraging and most of all speak of individuals coming together with a common purpose and outcome, as Henry Ford stated, “…working together is success.”

Individually, how can we create a difference for others thus changing ourselves?

TO READ THE WORDS CREATE WORDS ® APRIL 2016 NEWSLETTER ONLINE, PLEASE CLICK HERE>>

The Impact of Mentors: Personally and Professionally

January is National Mentoring Month, created in 2002 by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health “to focus national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us—individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits—can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes for our young people”.

When you reflect back on your best learning moments; when someone was mentoring you, or perhaps you were mentoring someone, what made that moment stand-out for you? How did that impact you? How did that impact the lives of others?

If we are fortunate, we will have many mentors along the way. I was fortunate to have been introduced to Appreciative Inquiry (Ai) by Charles Miller and Nancy Stetson. As a Community College Human Resources Administrator, I saw Ai’s immediate application in my daily practice. I did not know at that time, that my life would radically change as a result of me meeting this dynamic duo. When Charles and Nancy gently and lovingly shared The Center for Appreciative Inquiry with Jim Pulliam and me – it was not just a new chapter in my life being written, rather a new book.

The “hand-over” of the consulting practice took years as Charles and Nancy guided us about the basics of the Corporate operations (Company of Experts, Inc.) and the emotional connection to the Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT©) which they developed together. While there are many facets to this Company, the passion Charles and Nancy had for the AIFT© was what inspired Jim and I to connect with them and join them in sharing this remarkable program with hundreds of people, organizations and communities around the World.

As the years passed, Charles became my mentor for the AIFT© and other Appreciative Inquiry projects and consulting work. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with him on two major projects: Creative Change through Imagination (CCTI) and The Macon Miracle. The CCTI was designed to build connections between business and education. The Macon Miracle was an inquiry with over 4,000 people. As we worked together, I would watch Charles as he engaged with others. He was always available for guidance and mentorship – and with gentle and thoughtful questions – he would facilitate a mini-inquiry – rarely providing answers in the hopes that through his questions, the answer may present itself to you.

After his passing in 2015, many shared reflections about him – mentor, inspiration, coach, wisdom, deep spirit of life and energy, and that he always taught us through his actions that life is about relationships.

Charles was right, Life IS about relationships and he did a wonderful job in cultivating the relationships with those he met. Charles made time to send us (myself and the rest of the Center for Appreciative Inquiry staff) short emails of encouragement. We received these notes – always written in the affirmative – after almost every training conducted or email promotion sent. About two weeks after his passing, we came across an email from him that appeared to have gotten lost in the mix of things. This email read, “Your guys’ email looks great. Good work!” This email was a reminder to us at the office that Charles is not far away and will always be with us.

January 21st is Thank Your Mentor Day (the website above has a list of suggestions on how to show appreciation to your mentor). This year, I will show my appreciation and pay tribute to Charles Miller by:

  1. This humble post is my expression of how much Charles contributed to my professional and personal growth;
  2. Contribute to the newly established “Charles R. Miller Disability Resources Department Fund” at the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation. If you would like to contribute to this fund, click on this link.

Words Create Worlds ® – December 2015 Newsletter

As we reflect on all that has happened over this past year, we are so appreciative of the opportunity to work with each of you. The challenges have ignited in us the fuel to inquire, reflect and focus on outcomes drawing upon our strengths. In this New Year, we will continue to work with organizations and individuals to “change the way we think about change” and to “facilitate a sustainable future regardless of the challenges”. We won’t ignore the challenges or deny the problems; however, by initially adapting to change we create dreams of opportunity.

This year we had the pleasure of meeting many new and memorable individuals. Our experience with each of you made this year one to remember. We were also blessed with the opportunity to meet people and to participate in many fun and fulfilling projects around the World. We have been honored by the hospitality and warmth of people from Australia, Cayman Islands, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nairobi, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States (Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington D.C.) and all Canadian provinces.

We invite each of you to join in the high energy and well-being that gratitude, compassion, and generosity brings to each of us. As always, we thank each of you for sharing your stories of success – seeking the high points to learn, adapt, and thrive – your stories always bring such light into our office and to our work. Please keep sending us your personal stories of success via email, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

TO READ THE WORDS CREATE WORDS ® DECEMBER 2015 NEWSLETTER ONLINE, PLEASE CLICK HERE>>

Words Create Worlds ® – September 2015 Newsletter – Dedicated to Charles Miller

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we share with you the passing of Charles Miller. Charles was so much to so many of us. Charles was the co-founder, with Nancy Stetson, of the Company of Experts and the Center for Appreciative Inquiry. Together they mentored thousands of people around the globe in the art of Appreciative Inquiry.

Charles was my AI guide, mentor and coach. What stands out for me is that he was a learner who found great joy in sharing this passion with others. He worked on many trainings and consulting projects that touched the lives of thousands of people — those people are out in all parts of the World creating positive change.

His sudden passing has us in shock. Some of the reflections that we have heard over the past few days are: mentor, inspiration, coach, wisdom, deep spirit of life and energy, and that he always taught us through his actions that life is about relationships. Below is just but one example:

“Like a great many of the people whose lives Charles touched and affected in powerful ways, I first got to know him as a “student” of his, when I was a participant in one of the early Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainings in St. Louis nearly fifteen years ago.  The lessons I drew from that experience, and from the professional and personal relationship we developed afterward, have been some of the most important and meaningful in my life and career.  I learned to trust my optimistic instincts, and to believe in the process of appreciation and inquiry.  I learned to “look under the hood” at the mechanics of instructional design, in order to be a more effective teacher and facilitator.  I re-learned the importance of “wholeness,” and bringing everyone into the room.  And perhaps most importantly, with Charles I was always reminded about the value of seeing the world around us through eyes that wonder, and marvel at the abundance and beauty of it all.” ~ Lane Glenn, College President and Certified Ai Trainer

Charles is a good example of not just being the best in the World, but the best FOR the World. He will live on in the hearts of all the people he touched.

TO READ THE WORDS CREATE WORDS ® SEPTEMBER 2015 NEWSLETTER ONLINE, PLEASE CLICK HERE>>

Celebrating the Life of Charles Miller

Charles Miller was so much to so many of us. His sudden passing has us in shock. Some of the reflections that we have heard over the past few days are: mentor, inspiration, coach, wisdom, deep spirit of life and energy, and that he always taught us through his actions that life is about relationships.

Charles Miller_Center for Appreciative InquiryI met Charles and his partner Nancy Stetson in 2000, when I attended a Leadership Development Institute in Long Beach, California. It was a five day program and part of one short session they held a “mini-inquiry” and provided a glimpse of Appreciative Inquiry. I instantly knew I wanted to know more. I had no idea at that time that they had permanently and positively changed my life and my work.

I immediately went back and told our college president about this amazing possibility for collaborative, strengths-based approach to leading change. I told him of the amazing work that other colleges were experiencing with AI and I boldly recommended that we use Appreciative Inquiry for our strategic planning process. After much discussion about time, money and things, we invited Charles and Nancy to facilitate our inquiry. It was amazing to see the energy and life of the people and the organization emerge. It was more than I had envisioned. And now the college president was hooked! And, later he (Jim Pulliam) and I would have the opportunity to be part of the Company of Experts and the Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

Charles was my AI guide, mentor and coach. What stands out for me is that he was a learner who found great joy in sharing this passion with others. Charles worked on many trainings and consulting projects touching the lives of thousands of people. Those people are out in all parts of the World creating positive change. The strength of the program he co-created is that with minimal change the training continues to inspire new facilitators to new heights.

Charles loved to travel and meet new people. He was passionate about helping people and organizations. He would seek out training and facilitating assignments that others would not. Remote location and hours of travel by plane, train, and bus – no problem. The organization is having severe interpersonal struggles – no problem. The organization has limited funds and can only pay minimal, perhaps just barely cover travel costs – no problem. Charles was often my first and only call. Sometimes he counseled me on how I might help. Other times he offered to take on those projects that were filled with learning opportunities for him.

Charles and I worked on two major projects where we knew we were really making a difference and brings an instant feeling of comfort and calm having experienced working with him: Creative Change through Imagination (CCTI) and The Macon Miracle. This is just one example of the lasting impact of Charles as a teacher:

“Like a great many of the people whose lives Charles touched and affected in powerful ways, I first got to know him as a “student” of his, when I was a participant in one of the early Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainings in St. Louis nearly fifteen years ago.  The lessons I drew from that experience, and from the professional and personal relationship we developed afterward, have been some of the most important and meaningful in my life and career.  I learned to trust my optimistic instincts, and to believe in the process of appreciation and inquiry.  I learned to “look under the hood” at the mechanics of instructional design, in order to be a more effective teacher and facilitator.  I re-learned the importance of “wholeness,” and bringing everyone into the room.  And perhaps most importantly, with Charles I was always reminded about the value of seeing the world around us through eyes that wonder, and marvel at the abundance and beauty of it all.” ~ Lane Glenn

In his resume, Charles bio gave us a glimpse at some of his life experiences:

  • Co-developed the Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) which has become the Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s signature program, and he delivered the training since the beginning as well facilitated Appreciative Inquiry sessions for organizations World-Wide on behalf of the Center.
  • Served as Vice President of the Company of Experts, Inc;
  • Had the good fortune to be a full time faculty member at Santa Rosa Junior College for 31 years serving as an instructor, learning specialist and coordinator of faculty and staff development;
  • Served as a national director of the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW).
  • Held master’s degrees in English and Psychology from San Francisco State University and Sonoma State University.
  • Served as a student learning outcomes consultant in the design of Fintelo, a learning management software program.
  • Won both national and state awards for providing leadership in the field of professional development such as NCSPOD and 4C/SD.

For Leaders: Sixteen Ways of Developing Empathy

Empathy, one of the competencies of emotional intelligence, is defined as the ability to be aware of, to understand and to appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others. We expect family and friends to empathize as they listen to us. We pay therapists to skillfully listen with empathy. What should we expect of our leaders?

As a quality of leadership, empathy is critical to success. Empathy may, indeed, prove to be the most significant skill of leadership. Try this experiment:

Think about the leader you most admire. Describe what you admire about him or her. Does the following description fit that individual?

People for whom empathy is a strength will generally interact well with others one-on-one, and they also work effectively in cooperative efforts. They will probably avoid hurting others’ feelings.

And does the following describe those leaders whom you do not so much admire?

People who are low in empathy often have difficulty understanding what others are feeling and thinking, and in giving due consideration to those feelings and thoughts. As a result, these leaders are often involved in misunderstandings and strained relationships.

Of course most leaders probably fall somewhere in the middle of the curve in their ability to empathize. But what is it that makes some more willing than others to “walk in another’s moccasins” and allow the feelings and thoughts of others to affect them and the decisions they make? Why do some leaders tend toward empathy, toward understanding others’ feelings and acting in a way that takes those feelings into account? Why do other leaders tend to be oblivious to what others are feeling and thinking? The answers to these questions are not simple, and both nature and nurture surely play a role. In developing as a leader, it is more important for you to know that empathy, like other emotional intelligence competencies, can be learned.

Typically, if you are a generally emotionally stable person, your empathy has been increasing as you have grown older. If you reflect on your life, you will probably realize that your experiences, whether in “real life” or in reading about others, of new situations and of people who are different than you-in age, in gender, in skin color, in ability, in sexual orientation, in religious beliefs, in nationality-have increased your store of empathy. Once you can put an individual human face on one of these “differences,” your empathy expands.

But there is more you can actually choose to do, actions you can take to increase your empathy and your ability to connect with colleagues, with bosses, and with those you supervise. Working with a coach, attending workshops, or doing some reading on your own are all ways to increase your own empathy. Here is a brief list of possibilities:

  • Make a habit of expressing your appreciation of others every day
  • Ask yourself, “What is this person feeling?” especially in those sticky situations
  • Be true to your promises to others
  • Become aware of the impact you have on others (keep a log!)
  • Identify and support a project that provides service to others who are in need
  • Learn to listen by reflecting thoughts and feelings back to others
  • Read widely to include perspectives of others who live or have lived lives very different from yours
  • Ask gentle questions: What can I do for you? What do you need?
  • Become an observer of how people express their feelings-including body language and other non-verbal communication
  • Build a work culture that is emotionally safe and friendly
  • Ask for feedback about your behavior, decisions, and words (perhaps through a 360 degree feedback instrument)
  • Attempt to see a tough situation from another’s perspective
  • Develop a sincere interest in other people by asking yourself what they have to teach you
  • Be willing to share your passions and interests with others
  • Don’t be afraid to express what you think, what you feel, what you need
  • Take an Emotional Intelligence assessment to learn more about your own ability to empathize

Article written by Dr. Barbara Kerr