CWH to Inspire Excellence and High Performance

Oct 04, 2023

Peak performance, ownership, and engagement are natural outcomes for people when they are included in meaningful ways around work that's purposeful. Nancy Kirkpatrick and Floyd Phillips recently shared stories, tips, and communication practices to help you build your capacity to use generative questions and positive framing to ignite potential and inspire excellence for yourself and others.

Key tips that were shared:

Be genuinely curious. As a leader or manager, stay open to others. Avoid asking questions just to make people feel valued. Instead challenge your own ideas by genuinely ask others what they think, how they see it, what ideas and information they have that can support work efforts. Ask yourself, 

  • What don't I know?
  • Who else has information or expertise that is vital to a decision?

Listen deeply. This goes right along with being genuinely curious. When you ask a question, listen with your eyes, heart, gut, in addition to your ears. Follow your intuition when your other senses tell you there is more to what someone is sharing. Ask, see to understand. This practice builds trust and mutual respect because people really feel heard.

Expand thinking. Inspire broad and creative thinking and exploration before converging on solutions to problems. First, expand understanding to make sure you are focusing on the “real” problem and not just a symptom. Then encourage divergent thinking, if appropriate, rather than jumping on the first solution someone suggests. Unless you are dealing with a mechanical issue, there are often several ways to resolve issues or challenges. Discussions that broaden thinking and possibilities offers greater opportunities for excellence and high performance.

Ask instead of telling. As a leader, you likely have ideas for what and how to do things. To increase people's capacity for excellence, ask them first. Build their creativity muscle, help them discover their deeper capacity for innovative thinking and solution-finding. Ask, “How might we …?" What do you need to ensure high performance?”

Be transparent. If you want people to think for themselves and act in ways that deliver excellence, share the fundamentals of all that is necessary for them to make good decisions about their work. Tell people what and why they are doing specific work; what's the outcome and how will their work be used or relevant to others. Share important data, budget information, assessment criteria. Tell them what you expect and when; share relevant concerns so they can take those into consideration as they do the work.

Use positive framing to support forward movement. Use flipping or the opportunity tree to frame your conversations and the work so you are talking about what you want instead of what you don't want. Sometimes it valuable to add what you don't want. But knowing what you don't want never explains to others what you actually do want. 

Encourage others to focus on the thing you all want. What does success look like for you and the team? Have conversations to create shared images of the outcomes and any key concept related to getting there.

Enlist fellow champions for change (community of practice). If you're looking to drive excellence upward and outward, start as high up as you can to link silos. Share your ideas and facilitate collaboration across silos. Stay open to others' ideas as you work to achieve desired change.

Face challenging conversations promptly. As soon as you realize you are "below the line" in your conversation, stop and tune in. If necessary, ask for a do-over or to reschedule the meeting.

  • Tune in: pause, breathe and get curious
  • What’s the challenge here for you? What do you want?”
  • If really triggered, reschedule
  • Coaching up and out

Give generative feedback. Make feedback about learning and growth, about actions that support excellence and high performance. Create an employee accomplishment and feedback form with a 4-step approach: 

  1. What can you keep doing that is working?
  2. What can you keep doing and adjust to make it more effective?
  3. What can you stop doing?
  4. What can you start doing? 

Acknowledge others and give credit where credit is due. 

Learning Labs

Every month we offer CWH Learning Labs to help you build your capacity to use the CWH practices to foster conversations worth having. You can watch the conversation between Nancy and Floyd. Visit our YouTube Channel to see all of our Learning Lab videos and more. Register and join us for our October Learning Lab: Conversations for a More Civil Society: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Register for future Learning Labs on our website.

Photo: With thanks to Mart Production available at pexels-mart-production-7550398.jpg

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