Listening to others

This is the eighth in this series of blogs / newsletters.  

Evolution has taught us that it is often adaptive to focus on redressing weaknesses rather than celebrating strengths.  This applies both to how we evaluate our own experience and the actions of others .  At work and school we often focus on training people to improve on areas of weakness rather than setting them free to excel at what they are good at. However, an area of weakness can often only be taken from poor to mediocre, whereas strengths can be developed into excellence.

Creating an excellent team in sport or at work means understanding the roles where people have the opportunity to become excellent.  To do this we need to get into the habit of recognising where people’s strengths lie.  Looking for the best in other people also shines a bright light on our own experience.  At the end of a yoga class, a teacher often finishes with the word namaste, “the light in me recognises the light in you”

In this newsletter we introduce the Breathe London motivational interviewing technique for helping identify other people’s strengths. This will provide you with an invaluable leadership tool but will bring you a sense of joy as you share and celebrate each other’s strengths.

The tendency to focus on deficits can be seen in the way we discuss work performance with colleagues and academic performance with children.  Amazingly the research suggests that when we are asked to identify what other people are good at we find it really difficult to say when they are at their best.  Research also tells us that something amazing happens when people are asked to talk about their greatest achievements, their happiest moments and their heroes – ENERGY!   When we talk about the highlights in our lives something magical happens.  Simply replaying the events helps us relive those events and we enjoy a flood of positive emotions and a positive effect on our bodies.

Discussing when we are at our best enables us to make a cognitive link between a mastery experience and our emotions. By recalling a great moment from our past we may also uncover a great strength that we no longer use or we may tap into old passions which can be enjoyed again.  A flow of positive emotions enables us to overcome current challenges, fosters creativity and helps us identify where we should be investing our time and energy. In order to help people identify their top strengths, psychologists use techniques such as motivational interviewing and have developed psychometric tests to help people tap into their strengths. This is our technique.  I hope you enjoy it.

All we ask you to do is observe friends and colleagues and use the following motivational interviewing technique. Ask a series of questions which help tap into the highlights and peak performance of others.

The cycle of questioning is based around asking essentially the same question about when the person experiences a peak experience.  (Opening) After the introduction question we ask the person to clarify and focus on what in particular about the experience was a highlight (Pursue). The third question asks them how they felt about the experience and how their energy levels were (Energy).  This is a critical stage in the questioning and observation.  When people discuss their passions and highlights their body language and energy levels are clearly raised .  Get into the habit of observing when someone’s body and face becomes more open, their hands more expressive and their voices more elevated and flowing.  These are the magic moments when positive emotions flow between people.  At these times you are sharing and celebrating strengths and helping people make an intellectual link between when they feel good and their actions. To help people cement this link we ask a question to help them link their emotion to their experience (Navigate).  Finally we help summarise and clarify their experience (Summarise) and then repeat the process by asking similar questions.

The whole process of questioning opens the heart, matches experience to emotions and can be summarised as follows:

Opening question – think about strengths
Pursue details – focus and clarify
Energy and feelings – how did it make them feel?
Navigate – assign a reason
Summarise – which strength were they demonstrating

Practice this technique with friends and colleagues and get into the habit of looking for strengths in others.
In order to help you practice using the OPENS model take a look at our list of questions and decide which category ( O,P,E,N or S) they fall into.  This will get you thinking about what sort of questions to ask. I hope you found this a useful tool for getting the best out of friends and colleagues.

Some example of the OPENS questions 

Tell me about yourself.  Tell me some every day thing that you enjoy doing.
You’ve mentioned many things that you enjoy doing.  What would you say you enjoy most?
How does that activity make you feel?

Why do you think that you enjoy this the most?
So it seems to me that [FOR EXAMPLE – you love bringing people together]

Tell me more?
Do you have lots of opportunities to do the activity that you enjoy the most?
You also said that you enjoy doing [ ],.  Why do you think that you enjoy doing this?
You mentioned lots of things that you like doing.  What do you like doing the most?
Tell me more?
Why isn’t it top of your list?
Do you enjoy doing anything outside of work?
Tell me about that?
Why do you think that you enjoy doing that?
Do you enjoy doing anything work related?
Tell me about that?
Why do you think that you enjoy doing that?

What makes you feel like you have had a successful day?  What makes a really good day for you?
Can you tell me about a good example of this?
What made it special?
Can you think of other times like this?  Tell me about it?
Can you tell me about the best thing that ever happened to you?
What made it so good?
From what you tell me you get a real buzz out of [ ]

What are you doing when you feel at your best?
What factors made this happen?
What or who contributed to this?
Why do you think that this is so?
When do you feel most alive and energised?
Looking back to your youth, what were your best times?
Taking everything into account it sounds like you are at your best when you are doing [ ] and [ ]
What were you doing?
What situations do you feel most comfortable in?
What would you say are your pride and joys?
Why do you take pride in this and what gives you a sense of pride?
What would you say that you are most passionate about?
Describe what it feels like to enjoy this passion?
When do you feel that the real me is coming out?
Which situations do you find yourself in when you are expressing the real me
What situations invigorate you?
Tell me more?
I want to know more about this.
Tell me what makes you want to keep doing this activity and not stop?
If you could choose a vision of the future, what would it be?
Why is this important to you?
How will you make that vision happen?
What do you think makes you happy?
It sounds like you’re really good at [ ]
I can see from the way you are talking that you feel passionately about [ ]

All the best Andy

Posted on April 4, 2012, in Coaching, Meditation etc. and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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