Positive Change Questions
These three questions create positive direction, momentum and creativity–fast. I’d guess that in most situations 95% of the problems that might have been brought up in tension-causing ways are dealt with simply by answering these questions. That saves a lot of potential waste of time and emotional energy from blaming, defensiveness, avoidance, obfuscation of the goals, etc. If there are still problems to be dealt with after answering these questions, I find that people address them more positively and optimistically having already created significant momentum towards their goal(s).
Our Positive Change Questions tend to increase momentum, goal-focus and unity in a team. Each question has specific effects on the people answering them:
Goals? It is part of being human to be regularly distracted from our goals by the demands of the day, the stressors of the moment, and the frustrations caused by problems. It can be easy to become focused on fixing problems that may have little impact on our actual goals, particularly in interpersonal dynamics. Answering this question helps to refocus ourselves on the point of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
What works? This helps us build upon momentum that already exists by first asking about our past successes. This question has many powerful benefits. This builds confidence by focusing upon the capabilities, attitudes, tools and resources we already have. It helps us to remember to do what has been successful when we might otherwise have left it behind unnoticed and unappreciated. A third benefit is that we learn during these dialogues about many best practices that others have used and how they were used successfully. Then we focus on what is currently working for others. This broadens our focus by learning from others’ best practices as well. These conversations also help motivate people to strive to create best practices that will be mentioned in such discussions in the future. There is a very healthy pride that is cultivated in these discussions as well.
I’ve noticed with many clients that “What works?” is rarely used during most teams’ problem solving. This habit often lowers morale, creates meetings most people loathe, and the too common Blame Game.
What else? I find it very helpful to do this after the “What’s working” discussion so that we are building upon the momentum and thus it is far easier to keep focused on solutions and away from blame.
It is helpful to “think out of the box” regularly, too. Allowing a free flow of ideas on other alternatives is the fundamental step in innovation. I’ve found it also builds a sense of vitality and creativity in teams. Done well, it cultivates a culture in which ideation is rewarded and innovation is fostered. It is very helpful to have commonly agreed upon brainstorming guidelines during this stage.