A new approach to getting the best from Teams
Putting imagination to work as a “hard edged” business tool for accountability and creating sustainable business outcomes
Imagination has long been thought of as a soft, “feel good” concept that has no place amongst the hard edged realities of the business environment. The latest developments in Neuroscience, Quantum Physics and Solution-Focused Brief approach to change make it clear that nothing could be further from the truth however.
Harnessing your and your team’s imagination, in other words, focusing on “what is possible” is proving to be one the most effective methods to achieve sustainable business outcomes.
Conventionally team building and facilitation work focus on “solving the problems” or the dis-functionalities of a team and by so doing aim to encourage the team to become more efficient and achieve ever greater things. This approach has often been found to have limited success for 2 main reasons:
- Energy flows where attention goes
- Sustaining change is hard work….
What do those statements mean, how do they impact people management and team building processes and what is the way forward?
To start with the first statement: Energy flows where attention goes:
One of the counter-intuitive but by now well established principles of Quantum Physics says that the act of observing an object affects the state of that object, in other words an object (an atom for example) does not exist in isolation from the input of the observer. So it is with the brain. The developments of new brain scanning techniques (FMRI for example) have led neuroscientists to conclude that the brain functions as a Quantum process. At a very simplified level, this means that when our brains have developed a map or circuitry around a “problem” and we decide to “work through” this problem we actually strengthen the circuitry. By focusing our attention on these “problem” connections we actually create more and more of them. In other words when we workshop a problem with someone or a team, we set ourselves up to fail in the long run, because all we are doing is making it bigger and stronger all the time.
The smallest Difference that Makes a Difference
Solution-focused and strength based work takes the opposite route. It asks you to imagine: “If this is the problem you don’t want to have anymore… what would you like to have instead?” It asks: “What is the preferred future?”, and “What is smallest difference, that makes a difference, that will move you one little step closer to the preferred future?” By doing so the brain starts to make brand new connections. The process of creating new connections releases lots of positive energy. Harnessing this energy by taking concrete steps and committing to new constructive actions starts to cement the new circuitry.
This brings me to the second statement above. It is all very well to have this rush of positive energy, but it doesn’t take long before the gravitational pull of doubt or habit drags us back to our old familiar ways and ancient problems and the beautiful new connections that we formed only a few days ago whither on the vine. Before we know it things are back to where they were and all we remember is that there was something very pleasant about that hour or that day during the coaching session. The hoped for sustainable change evaporates.
Solution-focused brief coaches and facilitators take the next step to nurture the new connections and help them grow big and robust and overgrow the old “problem” connections. We do that in a number of ways but first and foremost this is done through committing to action. What are you going to do from today, tomorrow, next week? What specific, measurable actions are you prepared to commit to, to move closer and closer to the preferred future. What are you prepared to experiment with, something small, but something different, something you haven’t tried before. We do this at every coaching session, and it is one of the crucial differences between Solution-focused Team work and other forms of team building. We write the actions and experiments down, and then we follow up. This is where accountability comes in. You and the team commit to specific measurable, achievable actions, and you know you will be held accountable to those actions at the next session, by the members of your team, by the coach, and most importantly by yourself.
It is this rigorous follow up and accountability that really sustains the change and nurtures the growth of the new circuitry in the brain. It will motivate you to keep moving forward to your and your teams preferred future, relentlessly transforming your imagined future into your day-to-day activities.
- Team Coaching with the Solution Circle by Daniel Meier
- Quiet Leadership by David Rock
- Brief Coaching for Lasting Solutions, by Insoo Kim Berg
- Solution Focused Coaching by Anthony Grant