A is for Appreciative

About 20 years ago, I was introduced to the concept of Appreciative Inquiry as a different approach to problem-solving. At the time, I was working in Strategic Partnership Development in a Local Authority and, whilst this was an exciting development area, there were certainly many challenges to overcome with deeply entrenched inequalities.

Appreciative Inquiry was different. It brought light to often dark conversations, and it facilitated growth of the good things instead of putting a plaster on issues and problems. I was hooked and, over time, this approach has been embedded within me.

I’m a glass half-full type of person not half-empty!

We could all do with a dose of positivity at the moment as we enter the third lockdown, so I have dedicated the first in my A-Z series of Governance to being Appreciative, and how it has helped me to maintain focus on the things that really matter.

I try to build this appreciative philosophy into all of my work. Ok, it’s not always been easy - as we tend to be a ‘problem-focused’ society, but there is definitely something in being solution focused.

All of my work takes this appreciative approach. Growing people’s skills and confidence to govern more effectively. The values of my company reflect this too, in fact so does its name - Insight to Impact - using people’s insight to make an impact and a positive difference.

Appreciative Inquiry is well known in the community development world, but less so in the world of governance and challenge - they almost seem poles apart! Can you challenge appreciatively?

School Governors are increasingly having to make difficult and challenging decisions, and I wanted to take the concept of being Appreciative and apply it to School Governance - to see if it could make their role in improving outcomes for children easier.

As we increasingly work remotely, taking an asset approach to our work, thoughts and conversations can help to keep spirits up. Positively charged questions can also help governors to support their senior leaders and staff more effectively.

I have produced a quick guide for governors on Being Appreciative, which looks at how appreciative approaches could improve the understanding of governors and the impact of their decisions. Within it I explore different appreciative techniques that I tend to use, and how they can be used in your governing practice

One quote that stays with me is "‘If what we focus on is magnified by our attention, we want to be sure we are magnifying something worthy’ - the Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry.

And that's what I try to do, focus on the things that are worthy of my attention - grow the positives. So next time you have discussions within your board on pressing matters, try and turn the approach around and positively charge the questions and see what difference it makes to your discussions. For example:

Tackling a deficit budget … becomes … improving our financial health

Reducing staff workload … becomes … improving work life balance

Reducing sickness levels … becomes …Creating a healthy motivated workforce

So, is your governance half-empty or half-full?

Next time in my A-Z of Governance blogs, I will be focusing on ...

Stay safe