In the twenty-first century we need to be doing change differently. Positive, appreciative and strengths-based change methodologies such as Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology offer alternative ways of creating organisational change and are explained in my new book Positive Psychology and Change
Meanwhile, here are some tips for approaching change from a positive and appreciative perspective.
1. Grow the strengths and resourcefulness of people
It’s all too easy to focus on how people aren’t equipped for the change: they don’t have the skills, the knowledge, the experience. How their existing strengths and resources (including their extended network) can help them answer the questions and engage with the challenge that the change poses, can be less obvious. By deliberately helping people recognize and access their existing strengths and resourcefulness we can increase their resilience, tenacity and confidence in the face of change, making the steep learning curve less daunting.
2. Create accounts of possibility that motivate
Hope and desire are highly motivating factors. Help people work out how the futures created by the change can include factors or situations that they find desirable. More than ‘what’s in it for me?’ it’s a question of ‘What possibilities do these changes unleash that I am really excited by?’ Once people start to believe that a future that is attractive to them is possible, they start to feel hopeful about their own future, and motivated to help create that future.
3. Ask don’t tell
Sometimes, in emergencies, we’re best off telling people what to do, but most of the time we’re better off co-creating possibilities for the future with those involved and affected. When we tell people about a proposed change we often provoke resistance, objection or denial, by asking questions we engage people. Different questions trigger different kinds of responses. Positive and appreciative questions tend to trigger accounts of highlight moments that are inspiring and energizing.
4. Motivate through stories
The human brain, is seems, is designed to love a good story, and I mean a good story, with plot, challenge and character development. I despair of the numerous dumbed-down management books that attempt to leaven the dough through ‘story-telling’ while disregarding the key ‘hooks’ of a great story. Create a compelling story about what, why, who and how, with which people can identify.
5. Call on the holy trio to aid transformation
Hope, inspiration and creativity are the magic seeds of both personal and collective transformation. A belief that things can be better, in a way that inspires and excites us, pulls motivation out of us. While hope gives us the energy to make things happen. For people stuck in a rut, or in despair, or feeling powerless, this is the holy trinity that can release them from the sticky mud of despondency.
6. Engagement is great, but flourishing is better
Both organisations and individuals can flourish. Flourishing is a growth state, well suited to change. The most flourishing part of a plant is usually its growing tip. Change resides in the growing tip of organisations. Create greater flourishing by following the principles of Cameron: creating positive deviance, affirmation and virtuous practices, to create greater change and growth.
7. Take the leader with you
So, you really like the idea of co-creative change, of emergent change, of Appreciative Inquiry and whole system involvement. These ideas don’t always seem quite as attractive to leaders, indeed they can seem downright threatening. Be sure to take leaders on the journey with you so they are ready for the energy your approach releases.
8. Prepare for afterwards
Think beyond the short-term challenge. From the UK I give you the Iraqi war and the Brexit referendum. The dream process of Appreciative Inquiry specifically helps people think beyond the challenge of achieving the change, to imagining what the change will be like.
Much more about strengths and managerial techniques such as the ones mentioned here can be found in Sarah’s new book Positive Psychology and Change
Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology for Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management', by Kogan Page, the second edition is out in September.
APPRECIATING CHANGE CAN HELP
Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with Leadership, Culture change and with employee Engagement.