When did you last have a great conversation at work? I’ve noticed that frustration and fatigue often arise from conversations and meetings that lack focus, that feel pointless, that lack purpose. It’s one of the main reasons why there is so much cynicism about meetings in organisations.
Now while different types of conversation are appropriate for different relationships and situations, questions that tease out purpose can be very powerful. They surface assumptions and create opportunity to discuss and agree on what would be worthwhile.
Here are some purpose-focused questions: Why are we here? What are we here to do? What would make this time useful? What is the goal we’re trying to achieve? What would a great outcome look and feel like? What do we want to be different by the end of this conversation?
We can use purpose-focused questions at the start of a meeting or mid-way through if we start to notice drift or confusion. ‘Let’s just remind ourselves what we’re here to do…where we’re trying to get to.’ Focusing and re-focusing can energise our conversations and achieve great results.
Take an issue (e.g. a painful memory, a foreboding experience) and hold it in your imagination for a moment. Now freeze the movie in your mind into a still shot. Tune down the colour until it’s black and white. Shrink the picture until it’s the size of a postage stamp. Cast the image away from you, as if into a distant bin. Now return to the present moment, the here-and-now. Notice the difference in how you are feeling. Allow the feeling to dissipate. Breathe.
Now, by contrast, imagine a positive experience, a great outcome, an exciting future. Hold the image in your mind. Tune up the colour until it’s vivid, radiant and bright. Turn up the sound until you can hear everything in crystal clarity. Really feel the positive energy and hope. Now turn the image into your favourite colour – a colour you associate with feeling happy, excited, relaxed. Hold the image, see the colour, feel the feeling. Now return to the here-and-now. Breathe.
We hold memory and imagination as sensory experiences in the mind, body and emotions. Constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing experiences in this way through coaching or therapy can create profound shifts in what we notice, how we feel, how we behave and what we evoke. It can reduce pain from the past, present new solutions, engender fresh hope and enhance results. What’s your experience of using the imagination to influence change?
Nick is a freelance coach, trainer and OD consultant specialising in reflective practice.