And so it has come to past that from time to time I find my self teaching groups ‘coaching skills’. Sometimes this is groups of managers, sometimes fledging professional coaches, and sometimes people with post-graduate coaching degrees or similarly impressive credentials. And yet, for all these groups, one of the hardest challenges seems to be developing the skill of asking questions rather than more tempting options like: offering solutions, giving advice, sympathising, sharing their own experience, or in some other way failing to inquire.
This account of a recent one-day Appreciative Inquiry Event by Alan Brunstrom of ECSAT. He wrote it for their internal use and copied me in. I thought it gave a very good sense of the client experience and asked if I might share it on my website.
I hope you find it useful in creating a sense of how these events come about, how they are experienced, and what they can produce.
Many of us have noticed a strange paradox but been unable to put a name to it. We believe that a job that doesn’t demand too much of us should mean we have plenty of energy left over for our real interests. Furthermore, we anticipate that if that job not only doesn’t demand much of us but also pays us very well, then we should experience happiness: we have beaten the system! We are being paid for doing practically nothing, what could be a better arrangement?
And yet, after an initial sense of triumph, it can slowly become apparent that the logic - lots of money for little work equals happiness and a fulfilled life - doesn’t work out. Instead we feel, well, that something isn’t right. That despite the income we aren’t happy at work.
People who are interested in the Appreciative Inquiry approach sometimes struggle to understand how they can apply it to the challenge of assessment or evaluation.
Last year I ran an evening event I called a Learning Network Event. The purpose of the evening was to provide a space for those interested in positive psychology to share and learn from each other in a gently facilitated way. We used a world café process to stimulate conversation and to ensure cross-pollination amongst those present.
In many workplaces conversation is regarded as an adjunct to the real work of getting stuff done. All too often a request for a conversation is experienced as an interruption, a distraction from real work. Seen as a necessary evil, the objective is to complete the conversation as quickly as possible so all involved can get back to work. While the topic of conversation may be regarded as important, the quality of conversation doesn’t even register. This is very unfortunate as the quality of any conversation will have an impact beyond the moment.
How Coaching Cubes Support the Coaching Process
The aim of coaching is to develop an individual’s own resourcefulness. Coaching helps someone stuck in their thinking or unsure of their ability or hesitant to seize an opportunity, as well as those grappling with a challenge or feeling puzzled and confused. Coaching helps them develop their own answers and their own way forward. One of most effective techniques to help someone develop their own thinking is to ask them questions. Good questions prompt new thoughts, bring previous experiences to bear on present dilemmas, shed new light on the issue, and prompt plans for action. This Coaching Cube set introduces 36 carefully worded and targeted questions suitable for use in any coaching situation.
Introduction to the Coaching Cubes
The Coaching Cubes are designed to be used and rolled as dice. They are squidgy, robust, and bright, bringing a fun, tactile, and colourful edge to the coaching process. Each coloured cube is themed as below.
The Green cube explores the positive aspects of someone’s work and life, positively affecting perspective and mood.
The Blue cube identifies peopleimportant to the situation, stimulating context-aware thinking.
The Orange cube creates shifts in perspectiveto throw new light on the topic, revealing new insights and possibilities for action.
ThePink cube illuminates ideas, values and energy, the powerhouse for energised possibilities
The Purple cube creates movement,facilitating energised action
The Red cube clarifies first steps, thebeginning of feasible, effective, motivated and energised change.
Using your Coaching Cubes
The cubes are designed to be versatile. Here are seven suggestions for how and when you can use the Coaching Cubes to add value to the coaching process
1) To Support the Coaching Process from beginning to end
The cubes can be used to shape a whole coaching session from ‘exploring the positives’ with the Green cube right though to ‘deciding on actions’ with the Red cube. Alternatively, at any point in the conversation they can be used separately or all together, revealing a choice of 1-6 questions at each ‘throw’.
2) To facilitate Self-Coaching
Want to work on an issue of your own? Roll a cube and answer the question, roll another. Make notes on the thinking and ideas generated as you go. You will soon experience a shift in your thinking and new ways forward will begin to appear.
3) To help someone relax into the process
Perhaps you are working with someone who finds the intensity of one-to-one coaching uncomfortable. Using the cubes as dice gives them something to handle and focus on, while lessening the requirement for eye contact.
4) To promote ownership of the process
Actively involve the person you are working with. Let them select which dice to roll or question to answer to encourage active participation and engagement.
5) To support Peer Coaching or Coaching skills training
The coaching cubes offer an instant resource to inexperienced or trainee coaches. One of the hardest coaching skills to learn is that of developing generative questions. By using the cubes the participants can access thirty-six useful questions.
6) To get a session moving again
If the conversation runs into a dead end, roll all the dice, look at the six questions together and ask your client ‘which of these are you most drawn to engage with right now?’ and pretty soon you will find yourself back in a productive place.
7) To move on from ‘Why don’t you’, ‘yes but’ conversations
Even the most experienced coaches occasionally find themselves being drawn into this unfruitful exchange. Break the cycle by rolling the dice and asking questions that don’t contain any advice!
Mae West famously suggested that it’s not the ‘men in your life’ you need to worry about so much as ‘the life in your men; and as the celebration of another birthday reminds me that more of my life is behind than in front of me, I feel I’d be wise to focus on ‘the life left in my years’ rather than the ‘years left in my life’. And so, I turn to George Valliant for advice…
While we recognise that in general happiness is a crucial ingredient of well-being and health, happiness is not valued to the same extent by everyone. For some people it is a ‘nice to have’ while for others it is the stuff of life, a state to which they constantly aspire. Goal pursuit theory suggests that if we value something and actively pursue it we should experience more of it. So if we value happiness and pursue it, so we should experience more of it. However, there is a sting in the tail…
Lots of people feel instinctively that happiness and wellbeing at work must be important. But are they a business necessity or a ‘nice to have’. Surely it makes more sense to ensure your business is profitable and thriving before you start worrying about how people feel?
Increasingly research suggests that investing in employee wellbeing by ensuring positive work relationships, an emphasis on strengths-based development, and worker happiness has productivity pay-offs. So why delay, start promoting positive psychology practices at work today!
Forgiveness has an image problem. Asked to forgive people say: ‘but I can’t forget what they did’ or ‘I can’t imagine ever being friends again’ or ‘but I want them punished.’ These responses show a confusion between forgiveness, reconciliation, forgetting and justice.
Earlier this month I attended the Global Strengthscope Practitioner Conference in London. A wonderful and inspiring conference where completely unexpectedly I was presented with the 2017 conference ‘Outstanding Contribution to Positive Work Practices Award.’ I was delighted and honoured and it got me thinking about what we have achieved so far in bringing positive work practices into the workplace and what we have yet to achieve,
I have recently come across a great paper about human energy, it is referenced at the end of this piece. It set me thinking about what it was saying in relation to Appreciative Inquiry. These are my thoughts.
A key challenge for leaders and managers is developing the capacity of their staff or team. Taking a coaching approach allows you to focus on drawing out motivation rather than trying to push it in! It allows you to create energy and motivation and it is usually experienced as an empowering process by your coachee. It helps people develop their intiaitive and sense of ownership of their work and tasks, and, in general, converts potential into capacity.
Here are seven tips to help make your coaching conversations highly productive.
We know it's important, where does it come form?
One of the most successful men I know grew up in the roughest streets of Bristol, and shared a cramped bedroom with his five brothers until he could leave the family home and ‘escape’ to his second choice university. Now a multi-millionaire cabinet minister, each of his milestones made it more and more apparent that his success was no simple stroke of luck.
There were no useful networks that his working class parents were a part of, there was no private school education to teach social poise; but there was drive that came from great ambition and pure determination.
I am dreaming of a lovely family Christmas, and I don’t mind if is white or grey. I do, nevertheless, mind whether it works out or not, as well as how humanly and psychologically messy it will end up being.
Last Christmas our teens decided to surprise us by setting up a casino in the living room, dressing up as croupiers, and getting the adults (that’s me, my husband, my husband’s ex and his best friend) to be the clients. As lavish, extravagant and original as that might sound, the enjoyment of the process was rather affected by the fact that in preparing the casino set-up, the teens did not check the rules of the proposed game and a few minutes into it started arguing over the way forward. In fact, at one point, the only way forward was to end the game.
In the last twenty years a new understanding of organizations has been developed, understanding them as living human systems of enterprise and creativity. It offers as an alternative to the dominant view of organizations as large and complicated machines of production. Methodologies based on this understanding, for instance Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space, World Café and SimuReal, allow the whole of the organizational domain to be approached from the living human system perspective. They allow us to address all organizational challenges from recruitment to redundancy within the same living human system frame. Four key factors underpin this approach.
Unclear objectives are sometimes unavoidable, the dangers and how to avoid as learned in Bosnia
Brief account of the book
The book has noble, honourable and inspiring intentions: it offers holocracy as a ‘new operating system’ for organizations that will create a ‘peer-to-peer distributed authority system’. This operating system creates empowered people who are clear about the boundaries of their authority, about what they can expect from others, and are able to be highly effective in their roles.
Brief Account of the book
The book is based on two rounds of research undertaken by the authors in collaboration with their MBA students. They identified the organizations initially by asking the question ‘Tell us about some companies you love. Not just like but love.’