Category Archives: Appreciative Inquiry

Being a Practitioner of Excellence

So, you’ve just finished up a session with a client and maybe you’re making some notes on how it went before your next appointment. This could also be an excellent moment to reflect on how the session went for you. When we ask appreciative questions of ourselves, reflection can easily become a way to connect to our own strengths and help us be a better coach.

Here are some questions we like to ask in the coach training process. While they are useful for coaches new in the field, experienced coaches will continue to grow in accordance with their reflective practice.

Have fun with these questions as a guide to heightening your skills as a coach:

1. Where was the most energy for me as the coach during our session?

2. Reflecting on that now, what was significant about that moment?

3. When did I feel most connected to my client? What do I imagine was happening for them at that moment?

4. When it’s going at its best, what is it that I value most about myself as a coach?

5. What would I like to bring more of (or do) in the next coaching session?

What other reflective questions have you asked yourself after your coaching sessions? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us on the Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages.

Enjoy this exercise? If so, please join us for our 5-day Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT) where we teach and demonstrate how Appreciative Inquiry can be used to engage in generative conversations with others. This advanced-level certification course will deepen your ability to identify, nurture and sustain the positive core with clients, as well as, within members of a team, department, organization, and community.

Two AICTs scheduled for 2017 – Cape Town, South Africa and San Diego, California.

Coaching Without a Clear Direction

Has a client ever arrived for a coaching session with no clear direction or burning issue to address? What do you, as a coach, do in these situations?

Appreciative Coaches utilize these opportunities as a way to create a stronger alignment between the client and their positive core (that which gives meaning/life to the individual).

‘Generic’ appreciative questions are one way we identify new focuses of inquiry during our coaching sessions. They are considered ‘Generic’ appreciative questions because the questions are not modified around any specific topic; thus allowing the client to answer freely and in the moment. As the client answers these questions, new topics of inquiry may emerge – providing the coach with new opportunities to explore with their client.

Below are a few ‘Generic’ appreciative questions to explore in your next coaching session:

1. Best Experience
Tell me a story about a time you were most alive, creative, excited, successful, enthusiastic. What made it a special experience? Who was involved? What did you do as a result? Describe the event in detail.

2. Values, Strengths, Success factors
Without being humble, what things do you value most about yourself? What do you experience as your core value? Give some examples of how you experience those values.

3. Three Wishes
What three wishes would you make to heighten your vitality?

What other ‘generic’ appreciative questions have you used in your coaching sessions? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us on the Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages.

Enjoy this exercise? If so, please join us for our 5-day Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT) where we teach and demonstrate how Appreciative Inquiry can be used to engage in generative conversations with others. This advanced-level certification course will deepen your ability to identify, nurture and sustain the positive core with clients, as well as, within members of a team, department, organization, and community.

Two AICTs scheduled for 2017 – Cape Town, South Africa and San Diego, California.

Words Create Worlds ® – April 2017 Newsletter

There is so much good happening in the World. Often we read stories of positive change that is taking place at home, work, within teams and communities, etc. In these stories, I began to notice was that the authors were utilizing the word ‘courage’ to describe the people within the story; but what do we really mean when we talk about courage? What images appear in your mind when you see/hear the word COURAGE?

The dictionary describes courage as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” The root of the word courage is cor – latin word for heart. Some have said courage takes “strength of heart”.

Individuals, who may be new to Appreciative Inquiry, often ask: How do I introduce Appreciative Inquiry? How do you handle the negatives? How do I convince others? Where do I even start?

As we know, change is not easy and can be scary concept – requiring us to look within ourselves for strength to move forward. Yet, everyone has the skill and the capacity to be courageous. How can we nurture this strength (courageousness) within ourselves and others? How might courage complement and/or add value to the field of Appreciative Inquiry?
‘Changing the world is not easy, but its pursuit will change you profoundly.” ~ Leroy Hood

May you all have a wonderful and bountiful week.

TO READ THE WORDS CREATE WORDS ® APRIL 2017 NEWSLETTER ONLINE, PLEASE CLICK HERE>>

But What About the Problems?

A question often asked during our trainings is, “What do we do when the client wants to focus on a problem?”

Crafting bold, provocative, positive questions is at the heart of an appreciative approach and its power lies in the unconditionally positive question. Why? Because it is not enough to know what you don’t want (the problem or complaint), it is more important to know what you do want.

We often think what we want is the opposite of what we don’t want. That’s a good place to start; however, does that truly capture the texture of what is really desired? What is the ideal?

Dr. Cheri Torres draws up a really useful matrix to help practice the muscle of reframing problems into appreciative topics. Here is our reworking of her reframing matrix:

Problem → Impact of the Problem → Desired Outcome → Best Outcome

Suppose, for example, a theoretical client recently complained of being tired. The challenge was to be able to frame up a topic for coaching that would elevate and enlivened her, rather than becoming mired in the problem and its mere opposite.

PROBLEM
I’m tired. I don’t want to be tired.
 
IMPACT OF THE PROBLEM
The impact of being tired is that I’m not present with my family, my work suffers, I can’t handle stress so I’m sick all the time

DESIRED OUTCOME (Absence of the Problem)
I want to be present with my family and at work;
I want to be able to manage stress and be healthy.
 
BEST OUTCOME
I want to feel alive and vibrant in my life engaging with family and colleagues in ways that bring joy and ease so that I can thrive no matter what happens.

What problems do you (or your client) have that may be re-framed into appreciative topics using the matrix above? What other exercises have you found helpful to help yourself (or others) flip the script from negative to positive?

Please share your thoughts and ideas with us on the Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages.

Enjoy this exercise? If so, please join us for our 5-day Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT) where we teach and demonstrate how Appreciative Inquiry can be used to engage in generative conversations with others. This advanced-level certification course will deepen your ability to identify, nurture and sustain the positive core with clients, as well as, within members of a team, department, organization, and community.

Two AICTs scheduled for 2017 – Cape Town, South Africa and San Diego, California.

Words Create Worlds ® – February 2017 Newsletter

People who are new to Appreciative Inquiry are extremely inquisitive – about problems, about conflict. How do we “handle” them with Appreciative Inquiry? How do we “manage” the interruptions? How do we find the “solutions”?

These questions resembled my own curiosity at the start of my Ai journey. As Director of Human Resources, much of my time was spend solving problems and resolving conflict. According to the Poetic Principle in Appreciative Inquiry, what we choose to concentrate on makes a difference. What aspects of a situation do we focus on?

Society, collectively, is taught to focus on the problem and only the problem. To forge ahead, we repeatedly make decisions to “do this or that” (referred to as either/or mentality). By viewing and operating in the world through an ‘either/or’ lens, we are limiting our view of reality to just two ways of seeing it; however, by adopting the Appreciative ‘both/and’ mentality – constantly asking ourselves and others ‘what might be…” – we open our world to endless possibilities and opportunities.

With the barrage of negative media that surrounds us, it is easy to lose sight of the good that transpires around us on a daily basis. Making the paradigm shift from either/or to both/and is no easy feat and requires mindful, daily practice and intention.

We each have our own journey to walk. As change agents, our purpose is not to ‘fix’ problems; rather our work is to guide others to celebrate what’s good, seek out opportunities, and dream of the possibilities.

Have you made the shift? If so, how do you continue to practice a both/and mentality? 

TO READ THE WORDS CREATE WORDS ® FEBRUARY 2017 NEWSLETTER ONLINE, PLEASE CLICK HERE>>

Words Create Worlds ® – October 2016 Newsletter

People who are new to Appreciative Inquiry often ask, “Appreciative Inquiry focuses on the positive, so do you negate the negative? What do you do about _____?” You can fill in the blank with so many topics: dysfunctional teams, conflict management, lack of trust, poor leadership, etc. Looking back over my journey as a trainer, facilitator, coach and consultant, I remember spending so much time prepping for all of the possible issues that could arise. As time passed, I noticed amazing things happened when I opened myself up to possibilities – by learning to trust myself, the people, but more importantly, the process.

When I do encounter an unpleasant situation, e.g. teams that are meshed in long-term conflict, management names specific people that I should ‘watch out for,’ etc. – it can be easy for all involved, including myself, to return to deficit mindset. Each time we are faced with a new problem, it just seems as though we might get stuck here – so how do we become unstuck? How do we, as change agents, deal with problems in an appreciative way?

While the majority of my work with clients involve preparation (workshops, coaching, and training) – I believe equally as important as preparation is getting in touch with our beliefs, feelings, and way of thinking. Inquiries are not always formal, rather some of the most powerful interventions we have are those we have with ourselves. Take a moment to ask yourself, When are you most alive? What are your strengths? What inspires you about Appreciative Inquiry? What is the best part about the work your do?

The book, Appreciative Leadership, by Diana Whitney, Amanda Bloom and Kae Rader, contains several exercises and tips for handling what seems like messiness. One exercise in the book that I have found quite useful, called “Practicing the Flip,” helps individuals move from habitual problems to promising affirmative topics by becoming more aware of the words they use and its impact in constructing questions that spark positive change.

How do you practice the flip?

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

Words Create Worlds ® – August 2016 Newsletter

Today I choose to be happy…

We are all capable of charting our own happiness and contributing to the happiness of those around us. Why is it that some people seem to be more “happy” than others? Are they truly happier?

Happiness, just like any emotion, involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological reaction, and a behavioral or expressive response. How we respond to an experience is unique. Have you ever noticed how a group of individuals might react differently to the same experience? Making the decision to remain happy, grateful and positive is a mindful practice that should be exercised daily.

Of course, we cannot be happy all of the time, but we also do not need to be angry, sad, or unhappy everyday either. In life we will encounter negative emotions, engage in difficult conversations, etc. – however, practicing to see the good in every situation is a great way to increase your resiliency to get through tough times.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a global leader in the study of Positive Emotion, discovered that experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine.

As an AI Facilitator, Designer and Trainer I marvel at my good fortune to meet people who practice the pursuit of happiness every day. Appreciation Inquiry has given me the foundation to frame how I look at each day, what is here that I can celebrate? Building our happiness muscles takes time and practice – just like an Olympic Athlete – but the outcome is so worth it.

I hope many of you would be willing to share your stories of what happiness means to you; how you create happiness in your life; how you support happiness in others?

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

Words Create Worlds ® – June 2016 Newsletter

On my short drive to work each morning, I enjoy listening to my local non-profit radio program on NPR (National Public Radio). What I appreciate about NPR, is that I can count on them to search for the story behind the headlines. For those that are unfamiliar, NPR shares the news of the World (even negative news) and its impact on people, on culture, on politics, etc. in a story filled with metaphors – often including the voices of those who are impacted by or involved in the story. Through the stories shared, a connection is made and I find myself looking for, and uncovering, hope in the most unlikely stories.

Creating Shared Meaning through Our Stories…

Stories have a way of connecting us to one another. We all want, essentially, the same things: Love, Respect, Freedom, Peace, Acceptance, Hope, Inspiration, Health, Family, and Friendship. It is this shared humanness that connects us.

When sharing our stories, not only are we are building connections, but we are also constructing a shared reality the listener. The Constructionist Principle, derived from ‘Social Constructionist’ theory, states that the language we use shapes our social reality. As a result, meaning is made in our conversations, and what emerges as ‘knowledge’ is actually a broad social agreement created among people through communication.

So, what does this mean in practice? It means that every conversation we engage in is important and to always remain mindful of the words we use and the questions we ask. When engaging in conversations, you might ask yourself these questions:

  • How will I contribute to the discussion?
  • What questions will I ask?
  • What stories will I share?
  • What reality is being created by the stories we are sharing?
  • What meaning are we making in our conversation and what social agreements are emerging?

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

Words Create Worlds ® – May 2016 Newsletter

There is so much good happening in the World. Often we read stories of positive change that is taking place at home, work, within teams and communities, etc. In these stories, I began to notice was that the authors were utilizing the word ‘courage’ to describe the people within the story; but what do we really mean when we talk about courage? What images appear in your mind when you see/hear the word COURAGE?

Nurturing Strength to Ignite Change…

The dictionary describes courage as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” The root of the word courage is cor – latin word for heart. Some have said courage takes “strength of heart”.

Individuals, who may be new to Appreciative Inquiry, often ask: How do I introduce Appreciative Inquiry? How do you handle the negatives? How do I convince others? Where do I even start?

As we know, change is not easy and can be scary concept – requiring us to look within ourselves for strength to move forward. Yet, everyone has the skill and the capacity to be courageous. How can we nurture this strength (courageousness) within ourselves and others? How might courage complement and/or add value to the field of Appreciative Inquiry?

‘Changing the world is not easy, but its pursuit will change you profoundly.” ~ Leroy Hood

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

Words Create Worlds ® – March 2016 Newsletter

What first attracted me to Appreciative Inquiry (Ai) in 2001 was the concept of inviting and bringing all of the voices into the conversation. It was a significant shift in our daily practices and operations, especially for an educational institution, yet I knew Ai would work – and it did.

As I continued on my Ai journey, more opportunities would arise that would allow me to facilitate and practice Ai. Over the years, I have learned that the complexity of bringing all voices (stakeholders) into the room begins with the planning. The best Ai facilitation or consulting projects that I have been involved with directly resulted from incorporating a core team in the process – from beginning to end.

Core Teams: A Slice Of The Whole…

Core Teams are magical and reflect a ‘slice of the whole’. Picture, for example, a chocolate cake consisting of several layers. Each layer comprise of various stakeholders (executive, management, sales, customers, vendors, partners, community leaders, etc.). When cutting a slice from this beautiful cake, all layers (stakeholders) are represented, no matter how big or small the slice. In other words, this slice represents a cross section of the organization, team or group drawn from different programs, groups, teams, work shifts, nationalities, languages, gender, and job roles.

It’s important to remember that no two Core Teams are identical. Instead, we should celebrate the diversity of the group and the richness it can bring to the inquiry process. I have found that each Core Team has a different approach and is as unique and complex as the organization. The creativity and energy that is unleashed when a Core Team is given the opportunity to fly inspires greatness in everyone.

One Core Team, whom I have been working with for several consecutive years, was so moved by the Ai process that they named their Core Team to show their spirit and passion for this process with themselves and others. This group named themselves the Core Team Bridge (CTB) – bridging all voices into one – and are celebrating 3 years of their Ai journey together. The poem, found below, was penned by a new CTB member who joined the group February 2016.

Core Team Bridge (CTB) Poem
By: Swagat Raj Pandey, CTB member
Slice of a whole,
A bunch of spirited soul;
A joyful staff retreat,
Our primary goal;
We foster tension,
Provide undivided attention;
Together we work,
Don’t forget the fun to mention;
We bring our thoughts,
We bring our energy;
Different ways to work;
Builds a strong synergy;
We love sharing stories,
Creating new memories;
On to the year three,
CTB is here to be

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