Belting Out a Chorus of Appreciations

November 25, 2007

I’m enjoying my ritual viewing of CBS Sunday Morning. Bill Geist has an interesting story to share about people who join in choral singing . . . of complaints.  They are part of a global movement, Complaints Choirs of the World.  You can hardly believe the story line:

It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression “Valituskuoro”. It means “Complaints Choir” and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously.  Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: “Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir!”

 In 9 easy steps you can organize your choir! I like the clarity of directions that spurs on potential participants. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen deserve credit for branding and putting some process into this endeavor.

 In the name of Positive Psychology, I want to counter their offer. How about belting out a chorus of trends in the Discovery phase?  Some 4-part harmony as we Dream of our collective future? An outburst of song as we commit to each Design project? And best of all, we could burst into song as we achieve Destiny! And just to be clear, I promise to appreciate your voice . . . as you appreciate my less tuneful contributions too.


Marcus Buckingham Gets Us Focused on Strengths

September 18, 2007

Author of First Break All the Rules, and Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham has lots to say about how we perceive and deal with the strenghts and weakenesses we believe we possess. Here’s a question to get your interest:
 Raise your hand if you have a sibling; think of them – characteristics and traits.  Buckingham’s memory of his brother and sister was that he recognized their different strengths and weaknesses,  and how aware he was of this early in life; beyond obvious differences, were the subtle ones. He knew he was not the same as they were.

 SLIDE : Build on your strengths and manage around your weaknesses

 Proof of this principle: organizations ask him to study their best <whatever> and he discovers  there is range where there shouldn’t be range; there are great teams in not so great companies and not  so great teams in great companies; a high performing company is a collection of great teams

Some examples:

Based on local economic potential, retailer place stores; what’s going on appears to be improving overall, but when individual stores are graphed there is a scattergram of very broad range of performance;
  luxury car company believes that the quality of the dealership experience is key to success; top 10%
 factory with various shifts which commits to employee safety; top 10% of shifts on number of accidents had none; bottom 10% had 25.26 of recordable incidents

Researching this at Gallup, they found that 12 questions really got at what’s going on (are in First Break All the Rules) – most important question was “At work,do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”

Some people are delusional about their strengths, while most others are accurate.

 SLIDE: In 2000 “Which do you think will help you be most successful?”
 People in US replied:
 41% Strengths; 59% weaknesses
We think good is the opposite of bad and study bad to get more good; our balance is all off

Eyes wide . . .

July 2, 2007

An artifact of my first consulting gig is still among my treasured possessions.  The client group presented it to me on the last day. A poster, adorned with a larger than life image and a message that starts: “Learn to listen like a teddy bear, with your eyes wide open and your mouth sewn tight . . .”  Why Good Things Happen to Good People translates this into Look Again–and Look Truly and Deeply.  The message is about respect.

“requires us to look again, past first impressions and unconscious biases, to gaze deeply in order to understand another person’s history, struggles, life-journey, and perspectives.” How can you help bring more respect into our often biased, unfair world? Are there ways you can demonstrate more tolerance, civility, acceptance, and reverence for others? What is one way you can show respect to someone else today? How did you react to your respect quotient?

In a thumbs up/thumbs down world, where the value of people’s involvement the merit of their ideas are given short shrift, that’s far from the norm.  If the simple idea of pausing to reconsider, of reflecting and weighing and giving way to what’s different or unfamiliar could be a tidal change towards inclusion.  At its birth, the United States symbolically and tangibally captured the ideals of equality and tolerance.  Stephen Post confirms the way we nurture ourselves by personally living those ideals today.

Giving . . . the potent life force

July 1, 2007

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking that “Cleveland rocks”. David Cooperrider and  the Weatherhead School AI programs, BAWB, Jack Ricchiuto, and gatherings for kindred conversations as blogged by Tim Ferris.  How murch more outrageously interesting, thoughtful and world-shaking can one community be?

 Quite a bit it seems, as Stephen Post, a Case Western ethics faculty member, has published Why Good Things Happen to Good People with Jill Neimark.  His research, a compilation of 50 studies from universites like Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago, that explains how giving is truly far better than receiving.  In the words of the book’s reading guide:

WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE defies the myths that drive so many of our ideas about success and the good life. This book shows that the real secret of happiness and success lies in giving of yourself to others, and presents striking new science that shows that giving boosts both our physical and emotional health–across an entire lifetime. When we give, we reduce depression, actually live longer, and open a world of other health benefits.

I’ve decided to devote several days this week to the discussion topics in the guide – as they relate to Independence Day. There are 15 that Post and Neimark suggest.  Every one is a gift for reflection and an impetus to redirect the life choices we make on a day to day basis. 

So  . . . “Know the Four Spheres of Love” is where I’ll start.  The authors offer a landscape . . . envisioning a “geography of love,” in which there are four spheres: family, friends, community, and humanity.  Is there more we can give in each sphere?  Are we growing in our capacity to care, share, commit, sacrifice, persist or whatever it takes to support those speheres?  I was watching a PBS program today that highlighted the realities of George Washington’s service that saw us through the Revolutionary War. What stuck me most was mention that for at least half of the time he was on the battlefield living with his troops, (not in a town home with all the amenitites) his wife Martha lived under the same conditions with him. I imagine her devotion being fully lived in the Four Speheres of Love. I can hardly imagine that the wives of the British military leaders would have done the same for an engagement in England.

The Direction of Your Questions

March 13, 2007

“Answers reflect the past. Questions advise you about the future.”
– Margaret Somerville –

Asking high quality questions of yourself and others is an art. David Cooperrider says, “The first question you ask is fateful.” And further, that individuals and human systems tend to grow in the direction of the questions they ask on a regular basis.

Here’s question that’s swirling in my consciousness these days…I dreamed it up after spending a few days with David at a conference in January.

“How can I consistently engage my nervous system in an appreciative way of being and develop a neural fascination for what gives life, what creates hope and what supports genuine contact and connection with myself and with others?”

The theory and practice of Appreciative Inquiry has shown me that when strength connects to strength and hope is connected to hope, creativity and resources abound. Experience has also shown me that my habitual ways of thinking lean more towards the classic Highlights Magazine puzzles I loved as a kid…”What’s Wrong with This Picture?” Positive sustainable change and an appreciative view go hand in hand…what can you appreciate right here and now in your world?

To appreciate means to increase in value; to become sensitively aware of. Look around–find a friend, a co-worker, a teacher, a sibling, a parent, a child, your husband, your wife, your partner, a politician, a CEO, a clerk, a cashier, a blogger, an author, a musician, a colleague, a dentist, a doctor, a repair person…someone to appreciate–go on an appreciative rampage. Send emails, write a letter, make a phone call; develop and stretch your own capacity. By all means, stay alert to the quality of the questions you live in–as Marliee Adams puts it, “change your questions, change your life.”