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Appreciative Inquiry with Lindsey Godwin

Two for You — take two minutes to live and lead with intention

Episode 2.6

What direction have your questions been taking you in? Watch this episode of Two for You as Lindsey Godwin from the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College talks about the power of our questions to navigate change.



Note: Two for You written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.

[Lori] Hello and welcome to Two for You. We are thrilled to have Lindsey Godwin with us today who is the director of the Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College. Welcome, Lindsey!

[Lindsey] Thanks for having me.

[Lori] Thanks for joining us. Appreciative inquiry - it has a real focus in the power of questions to create positive change. Can you share why questions are so important for leaders to pay attention to?

[Lindsey] Yeah, I think that questions are at the heart of everything we do in leadership and change, because questions really focus our attention to pay attention to certain things and to ignore other things. We're programmed to answer questions and so the different types of questions that we ask, it's telling us what data to pay attention to, what data to ignore, what people to engage, what people to not engage to answer a question. So much so that we have a principle in appreciative inquiry called the "simultaneity principle" - the idea that questions and change are not separate moments, they're the same moment. So oftentimes in organizations, we think that we'll go ask a bunch of questions to figure out what we need to change. For example, communication. We'll go to a focus group and we'll be like, "Tell me about communication," but the idea is that change is starting with that very first question that we asked them. "Tell me about communication." You're focusing everybody on communication and if you don't put it in an appreciative way, you're probably only going hear about what's wrong.

[Denise] It's so true and I really like your comments there. The whole idea that change and inquiry are simultaneous, that's new to me and I really like that. So if you're thinking about giving us a tip and how we can reframe our questions to go from that deficit language to that appreciative in nature, what would you share with us?

[Lindsey] I think you can flip any question into an appreciative question if you really focus on asking what you want more of versus what you want less of. So again, that word appreciative is an economic term, really. This idea to appreciate, to grow in value. So are you asking questions about what you want to start doing, what you want to build, what you want to reinforce. Not what you want to stop or tear down or weaken. Really focusing those questions on are you asking what you want more of because again that's going to focus everybody's attention on that and that's what you're going to end up moving the organization towards. So ask those questions about what you want more of, not less of.

[Denise] Thank you, Lindsey, for your time and your insights. And for those of you listening, how bold are your questions? What can you do to ask questions that spark others and create positive change as you live and lead with intention. 

Authors: Lori Rothstein and Denise Stromme, former Extension educators

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