Friday, December 19, 2008

Strengths and Archetypes

I've been thinking about strengths and archetypes. Carolyn Myss talks about archetypes in her book The Sacred Contract. She says we all have 12 archetypes, four of these are the same for everybody and 8 are unique to us. The archetypes aren't good or bad -- they can be expressed differently. There is a shadow side to each and a possible benefit. For example, one of the universal archetypes is the Victim. This does not mean you will experience being a victim necessarily, that is the shadow side. An example from her book is of a woman who was an expert in finances and who was exhibiting the positive expression, almost an anti-victim.

Angeles Arrien's also talks about archetypes in her book The Four-Fold Way. She talks about the 4 universal archetypes Warrior, Visionary, Teacher, and Healer. When an individual is in balance they experience the positive aspects of each. When an individual or community is not in balance they may experience the shadow side.

What is the connection between strengths and archetypes? When I did the Strengthfinder 2.0 test one of my strengths identified was being a Maximizer. This did not surprise me. When I experience the shadow side of this "strength", I may be a little obsessive or even perfectionistic. This means there is not a lot of flexibility available. However, if I am highly conscious and able to experience acceptance, this strength can work for me. I naturally see the highest potential for any person, project or situation. Without acceptance, this is challenging. Without discrimination this is challenging. When I bring consciousness to this, I realize that while I may see the maximimum potential I don't have to reach it all the time.

To remind myself I put notes around my office that say - Do as little as possible! Do the minimum. This raises my consciousness and I recognize my automatic projections of what the maximum could be. It isn't advisable or healthy to do the maximum all the time. It is exhausting. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Reminding myself of this allows me to stay out of the shadow side of the maximizer strength. What do you think?

Cassandra at

Shared Abundance Philosophy

I love this document called The Shared Abundance Philosophy A World of Giving is A World of Receiving By Bob Johnson, Founder of Leadersearch

Click on the pdf for the whole article.

My favorite part is the principles:

Key Principles of the Shared Abundance Philosophy:
• The More You Share, the More You Will Receive
• Competition Only Exists in the Scarcity Mindset
• Aligning with Your Greatest Competition Will Bring You the Greatest Success
• Both Scarcity and Abundance are Self-perpetuating

Cassandra at

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Photographs of My Graphic Recordings in 2008

My journey as a graphic recorder is just beginning, I've posted a couple of examples of my "baby steps" in working with large pieces of paper, icons, and key words with groups of engaged people. Sometimes it is challenging to get all of the paper in the photograph. Cassandra at

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 YWCA Women on the Move Awards

Thanks to Allison T for nominating me for the YWCA Woman on the Move Award. We had a great time at the Awards Banquet on December 14. It was such an honor to see all the women recognized. They showed video interviews of the Lifetime Achievement Award winners Mary Belle McCorkle, Priscilla Robinson, and Jessie Zander and the Iris Dewhirst Award winner Betsy Bolding. The Business Leadership Award Winner was Jan Lesher and the Corporate Award winner JP Morgan Chase. All of the Women on the Move honoree's received certificates signed by the Governor and we had our names up on the big screens. I've included a photograph of Sarah G, Allison, and me. What a great night! Thanks to the YWCA. If you want to see the names of all the women nominated click here.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Acceptance - Quote by Eckhart Tolle and Photograph

Click to make the image larger or to download.

This was made by Jim Roussin at

Thanks Jim.

Questions to Ask When Designing and Implementing a Change or New Program

This document is meant to be used to help frame an initial conversation when planning to adopt a new practice or develop a new program. The implementation driver framework allows the opportunity to choose the direction of your system change efforts in a planful and purposeful manner and in doing so be good stewards of limited resources. This document is not intended for use as a performance indicator but rather as a planning guide. The National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) is working on a tool that will facilitate an in-depth performance analysis of implementation and sustainability throughout the life of a new practice/program. These 7 implementation drivers are integrated and compensatory. Thus, a discussion of the components could start with any one.

IMPORTANT: Before you begin, identify who the “participant” is. There may be a single participant that will be involved with implementation or there may be multiple types or levels of participants that you will take into consideration as you are having this initial planning conversation.

Participant Selection:

• Who is qualified to carry out this practice or program?
• What methods of participant recruitment and selection are you going to use?
• Beyond academic qualifications or experience factors, what personal characteristics must be a part of the selection process (e.g., knowledge of the field, common sense, social justice, ethics, willingness to learn, willingness to intervene, good judgment, etc.)?
• How will these personal characteristics be assessed during the selection interview (e.g. vignettes, role plays)?
• Are there workforce development issues that need to be taken into account? (e.g., availability of participants; ability to recruit new participants; ability to train existing participants; ability to “grow your own” staff; etc.)
• Are there extra demands on the participants beyond the scope of this practice/program that need to be taken into account? (e.g., transportation issues to and from work; family/personal stressors; safety concerns; etc.)

Pre-service and In-service Training:
• How will you assure that background information, theory, philosophy and values of this new practice/program are provided? Who will you provide this information to?
• Do you have a formal introduction to the key components and rationales of this practice/program? Who will you provide this introduction to?
• How will you provide opportunities for participants to practice new skills and receive ongoing feedback in a safe environment?

• How will you use coaching and consultation to support and monitor behavior change:
o at the participant level?
o at the supervisory level?
o at the administrative support level?
• How will you maintain this coaching and consultation throughout the life of this practice/program?

Participant Evaluation: (Formal and Informal)
• How will your participant evaluation process assess the use and outcomes of the skills:
o that you determined were important in your selection criteria?
o that are taught in training?
o that you want to have reinforced and expanded through consultation and coaching?
o in order to assist with determining the effectiveness of the coaches and consultants?
• Are there existing fidelity tools that can be used to evaluate the above skills and/or effectiveness?

Decision Support Data Systems:

• What data will be used by the coaches and supervisors to determine the progress of practice/program implementation efforts (including the information from the participant evaluation)?
• How will data be used by the coaches and supervisors to determine the usefulness of the training and coaching?
• Is there an overall assessment of the agency/organization’s performance to help assure continuing implementation and outcomes of the core components of this practice/program over time?

Facilitative Administration:

• Who provides the strong leadership for this practice/program (internal and external to your agency/organization)?
• Who provides strong leadership as a “connector” to external systems?
• How will the leadership use data to inform their decisions and support the overall processes of this practice/program?
• How will the leadership work to integrate and keep improving the implementation drivers throughout the life of this practice/program?

Systems Interventions:

• In order to support the implementation and sustainability efforts, what strategies are in place or will need to be created for the practice/program to work with external systems in order to obtain:
o financial support?
o agency/organizational support?
o human resource support?

This instrument was adapted from a tool developed by the Kentucky Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

I went to a presentation by staff from the Kentucky Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and they were so excited. Using this tool and others they tailored to different components of their program resulted in greater success in the implementation of their programs and greater sustainability - which is one of my favorite topics. Cassandra at

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Learning Pyramid

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Are you familiar with the learning pyramid? Based on research this shows us what the average retention rates are with different types of instruction. Notice that lecture is the least retained? What are the implications of this when we look at how information is generally given to people?

Cassandra at

Friday, December 12, 2008

Visual Thinking Strategies

I just read and posted Christina's article on integrating the left and right sides of the brain. I loved it and I really resonated with the cycle she described with her clients who were at first afraid it wouldn't work, were willing to try it, and then were joyfully surprised when people loved it. She was talking about Graphic Facilitation and we experience the same pattern with the work that we do that is participatory. Sometimes people are hesitant and somewhat afraid to try something new, and yet when they are willing to give it a try they find that people love the opportunity to authentically participate and become highly engaged.

I have been exploring visual thinking the last couple of years since I learned about Graphic Recording and took a training in it. Last month I learned about Visual Thinking Strategies. I had the unique opportunity to see a mini-demonstration of this technique which is a facilitated group discussion about a piece of art.

It provided a dramatic understanding of multiple viewpoints and realities. The facilitator actually uses tools I'm now familiar with as a coach - paraphrasing being one of them - to help people articulate the meaning they see in a piece of art. It is a beautiful example of how people see and interpret things differently and there is no judgement.

I spent an hour today on their website - Visual Thinking Strategies - which has some great information on the technique, the research behind it, how it is used, the benefits, and you can see some videos of it being done. Click on and check it out.

Cassandra at


This is a fantastic article by Christina Merkley.


I knew this week that I wanted to write something about the visual approach. Something about the importance of our creative sides and ‘art’ in general. Something about the INTEGRATION and importance of both sides of our brain – the rational AND the creative.

All these thoughts were swirling in my mind, as I made my way from my parked car to the departure doors of the airport (yes, I’m traveling again... last trip of the season thankfully!).

I checked in for my flight then turned around to see a huge new art installation staring me in the face: “The measure of a culture is its integration of the arts into everyday life” ~Anonymous

I laughed out loud and grabbed my camera to take a shot. A physical sign of the internal stuff I was trying to articulate.

A Creative Identity Sneaking Up on Me: I’ve been working in the ‘creative world’ for about 15 years now. I didn’t start out as a ‘creative’, its taken me about that long to really own and appreciate that side of myself (even if others identified me in that way long before).

As many of you know, I started my career in Organizational Development... becoming a ‘graphic recorder’ and then a ‘graphic facilitator’ – using interactive visuals to help groups see their environment, dialogue and make decisions. I then progressed into taking those skills into coaching and self-actualization via my SHIFT-IT work. In short, for years I’ve used a creative method to help people think and feel effectively. Kind of a marriage of both sides of the brain – for my clients and for myself.

Battling Cynicism:
Inevitably, when a new organization or group was interested in working with me, I would have to go through a ‘cynicism phase’. As my work is visually-based, I would have to counter the ‘pretty picture’ worries that a new and inexperienced client would have. Sure, they had heard raves about this effective way of working, but since they hadn’t experienced it personally yet, they were worried about it not going over well and being seen as frivolous or silly (particularly with their peers and bosses).

When I did the actual meeting, at the first break, my formerly concerned client would, like clockwork, come up to me and express their relief and pleasure about how things were going and how folks were responding – ‘wow, I’m so glad, this is really going over well... people are LOVING this. I gotta admit I was a little skeptical, but this visual stuff really works doesn’t it!?’.

Of course, I was glad that they were feeling pleased and assured. But I was also saddened when this habitually happened. Isn’t it sad that people are so concerned about the ‘artistic’? That its value is subtly and not so subtly maligned as being ‘not serious’, ‘soft’ or ‘wimpy’. That people feel they are taking a risk by doing something that the deviates from the straight and narrow norm.

It’s Time for Integration:
Working in over 800+ groups over the years, I can unequivocally say that we are crying out for different, pleasant and more enjoyable ways of interacting, thinking and making decisions. The one-dimensional way of being isn’t going to serve us any more (if it really ever did). Is it really fair (or wise) to expect people to check large portions of themselves at the door when they enter work.

Work has typically been viewed as masculine, linear, rational, logical and action oriented (at least in the typical North American business setting). It feels like a shift is now occurring where the feminine, circular, feeling, creative and being sides can now come in too – and be equally valued and appreciated. As societies and a world, we can’t afford to reject whole sides of ourselves and our populations much longer. We need to find a way to integrate the fullness of who we are. We need to move into ‘yes/and’ and away from ‘either/or’ games.

A Bit of a Soapbox, But Hey: Ok, I went on a bit of a rant there. But in talking with my current clients, there is an awakening occurring. People are attracted to new ways of doing things. They are attracted to the creative. To the visual. To the heart and feeling based. And they are willing to pay for it too - handsomely.

The linear is not being thrown out. Its valued and cherished. But other things are now being added in. In our work lives and in our personal lives as holistic people we need the full deal. Our world and its current problems needs an integrated approach to find new ways of being and new solutions.

How Do You Fit In?
So, you are reading this e-zine. You are attracted for a reason. Chances are, you have a role to play in this big shift that is occurring in our world. What is calling out in you? What wants to be expressed through you? Why are you attracted to me and my work... what’s the allure?

In working with tons of people, I know its because I mirror or reflect some quality that you yourself have within – like attracts like. Perhaps you are already owning it. Or, perhaps, you have yet to fully claim that part of yourself. Whatever is going on, I invite you to step more fully into your creative and feeling gifts, as well as your rational and thinking gifts. You obviously have a part to play in the larger SHIFT that is currently occurring. So get SHIFTing! Now is the time.

© 2008 Christina L. Merkley

Christina Merkley, "The SHIFT-IT Coach" and creator of the SHIFT-IT Method® is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Graphic Facilitation and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and groups in defining and getting what they really, really want. For more information visit:

Friday, December 5, 2008

What Is Community? OST on December 5

Sarah Griffiths and I had the pleasure of facilitating a session at the SLHI What is Community Event. We co-facilitated a session using Open Space Technology one of our favorite methods. We were so lucky because we had a Graphic Recorder and I've attached a photograph of what she captured during the session. She also did some beautiful charts for the room which she asked me to hang up crooked. I was so excited about this - because I can't hang anything straight and it turns out it is better for thinking and learning to have some things crooked (although not the big graphics). Thanks to everyone that participated - we'll post more about this event later. Cassandra at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Handout on Strengths Based Evaluation from November 18 meeting

Thanks to B.J. Tatro for providing this handout on Strengths Based Evaluation from the November 18 meeting

SLHI Health in a New Key Consultant Community
& Arizona Evaluation Network
“Strengths-based Approaches to Program Evaluation”
Gwen Relf, Jane Pearson, Chrystal Snyder, and B. J. Tatro
November 18, 2008


Designing the Evaluation
1. Were stakeholders, including those affected by and invested in the program, involved in visualizing what success would look like (defining the outcomes or desired results)?
2. Are the measures of success important to the stakeholders?
3. Are the measures of success stated in positive terms (what we want more of, not only what we want less of)?
4. Were stakeholders involved in designing the data collection tools and methods?
5. Are the data collection tools and methods focused on discovering what is right and why, not only what is wrong?
6. Are the data collection tools and methods culturally appropriate?
7. Are the data collection tools and methods respectful of participants and strengths-based?
8. Are the data collection tools and methods focused on learning?
9. Is the evaluation design consistent with the values underlying the program?

Conducting and Reporting
1. Who is doing the evaluation? Are they knowledgeable of and sensitive to the culture and context of the program?
2. Are stakeholders involved in the implementation of the evaluation? What are they involved in (e.g., data gathering, serving as a source of data, making sense of the data, preparing the recommendations)? How are they supported to have a successful experience?
3. Are reports provided that answer questions stakeholders care about?
4. Are reports user-friendly (e.g., language, format)?
5. Does the report focus on what is right, as well as what needs improvement?
6. Is the language in the report respectful?
7. Does the report promote learning?
8. Do recommendations build on participants’ strengths?

1. Does reporting promote utilization? Consider frequency, length, content, and format of reports.
2. Were stakeholders engaged in a review of the findings and recommendations and the development of an implementation plan?
3. Are recommendations practical?
4. Are recommendations consistent with the culture and context of the program?
5. Are successes celebrated and used to energize future improvement?
6. Is there opportunity to reflect on what has been learned and its meaning?
7. Are evaluation results tied to future planning? Used to guide decision making? Program improvement? Influence agency and public policy? Increase program visibility?
8. Is accountability internalized? (We are doing this because we want to be the best we can be.)

Prepared by B.J. Tatro

Think you can't do anything without a grant? Think again.

Article published by the Charity Channel's Grant and Foundations Review

Think you can’t do anything without a grant? Think again.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
by Cassandra O'Neill

Traditional approaches to collaboration can look like this. “We want to work together, and we can only do something if we get a grant. Let’s develop a list of things to do if we had a grant and try to find a grant to do them.” What if by focusing on this approach, you miss out on all the things that you could do without a grant, with existing resources, things that are sustainable?

What if the idea that you can’t do anything without a grant is just a limiting belief? What if you change the question from Question 1 - “What can we only do if we get a grant?”, to Question 2 -“What might be some of the things we can do now through exploring new collaborations with organizations and individuals that share a common vision?” The first question can be answered quickly. The second question takes longer, and involves having exploratory conversations and some out of the box thinking. This may take a little longer than making up a wish list of things to
buy with grants.

In Power vs Force David Hawkins writes:

“The world conventionally assumes that the processing of problems requires starting from the known (the question or conditions) and moving on to the unknown (the answer) in a time sequence following definite steps and logical progression. Nonlinear dynamics moves in the opposite direction: From the unknown (the nondeterministic data of the question) to the known (the answer)! It operates within a different paradigm of causality. The problem is seen as one of definition and access rather than a logical sequence (as in solving a problem by differential

When we look at this, and apply it to possible approaches to collaboration we get two different scenarios.

Scenario A is the traditional approach.

We get partners together to define a problem, develop a solution that meets the needs defined in the problem, and we seek to move from our definition of the known (the unmet needs, barriers to overcome) to the unknown. Our solution often involves developing new services to be delivered to those defined as “in need” to meet their needs.

One downside of this approach is that all attention is focused on what the partners don’t have and can only do with a grant. Additionally, it applies linear thinking to non linear human systems, and ignores what the people who are defined “in need”, have as strengths, resources, and assets. It also ignores solutions that involve building resiliency. Meeting others needs often does not build resiliency. Nor does it build resiliency in the agencies that get the grants, as they continue to
view themselves as unable to do anything without a grant, the getting of which directs their efforts into unsustainable short term activities.

What is an alternative? How can we try on an approach that moves from the unknown to the known? How can we explore partnering with people and organizations in a new and sustainable way, one that is strengths based, embedded in the dynamic reality of human systems? There are many ways, here is what one might look like:

Scenario B reframes the question.

What if the people interested in working together focused first on exploring the unknown - the strengths, resources, peak experiences, and resiliency of the potential partners. Imagine that, you meet with someone that you think may share a common vision and values. You learn from each other, you learn what strengths and resources you each have, and what may be possible by connecting the resources you share -- and directing them towards your shared vision.

Imagine that you hold similar exploratory conversations with many other potential partners. What will you end up with? You won’t know, you wait for it to emerge from your explorations. When you’ve found a critical mass of partners sharing a common vision, jointly exploring the unknown, hidden, and underutilized resources -- something positive may emerge. Some activities, strategies, and system changes that reflect the potential of the partners to do something sustainable towards their shared vision. Will these be the same activities as the list drawn up in
Scenario A? No, absolutely not. Will these have a bigger impact in both the short and long term? Probably. If nothing emerges, keep adding new partners for exploration.

Think about what might be possible if you move from the unknown to the known. You focus on the resources we have collectively - and explore how they can be connected in a powerful way. And guess what? If you do this, you may come up with some things you can get grant funding to support – And it will look very different than if you followed Scenario A. When you pursue Scenario B – you end up with a list of activities and strategies built on strengths, that are sustainable by nature, and that can be done with existing resources. There will be things that could support these strategies that you can seek grant funding for. These activities will build the capacity of your collaboration to reach their shared vision -- by building on strengths and creating community resiliency. Want to know more about what this might look like? You can check out the St. Luke’s Health Initiative website at – and download their publication Health in a New Key.

CharityChannel LLC


Michael Wells

Mr. Wells is joined by a body of contributors who are well-respected leaders, observers, and pundits in the field.

Grants and Foundations Review™ is a domestic and international trademark of CharityChannel LLC. Copyright (c) and Trademark (tm) CharityChannel LLC. All rights reserved. The article in this issue, "Think you can’t do anything without a grant? Think again.," Copyright © 2008 by Cassandra O'Neill.

Grants and Foundations Review is published by CharityChannel LLC, 30021 Tomas St., Suite 300, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-2128 USA. Telephone: +1 949 589-

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Thoughts on Using Appreciative Inquiry Guides

What is an Appreciative Inquiry Guide?
Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to change -- that assists individuals and organizations identify what they are doing successfully so that they can do more of it. People build on their strengths to design a compelling future to move towards. There are four phases of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), discover, dream, design, and destiny. The guides are used during the discovery phase to find out more about experiences that people in the group have had around a specific topic. There are a lot of great books about AI and many with sample interview questions. For more information about AI go to: Appreciative Inquiry Commons at

We developed this specific guide on lasting change because of our work in helping others think differently about sustainability. We use this guide to help people shift their focus on what they have done -- that has been successful in creating lasting change.

Using this AI Guide
Using this guide is as simple as asking someone to interview you and in turn be interviewed. Using this guide with a group is as simple as passing the guides out, asking people to pick a partner, and setting a timer for the first interview. When it goes off ask people to switch turns. The person interviewing will ask their partner the questions on the first page of the guide. After they have asked all the questions on the first page, they will use the back to record what surprised and surprised them about what they heard.

Want more information? Keep reading.

This is a great activity to do with a group at the beginning of a meeting or training. Why? Because it helps sets the energy of the group as a group. Feeling connected to one person in a group is often all it takes for people to feel connected to the entire group. If you have time, you can do it before introductions, and then have people introduce themselves by sharing what they learned from their partner. This focuses attention on what they learned, what surprised them, and what inspired them. If you have more time, you can have people discuss the themes in small groups. If you have even more time, you can flow through the other phases of AI.

More about the questions.
Appreciative Interview guides start by asking people to share a story about a peak experience, then ask about the person’s contribution to this experience, and they tend to end with a question about the person’s wishes. The purpose of the questions about their wishes is to connect what they discovered, when sharing a peak experience, with their hopes for a group, organization, partnership or a community they are part of.

Introducing this to a group.
You can introduce the activity by talking about Appreciative Inquiry, or you can introduce it as ice breaker. If you want to provide more of an introduction to a group you can go over the purpose – which is to shine a spotlight on the peak experiences of the individuals in the group. You can also go over the questions before people pair up and offer alternative wordings. Once in awhile someone has difficulty thinking of a “peak” experience. Responding to this is as easy as encouraging them to pick any experience that they felt alive and excited. The same thing for the wishes, sometimes people can’t identify wishes for a specific group. It is fine to think about wishes in a more global way, maybe wishes for the world. If you want to do this activity spontaneously you can write the questions on a flip chart or white board. One thing that we have found is that the more we use this, the more we want to. Shifting the focus to peak experiences always creates a positive energy that changes the trajectory of a meeting or event. We have found that once you bring out these guides, magic happens.

There are books that have sample guides on a variety of topics which are listed on our Resource List blog post. Also, we've posted one from the meeting on November 18 about Strenghts based Evaluation and Consulting.

Cassandra - email me at

Notes from Open Space Session on November 18

In the afternoon of our meeting on November 18 we convened small group discussions using Open Space Technology. Sarah Griffiths facilitated this and typed up the notes from the sessions. We've attached them here. The overarching question for the group was: How can we use, and further, strengths-based approaches in our work?

5 Small groups formed to discuss the following topics:
Strengths-based Professional Development,
Using Strengths-based approaches in the Jewish Community,
Staying Connected,
Involve Community Members and Stakeholders more, and
Effecting Change when Low Morale is an Issue.

Strengths-based Professional Development
Host: Allison Titcomb

Discussion Highlights:
• Definitions—cultural, theory/use, target.
• Ask the people—using strengths-based questions.
• Flexibility—web, in-person, learning circles, short-term, long-term.
• Follow through—opportunities, building trust, application, reflection.
• Ask—what do you want from these relationships?
Powerful Quotes:
• “On the hunt for new questions.”

Using Strengths-based approaches in the Jewish Community
Host: Bonnie Wright

Discussion Highlights:
• Are there sensitivities special to this “culture”? Yes, but not prohibitive. Appreciative Inquiry might be the best approach.
• Conversations need to lead to action.
• Build off the strengths in the community (and outside models).
Powerful Quotes:
• “Know and respect the audience.”
• “Not everything will work.”
• Have courage.

Staying Connected
Host: Jon Ford

Discussion Highlights:
• Early wins—personal contact is so generative.
• Substance and value of communications wanted.
• Key authors/leaders/resources/tools.
• Everyone’s contributing; more than one voice/leader.
• Communication—easy, clear and active. Start by asking—what do you want from this?
• Share learnings after the meeting.
Powerful Quotes:
• “Something powerful about an invitation>’
• “Collaboration.”
• “Step into the center and radiate out.”
• “Being part of the vision.”

Involve Community Members and Stakeholders More

Host: Wendy Wolfersteig
Scribe: Barbara Garvey, Barbara Schoeneweis

Discussion Highlights:
• Reframing/refocusing on what we are doing well. What are good outcomes?
• Why do people get involved? What matters to them? How can your initiative/program help them think/benefit them?
• Delineate groups/partners who are possible stakeholders. Look at how best to reach each group—Internet, Open Space, Coalition, etc.
Powerful Quotes:
• “We only do what we care about.”
• “Our challenge is to restore our quality f life and personal well-being.”

Effecting Change when Low Morale is an Issue
Host: Elizabeth Eells

Discussion Highlights:
• Working with Native communities.
• Segued into organizations—burnout, low-morale.
• People need a voice, want to be heard, need to understand boundaries.
• Focus on what is working.
• Leadership style and perspective are important.
• Give a voice—ask their opinion, for suggestions.
• Explain why—be open to suggestions for change.
• Get all levels of the organization/community involved.
• Be respectful.
Powerful Quotes:
• It is easier to ask for forgiveness . . .”

Slides from November 18 Strengths Based Evaluation and Consulting Meeting

I've attached a link to the slides that we used at the November 18 meeting. These look beautiful because Jon Ford from St. Luke's Health Initiative took the content and not only made it look fabulous but increased the learning value of the whole experience. Thanks so much Jon!

If you click on the attached link you will be able to click where it says click here to download and download the whole file. Feel free to use them if you credit Wholonomy Consulting at
Enjoy. Cassandra contact me at

File name: ConsultantsRetreat111808fpm.ppt:
Download link:

Strengths Based Evaluation Tool - Appreciative Review Form

In our meeting on November 18 on Strengths based evaluation and consulting - We ended the day by using a strengths based evaluation tool. Here is a copy of it. We've written about in our last newsletters the power of taking off the standard questions that are deficit based such as what do you like least - because they shut down thinking, eliminate the benefit of reflecting during the peak retention period after a learning experience, and do not produce meaningful information. The Appreciative Reviews are a way to get at useful and meaningful information which enhance the participants learning and retention. Feel free to modify and use this. Cassandra -

November 18 meeting
Appreciative Review

1. What was the high point for you in this experience? Please share details and descriptions that brought the experience to life for you.

2. What do you value most about ….

The experience overall?

What you’ve learned?

What this has prepared you for?

3. What 3 wishes do you have for your learning and practice of strengths based methods?

Interview Guide on Using Strengths

We had 80 people interview each other about their "peak" experiences using their strengths and/or using strengths based approaches on November 18 at our Strengths based consulting and evaluation meeting. I've attached a copy of the interview guide that we used and I'm going to put up some thoughts on how you could use Appreciative Interviews in your work in a future post. Cassandra contact me at

Appreciative Interview Guide for November 18, 2008
Topic: Using Strengths and Strengths Based Approaches

Don’t ask what the world needs. Rather – ask what makes you come alive; then go and do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman Whitman

Pick a person to be interviewed first. The other person will ask the following questions and listen to the responses. The person asking questions and listening can take notes on what is heard on this sheet. When the questions have been asked and answered, the person who interviewed will be interviewed.

1. Tell me a story about a peak experience when you were using your strengths to accomplish something meaningful, a time when you were able to make a difference that really mattered to you. A time you felt excited, alive, and engaged. What was the situation? What happened? What was it about this that made it a peak experience for you?

2. If you think about an opportunity that you have had to use your strengths and strengths based approaches in your work, a time you’ve been able to collaborate with others to explore what is working, to identify strengths and build on them, what is an example that comes to mind?

3. Without being modest, what strengths did you bring to that experience, without which, success wouldn’t have been possible?

4. If you had 3 wishes that, if fulfilled, would allow you to use your strengths even more, help others discover and utilize their strengths, and to incorporate strengths based approaches to your work – what would they be?

Creating what we most want is fundamentally different than making bad things better. Creating is about bringing into being what most matters-the concrete results you most want to see exist.
-- Bruce Elkin

Appreciative Interview Worksheet

This page is for taking notes on your partner’s story

Notes on your partner’s story:

1. What inspired you?

2. What surprised you?

3. Best quote that came out of the interview:

Insights from Jennifer Abrams

Every month I look forward to getting Jennifer Abrams newsletter. I'm passing along this month's. She talks about a recent learning opportunity with George Lakoff. I was there too and look forward to sharing some of my learning from that in future posts. Hope you enjoy this. Cassandra Jennifer's website is linked at the bottom.

Hello! My book,(Jennifer's book) Having Hard Conversations, is coming out in January of 2009. I have been giving the workshop on which the book is based for several years and I often hear murmurs of resistance during the session. I was giving the workshop to a group of new teacher coaches last week and I overheard the comment, “I can’t believe she’s telling coaches to have these types of conversations.” This comment has come up before so I am taking time here to address it in more detail. Why would someone need to study this topic? Isn’t a hard conversation the superintendent’s job or the principal’s job? Yes, I believe that it is their job to speak up when they see something they feel doesn’t align with the vision of their district or when they witness something they don’t feel is good for students, and I believe we all lead from whatever position we have in our organization. This month’s newsletter is a first attempt to articulate my ‘why’; why I feel it is everyone’s responsibility to learn how to have hard conversations and learn to do them with clarity and compassion.

“Getting into Necessary Trouble”

Collective Responsibility

This summer I watched a video of Congressman John Lewis being interviewed by students at Mount Madonna School. They asked Congressman Lewis about his values and how they informed his work as a legislator. At the end of the talk, he looked at the students and said, “Get into trouble, necessary trouble.” Given his history in the Civil Rights Movement, what was in the ‘white space’ around his comments spoke to me through that video just as loudly as what he said. It is our responsibility to speak out and have hard conversations when we feel the collective isn’t being served. There are times when we are the ones who witness something academically unsound, physically unsafe or emotionally damaging. It could be a comment that wasn’t supportive of a fellow colleague or an action that wasn’t helpful to a student. In those situations, it is our responsibility to speak out and create a safe and supportive climate for the growth of adults and children alike. We should all feel the responsibility to learn how to have hard conversations and increase our capacity to do so for the social good.

Creating Cultures of Excellence

Last year, Palo Alto USD had a statement at the top of their home page on their web site that said, “Excellence by Design.” There is a certain sense of confidence in that statement. It said to those who were looking at it, “We are deliberate and self-assured.” Yet while design is necessary and critical, one can’t believe design is an end goal in itself. In education, we need to also be excellent in our communication, delivery and follow through. Do we truly provide the excellence we are aiming for? And if we don’t, do we have a hard conversation with ourselves and acknowledge it? I aspire to be excellent and I want to work in an organization that also aspires to do so. When we aren’t at our best, we need to recognize the gap between our existing state and our desired state. We need to skillfully articulate that difference and speak honestly to the potential we have to become our best selves.

Having Humane and Growth-Producing Conversations

One of the core beliefs foundational to my work on hard conversations is that we have them with one another so we can all become our best selves. We aren ’t having hard conversations to be cruel or shaming. We aren’t having hard conversations to blame or gain power. We have them so we can begin a dialogue that centers around all of us learning and becoming more human human beings. We are all in a process of ‘becoming’ - growing in our personal and professional identities. At times, we don’t see our impact and how it might not align with what we intended. If I am off the mark, I want someone to help me see how I could do an even better job as a teacher, trainer, facilitator and leader and tell me so in a humane and growth producing way.

We might have terrible memories of hard conversations that were hurtful. There is a better way to do them. No matter the roles we have, learning how to speak up in a way that is respectful of ourselves, respectful of others and holds a bigger vision of respect for our schools is at the core of what we need to be doing.

On the topic of the conscious use of language in positively shaping our conversations, take a look at these books...

* I spent this past weekend studying with George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC-Berkeley – his work on reframing concepts and being conscious of our use of language is stimulating and mind-bending in the best sense. Check out Metaphors We Live By or Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind.

* Connected to education, check out Judy Yero, author of Teaching in Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education writes about how your beliefs about teaching, learning, and students influence your perceptions and behaviors—indeed, all of your teaching decisions. Worth looking at…

Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to