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Always Appreciating What's Good...

June 2014

Company of Experts Consulting Services


I have a short drive to work each day and like to listen to my local, non-profit radio program on NPR (National Public Radio). What I like so much about NPR is that I can count on them to search for the story behind the headlines. NPR shares the news of the World (even negative news) and its impact on people, on culture, on politics and more in a story form with metaphors and often with the voices of those who are impacted or part of the story. Often, this connection will have me looking for and finding hope in the most unlikely stories. And, what reality is being created by the stories that we tell? What meaning are we making in our conversations and what social agreements are emerging? What Appreciative Inquiry Principles (link to principles on website) are at play here and how might I use this as my personal learning or as a Trainer, Facilitator, Coach?


I have been fortunate to work with the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) and follow their work throughout the World. This article, Voices from the White Working Class Community in Manchester, rings familiar with a few groups that I have been working with in the U.S. Most of us want the same things, Love, Respect, Freedom, Peace, Acceptance, Hope, Inspiration, Health, Family, and Friends. It is our shared humanness that connects us.

A foundation of Appreciative Inquiry is The Constructionist Principle, derived from 'Social Constructionist' theory, states that the language we use shapes our social reality. Meaning is made in conversation, and what emerges as knowledge is a broad social agreement created among people through communication.


The Constructionist Principle recognizes that there are many different ways of viewing social reality and many truths, and that we can replace "absolutist claims or the final word with the never-ending collaborative quest to understand and construct better options for living" (David L Cooperrider, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution In Change).


What does this mean in practice? When our mindset or paradigm is challenged, it means challenging almost everything we hold to be true. When people change their beliefs, reality changes. We saw that when we worked on the Macon Miracle. An inquiry with 4500 people.  


Question: How do we contribute to the dialogue? What questions will you ask? What stories will you share?



Kathy Becker,  

President of Company of Experts, Inc. 

Realizing Dreams

It's a challenge to realize your own personal dreams. It's an even bigger challenge to lead an organization or team into realizing what is possible to achieve. Leaders can lose themselves in the building of a better future. The organization takes front and center and the leader is drained of the inner capacity to give more. When that happens, what was once fun and light becomes heavy and burdensome. If you are going to maintain or even increase well-being when reaching toward the highest goals, you must pay careful attention to the journey itself.


According to Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar in the course Realizing Dreams, "... our success and our happiness is to a great extent contingent on the attitude we hold toward ourselves." Or, as the well-known psychotherapist and writer Dr. Nathaniel Branden says, "Self concept is destiny."

That attitude toward self is a continual inquiry. What's the truth behind what keeps you going? What feeds you? How do you build energy that gives you a "can-do" attitude? This inner reserve of power is the well you pull from to say yes to daring new actions... Read Full Article>>
The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations
Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones?


A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend - the sting from any of these can make you forget a month's worth of praise or accord. If you've been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you're likely to remember and internalize it. It's somehow easier to forget, or discount, all the times people have said you're talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.


Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet - the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact. Read Full Article>> 

The Chaos of Change: 3 Keys to Leading Through Transitions

We all know managing change is never easy, but you can do a better job of leading during transitions by tapping the strengths of the existing culture.   

How often do change initiatives succeed? Not often enough. A 2013 survey of global senior executives by Strategy&/Katzenbach Center reveals that the success rate of major change initiatives is only 54 percent. Yikes.


Why the high failure rate? According to a superb article in strategy+business by organizational change experts DeAnne Aguirre and Micah Alpern, there are three hurdles that usually get in the way:  

  • So-called "change fatigue," that is, the pressure of making too many changes in too little time.
  • A loss of faith in the initial impetus for the changes. This usually occurs when results come too slowly.
  • Not enough input from employees below the C-suite. As a result, the actual executors of the changes (who are rarely the high-ranking executives) don't have enough ownership in the initiatives they're supposed to be leading.  

In their article, Aguirre and Alpern offer 10 guiding principles to help leaders overcome these obstacles. Here are three of them... Read Full Article>>  

The Secret to Great (and Highly Effective) Employee Communications

How do you encourage an environment of great (and highly effective) employee communications?


Most people you ask - employees and "great workplace" experts alike -  agree that open and plentiful communications are high on the list of factors that make a job great. But as you set out to ensure you're communicating in a way that befits an excellent workplace, keep two things in mind:

  • The basic rules of communication never change.
  • Today, the basic rules of communication have changed.

Don't you love a good paradox? Let's start with the second rule. The rules of communication have changed. Today, organizations communicate with employees via email, social media, Intranet sites, video conferencing, podcasts, texting - the list of new electronic media is mind-boggling and ever-changing. You may embrace these new technologies or they may terrify you, but I'm afraid you have no choice about using at least some of them. Except in the very smallest of organizations, digital communication is here to stay. How long since you last used a book to look up some quick bit of information? Read Full Article>>

Is "Why" an Appreciative Question?

A few days ago I shared a fascinating HBR article on LinkedIn titled, "Become a Company That Questions Everything". The article talks about how companies should encourage curiosity in the workforce by inviting employees and other stakeholders to ask questions. The article itself has a large graphic of the word "why". As I shared the article on our various social media outlets, one person asked me if "why" is an appreciative question. I stopped what I was doing just so that I could let that question sink in. I mean, I believed it could be, depending on the context in which it is used but I was curious as to what others thought.


After pondering the question for a day or so, I posted the question on various LinkedIn groups I am connected to. The question spread like wildfire. I was honored that so many people took the time to share their thoughts and experiences. The discussions that emerged were engaging and insightful. Read Full Article>> 

Transform Your Vision Into Action with These 3 Steps
What's the coolest thing you've always wanted to try but haven't done? Have you always wanted to live in Florence? Try an open-mic night? Take a class on ornamental horticulture? Climb Mt. Everest? Take a six-month sabbatical?

Here's a question: Why haven't you? 


If you deeply desire to turn that long-held dream into a reality, these three steps will help you transform your vision into action:

  1. See it clearly. It starts with two simple words: goal clarity. If the end result appears fuzzy to you in any way, then you will struggle to accomplish it. Most people simply do not spend enough time defining what "success" really looks like.

There are two ways to mentally make a plan for climbing the metaphorical mountain... Read Full Article>>

Organizational Culture in the Digital Age

When we think of marketing and social media in organizations it's often with the focus being on the external environment and our external customers. This is not wrong by any means, but I think we can too often take for granted another key stakeholder we are communicating to, our internal customers, our employees.


Our employees make up who we are as an organization and they have a great impact on our culture. The questions we have to constantly ask as leaders are "What experience am I creating for them?" And, "Is it aligned with the culture I want in the organization?" Social Media and how we use it as an organization can have a great impact in creating experiences that impact the culture. Read Full Article>> 

Consultancy - Documentation Through Appreciative Inquiry

Are you experienced in Appreciative Inquiry and interested in providing short-term consulting for UNICEF?


Are you experienced in Appreciative Inquiry and excited about bringing this approach to the work of a leading international organization like UNICEF?

UNICEF DRC is looking for a short-term consultant to promote knowledge management and institutional memory through documentation of best practices and lessons learned, using Appreciate Inquiry (AI).


The AI approach is primarily an organizational development method which focuses on increasing what an organization does well rather than on eliminating what it does badly. Through an inquiry which appreciates the positive and engages all levels of an organization it seeks to renew, develop and build on this. The consultant hired should therefore be familiar with this approach. Read Full Article&>>  

Why Your Workplace Culture Needs Play

"Play" lights me up. Why? It brings out such values as curiosity, learning, development, collaboration and being in co-creative relationships with others. Play speaks to the human side of business. It's fun, developmental, positive and when freely initiated it's self-organized. Play is a developmental and life-long activity.


Recently, I had the good fortune to spend some considerable time immersed in the topic of play, in my voluntary capacity as Chief Curation Officer, and speaker for TEDxNavesink on the topic play. There were 24 talks and entertainments on this topic across all stages of life, as well as a wide range of contexts, and expressed through a number of lenses: psychologists, researchers, technologists, gamers, writers, musicians, kids, educators, an anthropologist, a spiritual teacher, a toy designer, a venture capitalist, an improv artist, an artisan beer maker, and an organization development professional.


There were many takeaways from the TEDx Play event, and in this post, I focus on one big one: the distinction between free play and managed play.  As an organizational development professional actively working to bring the values of play into workplaces, free vs managed play resonated. Read Full Article>>  

10 Ways to Nurture Wellbeing and Build Resilience
We live in a busy world where children as well as adults encounter challenges and may find this stressful. Some people are naturally confident and resilient but most of us need some help. So how do we support children who need a helping hand? I passionately believe that we need to talk more about the positive factors which nurture wellbeing. The prevention of mental health issues makes such sound sense.


Wellbeing is not about being happy all the time or living a charmed life cushioned from want or challenges. Wellbeing is having the personal resources- mental, emotional, social and spiritual to deal with life's challenges and having the skills to create a good life which is authentic and satisfying. Wellbeing is not something we can assume comes naturally and we cannot afford to leave it to chance.


Positive Psychology has a growing evidence base on what creates wellbeing. Here are my top 10 ways to promote wellbeing so that children flourish. Read Full Article>> 

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Celebrating 25 Years With Huge Savings on our Appreciative Inquiry Trainings
Since 1989, Company of Experts has developed an excellent word-of-mouth reputation by helping hundreds of organizations and groups, and thousands of individuals, heighten their energy, sharpen their vision, and inspire their action for change.


To celebrate 25 years, we are offering an additional $250.00 savings on all 2014 Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainings (AIFT) being hosted in Las Vegas! Register early and combine your $250.00 savings on top of our Early Bird Registration Discount. Please enter promo code: THEBIG25 upon checkout to receive our 25 year celebratory discount. Discount cannot be combines with group rates or other offers. 

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Payment Plan Program is now available for ALL of our workshops!


Company of Experts, Inc. is pleased to offer a Payment Plan Program as a manageable alternative to paying your workshop registration in a lump-sum payment. Our Payment Plan Program allows you to pay your workshop registration over a number of weeks/months, interest free.


Enrollment in our free Payment Plan Program will reserve your seat(s) in the training of your choice. Your reserved seat(s) permit you to receive all the benefits of registered participants, such as access to any pre-workshop readings, materials and activities.  Learn More>>  

Become a Host for our Trainings
We offer incentives to hosting organizations for their hospitality

Company of Experts is seeking host organizations throughout the world to host any of our trainings (Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT), Department Chair Institute (DCI), and Leadership Development Institute(LDI)). To show our gratitude, host organizations receive two complimentary registrations for a training held on their site when minimum enrollment is met.
Host organizations may limit the training to people at their organization or it can be open to others. If the training is open, Company of Experts partner with the host organization to help promote the training.  
Please contact Kathy for more information.

In This Issue
Realizing Dreams
The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations
The Chaos of Change: 3 Keys to Leading Through Transition
The Secret to Great (and Highly Effective) Employee Communications
Is "Why" an Appreciative Question?
Transform Your Vision into Action with These 3 Steps
Organizational Culture in the Digital Age
Consultancy - Documentation Through Appreciative Inquiry
Why Your Workplace Culture Needs Play
10 Ways to Nurture Wellbeing and Build Resilience
Join our EOC Community - Free for 90 Days
Celebrating 25 Years with Huge Savings on AI Trainings
New Payment Plan Program
Hosting Opportunities
Free Downloads
Upcoming Events
Online Videos Worth Watching
LinkedIn Conversations
Webinar Recordings Available
Visit Our Websites
Free Downloads:
Leadership Excellence (March 2012) - Highlighting Appreciative Inquiry
By: Various Authors 

The Neuroscience of Leadership
By: David Rock & Jeffrey Schwartz

Aligning Strengths Through Appreciative Inquiry
By: Nancy Stetson

Managing with the Brain in Mind
By: David Rock
Upcoming Events:
Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry: Creating What Will Be
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada  
Dates: August 18-19, 2014 

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Cape Town, South Africa 
Dates: August 25-28, 2014   
View Event Page >>  
Class full - registration closed

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada  
Dates: September 16-19, 2014  
Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Chicago, Illinois   
Dates: October 24-26, 2014 
Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT) 
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada  
Dates: November 3-7, 2014   

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) 
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada  
Dates: November 12-15, 2014  
View Company of Experts' Entire Event Calendar
here >>
Recent Tweets

"When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you." - Susan Sarandon  

Do you facilitate innovation by entertaining the possible, or do you stifle it by limiting your attention only to...


: How can telling stories help us as leaders?


RT: Appreciative Inquiry is the art of crafting & asking questions that elicit possibility & inspire hopeful images of the future.  


What makes questions so powerful?  

Videos Worth Watching

Playful Inquiry - Try This Anywhere  

Description: Robyn Stratton-Berkessel demonstrates how a simple, positive question can change your world.


Every Child a Talker - Appreciative Inquiry at Work  

Description: Robbie Macpherson shares a story about infusing AI into his work. 


Whole Systems Healing - Interview with Diana Whitney  

Description: An interview with Diana Whitney about Whole Systems Healing and Appreciative Inquiry.


Appreciative Inquiry in the Working Place 

Description: Prof. John Hayes discusses Appreciative Inquiry and its use in the workplace.  


Every Kid Needs a Champion 

Description: A call to educators to believe in their students' potential. 


Description: In this fast-moving & entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity
LinkedIn Conversations:
Is "Why" an Appreciative Question?
A few days ago I posted an HBR article titled, "Become a Company That Questions Everything". The article talks about how companies should encourage curiosity in the workforce by inviting employees and other stakeholders to ask questions. The article itself has a large graphic of the word "why". As I shared the article, one person asked me if "why" is an appreciative question. I believe it can be, depending on the context in which it is used. What do you think?

As AI practitioners we spend a lot of time helping others discover their positive core (i.e. their strengths, best practices, positive attitudes, knowledge, skills, capabilities, etc.), but we don't always get the opportunity to discover our discuss our own. I'm curious to know how you discovered your own positive core and what you'd say is one of your greatest strengths.

How Do You Deal with Resistance?
Have any of you gone into an organization who resisted using AI? If so, how did you overcome the resistance? Also, I am curious how you were able to get your foot in the door to discuss the benefits of using AI.


We invite you to join our LinkedIn Group called "Discovering Appreciative Inquiry". It is an open group that allows participants to ask questions and share stories in regards to AI. All are welcome!

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