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Imagine how smoothly things would run if people on your team had a tool to easily solve even your most complex personal and business problems? That tool exists and it’s call Appreciative Inquiry.
For most of us when faced with a big problem or frustration, the natural tendency is to hyper-focus on the problem. What went wrong? Who’s fault is it? Why are they so stupid?
While attending Royal Roads University in 2011, I was really struggling with an extended family member who was making me very angry and sad. I would tell anyone who would listen about the really bad thing she did and just how stupid I thought she was, and how much damage she was doing to my family. Honestly, focusing on the problem only made things worse.
Right around the same time I learned one of the most powerful lessons of my Executive Coaching program, the power of using Appreciative Inquiry. I had the opportunity right then to test this strategy on the family problem at hand.
First I asked myself, “What is really good about this person?” I was able to shift to appreciate how much she has positively contributed to our family.
Then I started to imagine what a good relationship with her might look like.
From there I took steps to design that relationship, building in positive activities and engagements to help us move forward together.
Finally, I created a new way of being with her so that I didn’t lose my power and could remain calm and positive regardless of how she behaved. And it worked!
The Four D’s of Appreciative Inquiry can turn things around for you, too:
Discovery – Look at what is good about the situation you are dealing with.
Dream – Let yourself imagine what it would be like if this situation was fully resolved.
Design – Determine how you would like the situation to look.
Destiny – Create it! Move forward with actions to create what you want.
Appreciative Inquiry Solving Problems at Work
Now let’s take Appreciative Inquiry to the office. You have just brought in super powerful new accounting software and your team is struggling with it, spending time commiserating at the water cooler among other things.
How would Appreciative Inquiry help solve your problem?
Discovery – The conversation would sound like: you have a great new state-of-the-art software program. You are fortunate you could afford and it that it has the capability to solve many of your company’s accounting problems. You discuss how once learned, it will make everyone’s job easier. There is great technical support if you need it included with the purchase. One person on the team already knows a lot about it and could help, it’s going to save you money that you can use for a staff event…. Make your list and keep going. What else is good about this new accounting system?
Dream – Meet with the team to talk about what life will be like when the new accounting program is fully in place. Discuss the positives only, imagine a new better future because you are taking this step forward with this software. Ask what the stakeholders want to get from the new program, how it will help them once fully integrated.
Design – Determine as a group what needs to be done to make the transition easier. Add additional training, time to learn, maybe bring in an expert. Come up with games and incentives to keep everyone moving forward together. This is where you design or redesign the way it should and can be.
Destiny – Just do it. Create the future you desired when you made the decision to buy the program. You had reasons for making that decision. Continue forward until you have what you want, all the way.
When the conversation reverts back to the talking about the problems, redirect negatives to positives. Come up with new systems and structure to make it work. Always focus on the solution.
Imagine If everyone in your organization were able to get along using this simple mind shift to solve even your most complex business problems. I witness this every week first hand on my journey helping small business owners get organized and profitable. Getting this mindset in place is the first big step!
Free Appreciative Inquiry Tool Download
I use a beautiful printed copy of “The Phases of Appreciative Inquiry” when I do this hands-on problem-solving work with clients. Putting the tool down on the table where we are going to discuss the problem and solution sets the stage for a positive, focused session. I highly recommend it.
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You can’t solve a problem looking at the problem. You can only solve it looking at possible solutions.
If you struggled in 2015 with the same frustrations you had in 2014 then maybe it’s time to play with some new leadership tools and strategies to break the cycle. Appreciate Inquiry is a good one!