For this week’s tip I’m indebted to my good friend Gavin Ingham, the renowned sales expert and motivational speaker.
Gavin attended the ‘in the room’ version of my Practical Appreciative Inquiry course a few years back, and like so many graduates of the course, has been applying Appreciative Inquiry in his chosen area of expertise in ways that I would never have thought of.
One of the ways that he uses AI that stuck in my mind was this: if he is in a car with one of his sales coaching clients, on the way to an important appointment, sometimes Gavin will casually ask the salesperson something along the lines of:
“So, just out of interest, what’s a sale that you’re proud of?”
It’s just a bit of conversation, two sales guys in the car having a bit of banter on the way to a prospect meeting, so no pressure of any kind.
But what usually happens is that as the salesperson searches through their memory for their best ever sale and starts to talk about it, they begin to lose themselves in the story, reliving the experience, and feeling same positive emotions that they felt then, the pride and confidence that came from landing that sale.
Gavin tells me that he asks follow-up questions depending on how the conversation goes, like:
“What was it that caused you to do that?”
“What’s unique about your company?”
So by the time they arrive and walk through the door of the prospect’s office, they are at the top of their game, confident, switched on, and 100% believing in themselves and what they’re selling.
The sales directors and MDs of small companies that Gavin’s taught this technique to report that it gets really good results. They use it on the way to meetings, or when doing sales coaching with their staff.
Using Appreciative Questions In Everyday Conversation
You can use your judgement about when it’s appropriate to ask any of these questions. The aim in each case is to discover some of the ‘positive core’ of the person’s experience – the times when they feel engaged, at their best, doing good work, and in the right place.
Here are some example questions:
“What do you like most about working here?”
“When’s the most productive time of day for you?”
“Who’s your favourite client to work with?” (you could follow this up with supplementary quesitons to uncover what it is about this client, or what the person does differently with this client, that makes them better to work with).
“What’s been your proudest moment?”
“What’s the coolest thing about this company?”
“What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned in the last year?”
“What do you like about living here?”
Or if they’ve done something that you want to encourage, and you want to open a learning conversation for your benefit as well as theirs, rather than just saying “Well done!” and moving on to something else, you could say:
“That was great! How did you decide to do it that way?” or “When you were thinking about how to do this, what are the important things you took into account?”
When Gavin was telling me how he uses appreciative questions and follow-ups conversationally like this, it reminded me of this quote from Ashley Goodall, co-author with Marcus Buckingham of Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World:
The phrase “Good Job” is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. It gives us a chance to talk about what went right, how to do it again, and possibly how to do it even better.Ashley Goodall interviewed by Mike Robbins on the We’re All In This Together podcast
Try out some questions like these with your team and see what happens. And please do post your favourite conversational appreciative questions in the comments!
Next in this series: Appreciative team meetings
Do you want to open up new possibilities for team coaching and motivating and engaging your staff?
What new ideas to turbocharge your effectiveness could you come up with, by applying Appreciative Inquiry to your existing expertise?
Check out the Practical Appreciative Inquiry training coming up soon (it’s the online live version of the ‘classroom’ course where Gavin got the idea to ask these questions).