Wendy Hanson 0:24
Welcome, I am so excited to have you all here today as we talk about how to have conversations that foster positive change. We have the ability to change our conversations at work to create a more engaged, positive and productive workplace. Today, we will be talking about the practice of appreciative inquiry. In the introduction and the introduction of the book conversations that matter. I was really taken by the quote from Dee hock, the founder of visa, one of the largest, most innovative and most successful organizations of the past half century, I am struck by the simple fact that my impact as a leader, and even my whole day goes better when I share my amazement, when we open minds live into deeper and better questions, and interdependently emerge new things in every conversation. life worth living must be made of affirmation. Well, to have a leader of such a huge organization have that perspective is a wonderful thing. And I have such a treat for you today. And for me to have the opportunity to talk with Jackie and Sherry. So let me tell you a little bit about them. Jackie Stavos is a professor at the College of Business and Information Technology, Lawrence technical, Lawrence Technological University, and an appreciative inquiry advisor at the David L cooperrider. Center for appreciative inquiry. Steve Ross has more than 30 years of leadership, strategic planning and change management experience. Wow. So what you're going to find today is we have real experts in this that have been doing this, this has been their focus for years. Sherry tourists is CEO of lead catalyst of collaboration by design, a consulting firm that helps organizations improve performance, retain talent, and transform communication and culture. Tourists has more than 35 years of leadership, teamwork, strategic planning and culture transformation experience. Between the two of them. They have been researching, writing, consulting and speaking on Appreciative Inquiry since 1996. So they know what they're talking about. So welcome, Jackie. And Sherry, It's so delightful to have you on this podcast.
Cheri Torres 2:53
Thank you so much. It's a delight to be here. We are honored.
Jackie Stavros 2:57
Yeah. Thank you, Wendy.
Wendy Hanson 2:58
Well, we were just chatting about this before we started the podcast about how we all come from the same place of being pragmatic, and wanting people to leave this podcast with some actual things that they're going to do differently. So for all of you listening, this is going to be very much worth your while. But let's get all of our listeners right now on the same page. Because this may be a new concept. It's not a new concept to all the coaches that are listening out there. But we're talking to managers that are all around the world. So let's start by getting people on the same page. What is appreciative inquiry?
Jackie Stavros 3:35
Well, that's a great question, Wendy. And Appreciative Inquiry is a discovering and approach for the best in your people that you manage your teams. And the outcomes is it can fuel productivity and engagement in organizations. And if we just took the word appreciative, it means to value your people that you manage and to value the situation that you're dealing with. An inquiry is about asking questions. It's a process of discovery and being genuinely curious about the things you as managers have to deal with in organizations today. So you speak of organizations in our book conversations worth having we right in chapter six about all the organizations throughout the world that are using appreciative inquiry in in through their conversations.
Wendy Hanson 4:24
And one one thing of many things I love about the book is that you spend a lot of time doing case studies and talking about how this is used and the impact that it makes. So I think people that are going to pick up this book are not just getting this theoretical view, but they're seeing it in action. So that's really great. Now both of you have combined 50 plus years of teaching and working with clients using AI, can we break down there's like three main pieces of your model. So we're getting to the takeaway part, you know, what is the tuning in tell us there's tuning in generative questions and positive framing? So let's start with tuning in
Cheri Torres 5:04
great. And actually tuning in is it's not in our original book, it's only in our second edition because we realize the absolute importance of being able to tune in and know where am i What's going on for me so that I can be intentional in my conversations. And when you're aware and intentional, then you can ask generative questions. And you can use positive framing to move your conversations forward. And generative questions are questions that widen the screen. So if you if you think of when you when you look, and you think about what's going on in your world, you have a particular mindset and a screen through which you are seeing the world, a generative question widens that it makes the invisible visible, can create shared understanding, which is what you've started this podcast off with. It generates new knowledge by asking questions that result in things people hadn't thought of before. And it also generates possibilities, possible solutions that you might not have thought before. So one of the key factors is that before diving in to solve a problem or fix something, instead of bringing the past forward to fix that Appreciative Inquiry, it's about let's widen the screen so that we can see more of what's going on. And then we positive framing, it's about what is it? We are really after? Where do we want to go? How can we bring the best in what has been forward into what we're trying to achieve here together? And that opens up again, this though the world of possibilities when she challenged your assumptions. And now you're like, well, maybe we don't have to think that way. What if we think this way? So creativity, innovation comes into the into play as well? Yeah.
Wendy Hanson 7:12
I love that. And I, you know, being that we're talking about the case studies and examples in your book, Can you can you share? Well, first, let's start let's go back to tuning in. Because tuning in is like our baseline, right? What gets in our way with tuning in, you know, that practice that, that seems in coaching, we always talk about the levels of listening, you know, you have to stop at being busy in your head. And you have to really be focused and listening. And it's so interesting, because I'm taking from tuning in those things that are part of that, and much, much more. So tell me about tuning in.
Jackie Stavros 7:47
So think of tuning in, what gets in the way sometimes will be it'll be your, your biases, your especially your unconscious biases, how you maybe you were brought up your value system, your your behaviors. And the other thing is physiological. Think about if you didn't get a lot of sleep the last night, if something's going on in your personal life, and it comes into the work life with you. Sometimes you're dehydrated, you had too many cups of coffee and not enough water in the morning. And and all of those is beginning to impact your ability to tune in to where you are and where others are.
Wendy Hanson 8:27
That's great, because I think our assumptions to us one of the examples you give is like above the line below the line, the iceberg, you know that? Our assumptions, we don't always know how they're impacting us. And they're impacting us in a big way when we get into a conversation, aren't they? And then generative questions. So we're tuned in, we're kind of aware of where we are. And we have to bring our best selves to work every day and make sure we know Oh, this is not my best day. I didn't get any sleep or you know, something like that. But what is an example and maybe even part of a case study I loved? I love the case study in the very beginning where you talked about the medical center in New England. That was just so clear, and how generative questions and positive framing really made a situation so much better for people. Can you go through that a little bit?
Cheri Torres 9:21
Sure. The story you're referring to is about Alicia Patel, who is a Senior VP at a medical center. And it's a it's a very large center now, but she was she was in charge of quality. During a time when the hospital was expanding. It was absorbing and merging with other hospitals to create one large system which had lots of benefits. But the the the downside was that it put an enormous amount of stress on the staff, because they were now serving a much larger population. And Alicia began to see patient satisfaction decline. Now, if you can imagine one of the things that happens when you refer to above the line and below the line, and we refer, there are a lot of examples we get about above and below the line. Below the line is where when we are stressed and physiologically a neural, neuro physiologically, we're operating more from our fight or flight, frame of mind, which, which inhibits our capacity to access, creativity, the ability to connect with other people. So Alicia, as you can imagine, since quality is what she's in charge of, as quality begins to decline, she gets more and more anxious. And she does what most of us have done in the past is, here's the problem. How are we going to fix it? So every time she met with her nurse managers, she was like, why is this happening? What are you going to do to fix it and hammering on them, which of course, put them into that fight or flight state of minds, where they all they did was defend, we are understaffed, we are overbooked, our nurses are already doing double shifts, there is nothing more we can do. You got to hire more people. This went on month after love and quality continued to decline. Alicia started bringing her anxiety home and taking it out on her family. She'd come back to work even more stressed because of that she finally decided these nurses are not going to make a difference. I've got to figure out something myself. She happened to be researching online, and she found a a training that was being offered in her area in Appreciative Inquiry specifically for health care. So she signed up immediately. And before the first day was out, she just kind of leaned back and realized I am part of the problem here. I have been going after trying to fix the problem acting as if there's no patient satisfaction at all, and and putting my staff in a place where they can't be creative. And they're not thinking I care about them. So at the end of her training, she vowed she was going to go back and do something different. She went back and at the next nurse managers meeting, she first apologize to the staff which put them all off. So they were like what what is happening, then she explained just a little bit about appreciative inquiry, and that she had been going about this in the complete wrong way. And she asked them the question, she said, Do you have patients on your units that are satisfied? And they were like, Oh, of course we do. And we have some that are so delighted with the service, they send flowers to us afterwards? They said candy and cards. And she said, Well, I want you to study them. This next week, look at what's happening on the floor on each of your units. What is it that's contributing to patient satisfaction? What is it that's contributing to nurses being able to give the highest quality care? And if you can go interview a couple of those patients, and find out what's really making a difference for them. And when you come back next week, I want to hear at least one story from all of you. And she laughed, she felt better. And everybody left with kind of a smile on their face, which had not happened. Any little
Wendy Hanson 13:53
Cheri Torres 13:55
Exactly. The next week, when she walked into the meeting, everybody was buzzing and talking. And that hadn't happened for many, many months. And when she sat down and asked for stories, everyone had at least one story, she began to capture up on the whiteboard, what people were doing. And they hadn't waited for her to say, Okay, let's make some of these changes. Some of them said, we're already starting to make changes because we see where we can make small incremental changes that are gonna make a big difference. And when they when they left the meeting, she just sat there. And she was like, Could it really be that easy? And she had thought, well, we'll wait we'll see whether or not if you know, the proof is in the next set of surveys that come out. And sure enough, every unit had higher patient satisfaction and one unit had 100% patient satisfaction and Nurse do simple questions on that simple shift. So shifting to a positive frame, what's working? And how can we expand that? And asking the simple questions that she did completely shifted the focus the dynamic, and if sometimes people are like, Oh, that's magical thinking. But if we, if you think about what's going on neuro physiologically in the brain, shifting that focus moves people from protect that, that I've got to defend myself fight or flight, to openness. And when they're open, they have access to creativity, to the ability to connect with one another, and they have access to empathy and stories. And so she just unleashed all of the potential in the room just by that shift.
Wendy Hanson 15:56
Wow, I was so touched by that story in the book. And when you tell it, it's even more touching. And it's, it's so much that, you know, it sounds like they came in as victims. We don't have this, we can't have that. How many? How much do we hear this from managers all over? And that's why I pointed out to tell the medical story, because those folks are certainly our heroes these days. And I have a number of family members who are nurses, and it's tough. And that change of perspective, that I'm not a victim? And what would it be like, you know, and share the good stories, you know, is it's just an and God, you know, you make it sound so easy.
Cheri Torres 16:38
Well, it's, it's simple, but it can be a little challenge. Not easy, right?
Wendy Hanson 16:42
That's another quote in the book. And it's not Pollyanna, either, you know, not like, oh, yeah, we deal with some really, really hard problems here. Yeah. And we have these unconscious drivers that are going to we have to be aware of that as leaders. But what are some other concrete things or another story? I let you lead this what would be? How do we like give people something tangible that say, what are you going to do after your I hear ears perking up all over the world saying, Wow, that's something What am I? How can I possibly do something different like this?
Jackie Stavros 17:20
Yeah, yeah. Let me share a story. Something that I, I know we all deal with is on people coming late to work. People come in late to meetings. And we talk about a story of a manager, his name is Mark. And Melissa is always late to the Wednesday morning 8am meetings. And Mark begins to talk about this with his supervisor, you know, how do I handle Melissa deal with the problem? As the two of them were in conversation? Mark and his supervisor, they really talked about, you know, is this really what the problem is? And he asked Mark, so what's the opposite of being late for the meetings? And he said, well, the positive opposite, and this is going through the name it, flip it frame it. He said, Well, it be Melissa being on time, and routinely hitting her deadlines. So the supervisor, the manager asked one more question and said, All right, so if that was true, let's say Melissa is on time, and she's routinely hitting her deadlines. What's really going on here? And Mark paused and thought about it for a moment. And he said, you know, we have a real strong sense of cohesion, we have a great team. And where that helps that conversation is when when Mark went to talk to Melissa about that. It wasn't about blaming her or talking about the problem of being late, he first began to ask her some generative questions of what is going on, you know, why are Wednesday's a difficult time and through the conversation? You know, Melissa said to mark, you know, 8am on Wednesdays is the only day of the week I have to drop my son Connor off at daycare. You know, what if we had meetings Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday? Or what if we just shifted the meeting till 830. And Mark was beginning to realize I never asked people what was a good time to meet. I knew it was a good time I thought for me to meet. And the way the conversation unfolds in the book, as we talk about it. They really talked about creating a cohesive, high performing team together. And that just began to set the team in a whole different direction. Did a problem of somebody being laid at 8am on Wednesday sketch solvable? Yes, because it shifted the meetings, but it was much more than being on time to a meeting. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 19:49
yeah. Oh, I love that. And I think this is a lesson that you know, all of our coaches have felt during COVID is that sometimes managers Things like, oh, I can't ask personal questions about people's lives, like, I don't want to, I don't want to intrude, you know, and, and some of this, we even ask on our on our 360 that we do is like, you know, who do you know your boss, his closest relatives, the names, do you know the people on your team, their closest people? Because just like that example, if you know that somebody is caring for an elderly parent or has a young baby, and you can, and you're seeing a change in behavior, you can say, oh, you know, how's it going and open up that, like, if we would have had that, that opening in the beginning that that's the only day and and then it sounds like she didn't feel safe enough to say that to him in the beginning. And that's the thing that as we go along, if you can create that safety, psychological safety and other big thing, right, we need to make sure that we, if we know our people, especially because we're all remote, yet, you know, it's hard to get in the background of folks, you know, we get to know their kids and dogs on Zoom calls all the time, because they pop in. But yeah, oh, I love that story.
Cheri Torres 21:07
That's great. Your your comments, Wendy reminded me of a conversation. We had just a couple days ago, how important relationships are, and taking the time to have those relationships. Because when you do, not only do you end up a psychological safety, that typically you make up for that time, because things run so much more smoothly. It's in
Wendy Hanson 21:33
the investment of time, that proves I don't have much time and they're busy in the doing, but not in the the reflection time the with somebody else to get to know them. We have something that we're working on more and more, which is a part of the content in our library. It's how to work with me. So people answer questions about like, This is who my family is, this is the best time to communicate. This is why my weekends are sacred, you know, that type of thing. If we know this upfront, and if people on teams know that about each other, how much easier it is because when you join a team, you never know until you break the rules what the rules were right. There's no rules. Oh, we don't do that here. Yes.
Cheri Torres 22:15
Right. That's that whole ask the generative question to make the invisible visible? Yes, yes. Ah.
Wendy Hanson 22:23
So I love, love, love the five classic questions for appreciative inquiry. And with your permission, it's in the book, I would love to put this in the show notes. So if people are driving while they're listening to this, they don't have to worry about writing these down. But maybe you can kind of go through that chart a little bit so that people could understand how simple it is and how you could use this on one on ones and getting to know people on your team.
Cheri Torres 22:50
Sure. The first Appreciative Inquiry question, which is the most classic question is, tell me about a time when tell me a story about we often and especially I think managers, because there's so much on their plate, there's a tendency to go from bullet points. And when we go for the bullet points, we miss the richness of the whole story. And sometimes the bullet point that's most important, doesn't show up because it's buried in the story. And so asking people about high point experiences, for example, if an employee is erratic in their work, you could say, you know, when you're at your best, and you turn in your best work, what's going on for you tell me a story about when you were really at your best and turned in the highest quality work, and you knew it? And then you could follow that with kind of two traditional questions, which are, what did you value about yourself? In that story? What did you value about others? And what conditions made it possible for you to be at your best? Now there's a whole set of information there for us, for the manager and the staff member to think together about how do we apply those conditions, and the strength and the value to every time when you're doing your work? So now you're in a conversation about it's a it's a feedback conversation, but it's a conversation about how to move forward, instead of criticize what's in the past.
Wendy Hanson 24:36
And can I say to that, you know, that reflection, I think some people would be like, Oh, God, I never thought of that, you know, to ask those that they're not you know, they're burnt into your souls now, but you know, to some people, they're like, Wow, I would have never thought to ask those questions. Can you just repeat those questions again for people before you go on to the next round? Sure.
Cheri Torres 24:59
It's Think of a time or big of a high point time when you were at your best doing your work? Or if there's any, whatever the focus of this conversation is, it's think of a time when you are at your best doing X. And tell me about that time. What did you value about yourself? What conditions made that possible? And depending upon the context of your conversation, whether an employee another question that you can ask is what gives life to you? When you're at your best? Like, what? When you come most alive and more, what are you doing? And that can give some indication of, oh, we've got you working in the wrong place, we need you over here. That's where you're going to come alive and add the greatest value. The fourth AI question, which is very standard, classical question, is to put people in the future. So it's imagine a time when, let's say that, let's say we go back to that first example. And you've talked about when a person has been at their best on a project, and they're about to start in on a new project with a new team. So imagine you're starting in working on this project with this new team. And it turns out to be the best experience for you, you're able to bring your strengths, you're able to add value, collaborate at your highest value on your team members, put yourself in the future when the project is done, and tell me what that's like. And now, tell me what conditions did the team set up to make that possible? What did you commit to do? So you're basically putting somebody in the future, imagining what's possible, and our brain, the right brain? Which is that, that storytelling and imagery part of the brain doesn't have a past, present and future context. It's always now. So when you imagine yourself in that future, and you get a bold image, what does that look like? And how did I contribute? And what did I do? That we are compelled almost to follow into that? So by asking that question, it's inspiring the person to be their best going forward. And then the final question is a question. That's a wishes question. What are your wishes? What are your three wishes might be? What are three wishes you have about how I can support that project team? What are three wishes that you would like to make happen to make our department better, or? And it's so and that's that positive framing piece. It's talking about what you want, instead of talking about what you don't want. And it's asking the generative questions to allow the whoever you're talking to, to provide the answers for things. You don't have managers, so often ask a question to ask a generative question. And then they answer it. I mean, I am guilty of that myself. When you have that generative question, don't answer it, go to the person or go to the team and ask the question. And the more you do that, the more you're going to discover, oh, my goodness, I never would have come up with that. But now you know exactly what the team needs, or you have a better solution. My kind of my final hope and wish for managers is that they move from I'm the Manager I'm supposed to have answers to I'm the manager, I'm supposed to have questions that will engage the best of my people so that we collectively have the answers.
Wendy Hanson 29:07
Yeah, well, that's beautiful. And it's it, it's just that whole thing, and I have to really listen and take it in as a manager, that I can then just sit back and the pause, you have to wait because some people are going to be thrown by some of those questions when they're asked first time. You know, like, Alicia is team, you know, of the of the nurses that are like, what's going on here? What's happened, what's happened to her? So, you know, it's, it's a practice for both sides, you know, to be able to think that way. But I love putting ourselves in the future. You know, that that's a lot of what we do in our in our coaching programs is you know, it's six months from now, and your team is running great. What would you be doing? Yeah. And that's hard for some people, especially real left brain people, engineers, like how can I do that? But we all have to practice that muscle. Now, is there something that we didn't get to? There's lots of things we didn't get to talk about and say, but is there like anything that's like, oh my god, we can't finish this podcast without this. Before I talk a little bit about the tools on your website and things.
Jackie Stavros 30:17
I think I want to emphasize the importance of tuning in. And that the practice, we say, or the technique is, you can feel yourself when you're at that line are moving below the line in the importance of pause, just pause, and then take a deep breath, and get really curious, there may be some questions to ask yourself. So you come back to that line and above that line, so that you can engage in a conversation worth having with with other
Wendy Hanson 30:44
people. Yeah, yeah. And as we're coming upon, you know, this time of year, we're heading towards the holidays, you know, all the practices in your book. And I love that you give examples of that, too. It's, you know, this is important for families, this is important questions that parents can ask children, I have actually sent it already, I went on your website, and you have some great pragmatic tools, my favorite things you can put to use right away. And I sent it to my niece, Bridget, for her two very positive, curious young girls, Charlotte and Amelia. So that, you know, this is a, this is something that goodness, if kids learned this, and I'm sure you all have worked on this, if we started this at an early age, we're hitting people that are in mid career and kind of like, wow, that's a different way to do business. And knowing that it works, and I love the example of, you know, the the founder of VSA, you know, he was, you know, no matter no matter what level you're at, you can keep learning and making things happen. And I really appreciated that about your website, that there are things that you can really do. So if people want to get more information and connect with the two of you, what's the best way we'll have social media links in our show notes, but anything else?
Jackie Stavros 32:01
Yeah, go to our websites Cwh dot today, that's C W H dot today, and you can download a conversation toolkit. We have questions for work, we have questions for for our children for school, a video clip and executive summary of the book. And there's, there's eight different ways to order the book, if you're interested in we have blogs on there. So you might want to scan through the blogs and say, Yeah, I've, I've noticed this problem and see how the flip it the name it, flip it frame it goes.
Cheri Torres 32:30
You can also you can also download the introduction, the preface of the introduction for free on the website,
Wendy Hanson 32:38
which are which are really moving. You know that that was really great also, and C w h i When I first looked at us like what is this conversations worth having? So if you're trying to remember this now it's it's conversations worth having C wh
Jackie Stavros 32:55
Yeah, either way, I'll get you you can type out conversations with an s worth having today, or CW H dot today. Either way, I'll get to our website.
Wendy Hanson 33:03
Right. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today. I certainly learned a lot. And I hope that the people that are listening are going to be reaching out and learning more because we could change the workplace. And we really need to right now people are struggling. It's a tough time. And managers need to have new tools as they want to retain people. You know, we're dealing with the great resignation. And when people feel heard, and trust, and all that and somebody uses empathy as a way to lead. You know, we're going to be able to build stronger workplaces in the future. So thank you so much.
Cheri Torres 33:42
Thank you so much. Really appreciate the opportunity. Well, we
Wendy Hanson 33:46
may have to have you back again. But we decided to part two, yes, yes. All right. And if anybody has questions, they can send me an email if they you can. You can send me an email and vote for like, come back like get a consider victory. Get Cheryl and Jackie back again. Wendy a bettermanager.us.