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.
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.
Unclear objectives are sometimes unavoidable, the dangers and how to avoid as learned in Bosnia
Appreciative Inquiry and other co-creative methodologies are essentially divergent ways of working together; the emphasis is on the value of diversity and variety. Such ways of working can trigger a pressure to converge on a few key points very early in the process, indeed sometimes before the event has even begun. This pressure can be the expression of various different needs, for example:
The plan is not the change
All too often those involved in creating the plan for change believe this to be the most essential part of the process, worthy of extended time and effort, while implementation is seen as ‘just’ a matter of communicating and rolling out the plan. Plans are a story of hope. Change happens when people change their habitual patterns of communication and intervention in a meaningful and sustainable way.
Elsewhere on this website we explore social capital as a group or social phenomena that adds value by increasing trust and information flow around an organisation, however it can also be understood from an economic perspective.
From this perspective it can be defined as a combination of the number of relationships some one has, the economic usefulness to them of those relationships and the quality of them: effectively, how well known someone is, in what circles, and with what degree of affection. It is the social capital in an organisation that means that we care about the effect our work will have on the next part of the production chain, rather than slinging substandard work over the functional line saying, ‘done my bit, their problem now’.
Fascinating research on group performance suggests two key things:That the collective intelligence of a group is more than the sum of its parts and that the presence of women in a group is key to high collective intelligence
Much research has now confirmed happiness has many benefits. One easy way to use positive psychology to bring these benefits into the work place is by opening a meeting with a ‘success round’. All too often in meetings we plunge straight into the business of the day. Starting the meeting by giving people a chance to share a recent success not only boost people’s mood in the moment, it also prepares them to engage more productively with what ever is to follow. As an added bonus, we learn lots about what makes our colleagues tick.
I used this recently with a group of managers as part of a workshop on positive and appreciative leadership. It is an effective way into the virtuous practices aspect of flourishing organizations and into the topic of authentic leadership. It could just as well be used as an exercise in individual executive coaching or development
A number of Appreciative Inquiry practitioners were having a conversation concerning the strong demand frequently experienced from commissioners and contractors for a highly convergent end to a discursive, divergent event.
We asked ourselves two questions: What was this request an expression of? and How could we meet it without compromising the spirit of our endeavours? Here are the high points of our discussion.
One might have thought that the expression of gratitude was for the benefit of the recipient, to feel acknowledged and affirmed in their generous act: possibly so. However the experience of gratitude also brings great benefit to the donor, and some of those benefits can be seen to act as an inoculation against the dangerous seductions of privilege, power and position.
Cognitive research illuminates how our brains make decisions, and how they are different from computers. Compared to computers our brains are slow, noisy and imprecise. And, paradoxically perhaps, this makes them much more efficient than computers,
We are all taught that it is polite to be grateful, but does it make any other difference? Recent research suggests yes, including in the workplace.
Most people feel gratitude a lot and it makes them feel good to feel grateful
Gratitude motivates reciprocal aid giving
It can be considered as an emotion, a behaviour and a personality trait
When people don’t comply with legal requirements organizations can face penalties and fines running into the thousands. To take just a few recent examples
In November last year a Greater London pizza manufacturer was fined £15,000 after failing to respond to warnings about an unsafe doorway.
Also in November Hertfordshire County Council accidentally faxed details of two cases it was dealing with to a member of the public and was fined £100,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act.
We all know rudeness is an unpleasant aspect of life, did you also know it has a cost attached? Two researchers, Porath and Erez, have spent years exploring the effect of rudeness on people at work, this is what they have found:
Between 1998 and 2005 the percentage of employees who reported experiencing rudeness once or more in a week doubled from almost 25% to almost 50%. Indeed in 2005 25% of employees reported experiencing rudeness at least once a day.
Given this is it surprising the extent to which organizations struggle with the concept of change in organizations. Myths abound. Working with organizations I constantly hear the refrain ‘people don’t like change’ and ‘change is hard’. Neither of these statements are necessarily true, as we see below. What is true is that the way we understand organizations, understand change, and go about achieving change can make the job much harder than it need be.
In any organisation there is always a variety of tools available to managers to influence staff towards desired behaviour. This has traditionally been seen as a choice between two general approaches: incentives and coercion, or, the carrot or stick approach.
Now there is a new alternative
This third method utilises the natural inertia of most people when confronted with the choice of accepting the status quo or changing things
At the 2012 World Appreciative Inquiry conference I fell into conversation with Stefan Cantore. Stefan was busy thinking about ‘our love affair with problems’ in preparation for writing a chapter for a forthcoming publication (details at end). We had a great discussion about this that stayed with me and caused me further thought.
How do we know when we encounter a problem?
While much research confirms that successful outcomes can foster happiness, it has tended to be seen as a one-way linear relationship: you have to be successful to be happy. But might it be more of a circular relationship? A virtuous circle where being happy makes it more likely you will succeed? In 2005 Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ed Diener and Laura King pulled together all the research they could find that addressed the question: does happiness contribute to success?