I worked with a high school in London recently that practises a philosophy of positive reinforcement. In reviewing student and staff performance and achievement, it poses two simple questions: What went well? (WWW) and Even better if? (EBI). It feels very different to conversations about strengths and weaknesses or successes and failures. It focuses people’s attention on what we/they want to affirm, celebrate and build on; what we/they want to see more of, more of the time; what we/they want to move towards rather than move away from. It is appreciative and solutions-focused.
Today, I met with a group of talented aspiring leaders at a national UK charity. They are half way through a leadership development programme with Eagle Training and we were interested to review progress and next steps. I introduced WWW and EBI as a framework. After WWW, I added a provocative WPYPT (What Part have You Played in This?) and, after EBI, WYWTRF (What are You Willing to Take Responsibility For?). This challenged and shifted the conversation from evaluating the programme ‘out there’ to raising awareness and exercising personal leadership ‘in here’.
In a similar vein, I worked with a group of Christian leaders and managers this week who are keen to develop coaching skills in order to enhance their relationships and conversations. We explored coaching as increasing a person or team’s resource-fullness rather than simply solving problems or applying techniques. It brought clarity of intention and enabled participants to shift their focus from coaching as ‘doing to’ or ‘doing for’ to ‘doing with’: building the capacity of others by developing their ability to exercise initiative, take ownership , think through and do things for themselves.
In my experience, this philosophy and approach, building on positives and, at the same time, challenging and supporting personal leadership and growth can be motivating, engaging and transforming for people, teams and organisations. It calls leaders, coaches, OD and trainers to reflect carefully on their beliefs, values, intentions and approach. It also calls us to reflect and act on what culture we model and reinforce through our attitudes, behaviours and decisions. In terms of your own practice to date, WWW and WPYPT and, as you move forward, EBI and WYWTRF?
Nick is a coach, trainer and OD consultant.