Green House Blog

Leading a Strengths Revolution

Pop quiz: Write down all of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Have a lopsided list? So did participants at this October’s Leading Age Annual Meeting & IAHSA Global Aging Conference in Washington, DC.
Attendees were asked to complete a similar reflection on personal strengths and weaknesses.

A show of hands illustrated that while most of us have little sense of our talents, we have become experts in our flaws and how to repair them. According to Marcus Buckingham, co-author of First, Break All the Rules, our strengths often lie dormant and neglected while our managers, teachers, and parents guide us to become experts in our weaknesses. Select general sessions at Leading Age’s 50th Celebration reminded leaders of this unique perspective: motivating staff to build on their strengths rather than correcting their weaknesses is a successful management strategy to develop and retain people.

The Green House Project was created to do just that – grow people – elders and staff alike. One core philosophical belief is the acknowledgment of good in every person, every organization, and heck, even every policy and procedure. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is the search for the best of. Unlike a cookbook approach, it’s a view and a process for facilitating positive change. And, like cupcake bakeries, it’s becoming widespread.

Appreciative Inquiry to Foster Change featured Schlegel Villages, a senior living organization with 11 communities in southern Ontario, and their evolution from institutional to social models of living. In partnership with the Research Institute for Aging at the University of Waterloo, their collaborative process examined the best of what exists, a stark contrast to discussions about what doesn’t work. Using the Appreciative Inquiry 4D cycle (discovery, dream, design, and destiny) over the course of two years, residents, families, and Schlegel team members are living their vision of the future.

Has the cynic in you kicked in? Until you do it, there’s no way to discover AI’s practicality. Don’t worry if you don’t have a major change program established. The process begins with a simple question at the end of a meeting: what did we do well?

The Green House model, like Schlegel Villages, mobilizes change through reflection and action. Wherever you are on your journey, involving all stakeholders is one of the most effective culture change initiatives. Appreciative Inquiry reminds us that our focus becomes our reality; we have the power to bring forth the best in people and in our own organizations.