2 responses to “Appreciative Leadership”

  1. An interesting article, and I’m all for simplicity! I do look forward to reading some of Amanda’s comments though.

    I work with managers from hundreds of small businesses, all of whom are really busy, time strapped, and often lacking in confidence or practical “know-how” to deal with the very real people issues and challenges which come up every day. Sometimes I think we, as trainers, coaches and academics, can make theories and models too complex for the average manager – who is often looking less for theory, and more for practical tips and techniques they can use to deal with the underperformer, or lack of morale, or conflict or whatever other “people challenge” they face.

    I worked as a teacher for 17 years, before going into industry and becoming a manager myself. In those years I learned to look for, or create practical ways to apply the theory, so I could see if it worked or not! I’m also mindful of a lesson I learned from one of my own coaches: “A fourth grader is “God” to a third grader.” Sometimes I suspect theories such as AI or Emotional Intelligence or the dozens of other models/theories just seem to make management and leadership more complicated if we’re not careful! As trainers and coaches, we like the academic and theoretical nature of these theories and approaches but I suspect the average manager isn’t waking up asking himself, “How can I focus more on what works today?”

    Cooperrider, who developed AI in the 1980’s talked of always seeking stories of what was working well in a particular area: so for example, if we are interested in improving team morale and motivation, we collect stories and examples of people’s best team experiences, and focus on how we can generate more of this – and this seems at least a start to a plan of action.

    What I’d be interested to know is, if there are any simple suggestions or techniques which your average manager can take away from all the theory. How do we, as coaches and trainers, make this interesting material more accessible and “real”? How do we answer the question the manager might ask which is: “OK – so what can I actually do – starting tomorrow, which will help make a difference?” And how do we help organisations to look for more creative ways to involve managers in the changing of mindset and culture which I believe is crucial to allow any form of AI to work? After all – after years of appraisal processes which focus on weaknesses, plugging gaps and “fixing” people – as you so rightly say – getting managers to understand why and how AI can be a powerful force for improving performance might take some doing!

    I’ve been using some of Gallup’s work – and Buckingham’s strengths assessments within some of the teams I’ve been working with – as a practical way of helping people focus on strengths, and understand some of the fundamental principles behind human learning and performance. Does anyone have any stories of how they have helped managers/organisations successfully apply the principles of AI?

  2. Shona

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I hope that others will repsond to the question regarding “stories of how they have helped managers/organisations successfully apply the principles of AI”? The Appreciative Leadership book actually has some good stories about how this has been done. In my work helping companies develop competency models I always look for opportunities to include appreciative language. But it seems to me the best way to integrate the principles of AI into the fabirc of an organization — and its leaders — is through an an actual AI informed change initiative. It is frequently in those appreciative interviews that the light comes on for many leaders and managers. I think it would be ideal if that “awakening” could be followed up with some appreciative leadership development.

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