The implications for health leaders are significant: Appreciative Inquiry processes have the power to increase engagement, encourage innovation, and support problem-solving. As Thomas Ward from Fraser Health said, “if we want Quality Improvement in health care and not Quality Control” …. “then we have to believe that people and systems have limitless possibility.” And what better way to support this work than with visuals that increase connection and engagement!
The story begins in 2012. The BCHLDC knew there was gap in their leadership story. The existing LEADs framework describes the “how” of leadership, but they wanted to explore how to “be” a leader in a complex health care environment. So they convened health leaders from across the province for a full-day session. The conversation resulted in this first graphic from 2012.
Using Appreciative Inquiry, the BCHLDC tapped into experiences of success that participants had experienced. Appreciative Inquiry is a framework of building on a positive core to build upon what is already working, in a process of Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny. Instead of jumping into problem-solving or a deficit model right away, it’s a chance to identify strengths.
Do you see the green part under the heading “Themes- Leaders are…”? This was the jumping off part for defining “who” is a leader. The BCHLDC wanted to go deeper for this part here.
Jump forward to 2013 and the BC Health Leaders Conference. Leading the session was Ann Brown, Acting Director, Change Initiatives, Providence Health Care; Susan Good, Director, Leadership and Organizational Development, Fraser Health Authority, Thomas F. Ward, Executive Medical Director, Fraser Health Authority.
This session was a chance to share best practices and discover the “who” and personal qualities of leadership, again using Appreciative Inquiry.
Participants are visually brought up to speed in two ways. There’s a 6-foot banner of the 2012 graphic to greeted them outside, and on each chair there’s a card-sized version of the graphic with takeaway information on the back.
The session began with an overview on AI, then the group begins to experience it with a personal written reflection and paired interviewing. But it wasn’t your usual ‘interview’. Their AI interview questions included:
- Sharing a short story about a peak experience of leadership
- Describing the key elements of the experience
- Reflecting on how this experience inspired your leadership and learning
- Listing 3 qualities that you would wish for exceptional leaders in health care
From there, we merged into group work. Once again, the AI framework helped groups dive deeply, quickly. We covered a lot of ground in less than 2 hours- people taking risks and opening up about their experiences. While all this was happening, I was graphically recording the themes and content at the wall. Participants shared their insights during a report-back/harvest session, and post-it notes with written themes were brought up to me and I drew as fast as I could.
The second graphic is from the 2013 session and draws out the health leadership themes. There’s many types of leadership described here – from offering a compelling vision of hope, to persistence, and resiliency.