What Is Appreciative Inquiry?

What is appreciative inquiry and how do you get it to work for you?

Appreciative inquiry explores at what is possible and what is right rather than what is wrong. Appreciative inquiry helps us explore what is working well and what we want more of while keeping our business environment feeling positive and supported.

For example: Instead of exploring how to stop client attrition we can explore this issue from the positive side of what works. Therefore, from the perspective of:

  • What do we do really well?
  • Why do clients choose us?
  • How do we get the highest satisfaction (from employees and from clients)?
  • Where do we make the greatest ROI?
  • What if we cut client attrition by 50%?

By focusing appreciative inquiry questions on how to expand our world of good, problems are left behind – not because we ignore them but because they lose energy. Problems are solved because most become irrelevant in our pursuit of what we do best.

One of the core pillars is that what people focus on has the highest natural chance of becoming real. Therefore, by exploring an issue from a position of ability, you and I automatically create an environment where people throughout the organization ‘feel‘ trust and empowerment, where work is valued, where employees are proud and where all opinions matter. Consider the reverse: How would everyone ‘feel’ after a team spent one or two days identifying what everyone does that hurts the company?

In short:

  • Positive Exploration = Helpful + Empowering
  • Negative Exploration = Harmful + Demoralizing

Another benefit of appreciative inquiry is that at the end of the investigation process, all that time has reinforced positive behaviour – behaviour we want to see more of. This is fantastic because it speeds up the solution implementation process.

Consider the alternative: if all that time was spent exploring problems, at the end of the exploration phase all we’d be left with is ‘What is bad’. Not only is that demoralizing, there is no clear idea what we should be doing… and now we also have to rebuild employee pride and confidence. Ugh….

When You Begin

As with all brainstorming work, when you set up your appreciative inquiry workgroup, be clear to everyone that their voice, their participation and their ideas are important. You want to make sure participants ‘feel’:

  • Safe
  • Important
  • Respected
  • That they belong

Where Can We Use Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative inquiry can pretty much be used anywhere, however, clear environments are:

  • New product development
  • Organizational Development:
    • Strategic planning
    • Visioning
  • Coaching
  • Problem Resolution – for new problems or issues that keep recurring
  • Mission / Vision / Value exploration
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

Conclusion

When I was working in the Corporate Marketing Department at Scotiabank I fell in admiration of Behavioural Event Interview (BEI), because it helped me hire the right staff by uncovering the best in people through stories of their accomplishments.  In the last 5+ years I’ve fell in admiration for appreciative inquiry because it also uncovers the best through stories and more specifically, positive stories.

Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva at Case Western Reserve University in 1987.

Happy communicating.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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What Is A High Performance Team?

Investing in a High Performance Team can consistently provide exceptional gains in productivity, increase product / service quality, lower costs, achieve faster time to market as well as improve individual job satisfaction. WOW! Sign-Me-Up!

What Is A High Performance Team?Bruce Mayhew Consulting Communication Blog

After a century of cutbacks, more and more organizations are looking to empower their employees and encourage collaboration to increase revenues and ROI… and High Performance Teams are an answer.

Yet it’s not a solution to be taken lightly. High Performance Team (HPT), must meet many priority criteria to function well and be worth the investment (listed below), otherwise the investment may simply generate employee frustration and low results. Most importantly HPT’s have:

  • The full support of the organization
  • Clearly defined goals that are important for all team players
  • Team players that demonstrate relevant personal talents
  • Thoughtful and effective communication
  • Shared respect for team players
  • Measurements for success

Members of High Performance Teams must also be committed to each other’s personal and professional growth. This combination can result in exceptionally high team performance and ROI for the organization. This combination also holds High Performance Teams together during inevitable setbacks.

And while this sounds logical and largely desirable, building a High Performance Team is difficult to accomplish. Telling employees they need to collaborate does not make them a team, especially a High Performance Team. The reality is that most work environments support an atmosphere where co-workers (and even team members), compete for reward and recognition. This may provide short-term results, however in the long-term employee competition is disruptive to employee morale and success of the company.

Team Lead Responsibilities

The success of a High Performance Team is empowered by the support of the team leader and their ever vigilant, positive focus.

Leadership serves the High Performance Team by aligning the diverse personal talents of team players and organizational resources to the goal. A team lead must build team confidence in each members ability to contribute meaningfully and to replace undesirable behaviour (like competition), with trust, cooperation and opportunity.

A team lead must also ensure the team and team members are properly supported. Support may mean removing obstacles like newly imposed budget restrictions, accessing training (growth), or perhaps securing technology that will provide a competitive advantage.

Measuring success and encouraging the individual and the team when performance doesn’t meet expectations is also a Team Lead responsibility. In contrast to the performance measurement most of us experience, performance measurement within a High Performance Team is constructive.

High Performance Team Characteristics

As I mentioned earlier in this communication blog post, establishing a High Performance Team is a solution that can not be taken lightly. High Performance Team (HPT), must meet many priority criteria to function and be worth the investment. Our list is as follows:

  1. Work in a safe, supportive environment where team players enjoy their work
  2. Specific, easy to understand, inspiring and achievable ‘stretch goals’ that challenge all team players
  3. Adaptive to environmental, organizational, team and personal needs and challenges
  4. A culture that embraces flexibility and creativity (may be with Appreciative Inquiry 1)
  5. Focuses on supporting a positive culture where team players and leaders focus on ‘making it better’ and ‘what is working’ (may be with Appreciative Inquiry 1)
  6. All team players must be committed to the team, its goals and share accountability
  7. Team players must choose to work with teach other – trust, respect and sharing can not be forced
  8. Team players must have complimentary the skills that are relevant to the team goals
  9. Team players with diverse backgrounds (may include gender, cultural, personality, experience), as this will enhance creative, diverse ideas
  10. Team players must trust and be respectful of each other, their skills and their backgrounds
  11. Team players must know their responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of every other team player
  12. Transparency (open collaboration), within the team
  13. Team players do not intentionally mislead, misdirect, disrespect or sabotage
  14. An agreed upon ‘process’ to identify the goals (if not already defined / confirmed)
  15. An agreed upon ‘process’ to solve problems, make decisions and accomplish the goals (with may be Appreciative Inquiry 1)
  16. An agreed upon ‘process’ to measure personal performance and team performance
  17. High Performance Teams learn to communicate in a positive, efficient and predictable way. They use face-to-face meetings to share ideas (again using AI principals), and email when it is appropriate (to confirm decisions and share information). They are mindful and respectful to each member’s needs and feelings and are equally open to share their needs and feelings.
  18. High Performance Teams get / accept training as required and or information required to assist them developing appropriately and therefore meet the defined goals

Conclusion

Being part of a high performance team and understanding its goals increases personal commitment and quality. One of the many wonderful outcomes is that problem solving becomes a creative rewarding opportunity rather than a negative experience (which often demotivates the team and hinders creative thinking / solutions).

Not every person will have the required skills to be part of every High Performance Team. That doesn’t mean they are not good team players – it may only mean they are not right for a specific High Performance Team.

Investing in the development of High Performance Team’s (goals, trust, skills, communication and attitudes), can provide your organization record gains in productivity, product / service quality, lower costs, and faster time to market.

Happy communicating.

1Appreciative Inquiry (sometimes shortened to “AI”) is powerful discovery technique that empowers a situation by exploring what is positive or what an organization does well rather than on what is undesirable.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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