Working From Home, Aging Parents, and Strategic Ideas that Don't Move

Jul 20, 2021
Working From Home, Aging Parents, and Strategic Ideas that Don't Move!

Monday Kickstarters gives participants an opportunity to raise challenging conversation topics or situations and work with others to turn them into conversations worth having! In this blog, we look at four situations that have arisen during our Summer Monday Kickstarters.

But I Like Working From Home.

The challenge as we return to some semblance of “normal” after Covid, some people want to continue to work from home, finding it more efficient and effective, while some people (especially management and senior leaders) want everyone back in the office. So far we’ve been arguing and we cannot agree on how best to return to the workplace. Fuel for conflict and discord.

Flipping this challenge to its positive opposite, means “We agree on how best to return to work.”  What might be the outcome(s) if we agree? What is the conversation everyone would like to be in relative to this topic? In other words, what the positive frame?  Here are all the suggestions that emerged during the call:

  • Creating a positive work environment that’s inclusive.
  • We are providing the appropriate environment for our constituents.
  • The work environment brings out the best and most productive for us.
  • We create a working environment that best enables the work that needs to be done and empowers employees the decision-making power to decide that.
  • Getting the work done in the best way.
  • Meet our needs
  • We  build a collaborative work space where we have the opportunity for in person collaboration in addition to balancing remote work.
  • We are best meeting the needs of a highly productive team of students and staff.
  • We are meeting our needs for safety, peace of mind.
  • Everyone is comfortable and productive.
  • We have a work environment that enables all staff to accomplish their tasks in the way that feels most comfortable to them.
  • We meet the needs of the organization and the customer

The frame that was selected was: A working environment where everyone is productive and comfortable. Below are generative questions that people created to help employees and management have a conversation worth having.

Additional generative questions that were offered included:

  • How can we best collaborate on designing our new working environment?
  • In addition to the safety, what has been comfortable and productive about working from home?
  • What lessons has remote work taught us about the way we work and what we need to be successful?
  • How could we support each other if we are working in a hybrid environment?
  • What type of environment would help you be productive?
  • What would be the benefits of returning to the workplace full time?
  • How many ideas can we come up with for what “hybrid” could look like? It’s likely we are having many different assumptions about what that means.
  • How does our decision impact our ability to retain and attract talent?

If you and your organization are stuck in a conflict about returning to the workplace, perhaps you can foster a different kind of conversation by asking some of these questions!

It Takes Forever to Take Action Here.

The challenge is that if I want to do something, I have to take it to my manager, who then takes it to the next higher up, who then has to take it to the senior manager, who then has to take it to the VP, who sometimes has to ask the president. By the time the request gets to the top, it often has lost all the important information I would have communicated and it’s either turned down or I’ve lost enthusiasm when I get an okay. It leads to communication breakdown in so many places.

Flipping this to its positive opposite: there aren’t so many levels and communication is effective.  Several suggestions were made for a positive frame:

  • Clear communications
  • Communication procedures meet everyone’s needs
  • Communication moves clear and quickly to get things done
  • There are clear lines of communication that effectively and efficiently communicate the message to all that need it.
  • Managers have autonomy.
  • We have a decision-making process that supports good communication and taking action quickly.
  • Managers are empowered to act.

The positive frame selected: Simple lines of communication lead to taking action quickly.

The generative questions that were asked included:

  • How might we build a process for manager autonomy in decision making?
  • How can our dialogue enhance work processes?
  • How can we empower our managers?
  • How might we increase trust on our teams to simplify reporting/checking in?
  • What positive actions can we take to enhance our work processes?
  • What would we gain by simplifying the process and empowering managers?
  • Are there any ways we can streamline communication up and down the organization?

When It Comes to Strategy, We’re All Talk and No Action!

The challenge is, we have strategy sessions but nothing happens with the ideas. The quote I hear from everyone is: “Lots of talk, lots of ideas, but when the rubber hits the road, things fall apart.”  Flipping the challenge to its positive opposite, we get: People take action on strategic ideas.  What is the positive frame, however, that will focus the conversation so that we do get traction on our ideas? The following ideas were suggested:

  • We are eager to move forward on strategy and we know what to do.
  • People are actively engaged and have ownership in moving our strategies forward.
  • Everyone is empowered and taking action
  • Bravely, boldly, moving forward
  • Goals get accomplished.
  • We build trust, we know who is doing what and’ the first step and will be aligned
  • Collectively, we feel encouraged and motivated when we take action
  • People are working to energize their strengths to contribute to our strategy.

The positive frame selected was: People are actively engaged and have ownership in boldly and bravely moving strategic ideas forward.  A host of generative questions were suggested.


Worrying About My 95-Year Old Parent Is Going to Kill Me.

The challenge is my 95-year old parent refuses to have in-home help and insists on continuing to drive the car. I worry all the time that sometime will happen, either to them or to someone else because of their driving. They will not have the conversation about getting help or giving up their car. It’s so stressful for me, I worry constantly about them.  Flipping this challenge to its positive opposite: My parent wants in-home help and is no longer driving. This, however, is not a conversational focus your parent will want to participate in. Instead, begin by asking yourself a few questions:

  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What’s going on for me and why do I want or need them to change?
  • Do I really know what’s going on for them?

This is a prime example of when having a conversation worth having begins by asking generative questions instead of creating a positive frame. What information needs to be made visible (on my part and on my parent’s part)? What might change if we can come to a shared understanding around this situation? Below is a great set of questions to get started on having a conversation worth having!

A few additional questions:

  • How can you (parent) feel independent and I feel you are safe in daily living?
  • What would a really great day look like for you, one where you had what you needed and wanted?
  • How come you don’t want in-home help? How do you feel about accepting help?

Do you or a friend have an aging parent that causes you worry? Perhaps you’ll find some questions here that will help you have a conversation that will change the aging parent’s viewpoint and willingness to shift. In addition to asking questions, it can be valuable for you to share what’s invisible about your point of view. Does your parent know how worried you are and how it affects your work and well-being? Is it causing you high blood pressure? Anxiety? Sleeplessness? Share those things with them. Open up the picture of what’s happening for everyone, come to a shared understanding of everyone’s thoughts and feelings, and then invite that parent to work with you to figure out a solution that supports well-being for you both!


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